5 Pieces of Luggage For the Traveling Author Beast

Since I made the shift, Gentle Reader, from archaeologist to author I have traveled more, not less. True, those travels are now for shorter lengths of time, but still this was an unexpected (if welcome) change in my life. I thought that the thing I would miss most about archeology was traveling to exotic lands. More fool me.

via FB

I travel as an author about 12 times a year. Some of those are overnight jaunts, some are long weekends, and a few last a week or more. In addition, I travel to visit friends and family (generally longer drives and stays of three or four days).

I didn’t realize how many packing foibles I had developed until the AB and I packed together for Comic Con 2012. The AB is a well traveled beastie, but there were a few moments of shock on that adorable face as I twirled and stuffed, rolled and folded, tucked and pocketed. I whipped out checklists and specialized zipper baggies. I produced shoe holders and sock strategies. Items were shelled in sequences by weight, fragiles inside shoes and other odd occurrences.

So I thought I might share some tips with you Gentle Reader. First up, luggage!

I have a lot of luggage, (a family of four just borrowed mine for a jaunt to Hawaii). If you don’t travel as much as I do you probably don’t need it all, but here’s what I keep on hand.

3 Piece Soft-side Rolly Set



Mine are grey pinstripe I purchased at Ross for c. $30 each (here’s an American Tourister set for $120). I suggest buying an actual matching set (thus they shell into one into the other for storage) and NOT BLACK (easier to spot on the conveyor belt). I don’t believe in shelling out for expensive luggage unless I’m after specific features ~ it’s bound to get destroyed or lost in transit eventually. Also, while avoiding black I also avoid pale colors ~ they get dirty fast. I go for plastic-ish lining or simulated leather outer, to protect my stuff from moisture.

Small Matched
The small is my least used because I already own one of a similar size from my archeology days. Stefano is a black (I KNOW) Eagle Creek that converts into various different backpacks but is also a rolly. By far the most useful and adaptable piece of luggage I have ever owned. Not pretty, but if you only get one, this is the one I suggest. Mine has lasted 20 years. The redesigned Switchback 22 is how I would design the ideal bag from the ground up. A bit ugly, but utterly functional.


Thus, the times when I do use the small grey are when I want to take two small cases because one is for events only and will, essentially, go into storage for half the trip. I did this when I went to New Zealand and Australia. It isn’t ideal, as it’s hard to pull two rollies at once. Ones that stack are better.


Medium Matched
I use the medium for most events where I’m not going to carry-on only. It holds just the right amount of shoes along with one hatbox. It’s the one I usually take to WorldCon, for example. It generally weighs in fine.

Large Matched
The large I use mostly for steampunk events, because I tend to have big boots, multiple hat boxes, and floofy skirts. Also, I don’t like to crush my gowns. However, I have to make certain not to pack it too heavy or I have an overweight fee.

Carry-on Set

Years spent hunting and I finally settled on this burgundy basket weave set, again cheap from Ross. It’s not ideal, but it does the job admirably. Unfortunately, I use it so much it’s already starting to fall apart, only two years in. And now I’ve structured all my travel around it and I’m so afraid of change.

Rolly Tote
  • Both are semi waterproof.
  • The tote stacks on the rolly for running through airports.
  • Both have “handle sleeves” on the back so that when I meet up with my checked suitcase the carry-on rolly can stacked on it and the tote thrown over my shoulder.
  • I suggest tote/carry-on/both with outside pockets for toiletries and computer, if possible, for easy access at security. However, outer computer pockets can be dangerous when bag is banged. So . . . .
  • Bonus points for a shoulder strap on both, see later major tips.
  • Both should have a zipper top for security. No flaps.
  • I tend to pack one with all the things I’ll need during the flight and the other with all the things I can’t live without once I land. Thus the second can go safe up in overhead for the duration.
photo 4
Carry-on Rolly
  • The carry-on rolly design is a matter of preference. Mine is a wide, rather than tall, with tons of pockets both inside and out. I went with squat for stacking reasons, but it means I can’t roll it through plane isles ~ a bit annoying.
  • Some way to strap a jacket to the top is good.
  • I use outer pockets for weather-safe needs: umbrella, gloves, hat, scarf and the like. This also adds outer padding.


