Unless your travels entail 5-star service from start to finish, packing smart for India will set you up for success. What to pack for your Indian travels is as important as deciding how much to bring and which type of bag will best suit your travel plans once on the ground. Below are some helpful tips designed to take some of the worry out of your upcoming journey.
Size: Each airline has its own set of carry-on requirements, yet the common manufacturer size of 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or 45″ total (height + width + length) is a basic measurement which will set you up for success. Keep in mind these carry-on luggage dimensions include all handles, wheels and other extrusion.
Quantity: The combination of a one checked bag and one carry-on (roller bag) maximizes your packing abilities . This will allow you to pack full-size toiletries rather than the 1 quart bag full of miniature products. Also nail clippers, files and other items which many countries do not allow in the cabin can now be packed worry free.
Airlines are more aware of baggage coming into the cabin under guise as a carry-on allotment. Women’s purses, computer bags and small personal item totes in most cases, are now considered your one allowed piece.
Travel Plans: India is a land of diverse conditions which makes finding the perfect choice that much tougher.
Roller bags- Comfortable, come in many sizes, styles and colors, and move with relative ease through most conditions. They work best for those traveling by car & driver service, group tours moving by coach, and travelers who will be relying on trains and planes through most of their itinerary. Traveling to sandy areas? Hotels do employ staff who are happy to assist with luggage in more difficult terrain, but it’s best to be able to maneuver your bags without help.
Duffel bags- A better choice for budget travelers relying on local, cramped buses and trains; Or for those with a constant plan to be in the desert areas such as Rajasthan. They are lighter weight but lack much internal structure. However, a new trend is travel duffels which come with wheels or a retractable handle.
Backpack, or rucksack- A well-fitted model with good hip support is worth the investment for trekkers or budget travelers that plan to move significant weight for a sustained period of time.
Features: Don’t be tempted by the bags at your local discount market. They lack most of what seasoned travelers consider the basic benefits of a well made piece of luggage.
1. Too Much of a Good Thing?: A good bag should have the ability to expand with one smooth unzip. If you can’t cram in every last souvenir from India, then it’s best to keep looking. Be mindful of exceeding the carry-on limits as it will need to be checked.
2. How is it made?: Traditional luggage comes in two models: hard-shell and soft-shell.
Soft-shell bags are more common than hard-shell luggage, they are easier to squeeze into overhead compartments, and these bags also absorb shock better than their molded counterparts. Look for reinforced seams and corners, durable zippers (YKK Brand, chain style) and materials such as rip-stop or ballistic nylon that will look good and hold up after the bag has been slugged around.
Hard-shell bags protect fragile items better than soft bags. Most ultra-lightweight luggage pieces are hard-shell which can save a few precious pounds on the airline scale. Be sure that you’re paying for good quality. Flimsy hard-shell luggage can break or crack under pressure, while cheap soft luggage can tear.
3. Can you Handle That?: You need to be able to grab your bag from not just a luggage carousel, but the many different environments of India. Train travel means you’ll be rolling, carrying and lifting a bag in tight quarters under stress from pushy travelers with limited time. Cabs and cars for hire require bags in and out of the trunk sometimes on a daily basis. Look for padded handles on the body of the bag, in addition to long shoulder straps or handles. Retractable handles that have multiple positions allow you to adjust the length to suit various heights.
4. Pocket Police: There is no right amount of internal and external pockets, but several well placed pockets make the difference between a good bag, and a great bag. Large zip-open compartments on the outside are great for cramming magazines, books and papers allowing easily retrieval before flight. Inside, expandable mesh toiletry holders or hidden compartments are a expert packers delight.
5. Give me a Piggy Back Ride: Ever wonder what the small strap that doesn’t seem to do much is for? It’s actually an invaluable addition to any bag. Place the strap under the handle of a small tote bag, snap together and slip the bag over the top side of your larger rolling luggage.
6. Keep on Rollin’: Instead of smooth in-line skate-style wheels, look for the larger, “off-road” wheels, which are designed suit a variety of terrains.
7. Cinch It!: Cinch or compression straps are a must. It’s like wrapping your luggage like a present. These straps help reduce the size of your packed items while minimizing shifting during transit.
8. Color Me Fancy: Ever looked at a typical baggage carousel? It’s mostly a sea of black. Pick a bright color such as red, yellow or blue if possible. Traveling to India is about function and fun, not fashion and attraction.
9. Run the Numbers: The higher the denier, the better. Denier is the fineness of the nylon. Fabric is also important. The quality, strength and performance of a bag depends on the denier.
Less expensive bags: 600 to 1800 denier polyester.
Mid-range quality bags: 500 – 1000 Cordura (resists punctures)
High-end bags: 800 to 2500 denier ballistic nylon
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