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I am going to travel soon and I need to maximize the weight of the content that I am taking in the checked-in luggage and minimize the weight of the bag/suitcase. Are there any tips for this?

I am thinking of taking a cardboard box. It's really light and cheap. It's also disposable at destination if I need to leave it behind. I am not sure one can take a card box and if it's strong enough/consistent to resist an trip (I've seen how luggage is handled). I would appreciate some comments and other ideas/sugestions.

Note: When I write a "suitcase" I mean any kind of bag.

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Would a bag be lighter than a suitcase? –  Bernhard Jan 5 at 12:26
    
With whom are you flying? –  andra Jan 5 at 14:05
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If by cardbox you mean a cardboard box, I would strongly recommend against it. It is not designed for rough handling and if nothing else, will lose all strength if just a corner of it gets wet. At the very least, have it sealed in plastic. –  choster Jan 5 at 16:48
    
@choster I was thinking of using duchtape to make it stronger. –  nsn Jan 5 at 19:34
    
@andra rofl :D - Transavia –  nsn Jan 6 at 0:46
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6 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Re Minimimising weight of checked in "suitcase":

In probably everywhere I've been you can buy large strong cheap (choose any 3) polypropylene (I think) bags which fold flat with a very small volume, are strong enough to resist airline handling and which cost very little (see photo below. They have a zip top, come usually in pastel stripes or tacky tartan or a generally ikky colour.

I and my family use these as what I term "Ocean Jumping Bags".
They are light enough and compact enough that that can be folded up and kept until the next ocean-hop arrives - but also cheap enough and available enough that they can be discarded and replaced when required.

In the absence of these life savers a piece of plastic tarpaulin plus parcel tape would be almost as useful, but lacks the zip and more easily sealed nature of the bag.

These bags can either be packed with all checked-in material and no other bag, or smaller bags & boxes and loose material can be placed in them. They are usually of larger volume than required and, rather than committing a large floppy bag to the baggage handlers' tender care, I usually fold them into a compact bundle and then wrap them in parcel tape. The handles are sewn on and will tear off without much effort, but the actual bags are awesome strong.

As the bags offer little or no protection against impact I put more delicate material in the middle wrapped around with clothes (and sometimes extra packing if required) and / or with rigid less breakable objects and then wrap with tape. Such an arrangement has never been torn open in transit when I've used it, and would probably survive any conceivable treatment it would receive

OCEAN JUMPING BAGS

Three samples - various sizes.
The largest is

  • 700mm square by 250mm thick and

  • weighs 210 grams (7 ounces) and

  • 120+ litres capacity and

  • cost about $US5 retail late at night (In Australia, but relatively cheap anywhere).

Add a bit more weight for tape if desired.
Middle can be thicker if desired just by packing more in there.
Coke box for sizing. Tasteful editing to meet domestic censor's requirements.
That bag has more volume (120 litres + ) than the all except the very largest suitcase you'll be liable to find. (The large bag was bought in Australia and brought two backpacks back to NZ. The medium one was bought somewhere in Asia and brought now unknown sundries to NZ.)
Larger version of image here, fwiw

enter image description here

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+1. These bags are ubiquitous in SE Asia, and for a reason. Obviously they provide zero protection from impact for anything inside, but for clothes etc they're perfect. –  jpatokal Jan 7 at 5:49
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@jpatokal Also ubiquitous in NZ and Australia :-). I've bought them in Singapore (late at night with almost everything closed), China and I think also in Paris. Re protection - a bag that protects something "well enough" is liable to be heavy all over. With these you add protection as wanted where wanted, let the bag do the containing and parcel tape the lot. The great advantage is size no longer matters if you have a one bag allowance but weight is OK. You can put your full suitcase in, add excess clothes outside and tape the lot. I thing "Ocean Jumping Bag" sums up the role well :-) –  Russell McMahon Jan 7 at 9:32
    
Great sugestion. I like those bags! Do you think they are strong enough? (I am not worried with the content) –  nsn Jan 7 at 19:44
    
@nsn - That depends whether (as per my above answer) " ... are strong enough to resist airline handling ..." and " ... and then wrap with tape. Such an arrangement has never been torn open in transit when I've used it, and would probably survive any conceivable treatment it would receive" = = = "Strong enough" for you. | Without tape they will be floppy due to unused space and the zip MAY come open. With a modest amount of tape they have, for me, proved to be "bulletproof". YMMV, but probably won't. –  Russell McMahon Jan 8 at 1:54
    
In Australia I believe I've seen these called "candy bags". I'm pretty sure I've seen them on sale at Sydney Airport too. –  hippietrail Jan 8 at 2:43
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Reducing the weight of your luggage is a major factor. Most people don't realize that the old bulky piece that you bought at a budget department store could take upto 1/3 of your carry on allowance before it's packed.

Make sure you only bring what you need. Pare down to your absolute essentials, and leave the four pairs of shoes you love to travel with at home.

You could use a cardboard box, but it will be a pain in the bum to carry around to your destination.

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Stephen, good to have you back, it is been a while I haven't seen any answer from you :) –  MeNoTalk Jan 5 at 16:08
    
Really true... it's amazing the weight of the bags. It can be well worth it to invest in something lite. –  nsn Jan 5 at 19:36
    
@HaLaBi Crap I've been caught! Busy lurking instead of answering, didn't think anyone would notice, I'll try to do some more typing :-P –  Stephen P. Jan 6 at 17:17
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  • Buy a strong, light suit case. I have a large "Samsonite" suitcase and it is so light. These kind of suitcases are usually more expensive but for the durability and the saving on the long run, it really worth it.
  • Cardboard boxes are a good idea if no other option, make sure to wrap it with plastic at the airport for extra strength. Also, ask the guy who wrap it to make a handle. They have a way of making a handle with the plastic wrap, this will make carrying it much easier (something similar to this).
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Also consider duffel bags. Collapsible and easy to store.

I personally swear by them. I had a cheap one purchased from K-Mart. It traveled with me to South America, the Caribbean, up and down the US East Coast, to Europe, etc. and survived! I travelled with that thing for 10+ years until the strap finally ripped on my last trip.

But it was great to travel with since packing light isn't my specialty. As a fairly petite person, I was happy that I didn't have to sacrifice having wheels since they weren't too bulky. However, I also found a sturdy wheel-less one at an army surplus store that was HUGE but light and folded pretty flat. Perfect when I moved away to college.

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I personally take what is absolutely necessary… I wear the heavier shoes, switch them with light sneakers later. I wear the heavier coat and sweater and I sling my jacket over my shoulder. Most airlines will allow you a laptop bag along with the carry on, keep your books in there too!

For your question I'd suggest using a scale to determine which items are really heavier than the others. You don't have to weigh everything, just the items you suspect could be heavy. You would be surprised how deceitful volume can be!

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If you're flying with a budget airline, you'll still have to watch out, as budget airlines tend to be more anal about what you carry on. They can mess you over on both size and weight of your hand luggage.

That said, the solution is pretty straightforward, in generic terms: put larger, lighter items in your checked in luggage and heavier, smaller items in your carry on. If what you check in is not fragile, you can use a light cloth or canvas bag to minimize the weight of your luggage, even though then you might have a harder time lugging your stuff around at your destination.

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