Tips for planning and packing for living abroad
By Greg Hung
Greg is a World Explorer, Film-maker & Travel & Technology Serial Entrepreneur has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube videos in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom.
This article applies to:
Travelers that want to pack their luggage smarter
Expatriates relocating to another country
I have been traveling abroad since 2009 where I have enjoyed Europe backpack trips, Hiking adventure trips to Machu Pichu, and upscale Asia adventure trips with camera gear. My experience with these trips have taught me to make better choices. For my next upcoming trip I will be traveling with plenty of camera gear and my personal luggage that will come along with me to what could be a 1 year working holiday.
How to maximize carrying space at minimal cost
What you will need
- measuring tape
- travel scale
- a smartphone – to calculate volume and convert between pounds and kilograms etc
Step 1 – Read the baggage policy rules of the airlines you will use the most
If you think of this as a game you cannot play smart and effectively if you do not know the rules. The rules depend on which airline you will fly with the most.
How many bags do they allow?
Check the airlines that you will be traveling with the most to figure out what their baggage policies are. I’ll use Allegiant airlines as an example. At the time of writing they allow you to bring on $35 for the first and second bag. Hint: you’ll want to bring the second bag since you’re paying for it.
What are the weight and size restrictions?
The bag must be under 40 pounds and under 80 linear inches.
What are linear inches?
Linear inches is a term used to describe the sum of the length, width and depth of your baggage. For example my large suitcase has the following dimensions which works out to 65 linear inches.
32l 22w 11.5d=65 linear inches
Step 2 Picking your luggage
This will be my largest suitcase. I call it the mothership. My requirement is to maximize the carrying capacity at the lowest cost. I want to make a smart choice, and to do that I wanted to figure out how to measure the performance of the suitcase (see my calculations below). Other considerations that I think are important to factor in are the weight, warranty and convenience features. Convenience features that I think are useful are telescopic handles, aesthetics, 4 wheels,and a peg to connect a luggage strap to connect to other suitcases to tow it.
How to measure the performance of a suitcase
To calculate the carrying capacity get the dimensions of your suitcase using a measuring tape or refer to the website of the company that made it. To weigh the luggage use a travel scale. My friend Agnes got me one years ago, but I only opened it a couple days ago and I highly recommend it.
32l 22w 11.5d=65 linear inches
8096 volume cubic inches (calculated by multiple L X W X D)
To measure the performance of the suitcase I wanted to see how much carrying capacity this I’m getting for this luggage for the weight.
The calculation. 8096 cubic inches / 11lb’s
= 736 of cubic inches per pound.
Okay so this suite case meets the requirements of allegiant, but the performance doesn’t mean anything to me until I compare it to another product.
I compared it with one of the newer suitcases by Hey’s and got the following figure.
Heys Delta large
30 X 21 X 11= 62 linear inches
6930 volume cubic inches
= 597 of cubic inches per pound.
Okay so this means 139 cubic inches more space per pound with my existing suit case. I like it! Remember to consider other factors that you value like 4 wheels, or if it looks super sleek. We all have different priorities.
Allegiant charges you $35 for 2 checked bags. In this case it would be foolish not to get a second suitcase.
My second checked in luggage
Briggs and Riley
L30.5 W 15 H16.5
volume cubic inches 7548
performance = 1677.6 of cubic inches per pound.
I bought this suitcase to carry a DSLR camera slider. I originally bought a carrying case for my slider and I used it when traveling throughout Asia. I didn’t bring my slider as it weighs under 10 pounds and this case doesn’t have wheels. It hurt my shoulder and the handles eventually broke. Please learn from my lesson. WHEELS on your luggage is a good idea. So this Briggs and Riley piece is a high performer. Yes! I will keep this and it provides a lot of carrying capacity for the weight.
Summary for checked in luggage
Total storage for checked in luggage
8096 + 7548 = 15644 volume cubic inches
combined 15.5 lbs
Allegiant requires that checked bags must be under 40 pounds so I have have 24.5 lbs of allowance for my stuff.
So my two pieces of checked luggage will meet the airports requirements for weight and size. I will try to look for luggage tags to so I can connect and tow them together as I will also have my carry on and unless you get a smart cart I will only have 2 arms to pull carry-ons.
update: I went to the local travel stored called Wanderlust travel in Kitsilano and I got a detachable tag to connect large suitcase to the handle of the Briggs
Some airlines like jetstar do not look for how many pieces of luggage, but care about the total weight of your checked in luggage. For example their starting weight allowance is 20kg, which works out to about 44lb’s.
