OPINION

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On the move
I have always travelled light, moving from place to place with what I could carry on my back or in my hands. I have a packing list which has been refined over the years and I stick to it. There are lots of sample lists on the internet. If I fly with a major airline, they give me 7kg to carry on. Depending on the climate where I’m going, and whether or not I am working, that does me comfortably. Know that baggage invariably expands to just over the size of the suitcase you have chosen to pack it in. Canberra in midwinter is a challenge, but Bali anytime is a breeze. Currently, airlines have all but given up on baggage handling, and lost baggage claims are at an all time high.
Qantas is losing one in every ten booked bags. Travelling light, you incur no excess baggage fees, you can quickly and independently cross airports, you don’t have to hire airport trolleys, and you avoid hernias. You get to the taxi-rank quickly and drivers like passengers with lightweight luggage. Then there is that sense of smugness when you drop your bag on the airline’s scales at weigh-in, knowing exactly what it weighs.
Can you do it? First, check acceptable format and allowable weight for carry-on baggage with the airlines you plan to use. Get their answers in print, if you can. If the proportion of carry-on baggage explodes as I believe it will, check-in staff are likely to get more demanding about what they will allow you through the gate with, and it might be useful to have the document to wave around. Currently, Virgin Domestic says one 7kg bag, Qantas says two, maximum weight 14kg. And for a long time now, I have weighed both carry-on and checked baggage. I use bathroom scales, but have it in mind to buy some compact travelling scales.
Bag format is also critical. I don’t like rigid format bags, although the airlines do, for obvious reasons. I can squeeze my canvas holdall into crannies in the overhead locker that a rigid bag would balk at. It will also squeeze into any carry-on bag template known to man. Soft bags are less damaging to fellow passengers in the event that they fall out of overhead lockers. They also pack more easily ‘under the seat in front of you’. Weigh your empty bag. It should be as light as is compatible with what you are going to ask of it.
Much of my travel clothing is quick-dry, including thermal underwear which substitutes for heavier conventional outer wear. I carry or wear lightweight top and bottom wind-proofs which are stylish enough for more formal occasions. I fold or roll my clothing into separate wallets: one for socks, one for underpants, one for shirts and one for laundry. One pair of solid walking shoes, always worn, never carried packed. It helps to have good slip-on shoes and belt-less trousers for those occasionally officious security checks when you are told to remove your belt and shoes. And put them on again, all in full view of the other passengers.
I have two metal hips which always gets me a full pat-down. Watch, phone and wallet go through security in the passport-toughened pocket on my carry-on bag. I am also of an age when my sponge-bag becomes a sponge sack. Over the years I have collected a variety of small pharmaceutical jars which hold my medications and toiletries. I pack enough for the trip, including any prescriptions, restocking at my destination. At Christmas time we go away to relatives in Launceston and Canberra alternately. We always give books for Christmas, pre-wrapped and labelled and always heavy, they are packed and forwarded separately.
A risk, I know, but only a slight one. And I am never out of range of a good book shop if the package goes astray. Last Christmas Eve the proprietor of a Hobart bookshop hand delivered a parcel of books which had been bought online at the last minute from Canberra when Covid interrupted travel plans. Can you travel light? If I can do it, anybody can. The rewards and the convenience are considerable. Start planning now. Buy your bag, get some scales and have a good look at your wardrobe.
Take it from me. You won’t regret it.
John Fleming II

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