Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Packing Small

Recently my husband and I took a Danube River Cruise with AmaWaterways and Educational Opportunities to celebrate our upcoming 50th Wedding Anniversary and our 70th birthdays...all happening between 28 July and 16 Aug.  Since I plan on spending the rest of my rickety years traveling, I decided we had to come up with an easier way to navigate the travel gauntlet.  My solution: carry-on luggage only.  His solution: downgrade the ship stateroom in order to afford Business Class airfare.  Our solution:  Let's do both!  So, while he spent untold hours researching flights, I researched carry-on gear and  travel clothing.  

For travel gear, we usually turn to eBags, where we each chose a Swiss Gear carry-on bag.  

This is the 19" model which conforms to European airline specifications.  That is 19" x 14" x 9" (with an additional 2" of expansion).  It is a 4-wheel spinner case, which was a God-send when rushing through a crowded airport.  No need to drag it behind...just walk it in front of you.  Super smooth action on nearly every type of flooring we encountered.  

For our second carry on, we chose Swiss Gear backpacks that would fit under the seat.  
I normally travel with a change of clothing in my backpack for those times when my luggage is lost/destroyed/delayed.  But, since everything was already in the overhead storage in my carry-on, I could have gone with a smaller backpack.  *Noted for my next trip*
These are packing cubes, also from eBags. They really helped keep the packed clothes from sliding around in the suitcase and eliminated nearly all wrinkling.

So, my packing list:  2 pair of JJill pants from their Wearever Collection, 1 pair of leggings, 1 pair of jeans, 6 shirts/blouses, 1 long skirt with 2 tops and one cover-up, 1 pr of pajamas, 3 bras, 5 pr undies, 5 pr socks, 3 scarves, 3 pr of shoes, 1 waterproof jacket, 1 hat.  I wore jeans, t-shirt, scarf, jacket and one pair of the shoes on the plane and carried an addition shirt and undies in the backpack.  Everything else fit in the carry-on.

The backpack also carried a small amount of jewelry, Kindle, hair do-dads, and make-up.  I even carried a hand-quilting project to work on not knowing that there would be no time for such a quiet activity on a river cruise.  I have also downsized my make-up to a 3 piece set from BOOM.  So, my TSA liquids bag had only the Boom makeup, toothpaste, tiny bottle of liquid laundry soap, one tube of lipstick, mascara.  No need to carry anything else.  The ship is a floating hotel and provides "spa quality" shampoo, etc.  

I was confident that I could make this plan work with all the lightweight fabrics available to me for summertime.  We weren't as confident about my husband being able to stay within the confines of the carry-on.  Especially after seeing it all laid out on the bed. 

His carry-on packing list:  2 pair of lightweight slacks, 4 polo shirts, 1 pair of shorts, 1 bathing suit, 2 t-shirts, 4 pair undies, 4 pair of socks, hat, 1pair sandal (size 13!!).  He is 6'1" and well over 200 lbs, so we are not talking about small items of clothing here. In addition, he must travel with a CPAP machine, but with the expandable zipper, he managed it very well.  His back pack carried all our electronic adapters, Kindle, and mini iPad. 

I opted to wash a couple of clothing items each day, but husband sent everything to the ship laundry daily.  He spent $40 for laundry service, which was cheaper than paying for an additional bag to carry more clothes.  I chose to do my own laundry for fear of what these lightweight pants might look like after a commercial laundry trip.

We received a lot of incredulous looks and comments when presenting just carry-on luggage.  The bell man at the Marriott in Budapest said in his heavily accented English "You must be very organized".  The pilot at one stop saw us waiting for the hectic rush to depart the plane and asked if we needed assistantance (old people). We thanked him and told him we were in no hurry since we had no bags to claim.   We saw him later in the terminal and he complimented us and said we really know how to make travel more enjoyable.  

Flying from Fort Smith AR to Budapest Hungary took about 24 hours.  Because of flying Business Class and using just carry-on bags, we arrived in really good condition and ready to tour Budapest the following day (remember, we are almost 70). Just knowing you didn't have to fight the baggage carousel crowd was pure freedom.  To find reasonably priced Business Class fares took my husband several months of research and negotiations, but it was definitely worth it.  And an unexpected benefit of traveling with just carry-on baggage, we were able to hop on better flights to eliminate stops without losing our Business Class seats. 

Oh, and we found that we each packed one outfit more than we used!