IIf you’ve ever stood in an airport baggage terminal watching other people’s suitcases crash into the carousel before finally realizing – with a similar thump – that yours isn’t one of them, you maybe play with the idea of vacation carry-on only.
It’s a trend that’s taking hold with particular urgency in 2022, thanks to the sharp rise in lost baggage at airports around the world. According transport computing company SITA2021 has seen a 24% increase in the number of bags ‘mishandled’ by airlines – that is, lost or delayed – compared to 2020. And 2022 is looking to be even worse.
In the USAaround one in seven bags in the first quarter of 2022 went missing – either permanently or temporarily – and a baggage handler told Guardian Australia this month that one in 10 bags do not reach planes on Qantas domestic services.
But is it practical, or even possible, to go on holiday for a reasonable amount of time with only hand luggage? Absolutely, says designer and former magazine editor David Clark. In 2008, he took a three-month trip around the world to 17 cities in Europe, Asia and both Americas, with everything he needed in a trusty carry-on.
“I started with the bag,” Clark says. “It was a soft wheeled bag with a removable backpack and I checked with all the airlines I would be flying on to make sure it met their requirements.”
This, says every carry-on evangelist, is the most critical step of all — more important than any consideration of color-coordinated outfits or fancy rolling-or-folding packing methods.
“Not only will this ensure a seamless check-in process, but it will also give you a guide to how much space you have to maximize,” says Kirsty Lucas, Australian country manager for international budget airline Scoot, adding that her airline allows for two bags totaling 10 kg in the cabin. Qantas’ domestic economy allows two pieces totaling up to 14kg, while Virgin caps things at 7kg.
Ann Vodicka, a stylist and former cabin service manager for Qantas now with Image Confidence, has a hook scale hanging at home and makes sure to weigh her luggage before leaving the house.
To build his travel wardrobe, Clark turned to his local adventure store, packing New Zealand wool climbing gear in a basic blue: T-shirts, zip-up tops and hoodies .
“They’re designed to wick away moisture so you don’t have any odor. And you can easily wash them in a sink on the go,” he says. He also added jeans, dress pants and a dress jacket for parties, but his smartest trick was to stick to one pair of shoes.
“They were lovely black leather shoes which I found extremely comfortable and that’s all I wore – no sneakers or anything. I wore them to climb mountains outside of Rome and wading through the water in Buenos Aires. And then I could wear them to dinner.
Vodicka also imposes strict numerical limits on its luggage. “If you pack three bottoms, five tops, and two pairs of shoes, you can mix and match that in 30 different outfits,” she says.
She suggests you fold items using Konmari’s space-saving method – cute little rectangles – and buy a small spray bottle that you can fill with water at the other end to spray your clothes to get rid of the wrinkles. .
Another tip? “Decant your toiletries into small containers – Muji make great travel bottles,” she says. This way you can be sure that your moisturizers and cleansers stay under airline restrictions on liquids and aerosols, which can be as little as 100ml.
It’s even possible to skip the baggage carousel when traveling with children, according to Jessica Mostogl, who regularly flies with her three boys – aged seven, four and eight months – with only hand luggage. His number one tip is to buy what you need when you get there.
“Diapers, formula and snacks – get it all at a destination supermarket,” she says. “And check if your accommodation has a washing machine. If you can wash, you can cut children’s clothes in half.
But perhaps more important than what you pack, Vodicka says, is what you leave behind. Practice getting rid of that niggling voice that plagues every overpacker: the one that says “what if” or “just in case.”
“Unless you’re going to a very remote place, if you really need something, you can buy it,” she says. “Just walk away from fear.”
Once you’ve done that, Clark says, you can lean into freedom. “Nothing feels better than stepping out into the world with little more than a few clothes, your swimmers and your passport,” he says.
Except, maybe, parading past all those people drumming their fingers on the baggage carousel.