Distractions – Lighten Up

I’m a freak.

At least, compared to the “average” passengers around me on an American Airlines flight this morning from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. Today, I’m actually burdened by carry-on baggage.  Since this is a business trip, I wore slacks, shirt and blazer and packed an extra shirt, underwear, and minimal toiletries along with my laptop and other business essentials in a relatively small Coach satchel Judy bought on sale last year.  That’s it.  While my fellow passengers struggled with the requisite rolling bag and computer case, fighting for the overhead bins, I was able to place the satchel at my feet where my stuff is easily accessible.

(For the record, this would work only with an overnight trip, which this is not.  But Judy is following me to L.A. tomorrow and she’s bringing the rest of my stuff in a checked bag.)

And yet I still feel “weighty.”  I hate carrying stuff, particularly on an airplane.  I don’t know whether it’s the primal need to be able to “flee or fight,” but when I’m in an airport, I want my hands free.  I’ve rarely had to run through the airport to catch a flight like OJ Simpson did in those Hertz commercials before he became a pariah, but I’d hate to have to do so dragging a heavy bag.  Even enjoying an adult beverage during layovers is more enjoyable when you can just sidle up to the bar without having to figure out where to put your bag.

That’s why I usually check my bag.  The airlines make it difficult by charging for this on domestic flights, but I’ve always felt the charge was worth it; especially since it seems like the airlines are doing a much better job getting bags to baggage claim in a timely manner.  And let’s not forget that on smaller regional jets (which seem to be the norm these days on many trips), they’re going to take your carry-on at the gate, anyway, and make you wait for it at the end of the trip, so why not avoid the hassle altogether?

In my opinion, checking also allows me to take a few extra items that I’d have to leave out of a carry-on…the running or walking shoes so I can get a workout in…the small travel speakers for the iPod…and an extra pair of shorts or swim trunks in case the sun comes out.

In fact, I’ve been known to ship my clothes when I’m going to be any one place for any length of time!  That way, I don’t even need to deal with the bag at all at the airport.  I just show up at the hotel and ask the desk clerk to have the box brought up to your room (don’t forget to tip!).  I just have to make sure to bring extra tape and a FedEx or UPS tag to pack for the return trip.

A short word about electronics.  When Judy and I are on personal travel, I try to avoid bringing a laptop and just use my mobile phone for email and internet access.  Earlier this year, Judy bought a small ultrabook laptop that, while too big to fit in a purse, does fit nicely in the Coach satchel.  When we’re really feeling like getting away from it all, we leave the electronics behind and use the hotel business center to check email occasionally.  It takes some getting used to – we’re all too accustomed to having our “toys” with us at all times – but getting off the grid reminds us why we went on vacation in the first place!  So lighten up and enjoy the trip.

*Distractions are occasional musings about the triumphs and tribulations of travel, rather than write-ups on destinations.  We hope you find them useful…or at least interesting.

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