Lugging Luggage and Our “One Trip Rule”

The GypsyNesters on their way to Asia!
On our way to Asia, note Veronica’s new purple four-wheeler that David gave her for her birthday!

No matter where we go or how we get there, one constant always remains – packing.

So we thought we’d explore the pros and cons of lugging luggage through airports and beyond.

There are a few variables depending on destination and time of year, but the basic concept of using rolling bags and backpacks applies for us whenever or wherever we travel. Even more so now that we have discovered that adidas does backpacks.

Of course, lots of other Vagabonds Extraordinaire that have great travel hack ideas too.

Roll With it Baby!

How to pack like a pro

Remember when suitcases didn’t have wheels?

It’s basically unthinkable now, but not that long ago we were actually carrying our bags.

Rolling changed our lives, no more aching arms or broken backs and, as an added bonus, the suitcase makes a nice cart for briefcases, backpacks, or overstuffed handbags.

Speaking of backpacks, finding the right one can make all the difference in the world.

Now the next generation of rolling bags are here, the four wheeler. I gave Veronica an adorable purple one of these last year and she loves it.  Scored on that one, but sometimes I need help with gift ideas.

The ability to stop and have it stand without tipping over, roll while upright, and walk with the case beside or even in front of her is a true baggage breakthrough. She will never go back to the old two wheeled version again.

WATCH your extremely goofy GypsyNesters as we prepared for a South American adventure!:

To Check or Not to Check, That is The Question

Using your rolling bag as a luggage cart

We try not to check bags whenever possible, but is this always the best idea?

On the upside, our carry-on bags always make it to our destination, we save a few bucks on fees with most airlines, and we get to use those wheels for our bulky backpack, coats and briefcase when hustling from gate A-1 to Z-54 with a tight connection.

But on the downside, we sometimes can’t bring along all of the things we need, especially when traveling to different climates.

About two days worth of winter clothes and that carry-on bag is looking about eight months pregnant. Or two sets of fins and snorkel gear can mean wearing the same shoes every day.

Lovely wine from Cave di Moleto, Italy
Thank goodness we had a checked bag with us this time – we brought wine home from our stay at Cave di Moleto

There is also the liquid issue. Not being able to bring the big bottle of shampoo is no big deal, just put some into smaller bottles.

But there’s no bringing back a bottle of wine or an interesting local libation discovered along the way.

We have worked on our packing to address these issues and generally only check a bag when going overseas. Not only does this allow for more stuff on those longer trips, it dodges the fees since most airlines allow one checked bag for international flights, and gives us the option of bringing back a sample of the local swill if we want.

Whether we end up checking one bag and carrying another (Veronica can’t face travel without her new purple pal so that gets carried no matter what) or both carry on, we always adhere to what we call the “One Trip Rule.”

One and Done – the “One Trip Rule”

Packing for two week Amtrak trip
Fully loaded: How the “one trip rule” works on a crazy two-week train trip!

Every item we have must be pushed, pulled, gripped, strapped, or carried simultaneously.

Rolly bags (and sometimes making pack mule noises) really come in handy for this.

There are two big reasons we do this. It saves a lot of time and provides an added safety factor.

The “One Trip Rule” makes it so much easier to keep track of everything, and our belongings never get left unattended while moving between airports, taxis, trains, shuttle busses, and hotels.

When no bags are feeling lonely and neglected, no bags mysteriously disappear.


Find out how a small space in your suitcase can make a big impact in the world!

More “One Trip Rule” tips:

See how we managed to fit 2 weeks of stuff (including formal attire) for our trip with a cruise to Alaska!

See how we packed for South America (including special tips for hiking, multi-climate and water-based trips!)

See how we packed for Italy (including tips on what MUST be in your carry-on, what to bring on more glamorous trips, what to wear on the plane and how to minimize electronics)

See how we packed for a two-week train trip

YOUR TURN: We’d love to hear about any packing prowess you may have picked up in your travels, leave us a comment and let us know.

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34 thoughts on “Lugging Luggage and Our “One Trip Rule””

  1. Just love it, I think people who love traveling or always go one place to another for those this article is so helpful I personal recommend this article for who love traveling.