  • I require a tote big enough for my purse, reading material, and food plus any extra items like a head pillow, for weekend events my entire clothing roll actually goes in my tote.
  • I prefer a tote that has some shock resistance and structure to protect my computer, but I’ve sacrificed that because this one is so very big and floppy. Deceptively big. We like that.
  • One strap is better than two, grippy leather-like material is better than slippery.

Major tip:
When checking in or boarding I make certain to shell everything: pillow (don’t latch it on the outside of bag), purse in tote, and any other items like computer tucked away. Also, if it doesn’t fit in either bag, I wear my jacket and scarf no matter how hot. I want to look like everything is in place and I really only have two items. These days I can’t tell you haw many times I’ve seen people stopped while boarding to have items taken away.

Even more major tip:
I PICK UP AND CARRY my rolly as I stand in line to board the plane. I shoulder my tote firmly under the opposite arm. Psychologically, these items look smaller and lighter if I am carrying them. Ergo, they are much less likely to be taken away from me. I also keep a neutral face, if I look weighed down, authorities will be suspicious.

The Tote Ready to Fly


Includes my purse, a magazine and/or itinerary zipper envelope, and the roll of clothing (either all of it or just the one emergency outfit).

The Carry-on Rolly Ready to Fly


Everything in its place and a place for everything. Room to transfer the toiletries in once I’ve cleared TSA. Water bottle will then take its place. This bag is still awaiting computer, computer kit, and food. But otherwise is ready to go.

Usually it takes me about an hour to pack. Time well spent, if you ask me. It’s taken me three times that to do this blog post!

Last Thoughts

  • I always plan on getting stranded. It happens at least 1/4 of the time. So I take the most vital things for my event and life (extra glasses, itinerary, money, emergency toiletries, make up, medical needs, computer and charging cords, corsets, emergency kit, jewelry) in my carry-on. I also include one full event outfit and extra socks and undies. When traveling carry-on only this isn’t a problem.
  • I suggest printing out a piece of paper with name address and contact information, plus the words “reward if found” for every piece of luggage and thing of value.
  • Food for plane: Good protein is always hard for me to find as I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I like to hard boil eggs to take with. My best plane food is a veggie heavy burrito from (ah hem) Chipotle. I know, but hear me out. I can supervise them making the burrito and get them to do it as dry as possible. I can get lots of veg and beans, no dairy or avocado (goes bad easy), and the fresh salsa (drained as much as possible) and it actually keeps well in the fridge overnight and packs easy for the flight the next morning. It doesn’t matter if it gets squished. And I don’t know about you but one of those suckers feeds me three meals if necessary. Add some OJ in flight and it’s a nice balanced meal.
  • Drink for plane: I used to buy water on the other side of security but now I carry a filtered bottle through TSA and fill it from a fountain by the gate. Sometimes I try to find/buy something with electrolytes, because flying is dehydrating. I carry tea bags, as I can usually get hot water and creamer on the plane.
  • Which brings me to one last thing: flying is not the time for me to booze or sugar-up. Sugar lowers my resistance to all those rampant germs. Much as I love it, I save my candy pennies for after I land.

P.S. You don’t have to take my word for it.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1905 Betaille  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Modcloth Feline Organized Door Hooks $15

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

3-Way Over The Door Mirror $200

Your Writerly Tinctures . . . 
13 Things You Can Learn from Things I Learned at #RWA2013

Quote of the Day:

“And so my dear Arthur, are not just a little bit pleased to see me?”
“Oh, my dear woman, possibly even less than that.”

~ Oscar Wilde


Posted by Gail Carriger

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