Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 15, 2011

At Peace With Packing

Because I travel so often, occasionally someone will ask me if I always keep a bag packed and ready to go for my international trips. The answer to that question is a qualified yes — I always keep a bag partially packed and ready to go. And, those who travel with me frequently ask me questions about how and what I pack. So, I thought I would start a new category on my blog entitled Travel Tips and include some posts on how to pack for an international trip, my favorite travel apps, and more. I will devote a few posts to this topic over the coming days.

Let me begin by saying that packing is one of my least favorite things to do. Over the years I have tried just about every recommended method for packing — from rolling my clothes to stuffing them into those vacuum bags you often see advertised on television. But, after more than sixty international trips and lots of trial and error, I have finally settled on what works best for me. I am finally at peace with packing. I understand that what works for me may not be what works best for you. But the best way to make peace with packing is to develop your own method through trial and error.

In this first installment I want to address the importance of buying the right piece of luggage. Over the years I have bought lots of suitcases, some of which survived several trips and others which barely made it home in one piece. Based on my experience with luggage, the following are three things to consider when choosing a piece of luggage.

Purpose | Consider where you are going and what you will be doing. I visit lots of Third World countries where my luggage takes a beating. My luggage has been strapped on top of safari vehicles, stuffed in the holds of boats, crammed into the trunks of cabs, and buried under mounds of miscellaneous stuff inside and outside of buses. Thus, one of my personal considerations in choosing luggage is strength and durability.

Cost | Remember that you get what you pay for. Cheap luggage is cheap for a reason. In my early years of travel I bought several cheap pieces of luggage, most of which lasted only a couple of trips. However, I finally got tired of dealing with broken wheels and straps, zippers that would not zip, and various other luggage maladies and malfunctions. So, a few years ago I purchased the most expensive piece of luggage I have ever owned — and it was worth every penny. More on that in another post.

Features | Make a list of the features you need in a piece of luggage. Consider the size, weight, and material of the bag, whether you need compartments, how you can secure and lock your luggage, wheels or no wheels, and whatever other features will make a bag highly functional for you. In my experience you can get lots of features in a cheap bag but because the components are often cheap you may experience malfunctions along the way.

Character | I personally like luggage that is easy to identify. One thing I notice on every trip I take is the number of people who have trouble identifying their own luggage as it circles around on the luggage carousel. Bags that look similar in color or style present the perfect opportunity for someone else to walk off with your bag. So, color and bag style are two things I factor in when purchasing luggage.

Read my next post on my favorite and most expensive but worth every penny piece of luggage and how I pack for an international trip.


  1. Omar, before I understood your approach, I would let dime-store luggage and heavy packing distract from million dollar experiences. Now we’re lean, mean and top of the line.

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