The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
This is an update to an article I published in the June 22, 2011, newsletter. In that article I wrote, "What’s on your packing list? Please offer your suggestions in the comments section in the Plus Edition web site. If enough suggestions are received, I’ll publish an updated list in a future newsletter."
This is the result. A number of newsletter readers offered their suggestions, most of which I have incorporated into today's article. I have also updated some other items, based on my own experiences. For instance, in the previous article, I described my favorite carry-on suitcase. However, I have since discovered a newer model from a different manufacturer that I like even better. I have switched and now will describe both models and the reasons why one might be better than the other under certain conditions.
I travel a lot. In the past few years, I have taken genealogy-related trips to England several times. I also made numerous trips all over the United States and Canada. I even spent three weeks driving around New Zealand, and I have traveled on cruise ships. On one trip to Salt Lake City, I spent five days DRIVING home to Massachusetts during which I had to partially pack and unpack every day. Along the way, I have learned a few things about packing and unpacking.
I have become a fanatic on lightweight packing. Most of the time, I can squeeze all of the needed items into a carry-on suitcase that easily fits into an airliner’s overhead baggage compartment and an “over the shoulder” bag that fits under the seat in front of me. I can usually do that even on one week or longer trips. With the recent price-gouging by airlines for checked luggage, use of carry-on luggage saves a lot of money. Besides, I don’t like dragging heavy luggage with me. In past years, I have wasted far too much energy wrestling heavy luggage into shuttle buses, taxis, and rental cars. Never again.
On the few occasions when I do need to check a bag, I try to fly on Southwest Airlines (which offers two checked bags at no additional fee) or on JetBlue (which allows one checked bag at no extra fee). The other airlines are much too expensive when you add the ticket prices and the excessive baggage fees together. Many airlines charge $25 for the first checked suitcase and either $25 or $35 for the second. On a round-trip, that's up to an extra $120 above and beyond the ticket price! The only accessories missing from the airline employees' uniforms are a mask and a gun!
A couple of airlines do allow an extra checked bag at no additional charge if you already belong to the airline's frequent flyer club or obtain a credit card from the airline. However, the annual fees for those credit cards and frequent flyer clubs tend to be quite high. If you travel frequently on one airline, it might make sense to buy into these deals. However, I fly on a variety of airlines, including some foreign air carriers. The credit cards and extra-cost clubs are not cost-effective for me.
Packing a lightweight bag and carrying it onto the airplane solves all those problems.
If I do have to check baggage, I always remember that both Southwest and JetBlue seem to offer significantly better service than do any of the other U.S. airlines. Both often win awards for both customer and employee satisfaction.
Another benefit of traveling with only carry-on luggage is that it saves a lot of time. I no longer wait at the baggage carousel. I am usually out the door at the airport much quicker than the majority of my fellow passengers. When flying into a small airport that has only one or two taxis waiting out front, that can make a big difference!
I have had checked luggage damaged by baggage handlers a number of times over the years, including once when my checked suitcase arrived on the baggage carousel split wide open, with underwear and other clothing spilling all over the place. The hinges on the almost-new, hard-sided Samsonite suitcase had been ripped off. That never happens when I carry the luggage onto the airplane myself.
Finally, the possibility of a lost bag becomes almost zero when the luggage never leaves my possession! I have never had a lost suitcase on an airline when I carried my own luggage on board.
The downside is that I do have to carry everything, which can be an issue if the bag is heavy. However, there is an easy solution: don’t pack anything heavy. When I say I “travel light,” I do mean just that: nothing heavy in the bag!
Even the carry-on bag itself needs to be lightweight. However, do make sure you purchase a carry-on with wheels and a suitable handle. Suitcase wheels are a “must” for travelers!
It's always good to be prepared for a research or writing opportunity. I carry a powerful, two-and-a-half-pound laptop computer, a 4G wireless modem (a few ounces), a battery-powered scanner for scanning documents (less than one pound), and other assorted electronic components. This often makes for some interesting conversation at security. I have had several TSA agents ask, “What is this?” However, in every case the agent has been satisfied quickly with a one-sentence answer. In short, it has never been a problem. I suspect that TSA agents see a lot of these devices.
Over the years I have made many trips to libraries, courthouses, and genealogy societies. Once I arrive at my destination, I often have found that I should have carried “one more thing” with me. I have now created a checklist of those things that I may need. I always verify the genealogy trip packing list when packing my suitcase. The list varies, depending on the purpose of my trip. For instance, I need bug repellant in a Maine cemetery but not at a genealogy conference in an Arizona convention center.
Once again, I thought I would share my suggestions and the packing list and also ask if you have further suggestions. I will list the things I might take on a genealogy research trip as well as to genealogy conferences. I will also describe "secret luggage."
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