A friend suggested I should offer information about how I paired down my packing.  Here are a couple of the decisions I made about what to take and what to leave behind.  I am a frugal and casual traveller. If you are the type to stay at 5 star hotels, travel by taxi everywhere and dress for dinner, then these notes are NOT for you!  If you carry your suitcase a lot, stay in hotels that don't always offer all the comforts of home, and enjoy picnics and people watching more than elegant dining, then you might like to try some of my suggestions.  Everyone's style of travel and list of "absolutely must haves" is different so take what's useful here and please leave suggestions of your own. 

Obviously, the first decision is whether to check a back or not.   I have chosen not to check a bag for a number of reasons. 

1. Our style of travel tends to include a lot of moving around using public transit.  Weight, therefore, is a serious consideration. Hopping on a public bus with a little bag is much different than hopping on with a 22 kg/50 lb bag. Or down the stairs to the Metro. Or up 4 flights of stairs at your budget hotel that does not have an elevator.

2. We generally do not go on cruises or stay at all-inclusive resorts. In other words, the people who saw me yesterday will not see me today and will not know if I am wearing the same clothes. I need to take enough clothes to feel clean, but not enough to impress anyone.  Fewer clothes = smaller bag.

3. It is delightful to get off the plane at your destination and be the first in line to have your passport checked and then head outside. No waiting at the luggage carousel and no lost luggage. 

4. And of course, we don't pay for checked luggage

My choice of bag: a wheeled carry-on that is 40 cm/16 in  tall.  It fits under the seat in front of me. It has wheels. And it has a nifty, side pouch that intrudes into the interior space that is perfect for jackets or other items you might need to access quickly.  Well, like your liquids at the airport security line. I can avoid digging around in my bag when I need something. I don't have an additional "personal item" or purse: just a single bag.  One personal choice I made was to have a wheeled bag instead of a backpack although they would be about the same size. 

Research is crucial: what airlines will you be using? Check their carry-on bag sizes because every airline is slightly different. As importantly, some discount airlines do not allow that second "personal item."  And when deciding what brand of suitcase to buy, check Consumer Reports for their ratings.  We have had an unfortunate case where the wheels on our suitcase (a heavy, checked bag) gave out when being dragged over the cobblestones in Rome.  Next trip we had smaller and better suitcases!

Next post: camera choices and packing lists