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So, I had this vision: I would be a no luggage, backpack kind of girl, swinging on and off planes and out of taxis with my hands free. [Cue Sound: Georgy Girl] No long waits at baggage claim for me. If I am going somewhere and need more than my backpack, I am bringing TOO. MUCH. STUFF.
It’s not about volume, boys and girls. It’s about weight. I can pack what I need for a two week trip in my backpack (as long as there are washing machines at the Airbnbs). I can fit in my laptop, cords, adapter, even a few paper files. I have gotten so good at remembering to put my liquid stuff into a little baggy and packing it on top. Sometimes I even remember to take it OUT of my backpack when going through security and put it into the bin. But about half the time I don’t. I have yet to be called out on it.
This past weekend I went over to Greece to meet up with my friends Dan and Ayla who were staying in Thessaloniki. Ayla met me at the airport. I have to say that getting picked up at the airport is one of the things I missed most when I started traveling for business and more so when security measures kept non-passengers from the gates. I seldom get met at the airport. As an adult, you are supposed to figure out your transportation to and from, and I do. So, it was a special treat to see my friend waiting for me inside the airport.
She looked at my backpack.
“Nope. This is it.”
“Well, come on then.”
I use two packing cubes for my clothes and a plastic bag for toiletries. I try to pack light and this time I did very well. There was only one blouse that I didn’t wear. Everything else was put to use. That’s a new record for me. (Kind of chuffed.)
What weighs the backpack down is my laptop. It’s not super heavy—in fact, it is balanced on my lap for about eight hours a day, no problem. But once it is in my backpack it suddenly doubles and triples in weight. Since the whole point of the backpack is to not check any luggage, I end up walking miles through airports with it, usually slung on one shoulder, then shifted to the other, sometimes I actually go all out and commit to using both straps at once. By the end of a travel day, my shoulders are aching and I am glaring with undisguised jealousy at all those people striding through the airport, practically dancing with their clever little twirlie-wheelie cases.
I have a clever little twirlie-wheelie case, too. But it’s hard sided and for some reason, I thought a backpack would be more… I don’t know. Fun? Cool? Okay. I’ll admit it: Young(er). To be sure, it’s easier to shoulder the pack than to drag a case over cobblestones or up two flights of stairs. (Not so clever now, are we little twirlie-wheelie cases?)
In addition, I know that even though the case meets the requirement for carry-on, it will not fit under a seat. The backpack is more malleable and I can pretend it fits under the seat if need be. (It doesn’t quite, but it makes a lovely footrest.)
SIDE NOTE: While we are here, let’s just face the reality that you will never be able to pull anything out of any bag that is under the seat in front of you. You end up trying to snag the strap with your foot, tugging and wiggling to bring it close enough to you so you can lean down to pick it up. But unless you have a side job with Cirque du Soleil, you will not be able to contort your body into any position that makes bringing the case up to your lap remotely possible.
The last time I took the case as a carry-on, the plane was (surprise!) completely full and they asked people to gate check their carry-ons. I made the mistake of doing so, only to have the flight cancel and my bag disappear for a week. I will not make that mistake again.
For short trips, it is carry on only for this girl. It just might not always be a backpack. Those little twirlie-wheelie cases are looking better and better.