What I will never do again when travelling

I catch public transport to and from work, and I often see people on the train who are on their way to the airport, bags in tow.

Tow is right—most of them have such enormous suitcases, I don’t know how they cope. They must have half their wardrobe in these things. And even if you can use elevators and escalators most of the time, there are other times when you have to lug the bag up stairs, across gutters and into buses, not to mention crossing the weird gap we have in Melbourne between the train and the platform.

And if you have to travel at peak hours, it’s a nightmare.

I gave up taking a big suitcase overseas in the late 1990s when I went to Europe. My suitcase was on wheels, but these were no help on escalators on the London Tube during the morning rush hour. My suitcase got in everyone’s way, constantly, over two weeks in England, Switzerland and France, and meant I was limited in what I could do once I’d checked out of a hotel. Smart Europeans, meanwhile, were sporting newfangled super-light cases or backpacks.

To be fair, I was going skiing and had all my gear with me. But I’m sure I also had lots of après-ski wear, shoes I would never wear, and bags. If you look at the photos from that trip, I’m never in the same outfit twice, except on the slopes of St Moritz themselves.

After that trip, I vowed that I would never again travel with a great big bag. From now on, I would have a bag that was compact, easy to stow, and light enough to carry easily if the wheels broke or I had to lug it up stairs, for example.

It’s also small enough to count as carry-on only if I have to travel that way, though I prefer to check my luggage most of the time.

I like to remember the traveller’s adage, “Think about what you’ll need for your trip, then take half the luggage and twice the money.”

This is the way I pack...the pencil case with the retro Penguin cover contains my miniature art set for painting en route.

This is the way I pack…the pencil case with the retro Penguin cover contains my miniature art set for painting en route.