The Perfect Travel Bag

The Perfect Travel Bagfeatured

Years ago I pulled something in my shoulder and neck dashing through an airport with a computer bag on one shoulder and tugging a roll aboard behind me. It hurt, a lot. Enough that the physical therapist berated me for being an idiot (kindly) and shook her head at people’s determination to haul everything they own onto a plane. She basically forbade me from ever being that stupid again. I now always check my actual baggage, and I carry onboard just one small bag. It easily slides under the seat so is always accessible, and it has yet to give me a neck or shoulder injury. Progress.

But if you’ve ever shopped for bags you know that finding the perfect bag is a challenge that lasts a lifetime. I cannot tell you how many camera bags I’ve bought trying to find one that does it all, or how many bags I own to haul computers around. Around 5 I’d estimate. (No, it’s 50 – that’s my husband.) OK it might be more like… You know what let’s just move on.

I bought a stupid number of bags, I donated nearly all of them to Goodwill because they just didn’t work. My perfect bag has some pretty high bars to meet. It must be well organized inside, with zippers, and pockets, key keepers, etc. It must also be secure, if it falls over during takeoff my stuff needs to not end up spread out under the feet of everyone from row 7 to 36. And it must be comfortable to cary, leaving my hands free. (Carrying a bag at the end of one’s arm is a great way to destroy one’s shoulders. I prefer sling type bags with padded cross body straps and ideally a hip strap to help the weight ride on my hips and the small of my back.) It needed to not be ugly, professional enough to use for work, and still have some personality. Everyone said a messenger bag was my solution, but every one of them was huge, and they tended toward empty buckets in which my stuff would turn into utter and complete chaos. No thanks. The leather bags weighed a ton and cost hundreds of dollars and the rest were ugly, masculine, and looked ready to fall apart in seconds. Then I stumbled on Rickshaw Bags.

Rickshaw is located in San Francisco and their bags are made there, by hand, and to order. Their Mini Commuter seemed perfect. Lots of pockets, and organization, great touches like a detachable red key keeper. But the kicker, the thing that sold me on the bag was Rickshaw’s unique closure system. Magnets. Instead of the annoying riiiiiipppp of velcro Rickshaw’s bags use magnets for quick open and close of the main flap. It’s silent, perfect for taking to work and not disrupting meetings. There is a clip for secure closure when you are on the go and need that extra security. And the magnetic closure can be removed revealing good old fashioned velcro for those who prefer it. But not only that, I could chose fabric for the flap, and the outside of the bag, and add a removable organizer to the inside as well.

Obviously, I bought one.

I chose a fun raspberry tweed (it’s lovely wool material that wears like iron), and black for the rest of the bag to keep it professional and low key. The shoulder strap is adjustable, and super padded. There’s a zip pocket across the whole back of the bag, with neat organization inside. I use it for quick access to things like my wallet, boarding pass, and phone because it can be zipped open and closed one handed while running through the airport, or dashing through Seattle rain and the rest of the bag stays closed, secure, and dry.

Under the front flap mine has a big zip open front pocket that seems to expand infinitely. Inside that front pocket is a full wall of organization pockets, a long red key keeper with a quick release, and yet another zip pocket. And then there’s the main “bucket.” The back of that bucket has a strip of velcro at the top which means you can swap in various accessories Rickshaw makes, I’ve got a flat organizational system added with a big zip pocket, some slip pockets and another key keeper. I kid not when I call this thing my “bag of holding.” Here’s a picture of what went in it on my recent flight to a training I helped facilitate, a four day work trip.

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All of that, plus a boarding pass, and whatever snack I was currently working on in the airport lived in that little bag. To give you an idea how diminutive (and yet mighty) this little guy is the brown leather binder at the back there is a Gillio Medium Compagna, the same size of a Personal Filofax. The purple thing is a Kindle. All of that fit inside the various pockets with room to spare.

So let’s do a little “what’s in my bag” and see just how much fits in this amazing little messenger.

DSC02918-Edit First and always we’ve got writing tools. I just don’t go anywhere without them. When traveling away from home I carry:

1. My Gillio. This is my everything planner, from daily scheduling and tasks, to balancing my multiple work commitments (working more than one part time job, plus writing for a couple blogs and working on a manuscript takes juggling). I also do project management and tracking here, meal planning, and basic stashing of information I must not lose (GTD inbox).

2. Hobonichi. My Hobo is my daily journal, recording daily events, thoughts, and feelings it’s the record I can look back on. My goal is to journal nightly, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

3. Pens. One can never have too many pens. I travel with a plain black gel pen for those times when something must be “legal.” But mostly I use fountain pens, which travel in a silk pen roll and sit nib up in my main compartment where these two planners keep them from moving around or falling over. Don’t give in to the “fountain pens don’t fly well hype. I fly with mine all the time and have never had an issue. Just keep them nib pointing up and you’ll be fine (though I don’t suggest flying with old sac fillers). I even use them once at cruising altitude, no issues. Here we have the Visconti Opera Elements Air, Pelikan M200 Demonstrator, and Scriptorium Pens custom. I also like to have colorful gel pens in extremely fine sizes for planning or doodling.

