Are you willing to pay US$450 for a checked bag? That’s what American Airlines is charging for checked bags weighing between 32 and 45 kilos on its Asia flights, according to a recent survey conducted by USA Today.
While most major Asian airlines still have reasonable fees on overweight and extra baggage, regional budget carriers such as AirAsia follow the American model. And as if extra fees weren’t incentive enough to stick to a carry-on, long wait times at baggage claims should cure most chronic overpackers. During a recent trip to Kathmandu, I observed a scene at the single, functioning baggage belt in the airport that was basically a slow-motion melee. (This, after an hour-and-a-half queue at immigration.)
Packing light doesn’t have to mean frumpy anoraks and quick-dry trousers. We turned to a couple of Asia’s leading fashion designers for their advice on how to stay stylish on the road:
Wear your smartest clothes, advise Ellis Krueger and Alex Daye of Moustache in Hong Kong. For men, they advise going with a nice jacket, a proper dress shirt, and your best pair of shoes. “These usually take the most room in your luggage anyway, so you save the real estate by wearing them,” they say. Plus, you might get the added bonus of an upgrade with a more dapper look. Worried about crumpling? Their quick, sure-fire solution is to hang the clothes in the bathroom, near the shower; while you wash off the travel grime, the steam smoothes out wrinkles.
Organize, organize, organize. Nothing beats saving space than cordoning off sections of your suitcase for specific items, says Jirawat “Bote” Benchakarn, an up-and-coming Thai designer who specializes in clean, preppy looks. Ziploc bags make cheap travel pouches, but Jirawat recommends United Arrows, a Japanese clothing brand that makes durable pouches in ethnic prints. “They’re a great accent to my wardrobe, which is usually plain and basic,” he adds.
And don’t forget shoes “are the suitcase inside the suitcase,” say Kreuger and Daye.
Stick to the basics. Ladies, rethink bringing that leopard-skin print top that doesn’t go with anything else in your closet. Instead, choose a couple of neutral basics that are versatile and easy to mix-and-match. Add a few pieces in bright colors to dress up a pair of black leggings or a basic blazer. Going to the beach? All you really need besides your bathing suit are a sarong, a basic white shirt, a few T-shirts, a pair of shorts, a floaty dress and a pair of sandals. A pared-down wardrobe can get you through an urban getaway: a jacket or blazer, a cardigan, a nice pair of jeans or black trousers, two t-shirts, one elegant blouse and a pashmina, which can also serve as a travel blanket. Save the statement-making for your accessories, which can make an outfit seem different. And leave behind most of your shoes—all you need are flats, sandals and one pair of heels.
Kreuger and Daye offer even more radical advice for men. “Take less clothes than you see on the outside—jackets, shirts, trousers—and much more of what not so many see on the inside—socks, T-shirts, vests, underwear,” they say. “No one will see a repeated outfit when you are traveling. But you will feel so much better if you change your underwear and socks at least twice a day.”
Sick of wearing the same clothes day in and day out? Spritz your clothes with your favorite cologne or perfume—it will make a tired outfit feel fresh. Jirawat favors The Laundress’s Fabric Fresh Classic scent: “Your clothes will smell like fresh laundry all through the trip.”
Start packing early. Nothing is more conducive to overpacking than leaving things to the last minute. Lay everything out at least the day before your trip, come back after a few hours, and then edit down to the essentials.