Two weeks & one carry-on, aka ‘overpacker rehab’

There’s a lot to be said for living in the moment, but for the past few months, I’ve been spending intermittent intervals of time (and a pile of money) on my future. 

I am not talking about retirement. I’m talking about two weeks in Italy and France. It’s my first trip to the Continent and I plan to wring every bit of pleasure and joy possible out of it.

This suitcase isn’t empty. It’s full of possibilities.

One of my first decisions was not to check a bag. As anyone who knows me will confirm, overpacking (even for a day at work) is one of my superpowers. 

In the attic, I inspected our suitcase collection. It’s an eclectic mix. Bags of various shapes and sizes, a few purchased and the rest acquired courtesy of family members, living and dead. Most were too big. Two weren’t. The first was too small and badly configured for flying. This I knew from experience. The other, a rectangular box with a single large compartment, too easily lent itself to disorganization. 

My friend Veronica (who writes an amazing blog) turned me on to Kickstarter, which is where I discovered the Onli Bag.

This is the first thing I read: “Modular 3-part luggage system that combines a world-class backpack with a carry-on, so it always fits. One bag travel made easy.”

The “Onli” bag I’m taking to Europe. (Thanks to travel writer and pal Laura for the tag.)

The bag had gone through eight iterations and its inventor, Dave Logan, field tested it on trips ranging from four days to three weeks. I liked that one of its zip-apart components was designed to hang off the seat in front of you, because I’m always and forever reaching down below my feet to scrabble for something in my backpack. I also liked that the laptop compartment was easily accessible for airport security purposes. 

I ordered the bag and a set of packing cubes. The test run happened in July, when I flew to Calgary for Grandbaby 2’s first birthday party. The bag was stuffed pretty full. At the gate for my Toronto-Calgary flight, the attendant declared that it would never fit in the overhead compartment. 

Packing cubes. Also, that ukulele? It’s coming with. I do not travel without a musical instrument.

The Milwaukee-Toronto leg is a toothpaste tube, so gate-check was a given. I’d zipped the bag apart, keeping the computer bag and seat-in-front portions. No need to rummage through the suitcase for what I’d want to take on board. I was already liking this.

The Onli, deconstructed. Computer compartment (l), seat pouch (r), bag (back).

“Yes, it will,” I said, unzipping the components and noting that this bag is still new enough that gate attendants aren’t yet familiar with it. The good news was that she backed off the gate-check. The bad news was that she wouldn’t let me zip it back together, forcing me to go from the terminal to my seat while trying to juggle all three components separately on the jetway and plane aisle. 

It was the same story on the return trip. That said, the only complaint I had was attitude from the gate attendants. Unzipped, the bag fit easily in the overhead compartment. The seat-in-front portion was big enough to hold my book and every other little thing I like to have handy while in-flight. The computer bag fit neatly under the seat  and the components were, once I had practiced with the zippers a bit, easy to maneuver.

I’ve been thinking about what I already own that will come along, and have accumulated some new things to make the trip work. Over the course of this week, I’ll be packing in steps. The object of that exercise is to get to the airport on Friday without being a basket case over what I might be forgetting.   

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