Organizing for a long trip

When I planned my two and a half week trip to Europe in June, I decided to put some careful thought into what kind of bags I would use, how I would pack them, and what I’d take with me. Unlike previous trips, I decided to be more organized to make it easier to unpack and repack at each of our six hotels, make it easier to quickly find things, and maximize my carrying capacity without needing to check my luggage wherever possible. In short, I wanted a system that worked without requiring a lot of effort or thought, so I could focus on the fun. I’ve rarely put as much effort as I did this time, but it was all worthwhile.

I began with a semi-hardside 22-inch roller board suitcase from Away as noted here. It expanded if needed on the way home, when checking a bag was less of an issue if it got lost. As it turned out the feature was never needed. I also used these packing cubes in the suitcase that allowed me to organize my clothes and easily find any piece of clothing without needing to repack. I could also remove and repack the cubes quickly if needed. I picked these particular cubes because they were inexpensive (under $20) and very good quality.

For my second carryon, my criteria was a wheeled bag that would fit under an economy airplane seat. I assumed a few flights in Europe would require checking the roller board, so I didn’t want to have to lug a second bag over my shoulder through the airport.

I looked at lots of bags on Amazon and was open to purchasing one, but found my Briggs & Riley rolling case to be perfect. It’s an older version of this 2-wheel brief bag. It fit onto the handle of my suitcase, using Briggs & Riley’s novel design when, and when using it alone it allowed me to slip my wife’s second bag, a small duffle, over its handle and carry it for her.

The 2-wheeled case has three main compartments, a thin front one for a computer, iPad, passport, papers, tickets, pens, etc., a middle section for a headphone and toiletries, and a larger rear one with enough depth to hold two additional bags, one for all my chargers, batteries, and cables, and a second soft daybag containing a camera and other items.

I put aside my structured Dopp kit that takes up a lot of room and carried all my toiletries into a simple flexible plastic zippered bag. Instead of taking the familiar 7-day pill cases, I used one of these clever pill cases that takes up much less space.

I used this Peak Design Tech Pouch for all my chargers, cables, backup battery, adapters, etc. With a family of seven of us together during part of the trip, and as the designated tech support guy, I wanted to carry enough for several phones, iPads, and watches for use in the hotel, in the car and out and about. This 10,000 mAh iWALK battery was one of the more useful devices, able to charge any device, including a watch, and then snapping onto the back of an iPhone for charging it while in use.

I also attached Apple AirTags to the inside of the suitcase and cabin bag. On the few occasions when I needed to check the Away bag on flights within Europe, I was able track my bag’s movement through the terminal to the plane while waiting to take off, and after landing I was able to see that the bag got from the plane to carousel. No more staring at the carousel wondering if your bag made it to the airport.

The extra planning worked really well and I was always able to find what I was looking for quickly, whether it was a charging cable or a pair of socks. I spent very little time repacking when I moved from one place to another, and I was able to easily maneuver through all of the airports with little effort and suffered no aches and pains from lugging all my stuff. I might not have done this on a shorter trip, but on this longer trip it made all the difference.

by Phil Baker