4. A sleeve full of stickers. Yes, I’m a grown woman who loves stickers. You probably do too, you’re just embarrassed to admit it. Get over it, stickers rock. I carry a variety, from cute Japanese stickers that I use for a smile on a busy and otherwise too adult day, to custom made planning stickers that let me glance at my week and see schedule and plans at a glance. (I’m a very visual person.) These take up basically no room so they go everywhere.

I’m a geek, so yes, I carry quite a bit in the way of electronics as well. I do not normally travel with a laptoDSC02919-Editp, my laptop is a big beast powerful enough to run Lightroom and Photoshop, it’s a great machine but it is far from portable. Carrying it would defeat the purpose of traveling light for the sake of my body. So I’ve gotten good at living without a computer, I actually enjoy it. When headed out for a few days instead I carry:

1. An Android tablet (mine is an older model Nexus that’s still kicking butt and taking names). This is the replacement for my computer, small and light and with a pretty dang good battery. I can Facebook, read magazines, surf the web, etc. I can even connect it to a bluetooth keyboard and do heavy duty writing work. All at a weight that’s such a small fraction of my huge laptop I’m not even going to go there with the math.

2. Kindle. I don’t go anywhere without books, but carrying books is heavy and bulky and just not smart, so I travel with a Kindle. It has really changed the way I travel, I have hundreds of books at my fingertips, from continuing education reading to pure unadulterated fun. And all of it fits into such a slim light package I can’t imagine going back to traveling with paper.

3. Phone (currently a Samsung Galaxy S5). Because duh. I used an electronic boarding pass for the first time this trip, worked like a dream, but I was flying Alaska airlines and they tend to work like a dream so these two are likely connected. (On the flight home we were delayed taking off by 10 minutes but landed 15 minutes early. Their pilots don’t take “late” laying down.)

4. Wireless headphone receiver (and headphones). Through the magic of bluetooth my headphones and my phone no longer need to be physically connected and that’s really nice. Very handy when traveling, the headphones go around my neck when not in use, the wireless receiver clips securely to my clothing and I can control playback and volume all from the bluetooth receiver, no need to even take my phone out of the bag under my seat. Now that’s slick and worth the tiny weight and size.

5. I am not one of those people searching for a plug in the airport, restaurant, office, ets. Because I carry a power brick with me (see square silver thing). It plugs into the wall, charges fully in a couple hours, and then will charge any device that’s charging cable can plug into USB. It holds enough power to fully power my phone about 2.5 times. Since the Galaxy S5 has a huge hungry battery that’s impressive. And it outputs at a high enough level to charge an iPad or other tablet. Best of all battery packs like this sell for $50 or less on Amazon, this one came with its own USB/Micro USB charging cable and plug and a nice little travel bag to keep it all neat. I do not understand why everyone doesn’t carry one of these puppies as I no longer have any issue with devices running low on power while on the go, even through 24 solid hours of travel with no access to wall power.

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OK, on to the less sexy stuff. Most of this stuff goes with me every day, not just on days I’m jetting off to far away cities for work (not as glamorous as that sounds), but it all tends to be stuff you’ll regret not having room for and all of it tucks neatly into little organized cubbies in this bag.

1. Wallet. I hope you don’t forget this. ID, money, cards, that sort of thing.

2. Fold out business card holder. I never used to carry cards, but people are constantly asking for them now that I’m working for multiple different places. So I always have this nifty little holder that flips open and fans out to display my pretty cards!

3. Various essentials for me not becoming really crabby. These include lip stick, the best lip balm in the world, a travel thingy of tylenol (that I’ve refilled lots of times with whatever I need to be carrying), and contact safe eyedrops (planes are dry y’all).

4. Car keys, because I like to be able to get home after my flight, crazy I know.

5. Snacks, which if you are sharing space with me you want me to have, no one likes me hangry. (You’re the only one who uses that word you know. My husband again, who is wrong, everyone knows what hangry means!)

All of that in one little bag. I’m impressed. I’ve been using my Mini Commuter for a couple years now and it still looks brand new (it got some dust on the shoulder pad while doing this shoot because I am horrible house keeper but that’s not really its fault). There isn’t so much as a scuff, or a loose thread. The zippers all work one handed despite my stuffing. I did eventually cave and buy a full sized Commuter 2.0 (no longer available, they are now on 3.0) for those times I must carry my laptop but it gets used rarely in comparison to this little trooper.

So that’s my bag, and what’s in it, what’s in your bag?

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