As a traveler who doesn't change suitcases very often between work projects and play escapades—all over the world for months at a time—I have learned by trial and error what actually gets used on the road.
What do I mean by work projects and escapades? Well…imagine leaving a super-corporate convention in Barcelona to frolic around at a hippie-filled yet “hip” music festival in the Texas desert. But you're not done! You’re now off to the depths of the Sahara, where you ride a camel to visit a charity organization. From there, you jaunt back over the pond to host client a dinner for elegant Italian auto brand in New York. And before taking a breath, you head south for your sister's wedding—and all that entails. Now…imagine doing all of this traveling with the same suitcase you packed four months before when you went to that relaxed beach vacation in Costa Rica. How is this possible? It’s all in the suitcase.
Choosing the Right Bag
1. LOVE IT
If you travel a lot, you must get a bag you love. It’s imperative that you do so. You want to be excited about it when it comes down the conveyor belt in baggage claim. You want to proudly shout and hand gesture “That’s mine!” when a person whose language you can’t even begin to utter is found unloading it onto their donkey cart. Only with this kind of love will you be able to pay attention and avoid any mishaps along the way—and keep contents organized the way you like. With so much that happens traveling, you want to feel good when you open it up, zip it up, or roll it beside you on your way to a new adventure.
2. LET YOUR EXPERIENCE BE YOUR GUIDE
Since choosing a bag is based on personal taste and since there are a plethora of bag styles out there to be had, everyone over time creates a must-have list for a bag. Experience molds a traveler’s preferences, as it has done mine, to keep things pain-free while on the go. I personally prefer a bag that has two distinct compartments in a color unlike most other bags. Currently, I travel with a Burton Sub-Wheelie in Digi Flower. It’s bright enough to stand out on a conveyor belt anywhere in the world, but subtle enough so that an “elegant brand” client won’t give you weird looks as you’re checking into the hotel. The Burton Sub-Wheelie is also subtle enough to prevent unwanted attention in theft-happy airports. Therefore, before you go out on a luggage shopping spree, take some time to reflect on prior travels and remember what you had wished for.
3. WHEELS, SERIOUSLY…WHEELS
Your chosen bag MUST have sturdy wheels. Check this and double check this. There isn’t much worse than dragging a full suitcase down a cobblestone street on a weekend trip in a random country, and oops!, the wheel collapses on itself with no way for quick repair. My suggestion: skate board wheels that you can repair if need be at any skate board shop around the world on the fly. They are sturdy and don't have issues rolling on dirt roads, cobble stones, or wooden decks on your way to a yacht or a hand-rowed boat.
4. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
The two-compartment bag comes in handy for two reasons: organization and cleanliness. Make one compartment dedicated to clean clothes and undergarments as well as any jewelry and artwork you may acquire on the road. Dedicate the second compartment to shoes, personal care items/cosmetics, and any items that may leak or explode. I also take extra dividing precautions by putting all of my shoes in shoe bags, and keeping extra Ziploc freezer bags on hand to isolate anything that might leak. I've learned to isolate liquids and gels the hard way with everything from a shaving cream bottle creating a foam party in my bag to Argon oil mysteriously leaking out of a “sealed” bottle, to bright hair dyes transforming the contents of my bag into all of the colors of the rainbow.
5. ROOM TO GROW
Another important feature of any bag is expand-ability. You want this. You want it bad. Why? Because you will pick up something along the way. It could be gifts from friends you visit on the road or something you pick up for someone else, or maybe you get a last minute call that says you should be on a flight in two hours. Maybe you want to be able to stuff your suitcase quickly, because the taxi is early and you've got to leave now! Whatever the case, expandable suitcases and compartments are the best way to stay ready and flexible.
When you travel, truly travel to explore, not just go from a resort to your door-man attended building, you want to travel light enough so you’re not weighed down by the worldly possessions, but still pack a variety of things to be comfortable in any weather or situation that you’re likely to encounter on the road. Hopefully these tips will get you there, get you around, and off to someplace new—all with style and grace.
by guest-writer and fearless traveler: Christina Zolotova