  2. I loved this article, we’ve managed to get packing everything we need for a 2 week trip to Europe into carry on luggage down to something of an art form. It’s taken a few trips and many items either forgotten at home, left behind or simply abandoned. Actually it’s not the outward trip that’s the problem, it’s the homeward one, because there is always something collected along the way, that just HAS to be forced into an already full space. It’s surprising what sheer willpower can do 😉


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  4. My wife and I are focused on short trips more frequently. We are constantly tacking on personal trips to our business trips and going quite a ways for long weekend trips.

    For us, the flexibility of only having carry-on has saved us with tight connections or complete cancellations. The time that comes to mind is when we were booked to go to Uruguay, but due to volcanic activity rebooked everything at the airport desk to a trip to Spain…then got lucky when landing in Miami and were able to catch an earlier flight that was delayed.

    For a two night trip to Istanbul, I only carried a backpack that could fit under the seat on the plane. For a three night trip to St. Lucia, we were able to pack what we needed AND snorkels and masks in carry-on luggage.

    In general, even with a mix of business clothes, we can pack for 10 days out in the combo of carry-on and “personal item”.

    Skiing is the one place that has stymied us. No matter how much I dream, I can’t imagine fitting boots and helemts and jackets into carry-on.

  5. I always vow to take carry-on only and then end up checking a bag after all. My reasons are the same as yours – liquids that exceed the limits and snorkel gear. I’m heading to Fiji later this month and have read that sunscreen is a fortune there and I’ll need a lot so I guess that will mean a checked bag. I always do the One Trip Rule too but I can’t pretend that after being away on a really long trip that another cheap suitcase might join up with me at some point and have to come back! They do sell some nice clothes in Europe….

  6. I completely blew the luggage thing when hubby and I went to Jamaica a week ago. I brought far too many clothes especially since we stayed on the clothing optional side.

  7. Glad to read you have your priorities right – bringing back wine from your trip! 😉 That’s usually why I am a carry-on gal on the way there but a checked bag gal on the way home.

  8. I learned the one trip rule the hard way while in Turkey. I had to stay with our bags while my husband spent 3 hours trying to get another flight. Never again will I bring more than 1 bag. It is not a good idea to have to separate from your travel companion especially in a foreign country not speaking the language. fortunately a couple of military men searched out my husband for me and brought me tea:)

  9. One Trip Rule is a must! The one time I lost a bag, it was because I violated that rule! More precisely, it’s because I didn’t make sure everyone followed that rule instead of just leaving me with the bags. Oh, the tribulations of the Pack Mule. 😉 Nice list! Thanks for sharing. Oh, and that wine and cheese looks awesome!

  10. We’ve complied with the one trip rule for our current one month trip in Southeast Asia, but just barely and our roller boards have to be checked because they’re expanded beyond their carry on size. One thing we’ve learned is that people everywhere we’ve stayed are happy to do your laundry for about 2 dollars a load. Even the cruise we’re ending our trip with has a do it yourself passenger laundry, so we probably brought too much. Oh well. Next time.

  11. Ever since I had a job at a major airline I’ve always preferred rollaboards. That should tell you something right there, haha. Although there are times when checking is inevitable, but my main electronics will always ride with me in the cabin inside my rollaboard.

  12. We had our education in packing after several years of traveling on our motorcycle. First trip out was with enough clothes for a month even though we were only going to be away for a week-end! Your image of a pack mule fits! We decided to limit packing to just one medium rolling bag strapped to the sissy bar on the back and the saddle bags. Amazingly, it worked. Once trained we carried over this plan to air travel and found we really could travel light. We have also utilized UPS to ship change of season clothing ahead to our destination and, yes, to ship excess dirty clothes home!

  13. I would love to try and minimize my dive trip luggage, but with all of my dive gear (bcd, mask, snorkel, regulator, fins), camera gear (camera, underwater housing, strobes) and computer (yes, I need it to process photo and video after diving) it is kind of hopeless. I try, but it is difficult.

  14. LOVE IT! I’m a big fan of carry on only luggage, but I agree there are times when a checked bag can make sense. I love, love, love the one trip rule. SUCH a good test to see if you have too much stuff.

    I also now bring a nylon recycling shopping bag with me when I travel. I have a large one with a long set of handles that I can wear around my neck and under my arm. It’s perfect for stuffing water bottles, snacks, sweaters, magazines, and more when I am dashing through the airport.

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