Slobodanka Graham


Want to know how to fly and travel with carry on only?

Planepack provides advice, tips, interviews and podcasts to fly and travel light.

What shape is your bag?

What shape is your bag?

When I first started flying, cabin bags were not yet invented. Everyone carried their own kind of bag: leather, large, plastic or shopping; stylish and impractical. Standard cabin bags were eventually introduced, but in the early days they didn’t have wheels. I remember buying special little wheelie things that you strapped onto your bag - a little like a delivery man’s trolley - that enabled you to wheel your bag around. The strapped contraption of wheels had to be taken off if you put your bag in the hold - and sent along as a separate piece of luggage, which meant you were always anxious that the wheels might not arrive on the other side - they could be mislaid, damaged or even stolen. 

It was exciting when luggage manufacturers added wheels to bags. Sometimes the wheels were only added to one side of the suitcase, which meant you had to tip the bag to pull it - inevitably the suitcase overbalanced - you with it - due to the weight of the bag. The manufacturers got smarter after that and added wheels on both sides of the bag so that travelers could wheel with ease. But the weight is always a challenge. I always feel so sorry for people who have to use trolleys to convey their bags: if they subscribed to the Planepack philosophy, they could liberate themselves from their heavy baggage and their travel experience would be so much improved.

Eventually luggage manufacturers cleverly added wheels to cabin luggage - now you can even spin your bag on wheels, pushing or pulling it in any direction. It’s a marvel. 

My sister recently asked me, ‘I have a dilemma: what kind of cabin bag should I buy? I see you’ve got one that’s a clam shape. I have an old one with a single zipped opening. Must I get something different?’

My advice is: research and buy the lightest possible bag that you can find - and make sure that it is a standard size cabin bag as permitted by all airlines for carry-on. As with my clothes, I subscribe to a plain bag - all those extra zips, pockets, pouches and bits and pieces add to the weight. And do you really need to put things into those additional external pockets? I’ve often wondered what exactly they are meant for? The narrow pockets could hold a magazine or a newspaper (if you still buy those). The various other zipped pockets could hold chargers, but I’m concerned that items could get damaged, particularly if you have to put your cabin bag in the hold (in the unlikely event that you are overweight).
I’ve used a clam shaped bag for years, but it is heavier than a top zippered bag. I like the clam shape for two reasons: you can divide the contents into the two parts, zipping up the section containing your clothes - and thereby keeping that away from prying eyes - and it makes it easier to pack and unpack if you have two separate compartments. I use the one side for clothes and the other side for toiletries, shoes and incidentals. 

I recently used a single top zippered bag, which is much lighter than a clam-shaped bag. It takes a different kind of planning to pack that bag as all the contents are in one section. I generally pack my toiletries last, but I think on my next trip I might pack them at the bottom of the bag and layer soft clothes at the top. Planepack is always a learning experience.

Of course there are single bag travelers who like to use a backpack. These are not my favored bag although Mr PetMan says he’s comfortable with a backpack. 

‘But remember the last time I tried to use one?’ I counter. ‘I lost my socks at the bottom of the back pack. And I couldn’t get in and out of the straps. And you moaned because you had to help me adjust them?’

‘Well I’ve used one for years,’ he retorted.

‘I like my hard suitcase’, I answered petulantly. ‘I use it as a footstool in the airport lounge.’

I felt that I was gaining ground in this discussion.

‘I appreciate that a backpack leaves you with both hands free. But to do what exactly? Perhaps carry more bags . . . Which is not the point of the exercise, ‘ I concluded triumphantly. 

Stick to pet enclosures, Mr PetMan - and leave me to advise on Planepacking.

[Podcast] Episode 2: 'Have a good fahrt' for a good life

[Podcast] Episode 2: 'Have a good fahrt' for a good life

What is your wardrobe?

What is your wardrobe?