We have 3 simple rules of travel that we believe can help anyone have a more enjoyable in-transit experience. Be Early, Pack Light, and don’t try to see Everything in one day or one trip.
1. Don’t Be in a Hurry, Be Early
You wanna know who isn’t having fun when traveling? They are easy to spot. They are the people sprinting through airports, train stations, bus stations, cruise ports, or ferry ports because they are running late and are about to miss their flight, train, bus, etc… Don’t be those people. Know how much time you need to get to your given departure location, buffer in time for lines, delays, or getting lost, and then go ahead and add a little more time just to be safe.
You want to see people enjoying travel? They’ll be the people with all of their very small or manageable luggage on their person, relaxing at the nearest restaurant or most comfortable waiting area of their gate, because they got there early. They’ll be the ones who got the overhead bin space for their carry-on only luggage on the plane or train (in Europe) as well because they got there early. They’ll be the one’s “having a coke and a smile” and laughing at you, running around like a chicken with your head cut off because you’re in a hurry, while they were early. Don’t be in a hurry. Be early. Then you’ll have more time for selfies, like this one on the train from Annecy to Marseille.
2. Pack Light and Never Check Bags
We are traveling for a full year with only our Away 21″ “The Bigger Carry-On” rolling suitcases, and our Tumi Backpacks that comfortably slide down the retractable arm of our suitcases. Fun Fact: our Tumi’s are actually made of ballistic level nylon, meaning they are bullet resistant, which is neither here nor there… Long story short, my awesome father-in-law John puts a high value on personal safety, and got them for us as gifts.
Even in Europe we’ve been able to carry-on all items on Ryan Air, Iberia, and many budget airlines. Only ultra-strict budget carriers such as Volotea or EasyJet may require you to check the 21″ Away Carry-On (which is literally like 2 CM over their “size limit”), and we promise you they will still fit in the overhead if you can get it past the gate agent. I have a standing $60 wager with that gate agent in Madrid to prove it so. Lest we get ahead of ourselves, it wasn’t always like this, at least not for me (Len). That first trip to Prague, I had the world’s gaudiest, largest, crappiest suitcase and definitely checked it. I had a lot to learn from JJ, the pro, who had been packing light since she was a teenager, traveling with her grandparents which you can read about here.
JJ also used to work for a major airline, which meant that we got to do some “non-rev” travel (as it’s known in the biz). That means free flights by being willing to fly on the stand-by list to those that don’t know. The golden rule of non-reving and the question that any gate agent will ask you before you board from the stand-by list is “Did you check any bags”. Your answer had better always be “No”. When you are flying stand-by, you never know which flight you’ll actually be on. Nothing is guaranteed. That Cancun flight was overbooked, but you might be able to pivot to Nassau or Cabo on the fly (see what I did there?). You can’t do that if you’ve already checked a bag to Cancun. So you have to learn to pack, fly, and travel like the flight attendants and pilots do.
Think about it. These people globetrot all over the world. They always look sharp. They always have a bathing suit and flip flops in their carry-on. Many of them are tanned from hanging out in the Caribbean or any of those tropical stand-by locations mentioned above. But most importantly? Everything they own while traveling is in their carry-on luggage, and they never check bags. Flying stand-by or non-reving is excellent training for learning to pack light and getting used to never checking bags. I guarantee that anyone reading this who does check bags has either had their luggage lost or knows a horror story of someone who has. If you never check a bag, the airline can never lose it. Hate the 3 Ounce or 50ML liquids rule? Take a cruise or a train. Just make sure it all fits in your carry-on luggage.
Our Away 21″ Carry-On and Tumi Backpack combo, realistically, is still probably too much to comfortably travel with for many. There is even this major debate between us and most Canadians and Aussies who only believe in “back pack” travel. Yet many of their “backpacks” are bigger and heavier than our 21″ Carry-Ons, and they certainly don’t have wheels to roll, ever… Whereas 90% of the time and 90% of the places we travel, we are comfortably rolling our luggage around.
To clarify, this is the absolute max we recommend for any trip, and we always go lighter when we can. For example, we’ve taken weekend trips to several destinations like Vegas, Grand Cayman, or the Bahamas in only backpacks. We’ve gone on 10 day cruises with only our Away 21′ Carry-ons and no back packs. If I’m not planning to work or don’t have to work when traveling, I never take a backpack. When you can handle your own luggage, by yourself, and comfortably carry all your items up and down many flights of stairs even, then you have the ultimate freedom to roam and feel like you can go anywhere or do anything.
Did we mention that not checking bags will also save you time? Don’t think so? Learn to roll your clothes, settle on one or two pairs of shoes (instead of 10) max, live with the 3 ounce rule, and then you’ll be the person breezing past the check-in counters, straight to security, and laughing at all the chumps who’ve been waiting 45 minutes just to check their insanely oversized bags. Still think not checking bags doesn’t save time? “I just loved getting off a 16 Hour flight from L.A. to Sydney, only to wait another 45 minutes at the luggage carousel for my checked bags”, said no one ever. So if you can handle basic addition and do the math, not checking bags can save you up to an hour and a half of travel time on average. If you’ve never not checked a bag, we dare you to give it a shot on your next trip and experience what it’s like to travel unburdened, unstressed, and with that extra hour and a half of chill time.
3. You Can’t See Everything
Every travel blog in the world wants to tell you about “Must See” attractions in any of a million travel destinations. “You MUST visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris”, “You MUST visit the Tower of London” (spoiler alert, that’s in London), “You MUST visit La Segrada Familia in Barcelona”. Just stop. Relax. Tranquillo. You “mustn’t” do anything of the sort. We believe in having one major attraction per day, max, on our to-do list in a new city. That’s it. If you get to more, leisurely, that’s great. If you ignore this advice and try to see everything, revert back to Rule #1: Be Early. Plus the only way to guarantee you can see everything is to book a “Skip the Line Tour” at major destinations through Trip Advisor. Then prepare to be exhausted if you book a full day tour.
Don’t get us wrong, we certainly try to hit the highlights and major landmarks and attractions of any new locale and cover them on this blog. Heck, you can google search “Fort Worth, Texas” and immediately see the Top Attractions listed as well as Google’s own “Travel Guide” to any major city. But the reality is that you just can’t see everything… You can try, but you’ll never be able to. Some cities (like Rome, Barcelona, Florence) are just too big and have too much history with too many “can’t miss” things to see. If you have limited vacation time, like much of the working first world does, you’ll end up needing a vacation from your vacation if you try and do it all.
The only “Must See” we recommend, is anything you find aesthetically pleasing, such as your significant other’s smile. And the only “Must Do” is to enjoy yourself. Besides, how many selfies in front of the Tower Bridge do you really need?