Traveling light is a skill. It’s also a frame of mind.
When you opt to use carry on travel luggage as your primary luggage, it forces you to develop skills and expertise that will allow you to travel the world in a whole new way.
A touchable, hands-on way.
And once you do, you’ll never go back to carrying more than one piece of light-weight carry on luggage when traveling overseas.
It’s almost impossible to convince an unseasoned casual tourist that traveling to Europe with nothing but carry on travel luggage is the best way to go.
It's not even easy to persuade repeat European travelers that using only lightweight carry on luggage will make the difference in a mediocre trip - one that’s physically tiring and stamina draining – and a travel experience that’s flexible, unencumbered, and hassle free.
When you commit to traveling with only carry on travel luggage you build instant elasticity into your travel plan, your Europe experience, your travel itinerary, and the memories you create along the way.
It gives you the freedom to maneuver through crowds, hop a train, change directions, and arrive a bit later at the airport.
It frees up your time. Time at the luggage carrousel, not waiting for your luggage to exit the plane.
Time from packing. And from re-packing. And trying to find what you’re looking for in all your stuff.
Choosing to travel with only carry on travel luggage gives you more time on the road.
You create time by saving time, as you quickly maneuver through train stations, airports, ferry ports, and on subways, busses, and trams.
You and your carry on bag will zip through crowds of other tourists, when traveling in peak season Europe.
With your lightweight carry on luggage in tow, you have greater mobility for whatever you want to do.
You can switch flights, when there’s space on an earlier one.
You can stand by for an available flight, if yours is cancelled, delayed, or over-booked.
You can agree to be 'bumped' and possibly gain a free airline ticket. [Or even cash!]
You can save money. No skycaps to pay, no taxis to tip. No fees to pay airlines for the privilege of checking your bags.
Not to mention your carry on bag is never out of your hands. No damage. No theft. No luggage winding up in another city - or arriving 2 days late.
How can you not agree that traveling with just carry on travel luggage is the simplest, easiest, and most stress-free way to go?
Picture yourself stepping onto the Champs-Elysees. It’s an early Paris morning. You hopped the metro into the city center, after arriving on your overnight flight.
The sun is on the rise. Paris is waking up. Beneath high clouds...the Eiffel Tower.
Now...you choose the ending:
Do you follow your heart, wandering along that beautiful boulevard in the fresh morning air, finding the perfect sidewalk café for a morning espresso to watch the world go by?
Or, do you sit in a cab, in the middle of traffic, with views obstructed, horns blow-ing, your driver prattling about American this, Francophile that, while cursing the driver in the next car...in French?
Becoming a carry on traveler means working a little harder before you travel, but needing to work less [at least regarding your travel luggage] when you’re actually on the road in Europe, or traveling anywhere overseas.
But you must spend some time to find the right carry on bag for your particular travel needs.
Ask any traveler who’s made the leap to traveling with a single carry on bag, and they’ll tell you it’s the only way to go.
So, what do you look for in the perfect carry on bag?
The same things we discussed in our article about excess luggage. The rules for construction, durability, quality, shape, design, and functionality are exactly the same.
The difference is size. You must be able to meet the airline carry on luggage requirements.
You must make sure the dimensions of your carry on bag meet or exceed those allowed by your overseas carrier.
You must confirm that the maneuverability and mobility of your wheeled carry on luggage will not let you down in a crowd, on the road, at the airport, or walking the old streets of European cities.
For rolling carry on luggage, pay careful attention that all wheels, handles, and outside pockets will not impede your bag from fitting into the airplane's overhead bin.
Anything attached to the outside of your carry on bag must fit within the allowed airline dimensions and be securely attached, with little protrusion beyond the body of the bag.
Choose your carry on travel luggage to be the lightest weight and most durable construction you can find. Scour brick and mortar stores, online retail sites, and luggage sales for the best carry on luggage that meets your size requirements.
Opt for a bag that is slightly smaller than the standard 22 x 14 x 9 inch dimension required by most airlines today. This will give you 'wiggle room'. Plus, you’ll be better able to lift it into the overhead luggage bin.
Plan to pack better, take less, and do a little bit of laundry when you travel. Limit your wardrobe, your shoes, your electronics, and of course, any liquids you plan to take.
I promise you, whether you’re running to catch a train, a plane, a bus, a ferry, or a donkey cart, you’ll be glad you did.
And if your trip includes a flight on intra-European carriers, there are a few where 'normal size' carry on travel luggage will actually fit within their stringent luggage allowance. Consider yourself lucky. You won’t have to check your carry on bag, or opt to take the train instead.
But, if you find yourself and your carry on luggage on one of the very restrictive European airlines, whose rules are so strict there's simply no way any reasonable carry on bag is allowed onboard, just grab your day bag, your camera bag, or your lunch bag and smile.
After all...you’re in Europe!
Try these pages for details on airline luggage weight and size restrictions for both domestic and international airlines, along with linear dimensions, weight allow-ances, and tips for packing luggage:
Carry On Luggage – More Rules, More Restrictions to test even a savvy seasoned traveler.
Rethinking Checked Luggage: How to balance what you pack with airline baggage restrictions on overseas flights.
Is Your International Carry On Bag Legal? Follow airline carry on bag requirements for hassle-free boarding.
Excess Luggage – How The Airlines Take Your Money. Learn how to choose luggage that meets or beats airline luggage restrictions.
Always be prepared for a situation when airline personnel force you to check even your 'in compliance' carry on bag.
Although it seldom happens, airlines have been known to randomly make passengers check all bags with wheels, bags that exceed cabin space, or just because the grass is green or the sky is blue!
If your carry on luggage is compliant with the airline's published rules, yet onboard airline personnel insist you check it, politely challenge the decision. If all else fails, request time to remove your valuables and medications, or any-thing at risk for theft or breakage. And refuse to pay any checked luggage fees!
Great Tips for European Travel
On Rick Steves' 12 Disc, Blu-ray, Collector's Edition
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