Incredible Shrinking Suitcase Sizes
Went to the basement last night to get our suitcases for next week's trip to Iceland; while grabbing our two 21" carry-ons, I noticed all our various old suitcases (I really should do a clearance), some with their tags on from past trips, and realized that with the help of fellow posters here, as well as tough experience, we've come a long way.
In 1995, we went to France for 3 weeks, our first lengthy trip by air, and took with us two 28" pullmans, a hanging garment bag and a 21 or 24-incher. I can't imagine what we put in there to fill them up, but I know we didn't need it all.
By 2005, we were down to a 28 and a 24, plus a duffel. I think books filled the equivalent of the space in the duffel; e-readers have done away with that.
In 2007, after carefully raising the issue with my wife, I began logging what we actually used while traveling and what we didn't. After that trip, there were no more "I need 4 pairs of shoes," and so on. We also began paying more attention to apartments with washers, or to finding laundromats and laundry services. Seven or 8 shirts and a spare pair of pants takes a lot less space than 15 shirts and two pairs.
Before last summer's 3-weeks-in-Italy was a test. We bought two new 21" lightweights (Delsey) and determined that anything that didn't fit there or in our small backpacks would not go; the test got even more stringent when my wife had shoulder surgery in June; her right arm was in an immobilizer the whole trip and she couldn't use a backpack. Turned out to be no problem, and I was able to when necessary carry BOTH suitcases up and down bridges in Venice.
Iceland in the winter, though: could we do it, with the need for Big Boots? They are Really Big, bought for a February trip to the Canadian Rockies that turned out to be the mildest February in memory.
I packed early, and am ready to go with a week's worth of underwear and some heavyweight socks stuffed in the boots; a week of shirts rolled and compressed in 3-gal. ziplocks; the remaining socks, loose and not balled pressed in here and there into the crevices, toilet articles and silk underwear and the tech equipment bag pressed in...and amazingly, room left to add my hairbrush and a medium-weight sweater. Tonight we'll do my wife's but we're not worrying anymore.
We've dispensed with clocks; our cellphones provide that. No water purifier, but I do carry a Melitta cone because it takes up no space when stuffed with and among the socks etc.; that and a piece of paper towel if no filter is available means there can always be coffee. My wife's hair is also fine and straight; her solution is a sort of gel that helps but doesn't look or feel stiff.
The real "team" stuff for us is a zipper bag of plug adapters, a compact 4-outlet surge strip, a cube tap, some cables and a miniature router, and a 4-port USB charger--all of which takes up about the space of a thick paperback. The other sizable items, her 10" netbook and my 11" netbook, go in our small backpacks because we're not comfortable putting them in checked bags.
Our goal in getting small was never to be unable to get ourselves onto a train or bus, move down a street, or have to run a cheap air ticket into a small fortune. We're 68 and 61, and don't want to sacrifice our mobility by taking more than we can handle!
In all: pack less, and pack dense. I'm sure a lot of what we took in the early days was unnecessary--but I'm also sure a lot of what we took occupied more space than it needed to!