“People like to think of you as a certain person or a certain type of person, and they do love to give you a label. We want luggage labels, and we like people labels.“
Simple Luggage Tips for Long-Term Travelers
Luggage Tips #1: Make Sure You Can Find The Right Bag on the Baggage Carousel
After five years of traveling around the world, I learned many of these baggage tips either the hard way or by watching other Fifty Plus Nomads:
- Put something on your bag to make it easy to identify. A colorful ribbon, tie, or baggage tag will help ensure you have picked up the correct suitcase.
- If you don’t have a luggage tag, check the long airplane plastic tags when you pick up your luggage. Your last name will be on the tag somewhere. (Note: it can be hard to find).
- I once had an acquaintance who picked up the wrong bag from a baggage carousel, brought it home, and then arranged with the person who picked up his bag by mistake to meet and exchange bags. Fortunately, they both reported that they had picked up the wrong suitcase from the airline and were able to arrange a meeting quickly.
- Keep the baggage claim ticket until you have your luggage at hand. It makes it easier to find a bag if it is missing or delayed. In addition, occasionally, airline personnel will not allow you to get your bag until you show them the tag to ensure that you are taking the right suitcase.
Luggage Tip #2: Pick the Right Bag for Your Travels
- When I travel for months at a time, soft-sided luggage falls apart quickly. Before buying hard-sided luggage, I had to buy a new soft-sided bag once a year. On the other hand, I had the same hard-sided suitcase for five years.
- I prefer to travel with as few bags as possible. I get nervous that I will leave a bag behind or be distracted, and someone will take one of my bags. (Thankfully, I have never left a bag behind by mistake).
- A backpack or duffle bag is usually not advisable for Fifty Plus Nomads because backpacks and duffle bags are too hard on our bodies. However, you may consider some backpacks that can convert into a suitcase. (If you do choose to use a backpack, read Nomadic Matt’s book Travel Under $50 a Day)
- I will usually bring one large, hard-sided roller bag on extended trips. The bag and its content should not exceed 50 pounds when weighed together. (50 pounds or 22 kilograms is the maximum weight most non-budget airlines have to avoid additional fees).
- Airlines are anal about the weight requirements. I have tried to pack more than 50 pounds in my checked bags several times and not take a carry-on. Then, I argued that the total weight is less than the airline’s aggregate weight limits. (Some airlines do not want your carry-on bags to weigh more than ten pounds). Arguing this point was a waste of breath. The ticket agent forced me to pack the excess weight items into a spare carry-on bag or pay an excess baggage fee. (Supposedly, this requirement keeps the baggage handler from doing damage to their backs from lifting heavy loads).
- I take a small backpack or carry-on bag whenever I carry a laptop since it is not legal to pack a computer into my checked baggage. (Sometimes, usually for short trips, I do not bring my laptop and use my smartphone instead).
- Traveling with bags that look worn and are not high-end is good. They draw less attention to thieves.
Luggage Tips #3: Other Useful Tips
- Some experts recommend having locks on luggage. I find locks more trouble than they are worth. The keys are easy to lose, and sometimes the locks are destroyed if the airline security personnel open the bags and destroy the locks. (Airline personnel can open bags if they believe you have packed something that could be illegal to transport).
- Do not put your address on your luggage to avoid problems with potential home burglaries. (Airline employees have been known to burglar travelers’ homes when the travelers are away). Instead, put your phone number and email. Also, if airline counter personnel require that you put an address on your bags, put the address of your destination hotel instead. If I go to a private residence arranged through a language school, I will put the name and contact info for the school instead of the private home.