Have you ever lost your luggage, or had it get rerouted and show up well into your vacation? Are you fed up with spending extra money on baggage fees with the airlines, or having to leave a huge tip with the porter for all the bags you need carried to your hotel room?
There is a way to free yourself from a lot of the hassles of luggage; travel with just your carryons!
No need to faint in disbelief. For now, just consider carryon-only travel as an ultimate or extreme goal; one that takes some discipline and adjustments (but surprisingly doable for most people). For now, let's just look at how we can minimize our luggage headaches when traveling on a Disney theme park vacation.
There are many reasons why packing lighter is a good thing:
There are various ways to avoid paying those pesky luggage fees when you fly. For example, you can:
Figuring out how to lighten your load starts well before you actually start packing your luggage. If you're on the market for new luggage, consider how easy it will be for you to use them. These days, even the larger check-in bags take the form of a rolling upright. That makes moving them a snap, but how easy is it to maneuver when they're full of clothes and weigh 50 pounds? Will the luggage fit in the trunk of your car? Can you lift and carry the case when it's fully loaded?
Some of the large models are extremely huge. My recommendation is to avoid going with the largest cases, and instead picking moderately sized ones that are easier to handle. One test: At the luggage store, ask the clerk if you can weigh the case down (with other merchandise; do it in front of the clerk), then try to navigate what is surely going to be narrow pathways and aisles inside the store. How easily does the case turn when it's heavy? Does the case try to flip over? How sturdy does the telescoping handle feel? Does it lock into place, and slide up and down with ease? Does the case have grab handles so it's easy to hoist without using the handlebar? Can you lift it when it's full?
Tip: Pay attention to the wheel mechanism and telescoping handlebars on rolling uprights. If the bag is recessed to accommodate these, you will have a big hump inside the bag that will affect how much you can pack. On the flip side, you'll have more room if they are on the outside of the case, but these stick out and may make them harder to put into a car trunk.
If you're like a lot of people, your trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World means packing "vacation clothes." Forget all that frumpy office stuff; you're packing your T-shirts and shorts! But before you toss a bunch of your favorite Mickey shirts in your luggage, take time to put together your packing wardrobe. For me, this usually means grabbing everything from the closet I think I want to take, and laying them all out on the bed. Then comes the "Garanimal"ification exercise. Garanimals are a brand of children's clothes that are tagged with different animals. As long as you match animals for your top and bottom, the colors and styles are guaranteed to work together. You can do the same thing with your vacation wardrobe. What this means is that, as much as possible, every item of clothing should match everything else. Sorry folks. That means your striped shirt should probably not go with your Minnie Mouse polka-dotted skirt.
The easiest way to coordinate your wardrobe is to pick a theme color. Neutrals are the easiest to match, so consider colors such as tan, cream, brown, khaki, navy, or even black. So aside from your blue jeans, try to stay within the same theme color for all of your clothes. You can still pack that favorite purple T-shirt, but it should still match the pants or shorts you've chosen in your theme color.
By coordinating around a theme color, you should be able to mix and match every single item in your wardrobe. This allows you to pack fewer garments because you aren't having to pack multiple sets of clothes. Instead, you can have some overlap, and what you wear will depend more on what's clean, rather than whether something matches or not.
Dont' forget, most resort hotels have coin-operated washers and dryers, so you only need to pack for a handful of days and do some laundry once or twice during your trip.
Tip: If you plan to pick up some souvenir T-shirts, count those as part of your vacation wardrobe by leaving one or two T-shirts at home.
My husband has a running joke; every time I go to the store, he says I'm compelled to check the skincare aisle to find out if there are any new lotions I can buy. While I don't think I'm that bad, I confess to using at least four different kinds of lotion everyday (I mean, you need one for your face with sunscreen, one just for your heels, another for your hands, one to go to bed in... right?). The challenge with having all these skincare (or hair care) products is that they take up a lot of space, and certainly it's not possible to fit everything into those itty bitty, teeny tiny, quart-sized resealable baggies, right? Wrong! It's much easier to pack all of your toiletries into the TSA-mandated 3-1-1 bags by making a few simple adjustments:
If you're unsure about how much product you'll need, here's a great little test: A few weeks before your trip, decant your products into the travel-sized containers you plan to use. Rather than packing them in your 3-1-1 kit early, leave them in your bathroom at home, and use them until you use everything up. If it helps, put a little sticky-note near them to jot down how often you used them. This will give you a good idea of how long the small containers will last. If your hair is very dry and you go through the conditioner after two uses, you might consider finding a thicker conditioner, or take two small bottles of conditioner with you. As you use up the bottles, it's OK to toss them out (thereby lightening your load some more).
Don't forget that all of the Disney resort hotels offer basic toiletries, like soap and shampoo. If you're staying on-property, you can save space by using the toiletries they provide. If you're like me and you like to take them home as souvenirs, however, consider tossing your own bottles at the end of your stay to make room for the Disney versions. If you don't have enough space in your 3-1-1 kit, toss the extras in a big Ziploc baggie to put in your check-in (the Ziploc baggie will reduce spillage disasters should any of them leak).
One huge plus when you don't put your toiletries in your check-in luggage, though: You never have to worry about busted lids or broken bottles messing up the contents of your luggage. See if you can reduce the amount of liquids you take on your next trip.
Tip: Although you're allowed up to 3 ounces (or 100 milliliters) in a bottle, consider the more manageable 2-ounce bottle. And you can get those anywhere, including those "energy shot" drinks! Just remove the label and voila. Your own travel-sized bottle.
Even if you don't like the hassles of carrying anything with you onto your flight bigger than your regular purse, I encourage you to consider taking a carryon bag. Even if you've managed to get most of your things neatly packed into your check-in luggage, there are some important things that could spell disaster (or at minimum, a big inconvenience) for your trip should your check-ins get lost. These include:
In my opinion, every person in your travel party should take a carryon, each packed with these items. If you're traveling with kids, you will want to take some toys for the flight (or drive)... but you should still consider packing their own 3-1-1 bags in their own carryons (since this multiplies the amount of toiletries you can take).
Tip: A lightweight backpack makes a great carryon, and can serve double-duty as your day bag during your visit to the parks.
When you're traveling light, you have to mind what souvenirs you buy. You have to make sure that you can fit your souvenirs in your luggage. Fortunately, you have some options:
Travel can be exciting—but it can also cause anxiety. Our insecurities start to creep up, and we start to second guess ourselves. Did we make all the arrangements? Did we forget anything? What if we hit bad weather—shouldn't we pack our rain boots and umbrellas? It's easy to make the mistake of packing for contingencies; doing this usually results in taking way too much stuff. It's OK to pack fewer items. Just be smart about what you pack. If you're a Disney Vacation Club member and you always spend a week at Saratoga Springs, you can even get yourself a locker service (like Owner's Locker) to hold onto things you know you only use when at the resorts. If you find that you forgot to pack something, relax! Most things are easily purchased at a nearby store.
You don't need to completely change up the way you pack. But with just a few minor changes and an awareness about how you pack, your adjustments can help you become a lighter packer.
(Send an email to Lani Teshima)
A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company. When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ. In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).