We are traveling not as backpackers, nor as wealthy high-end baggage toters.
To enjoy this trip as much as possible, we want to strive to find a balance
between schlepping heavy bags and spending a lot of time doing laundry.
The ideal goals for packing might look like this:
- All baggage should fit on board the plane. This means, probably, one bag with
rollers for the overhead bin and one "personal item" such as a purse,
briefcase, or computer bag
- This will minimise wait times at baggage carousels
- It will also minimise chances of bags getting lost, stolen, or rifled through
However, there are legitimate reasons for checking a bag. We can work with this,
but we need to know well in advance what everyone's intentions are.
Here are some benefits to consider for checking a bag:
- Less lifting and schlepping on the plane; travelers with arthritis
or physical problems find this especially liberating, but everyone
else may also find this more enjoyable
- Checked bags can be used to carry liquids over three ounces
- Often the plane runs out of room for carry on and then some people
find that they have to check our baggage at the gate so everyone
has to wait at baggage claim anyway. If you plan on checking from
the start, you are prepared for the process right from the start
Also, whether you check a bag, only do carry on, or do both, make sure
all your bags are as light as possible.
There are still places where you will have to carry bags up and down
stairs (some train stations for example)
You will want to plan on using handkerchiefs for drying your hands; most restrooms
do not supply paper towels and many restaurants don't set napkins on the table
Japanese think using your handkerchief for blowing your nose is disgusting: that's
what tissues (Kleenex) are for.
Electricty in Japan is 100 volts; consider bringing a converter
(without a converter, your appliances will run, but with less
Consider not bringing any appliances
If you do bring something that needs to be plugged in, be aware
that Japanese outlets are two-pronged; if your plug has three
prongs you will need an adapter
Note also: you will not need a robe or slippers: every Japanese hotel
and ryokan supplies those for use while you stay with them.
Here is our trip from the point of view of luggage ...
When we start out in Denver, if you check a bag, you will not see it until
you arrive in Tokyo. That's convenient, for sure.
Arriving in Tokyo, if you have checked a bag you will need to wait at
the baggage carousel for it to come in.
From the airport to the hotel is easy: all luggage can go in the limousine
bus to the hotel.
To get to Takayama, we will trek to the bus station to take a long bus trip; baggage
will be stowed on the bus. Easy.
In Takayama, volunteers will help get our luggage to city hall where we will
wait for our host families to come get us after their work day.
We will leave Takayama on a local express train; luggage space is usually not
too bad on this leg. This will take us to Nagoya.
In Nagoya we will need to get ourselves and our bag(s) to the right track to
catch the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. This is a bit of a walk.
Here is a tour of a typical shinkansen.
Next, check out this YouTube video of travel
by shinkansen. Check out the size of the luggage racks: really meant for
small personal bags.
There is no baggage car nor checked baggage capability. Our JR pass allows
us to travel in reserved seats or non-reserved seats (in "ordinary" as opposed
to "green" cars (first class)).
If we travel in non-reserved seats we can try and grab a group of seats near
the back of the car so we can stack luggage there. If we travel in reserved
seats we may be able to reserve seats at the back, but we can't put luggage
in seats that are reserved.
In Kyoto we will take taxis to our hotel. Taxis do not have a lot of trunk room.
After three nights in Kyoto, we'll take taxis back to the station to catch another
shinkansen, to Tokyo.
In Tokyo we'll schlep our bags from the train station to the hotel.
When we return home, we will take the Narita Express train to the airport. You may check bags
in Tokyo if you like. In L.A. we need to claim any checked bags and go through customs
but then we can put them on a conveyor belt to our final flight. If you don't have checked
bags, you still need to go through customs, and, of course, take your bags with you from
the international arrival to the domestic departure gate.
To help you strategize what to pack, imagine what you'll be wearing as you
move along. Then you can decide what you need to have in your bag. Try to
strike a balance between traveling light and keeping down [laundry] expenses.
And good hygiene.
Consider taking advantage of a couple of laundry opportunities to save time,
although it will cost a little. Your personal strategy may include washing a few things
in your room, going to a laundromat, wearing some items more than once or twice, or
another set of strategies.
Also, recognize that women have different outfit needs than men, and each of
us is unique in other ways, with differing needs and preferences.