Count on packing pretty light. Bring one medium bag to check in, and a carry-on that can double as an everyday bag to carry with you for the trip A backpack or courier-type bag is appropriate for the carry-on.
Most international airlines allow two checked bags. However, for this trip, you are allowed ONLY ONE. It must fit this criteria:
- 3 dimensions of each bag may not exceed 62 in. (158 cm)
- Weight of each bag may not exceed 50 lb (23 Kg)
This year, there is an additional complication in that our domestic and international flights are on two separate tickets. That means that we will have to pay the domestic flight to check bags. The cost of checking one bag is included in the trip fee; therefore, please plan on bringing only ONE checked bag and a carry on.
DO NOT OVERPACK. One medium bag should be sufficient, along with a carry-on large enough to carry at least a days worth of clothing and gear. If you need something, you can always get it cheap in Bangkok. We will be traveling by van from Bangkok to Buriram Province to Chiang Mai and back to Bangkok, and there isn’t a lot of cargo room. If you have two large suitcases, your van mates will not be happy.
A lot of participants in previous trips did a fair amount of shopping. This is another advantage of packing only one bag; you can fly back the bag previously filled with donations instead filled with souvenirs and gifts. If this is something you may do, you might want to pack a lightweight duffel bag into your first bag. You can also purchase a bag in Thailand to bring back with you. If you don’t plan on bringing back 50 lbs of stuff, you can split a bag with one of your trip mates.
You aren’t going to have to lug your luggage long distances, so you don’t need anything fancy. I plan on packing everything I need in a Cotopaxi Allpa 42L travel pack. Something wheeled is nice, for those long slogs through international airports, but isn’t totally necessary. Plus, wheels and a frame take up space that could otherwise be used.
Some students choose to bring an expedition backpack. That’s fine, as long as you feel comfortable carrying it around.
Some other notes on baggage:
- As I mentioned before, we had to purchase separate tickets for the domestic flight, which complicates our flight a bit. This means that we have to check in again at either Los Angeles or San Francisco with Japan Airlines. That’s isn’t a huge deal. Furthermore, we have to collect our bags after our flight to Los Angeles or San Francisco, wheel them to the International Terminal, and recheck them for the final flight to Bangkok. It’s inconvenient, but we have plenty of time to do this between flights, so it shouldn’t be an issue, outside of the additional workout. And this also is further incentive to pack light! There is one additional issue, and that is that we’re paying for the checked bag on our domestic flight. The baggage fee is included in the trip fee, so don’t worry about paying for it. But we are only allowing ONE checked bag per student.
- Plan on carrying valuables, a day’s worth of clothing, prescription drugs, passports, wallets, jewelry, cameras, phones, and anything that you absolutely cannot get along with for a day in your carry on. Bags do get lost, and it’s pretty depressing to not have at least a change of clothing handy. Most of these situations resolve themselves within 24-48 hours, luckily. Also, most airlines will offer you some cash for the inconvenience. This is from personal experience (during a trip in summer, 2005, Korean Air kept our bags in Seoul instead of putting it on the flight to Bangkok; it could have been worse, since it at least stayed in the same continent, and we got them within 48 hours). You can get toiletries in Bangkok, so don’t worry too much about that.
- Airlines are getting stricter about the size of carry-on luggage. Japan Air Lines allows one carry-on piece that measures a total of 45″ (length + width + height), with a maximum of 22 lbs. But then they also allow 2 bags of personal items such as laptops, purses, etc. I’ve carried a carry on plus a laptop bag with no problems, but other times, they get picky, and will weigh your carry-on. If they determine it is oversized, they will check the luggage, and if it exceeds the checked bag limits, they will charge you. ALL STUDENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY BAGGAGE FEES INCURRED DUE TO OVERWEIGHT OR OVERSIZED BAGS!!
- Don’t lock checked bags with a lock not approved by TSA, unless you want the locks broken. Make sure if you use a lock, it is a TSA approved one. Federal regulations.
- REI often has big sales, and you can get 20% off on one full-priced item, so if you don’t have a bag, it’s a good time to get one. If you plan on a lot of international travel, and plan on “roughing it” (e.g. not staying in resorts or five-star hotels with bellhops and limos), a good wheeled backpack is a nice investment. The newer wheeled backpacks have surprisingly comfortable suspension systems, and are quite comfortable to backpack with, even longer distances. Plus, many of them have smaller packs that detach, making it perfect for a day pack. And the wheels are invaluable when your navigating a large Asian airport or the streets of Bangkok, Nairobi or Phnom Penh.