I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest to you that light luggage is a good thing – we’ve all heard the “pack light” mantra. But even aside from the fact that it sucks to carry around a huge, heavy suitcase, airlines now appear to be cracking down on oversized baggage, which means overweight luggage can get hit with big surcharges, fees, and other unpleasant things. And many of the best brands of luggage are so heavy that, even if you carry on, you may need a fork lift just to get it up into the overhead. But fear not, intrepid travelers. I’ve got some recommendations for light luggage that is still just as durable heavier brands, and suggestions for how to pack to minimize the weight.
Baggage Restrictions – A Quick Survey
I spot-checked the checked luggage rules for a number of different airlines – I focused on Southwest, United, American, British Airways, and Ryan Air, which seemed to be representative. All the airlines had basically the same regulations, except for Ryan Air, the Ireland-based European budget carrier, which was much more restrictive. These are their regulations for flying Coach – if you are lucky enough to fly Business or First Class, they allow you a little more leeway.
Checked Baggage Limits
All the major airlines (except stingy Ryan Air) allowed Economy class passengers to check two pieces of luggage. The maximum size for a checked bag on all these carriers is 62 linear inches (length + width + height). The maximum weight is 50 lbs, or 23 kg.
Ryan Air is an ultra-budget carrier, and gives its passengers a free checked baggage allowance of zero – each piece of checked luggage costs about $8, with a maximum allowed weight of 15 kg, or 33 lbs.
When your baggage clocks in over the weight limit, the airline hits you with a big fee. For bags between 50 lbs and 70 lbs, this fee can vary from about $25 to $50. When you get up past 70 lbs, the airline usually tells you that you have to ship it by air freight, which starts getting ridiculously expensive. Since they barely make any money on your £10 London to Barcelona flight, Ryan Air charges an extra £5 ($10) for each kilo you go over the 15kg cap. So if you’re flying with them (or EasyJet, or other budget Euro-carriers), you’ll definitely want to keep it light.
How to Lighten Your Luggage
There are just two possible ways make your baggage lighter: Lighten what’s inside, or lighten the bag itself. Here are my picks for the best lightweight luggage, followed by a few tips on bringing down the weight inside of them.
Lightweight Luggage – Best Picks
Every pound counts when 50 lbs is fine, and 51 lbs costs you money. Especially when a bag like Tumi’s LXT 28” upright weighs in at 22 lbs empty – that’s practically half your weight allowance used up on the bag itself! Here are my picks for luggage that is lightweight, but still good quality, so you know it won’t fall apart in the middle of a trip. You may notice a slight Eagle Creek bias – they really are the best when it comes to light, functional, and tough suitcases.
Eagle Creek Hovercraft Luggage: This is the official winner of the light luggage contest. Their largest bag, the 28 inch upright, weighs just 10 lbs – way, way less than any other bag its size. And it still has all the the Eagle Creek quality (and lifetime warranty!).
Timbuk2 Wheeled Bags: These guys built their reputation making heavy duty, functional messenger bags for San Francisco bike messengers. They have recently taken that know-how and applied it to a new line of wheeled luggage. And it’s really, really light – just a shade heavier than the Hovercrafts. Plus you get Timbuk2’s hip styling, with the shovel-grip mono handle and swappable skateboard wheels.
Eagle Creek Deviate Luggage: The Deviate line from Eagle Creek has a couple of lightweight backpacks on wheels, but the best part of the line (from a lightweight luggage perspective) is a series of extra-large, ultra-light suitcases called the Ramble and the Swerve. If you need tons of space, and want to try and stay under the oversize weight limit, check those out.
Use Travel Clothing
So, once you have the lightest possible suitcase, you can give yourself a little extra insurance by making sure that what’s inside is lightweight too. Travel clothing, like the stuff made by Ex Officio and Columbia Sportswear, is designed to be a lot lighter than normal clothes. It also packs down smaller, so you can get the same amount of clothing into a smaller (and lighter) suitcase.
I’ll end this little article with what can be the easiest and the hardest way to keep the weight of your luggage down. Don’t pack so much crap! You probably don’t need five pairs of shoes. Or three different sport coats. And maybe you can leave that portable coffee maker at home. Know what you’ll use, and what you won’t. Check out this travel outfitting guide for some suggestions on how to pack everything you’ll need in one carry-one size bag and one small day bag!
