For those of you who travel with a suitcase - I feel your pain! On my recent trip to New York, I was reminded very clearly as to why I don't travel with a suitcase.
My travel companion travelled light with 12 kg (26 Ibs) of gear, but this still meant it needed to be checked in.
So while it was indeed light, and she had a well organised and minimal wardrobe, she didn't get the true benefits of travelling light with a carry-on daybag.
The checking in of a suitcase or bag is the easy part of travelling. The hard part is getting it back!
Because I haven't travelled with checked luggage for the last three years I had forgotten what a pain in the butt it really is.
There were so many delays and so much waiting. And those delays cost money.
When we arrived at Newark Airport from Chicago the Uber price to Manhatten was $40. But as we waited for luggage to arrive I watched as the Uber prices doubled as the planes came in.
Instead, we hopped on the bus - not easy with a suitcase - found ourselves at the wrong train station - got onto the train into the city - also difficult - and arrived at Penn Station.
Longing to be travelling with just these small bags. So much easier.
Carrying a day bag I can start sightseeing the moment I leave the airport.
Our accommodation was a 30 minute walk away, which I was quite keen to do, but the suitcase handler was not! This 30 minute walk would've taken in a key landmark which I was so looking forward to seeing - the Chrysler Building. To me it's like an elaborately decorated cake. But my viewing of this would have to wait.
When I just have my day bag I don't need to go straight to my accommodation to check in. I can start sightseeing the moment I get out of the airport. But we were in NYC for 8 days so I wasn't going to miss out!
Anyway, to get to our accommodation I foolishly arranged an Uber at an extremely busy location - in amidst the chaos!! Uber tells you what car to look for - like I'm going to know what a Toyota Camry looks like??! So I ring our driver, "Hi Khalid, what colour's your car?" "Black". Helpful - every car in NYC seems to be black at this moment. Finally we are united with our driver
One thing I never do is put my belongings in the boot (trunk) of a taxi - call me paranoid but it comes from some near miss experiences over the years. But there was no way Khalid was having a suitcase in his car - so into the boot it went.
My much-awaited view of the Chrysler Building would have to wait!
Struggling with a suitcase.
Over our week in New York we witnessed so many suitcase woes around the city.
Crowded trains meant suitcases were an unwelcomed passenger! Tourists struggled getting their suitcases on and off the escalators and on the odd occasion that the escalator had stopped they had the most unpleasant experience of lifting their suitcases up long flights of stairs. Back-breaking stuff.
And unfamiliar with the subway system they would then try and squeeze their suitcases through the turnstiles - they were never going to fit. The locals were so patient with them telling them to go through the gate specifically for those with large items.
Cities are also not the cleanest of places. Wheeling a suitcase along dirty streets and then into your hotel room makes me cringe. What have we brought into our room? I think it's the nurse in me that overthinks germs at times!!
Personally I find the arrival and departure the most stressful times of travelling - but with a day bag on my back it is so much easier that lugging a suitcase.
Negotiating the New York subway with a suitcase is not an easy option!
Watching others struggle with suitcases.
In Chicago, we got a train to the Outlet Mall. A fellow passenger went to get onto our escalator with two suitcases. Unfortunately she got one suitcase on, but dropped the second. Frantically running up the downward escalator she retrieved the dropped bag. But then panicked as she saw her first bag heading for the bottom end of the escalator - I called out that we would retrieve it for her.
I've never seen a person struggle so much. Travelling solo with two suitcases to me was absolute madness. It's at times like these that I'd love to have a business card to hand out - but I fear the reaction I get may ruin my day!!!
What I was more gobsmacked by was that she was going to the Outlet Mall en route to the airport! Again struggling to get on and off the shuttle bus.
On our arrival at the mall I was amazed to see a desk for people needing to store their travel luggage while they did more shopping - adding further to their luggage weight. And this service was being well utilised!!!
At this point I was thinking I don't need business cards - I need bloody posters!! Talk about struggling with suitcases. This was absolutely my worst nightmare.
OMG, I've got a suitcase with me!
Horror of horrors - some extra shopping meant that the extra bag we packed came out and became my checked luggage.
The thought of struggling through train stations and transfers to buses was too hard to bear. So I ordered a taxi. While expensive, it was just an easier option at the time. Plus we had the added benefit of driving from Manhatten to La Guardia Airport over the bridge and having one last look at the New York skyline.
The checking in of the bags was an easy process and having them checked through to New Zealand meant they could be forgotten about at our stopover in Chicago. Here I was in my happy place with just my 5 kilo day bag.
I couldn't wait to get rid of this bag! But dropping it off was a lot easier than the collecting of it.
The final straw...
We arrived at Auckland airport at 6.30am after a very long 16 hour flight from Chicago.
We were through immigration in 5 minutes... the biosecurity check was completely empty of passengers. My heart broke as I walked past the customs officials and towards the luggage carousel, and began the wait. And wait we did!
After 45 minutes I knew every bag going round that carousel. There were only a handful of us left. Then an electronic message came up saying that the last bags had been loaded onto the carousel 10 minutes earlier.
You can well imagine what was going through my light travelling brain. With disbelief I looked around for staff members to enquire about lost luggage. But before I found someone, the carousel kicked back into life and a whole bunch of new bags turned up - including ours! Yay!
Off we went to biosecurity and joined the now very long queues, where we waited another 30 minutes.
Two hours after landing we threw our bags into my husbands vehicle - at that point I vowed I would only travel with a carry-on day bag. Travelling with a suitcase was just too hard and really unpleasant.
I'm never travelling with a suitcase again - EVER!!
So, it was good to experience the perils of travelling with a suitcase. I'm not sure I needed the first-hand experience, but I did, and I shall make an effort to never go through that again.
You know me, I'm a devout light traveller. And this last trip has absolutely cemented in my whole being that I am a light traveller through and through.