Keep in mind that these weights are without anything in them so don’t forget to weigh your luggage again and check them against the weight requirements. Pre-purchase additional weight allowance on-line before you arrive at the airport to save from paying more at the airport. Planning does take time, but gets rewarded.
Now for carry-on luggage
Step 1 – Read the rules
this is important as each airline will apply different rules Allegiant allows 1 personal item (purse, backpack or laptop computer) and a carry-on bag.
The carry-on bag requirements
9 in. H x 14 in. W x 22 in. D (22.9 cm x 35.6 cm x 55.9 cm) under 25lbs (per their website but I think they mixed up their depth with their height) (allegiant)
18 in H X 14.17 inches W X 9in. D for combined weight of 7kg or 15.43 lbs (Jetstar)
Step 2 – What to bring on carry-on
I bring the important stuff like my laptop, lens, and camera equipment. You want to keep your valuables on your check in luggage that with you at all times. Sometimes you are vulnerable when you need the restroom, which means it is a good idea to make a friend with your airline passenger or you can bring it with you to the restroom. You also may want to entertain yourself or do some work so bringing a book, tablet or laptop is a good idea.
I’m choosing a backpack because it has wheels, telescopic handle, and has decent carrying capacity.
21.5H X 13.5W X 12D = 3483 volume cubic inches
weight 10lbs, 4.5 kg
performance 348 volume cubic inches per pound
I compared this to a hey’s 21 inch carry on suitcase to get a relative comparison.
21 X 15.5 X 9.0= 2929.5 volume cubic inches
406.87 volume cubic inches per pound
okay it looks like I’m losing 58.9 cubic inches per pound based on the weight, but we are allowed a personal item so what can we do with that?
* Personal Item. The one (1) Personal Item such as a purse, briefcase, laptop computer, small backpack, or small camera must fit completely underneath the seat in front of you, and must not exceed maximum size of:
7 in. H x 15 in. W x 16 in. D (17.8 cm x 38.1 cm x 40.6 cm). They don’t specify the weight so to capitalize on this you may want to put heavy stuff on the personal item. For Jetstar they do not specify the weight, but it must be able to fit underneath my seat.
I have a camera bag that I used for my camera gear. I was going to sell it, but it can used around my shoulder and I know it fits underneath the seat. So here are the calculations.
W10 X 11H X 8D in = 880 volume cubic inches
performance = 880 volume cubic inches per pound
This camera bag is an incredible performer!
Summary for carry-on luggage
With the camera bag and my back page I have a combined of 4363 (28% of my checked luggage) volume cubic inches per pound at a combined weight of 11lbs. This meets the requirements of both airlines
Summary: Combined total carrying capacity and weight
Carrying capacity 4363 + 15644 = 20,000 volume cubic inches
Weight 26.5lbs 20kg 44lbs (check in luggage), 15.5kg (34lbs) backpack (15.5lbs 8kg)
Performance = 754.7 volume cubic inches per pound
Updated measurements for the curious
I stuffed my suitcases with most of what I will be packing to get a sample weight I’ll need to purchase my weight allowance. Based on the weight with my luggage I may have to reduce the weight on my check in and carry on luggage.
20kg 44lbs (mothership check in luggage suitcase), 15.5kg 34lbs (2nd checked in suitcase)
Total check in weight 35.5kg or 77lbs
Backpack (15.5lbs 8kg)
Planning and make good choices about your luggage can save you money, maximize your storage capacity, and give your a better traveling experience.
In this article I have have given you tools and a performance framework for figuring out how well how your luggage performs against each other. Here are some key takeaways
* Know the rules of the game – I know it can be intimidating, but read the baggage policy of the airlines you will fly the most
* know what your traveling requirements are – are you going on a short trip, photography or videography, or relocating your life
* Equip yourself with tools – smart phone applications can help convert currencies and weights, travel scales, and measuring tape empower you to make good choices tip: an app I use for converting currencies, weight, volume for iphone is called converter +
* Luggage performance – I have developed this method of calculating performance of the luggage to use a factual way of determining carrying space per weight
* Don’t forget to weigh your luggage again after packing!
* Purchase the appropriate baggage allowance on-line to save money