SELF-CONTAINED = ALWAYS PREPARED
Self-contained travelers live by the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared.” They have everything they need in a handy accessible place, ready to be deployed when the situation calls for it.
But a self-contained traveler does not find it necessary to carry huge suitcases full of junk just in case they may need something. Their packing kung fu is strong – they can carry a single carry-on size piece of luggage, and yet always be prepared, because they know what they need, and what they don’t. They know the secrets of the Tao of Packing.
The Tao of Packing – What to Bring & What to Leave Home
Good packing is all about balance. A skillful traveler brings neither too much, nor too little. On one side of the balance, you have your essential clothes and items packed, having forgotten nothing. But the yin to that yang is the ability to free yourself from attachment to the things you don’t really need. Heavy packers tend to be motivated by a fear of being caught without something. Follow these Four Precepts of the Tao of Packing to free yourself from that fear, and travel light in mind and luggage.
When in doubt – leave it at home.
If you’re looking at that third pair of shoes or the sweater that only goes with one outfit, and you’re thinking, “I’m not sure whether I’ll wear that,” put it right back in your closet. You’ll be more comfortable, traveling lighter every day, and the only downside is that you’ll have to wear the same shoes to dinner as you wore to the museum. That’s a good tradeoff.
Other countries have stores too.
When you get to your destination, and discover that the item you left (or forgot) at home was absolutely essential, you will almost definitely be able to find a passable substitute at your destination. Left your jacket at home when you went to Nepal in the wintertime? Don’t worry. Nepali people get cold too.
Small (and light) is beautiful.
The space taken up by full-sized items like hairdryers, toiletries, and even clothing can add up when your goal is to travel with just a carry-on.
DO I NEED A VOLTAGE CONVERTER OR PLUG ADAPTER?
Trying to figure out what you need in order to make your electrical appliances work overseas can be a little confusing. But never fear. We here at Le TRAVEL STORE have put together this guide to help you figure out exactly what you need.
Foreign Electricity & Plugs
The electricity coming out of the wall in the USA is 110 volts. In most other countries it is 220 volts. This means that you either need a voltage converter, or an appliance that accepts both 110v and 220v – appliances that accept both are said to be dual voltage.
Most countries also use a different plug shape than the USA. In order to make your plug fit in the wall,
Other Countries that Use 110 volts
A few other countries use 110v, meaning you can just plug your US appliance right in. These countries include Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and many places in the Carribean, Central America, and the Pacific Islands.
Dual Voltage Appliances
Dual Voltage Appliances accept both 110v and 220v, so all you need is a plug adapter to make your plug fit in the wall. You don’t need a voltage converter. Appliances that are made for travel (travel hair dryers, travel irons, etc.) are almost always dual voltage.
The following appliances are nearly always dual voltage:
- Laptop Computer Battery Chargers
- Camera Battery Chargers
- Cell Phone Chargers
- IPod Chargers
How Can I Find Out If My Appliance is Dual Voltage?
On every electrical appliance there is an indications panel with a bunch of writing in it. This will tell you if your appliance is dual voltage.
- Dual Voltage appliances will say 110/220vac, or 120~240vac, or something similar. This means it accepts both 110 volts and 220 volts.
- Single Voltage appliances will just say 110vac or 120vac
NOTE: For laptops, cameras, cell phone chargers, and other battery chargers, the indications panel is found on the charger itself.
My Appliance is Dual Voltage – What Do I Need?
All you need is a plug adapter to make your plug fit in the wall. If your plug has 2 pins, you can use the ungrounded adapter (UG). If you have 3 pins, you need the grounded adapter (G). Here’s what you need for some common destinations:
- Continental Europe plug adapter: (UG-A or G-A)
- Great Britain and Ireland plug adapter: (UG-D or G-D)
- Australia/ New Zealand plug adapter: (UG-C or G-C)
- Find out more about plug adapters on our plug adapters page.
My Appliances is Not Dual Voltage – What Do I Need?
You need a voltage converter and a plug adapter. The easiest choice is the Auto-Dual Wattage International Converter Set, which has a converter that works for any appliance, and a set of 5 adapter plugs, covering most of the world.
To determine exactly which Voltage Converter will work for your appliance, you need to know the wattage. Look at the indications panel – the wattage is the number followed by a W, (for example, 12W, 50W, or 1600W).
- For appliances under 50W, use a 0-50 Watt Transformer, and the proper adapter plug.
- For appliances over 50W, use a 26-1875 Watt Converter, and the proper adapter plug.