Until you’ve learned this lesson yourself (swearing to never make these mistakes again) the temptation is to pack everything you think you’ll be able to carry rather than pack as little as you can get away with. Even after hearing this advice most people will make this mistake anyway, so hopefully some of this will come in handy and you’ll be ahead of the game. (via)I have decided to heed that advice but stray a little more to the side of comfort. I don't NEED my bag to be carry-on size (22"), I'm only going to be taking two flights (there and back) and will be on the train the rest of the time, and since I'm going overseas I can check a bag for free.
I'll be coming back later to the checklist of what to actually pack (starting with stuff like One Bag, Rick Steves, Ridiculously Extraordinary, Universal Packing List Generator, Traveller's Point, and this long list of resources at Go Green, Travel Green.)
I bought a 26" bag recently and took it with me on a 6-day trip to try it out. I think that my regular 22" suitcase would have been too stuffed, and I didn't want to have to do laundry while on the trip. There's enough room for, say, 5 days worth of clothes with room left over (rather than trying to do 3-4 days with my 22" suitcase) for other stuff that I either bring with me or take along the way.
It's the High Sierra AT458 and it's last year's model (part of the ATQ collection), I found it discounted at Marshall's for just $89 plus tax, about 30-40% discounted from stores I see online. It's 26" and has nearly double the volume of the 22" bag (5840 cubic inches vs 3050, for just $10 more than the AT456), and weighs a shade under 12 lbs. It has wheels but also a set of hidden backpack straps for those times I'd need to carry it. It also has built-in buckles in case the zipper breaks. The front part (beneath the handle in the below picture) zips open so I can get into the top half of the suitcase, and where the suitcase opens there's zipper divider to make a top and bottom half (like to separate clean and dirty clothes). At the top there's a zip-open compartment for wet stuff, or if I don't have anything wet, it's for storing things I can get to easily. Above that there's a small zip pocket that's big enough for pens and important papers (train tickets, passport, itinerary, etc.). The one I got is gray, like the picture below. I do have to be careful of the weight restrictions on the planes going over and back, and I think this won't let me get too heavy. Obviously I don't have that to worry about on the trains, but I don't want to be lugging anything around (and it has to be light enough that I can carry it on my back for short distances).
I've also got a Wenger Swissgear backpack, with four big pockets (one of which is for a laptop, though I won't be bringing that on this trip) as my day pack. I got it on sale at Marshall's in summer 2010, so it was probably a 2009 model. I can't find any images of the SA1179 on the web (because really, who wants a 2009 model year anyway, but this model on Amazon is relatively close), but I used it while traipsing around the Mall museums in Washington, my LA/San Diego/Seattle/Vancouver/Las Vegas trip, Denver, and three trips to the Kennedy Space Center within the last year, and I'm happy with what it can hold, what I have used it for, and that it's comfortable. The backpack will be my airline carry-on so that I don't have to leave any electronics in the check luggage and will have an extra day's worth of clothes and things that I'll need in case my suitcase doesn't make it to the airport. It also has two water bottle pockets on the sides.
I haven't started much thinking about packing, but one thing I did want to take with me is some sort of computer. For me, the iPad is not a consideration because as nice as that is (and I have an iPhone), the deal-breaker is that I cannot use it as storage to back up my camera. I need something with a USB slot and storage. Since my first trip with a digital camera (Australia in 2002), I back up my pictures to my laptop every night before bed, just in case. On that first trip, it was because the flash cards were so small that I ran out of room every day, but now with a 16 GB card that's not an issue. In Hong Kong in 2009, I left my camera on the subway and lost only that one day's worth of pictures, not all two weeks of them from Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong. While the iPad is great, it doesn't allow me to back up my photos from my camera, even to the cloud. Plus, I don't need an iPad right now anyway.
I decided to look for an inexpensive netbook because I don't want a tablet and I wanted something that I might be able to sell afterwards and come close to breaking even - this is not something that I plan to keep, I'm fine with a desktop, a laptop, and an iPhone. I ended up lucking out and being able to borrow my sister's Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook. It's not perfect and I don't know that I would have bought it new myself, but at zero cost to me it's just what I'm looking for. I pretty much intend to use my iPhone for tweeting or internet searching via wifi, but this works much better and faster for writing out emails or blogging and it's the only way I could upload photos from my camera to Flickr or Facebook.