carrying on

Here’s a photo re-creation of my carry on bag for my SEA to AKL flight (a 2.5 hour hop to SFO followed by a few hours waiting, and then the long haul – 13 hours across the Pacific)

I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of this during our trip!

Here’s what I carried on:

  • my koru print sarong
  • a magazine, Mac Life or something
  • my kindle, loaded with the “Hunger Games” Trilogy and “Discardia
  • all my chargers, cords, flash drives, gum, pen and an ink refill, lens cloth, ear buds, plug adaptors, etc arranged in a grid it
  • my camera (not pictured because it took the picture!)
  • my toiletries in a lightweight case and a stupid TSA required ziplock bag (btw I often put a couple of little things in a “3-1-1 bag” even if I’ve packed my toiletries in my checked luggage just so I don’t look suspicious by not having any liquids… stupid!)
  • glasses case (I should get something lightweight)
  • my pink retro geek chic headphones
  • page per day diary/journal
  • passport, keys, wallet, lip balm, tissues, iPod Touch

This stuff filled my bag comfortably but with some spare room. It weighed 8.8 pounds going to NZ and 6.4 pounds coming home. The main difference was that I packed my chargers and grid it and toiletries in my checked luggage on the way home. I figured that I would not care as much if they got delayed on the way home (if the bag went missing, which is pretty rare on international flights).

The good thing about long haul flights is that the airlines want you to be distracted and happy so they provide a massive amount of entertainment – upwards of 100 movies and TV shows available on demand on a personal screen as well as music and games and an “airshow” that tells you how fast the plane is going and where it is. At that point you realize that boredom is really just a state of mind, an attitude.

On the way to NZ I wasn’t much in the mood to watch movies – I started to watch “Bridesmaids” but I just couldn’t enjoy it. Later I did watch a delightful documentary called “Bill Cunningham New York” – highly recommended and quite inspiring. I flicked through my magazine a bit and read some of my book, and I slept quite a bit because we had 3 seats for the 2 of us – what a luxury! I also had a strange window seat which was actually between 2 windows. I think that’s why they didn’t sell the seat. It meant I had a much better surface for leaning up against while I slept. The arm rests only raised up a bit, but I managed to arrange myself into some almost-comfortable positions with my legs out on the spare seat. I used an iPod app that played rain sounds to help drown out the plane noise to help me sleep. Yes, rain sounds like safe-at-home… I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest too long!

On the way home we each had an aisle seat. The armrests came all the way up (which made it much easier to get in and out of my seat) but I was sitting next to a stranger, so I couldn’t really get comfortable enough to sleep for long. I watched a whole bunch of movies and TV on the way back – first a great kiwi film called “Boy” which was EXCELLENT! (a bit of a flashback to my childhood) then a couple of episodes of Grand Designs (a British show about people embarking on ambitious home building projects). As usual I fell asleep after about 3-4 hours. When I woke up, about half way through the sleeping part of the flight, I turned on Up in the Air, which I’ve seen before. I figured it didn’t require much attention (I was still tired) and I love watching the way the main character packs and travels. Once that was done it was time for the lights to come back on and for breakfast to be served. I had time for one more movie so I watched another kiwi film, a small production about “mothering and smothering” called “Apron Strings” – it was pretty good.

I keep my bag at my feet so I can switch out my headphones, get out and put away gadgets, grab some gum, and generally fuss with my stuff. Sometimes I use the bag as a footrest. On most of our flights we were told to put big carry-ons up above and keep small ones on the floor anyway – the overhead bins are so quickly filled. Hubby kept his laptop backpack (with my laptop in it) in the overhead – he needs the legroom much more than I do. Actually on the 777 we rode home he didn’t have a seat in front of him at all – that was wonderful for his long legs.

It was quite a shock to get on a smallish United plane to go from LAX to SEA (3 hours) after being on a nice long haul Air NZ plane. I went to plug my headphones into the arm rest and realized there was no entertainment of any kind on this flight – except perhaps the really annoying loud passengers across the way… including a badly-wigged old lady who couldn’t understand that you can’t pay cash for food on the flight… The pink retro headphones cut down a lot on the noise of the plane (yet somehow the annoying people sound louder and clearer with the phones on!) and I listened to music on my iPod for a while and spent the rest of the time reading another magazine – this time Mother Jones, which had a lot more readable content than most magazines. I can’t tolerate women’s magazines – I’ve yet to find one with any content that holds my attention for more than about 20 minutes.

It’s obvious we pack pretty light and I could’ve easily carried both my bags onto the plane based on allowable dimensions. But we’ve decided that checking in our Rick Steves’ bags is the better option. It does take a little bit of time to wait for the bags to come out and there is a small chance that our bags could be lost (less on international flights it seems) but we just don’t find it worth the trade-off of having to carry around 30+ pounds of luggage (each) through 3 airports, between terminals, and through security. We don’t need the stuff in our checked bags while we’re traveling anyway, and Asia Pacific flights are much stricter about the weight of carry on bags. Usually Air NZ weighs our carry ons and they have to be less than 7 kgs/15 pounds – so we wouldn’t be allowed to bring our check in bags onto the NZ flights. It’s partly a matter of load planning for the airlines – and I really want them to have the right amount of fuel to get us all the way across the ocean…!

I have been watching some videos about what people bring in their carry on bags and I have to admit that I don’t want to be a person who needs everything just-so to be OK on a flight. I don’t want to carry an emergency pharmacy bag everywhere I go, I don’t worry about sanitizing anything, I can eat most airline food (and airport food) without ill effects, and I can sit in an aisle, window or middle seat without too much trouble (sitting in the middle is less than ideal, but hubby gets an aisle seat for his long legs, so as often as not that means I’m in a middle seat next to him). I’m lucky that I’m short and fairly small, so I fit quite well in coach seats. Sure, I’d enjoy flying in the front of the plane with ottomans, legrests, extra space… but I think I’d rather spend my money on other things. And I don’t think I could easily go back to cattle class after flying premium or business class.

I won’t go into a rant about people carrying way too much stuff onto planes today. I won’t complain that American airlines barely enforce the carry-on plus SMALL personal item rule (while most of the world are expected to have only one bag, which means ONLY ONE BAG!) But I will refer you back to my bag theory

Well, I’ve written much more than I planned to! So much for the quick list of things in my carry on bag…

More on our travels later this week.


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1 Response to carrying on

  1. Pingback: Packing light; the bag | adventures in the here now

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