Monday, July 12, 2010

Travel light, travel light, travel light...despite what the "experts" tell you

I just watched a video featuring a travel writer whose work I've greatly admired in the past. Said travel writer (who shall remain nameless), was making suggestions about what to bring aboard a cruise and pulled out from his/her handy bag of tricks:
  1. A huge hanging shoe rack
  2. A massive power strip
  3. A box of post-it notes
Oy, really? The shoe rack was  apparently the place in which you'd organize all the small items your bring and/or pick up on a cruise. Like...I don't know, your earings and jewelry? Or perhaps every seashell you find on the beach? Or souvenir mugs bought to commemorate each port you visit. Unless you plan to travel with a heckuva lot of shoes, I really don't know what needs organizing in this anal fashion on vacation.

The power strip was for the person who needed to have at least 8 gadgets plugged in at all times. So that he can, what? Blow dry his hair while typing on the computer, playing with his DS and talking on the phone (if he can get a signal on a cruise ship--ha!). This advice is for the cruiser who spends the vacation so wired that he never actually leaves the cabin.

The post it notes were for talking with your cabin steward. Okay, those aren't too bulky at least, but you don't think a note on the pillow would work as well? This is the guy who makes the bed in the morning and turns it down in the evenings. Cabin stewards get a lot of pillow time. 

All this leads to the bigger question: why would anyone in-the-know be advocating bringing more and more and more stuff on vacation? With luggage fees through the roof, the smart traveler pares their packing list and brings only the essentials they can fit in a carry-on bag. Cramming everything into a carry-on is tough for a weeklong vacation, but especially for cruises with formal nights. Bulky shoe racks and power strips just don't make the cut in my book.

I appreciate, at least, that these items were not too pricey and possibly might already be in a traveler's home. Too often, travel writers pen columns around the Xmas holidays on "travel gifts"; its an easy topic to sell and one that advertisers like. So they recommend all kinds of weird, specialized travel gadgets that either a) make you look stupid (think bulky "travel clothes" with dozens of extra pockets--yeah, that's a fashion statement) or b) are useful for such a small part of your trip its hard to justify lugging them along for the entire thing (think all of the airplane comfort products).

When I travel, the only "gear" I carry are things I'd carry in my backpack in my daily life. These include my phone (which is a smart phone, so it includes a flashlight and other handy items for the road), my swiss army knife (only road trips, alas) and a good book. Beyond that, its just a camera for me, because I like to have memories of my travels, though soon, who knows, my smart phone may replace that, too. 

I'll repeat it again: travel light, travel light, travel light!

(Photo by Niko Retro)


  1. I can only agree. As one of your competitor said "You can't travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two."

    I have not paid the check-in fee to date. I usually only carry a backpack.

    I once took a 7 day cruise to Mexico with 4 days worth of clothing and took advantage of the Lavenderia in Puerto Valarta's port.
    Lavenderia are great in Mexico ; give the clothes and pick it up a few hours later cleaned, ironed and folded for a reasonable price.

    But seeing your post begs me to ask another question: Are you really still awake at 2am? Let's hope that you are in another time zone - unlike myself ;)

  2. Thanks for your comments Olivier! I wrote the blog on Sunday and simply set it to publish at 2am. Ah, the magic of the internet!