Vacation Tribes: What Does Your Luggage Say About You?
Illustrations by Mr Pete Gamlen
According to a 2019 survey, the average person spends more than 10 hours planning their vacation. That’s before even going anywhere. But how much thought do they put into packing? Do they map out an outfit for every potential scenario or leave it to the last minute and hope for the best? Who among us can honestly claim that they have never run out of underwear by the end of the week or returned home with items that have remained untouched? Every holidaymaker has a tale of their undoing. Most of us, however, learn from our past mistakes and become better travellers. Then there are those who, despite circumnavigating the globe, never seem to move on. And, as any baggage handler can tell you, their luggage reveals all. From highly wound flyers to those winging it, these are the guys to avoid on the carousel – and what they take with them.
The business classicist
Of course, he’s going places. We’re all going places – why else would we be here, at the airport, of all, er, places? But then, where this guy is heading, round in circles at 10,000 metres, you only turn left. The destination is exclusive and the luggage is exclusively carry-on, packed with military precision. His robust FPM Milano suitcase is built to withstand an air crash – handy given that, what with the 1:1,200,000 probability of an incident and the Air Miles he’s racking up, he must be overdue at least a slight spill, statistically speaking. (Although, touch brushed walnut, he’s OK.) Inside the bag, his clothes are carefully rolled, not folded, into packing cubes. He doesn’t have time for baggage reclaim, lost luggage or toiletries over 100ml. You could call him a frequent flyer, but infrequent terrestrial might be more accurate.
The overprivileged overpacker
With the golden age of air travel far behind us on the moving-map display, the seven-piece matching monogrammed luggage set today tends to be a #familygoals flex rather than a realistic proposition for any single person outside of a film by Mr Wes Anderson. But do you seriously expect him to go anywhere without an industrial-standard humidifier? Won’t you think of his wardrobe, painstakingly whittled down, with brutal efficiency, to a brace of seven, no, 800 absolute essentials. The bare minimum. Who these days has just one wash bag anyway? When each body part has its own 10-step routine. Plus, space for any knickknacks, objets d’art or collector’s pieces that he may happen upon, obvs. Now, you were saying something about an “excess baggage fee…”
The “don’t call it backpack”
What this traveller is after is the real sense of the place, a genuine taste of the city, country and its people. He needs to be nimble, going where his feet take him, and this is reflected in his luggage, which, living up to its name, he will be lugging around everywhere. Worn on his chest. Now, it’s not that he doesn’t trust the locals… Inside the front-facing backpack, his attitude is why take five bottles in a see-through plastic baggy when you can decant an entire grooming regimen into one dispenser? (Although he appears less smug when using what is essentially shampoo as toothpaste.) What this lightness allows for is him to soak up the culture, to drift with the breeze and, OK, in the odd moment of weakness, turn to his rather exhaustive set of guidebooks, with detailed schedules and annotations in the margins. That smell? Authenticity. Oh, and Deet.
The disorderly boarder
“Sir, is this your luggage?” And with that summons, our man sheepishly shuffles up to the customs counter, where a stern-looking security officer with a thin torch and latex gloves is riffling through his bag. The oversized bottles of hair products and contact lens solutions are the least of his worries. Buried under the salopettes from his last trip away – this time, he’s going on a beach vacation – is a can of tomatoes? As well as hurriedly slinging a pile of unwashed clothes into his holdall, he previously used it for the weekly shop and forgot to remove the groceries. The airport staff sighs and hold out a hand. “Passport?” Now that he didn’t bring.
The wife has my passport
The question “did you pack your bags yourself?” presents binary options, but there’s really only supposed to be one answer. In this case, in his case, the contents are as much a mystery to him as those of the magical satchel owned by Felix the Cat. Like a Deal Or No Deal box or Schrodinger’s carry-on, if you will. As is the destination, which must be on the board, somewhere amid the three-letter abbreviations. Holidays being his other half’s department. He just gets told – or, rather, has been told, repeatedly, but probably wasn’t listening. “That sounds nice, dear,” he no doubt noted at the time. If his partner was more enterprising, and we’re not condoning this by any means, he would make for the perfect drug mule. As it is, he’s just lucky that he’s still allowed to tag along.