Airlines will collect more luggage fees this summer than in any other in the history of modern aviation.
At least they will if the current trends hold. Last year, American carriers pocketed $3.8 billion in luggage fees, up $275 million from 2014. (Never mind whether the fees are related to the cost of transporting your luggage.)
Maybe this isn’t the summer to overpack.
But this isn’t the story you’re expecting. It’s not a “how-to” about folding your clothes more efficiently or lightening your load by jamming everything into a jacket that you wear on the plane. I’ve written that a time or two, and I really hate reruns. Instead, I’m just going to tell you what to leave home.
Oddly, the things travelers leave behind are the same things they forget. Depending on which survey you read, the top items left behind are your toothbrush, your technology and accessories such as a phone charger. Travelers tell me those are exactly the items you should leave behind.
“This may sound gross, but I’ve stopped packing a toothbrush and toothpaste,” says Chelsea Dowling, who works for a marketing agency in Chicago. “I got tired of the TSA confiscating my toothpaste tubes. I’ve started either asking the hotel front desk for these or stopping by a local drug store when I arrive.”
Good point. Why pack an old toothbrush and a half-used tube of toothpaste that will probably just be confiscated when you can just pick up a fresh one at your destination?
“Toiletries,” agrees Francesca Montillo, who runs culinary tours to Italy. “I used to pack full-size bottles of shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, toothpaste, perfumes, hand lotion, sunblock and the list goes on and on! You would be shocked to find how much all those items weigh … Now, I leave all those things behind and just head to a store when I reach Italy.”
And that’s not the only thing travelers are leaving at home.
“This summer when I travel I’ll leave behind my heavy laptop,” says Lisa Batra, the owner of a kids’ clothing company in Newtown, Pa. In fact, she’s downsized everything, shedding books and other gadgets and downloading everything onto a tablet computer.
“The baggage fees and weight requirements vary so much, so packing light and just the essentials is the way to go,” she says.
But that’s not the only reason to dump your technology, including all of those pesky chargers and wires.
The pros say other gadgets such as standalone cameras and phones don’t just bulk up your baggage, but they can take away from the vacation. Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of G Adventures, a tour operator based in Toronto, leaves both his laptop and his camera behind when he travels for leisure. “I don’t mind keeping in touch and replying to occasional emails,” he says, “but if I have my laptop I work on everything.”
His rule of thumb? Less is more.
“After you pack your bag, take 50% of it out,” he says. Remove the non-essential items. “Leave it at home. You can buy anything you really need while in another location, and support local economies at the same time.”
Who would have thought that the most common things left in a hotel room should have been left at home in the first place? Not me. I spend about 300 days out of every year on the road, but only a small fraction flying. Like most Americans, I drive to my destination.
Over the years, I’ve shed the massive digital camera, the video camera, the bulky laptop. My Samsung S7 takes better pictures than the four-pound camera I’ve relied on for years. Oh, and the portable vacuum cleaner. Don’t laugh. I have three kids, so I thought we really needed a vacuum cleaner to keep the car tidy. Turns out the coin-operated vacuum cleaners at the service station work better.
Around the same time the vacuum cleaner made the do-not-pack list, a surprising item was added. No, not an extra toothbrush or a new piece of technology. It was a French press coffee maker, hot water heater, and grinder.
You can leave everything behind but good coffee — that’s where I draw a line.
What to take on your trip
This summer, you’ll probably drive to your vacation. Here’s what to add to your car without bulking it up.
• A WiFi hotspot. Every member of your family will thank you, and you won’t spend a fortune stopping at McDonald’s or Starbucks for their “free” hotspot. Try the ZTE Mobley Vehicle WiFi Hotspot, which plugs directly into your car’s OBD II. It’s included with AT&T’s data plans, which cost anywhere from $10 to $30 per month.
• A clever trip computer. Try an application like Metromile, a pay-per-mile car insurance provider, which offers a device that plugs into your onboard computer and lets you track the number of miles you’ve driven, figure out what those mysterious diagnostic warnings mean and even locate your car when you forget where you parked. Costs vary based on your state of residence.
• And don’t forget the coffee! I admit, I travel with a fairly large French press, but they come in smaller sizes that easily fit your luggage, or your trunk. One of the highest-rated is Bodum’s Travel Press, a $30 personal-size press that holds 15 ounces. That’s plenty of good coffee.