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Less-is-more Luggage Lessons

Would you wrap a 50-pound ball-and-chain around your ankle before leaving for vacation or a weekend getaway? Of course not! Yet when we see the huge suitcases many people take for a short getaway, it's hard to see the difference. Over-packing is particularly inconvenient and unnecessary when you're visiting historic inns and hotels. Here's why:

  • Lots of steps: Your typical century-old mansion or historic hotel has six or more steps to get to the front door, and at least two full flights of stairs to get to second- and third-floor guest rooms. Although many properties have wheelchair accessible guest rooms, elevators are a rarity.
  • Limited closet space: In the 19th century and earlier, most people had very few clothes - just their everyday work clothes and a Sunday suit or dress. The oversize closets of today's homes were atypical. Where closets existed, renovations have typically transformed them into bathrooms, since indoor plumbing was even scarcer than closets. While innkeepers do their best to provide you with adequate storage space, limitations exist.
  • Limited staff: Although innkeepers will be delighted to help you with your bags whenever possible, small properties do not usually have bellhops or other staff on call for carrying luggage.
  • Lots of amenities: Nearly every innkeeper will be delighted to provide you with a hair dryer and iron (plus an ironing board), so remove those items from your suitcase. Lovely toiletries at most inns (shampoo, lotions, etc.) can also lighten your load.
  • Lots of books: Although good books are a key ingredient of a great vacation, you don't need to pack a library. Most innkeepers will be happy to trust you to return their own favorites, while others offer an informal exchange program - take a book, leave a book.

Be a ruthless packer. Take only neutral-colored slacks, shorts, and/or skirts (black & khaki are best), so that all your tops match all the bottoms. We are partial to no-iron micro-fiber fabrics, which weigh little and fold up into nothing. Since you can usually wear the bottoms for several days, you'll only need two or three for a week-long trip. Three pairs of shoes is the maximum and two pairs are better - a pair of walking shoes, and another that's a little dressier. Always take a bathing suit. Roll it into a ball, stick it in a corner of your suitcase, and you'll never have to miss the fun. Do bring an empty, lightweight daypack for hiking. You can always fill it with the treats you've purchased.

To recap, here are our "Ming the Merciless" packing rules:

Rule 1: If you can't carry it yourself, you don't need to take it.

Rule 2: If at all possible, limit yourself to a carry-on size rolling suitcase, and if absolutely necessary, a small duffle bag for shoes. If it doesn't fit, you don't need it.

Rule 3: If you must take an oversize bag, and plan to get someone else to carry it for you, go back and read Rules 1 & 2 again.

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