My personal rule is to PACK LIGHTLY.
This may seem obvious, but it’s rather amazing just how little can add up to a lot of pounds. Easel, tripod, and painting supplies take up both weight and space. To make the trip, anything else has to be able to work really, really well.
Like most of us, when I travel I want to be somewhat hands free so, of course, a backpack seems like the obvious choice. However, the first rule I’m instigating, no matter how cool I think I look with my old, beat up leather backpack, it is seriously uncool when it starts to weigh me down. For travel I’m trading leather in for nylon, and one with zippers and pockets. If I can find a light-weight wallet with a zipper, I might even trade in my leather one for a lighter one as well.
All gear needs to have zippers. Nothing should be easy for a pickpocket to get or for things to fall out. Magnetic closures are not secure. My wallet zips shut and is large enough to hold my passport. (So maybe I won’t trade it in.)
I have found it way too time consuming to fish through odd change to pay for train or bus fare so I keep my native coins in a separate coin purse.
A strong nylon bag with a zipper top can be a great carry on and can hold your purse/backpack as well, especially if you get in a situation where only 1 carry-on is allowed. I’ve been using an Orvis nylon tote (It comes in 3 colors as of this writing) for several trips and is extremely durable. It zips shut, has multiple inside pockets, 2 outside pockets, one of which has a zipper at the base that slips over the handle of my roller, (I have to remember to re-zip so I don’t lose things thinking pocket is secure) and is light weight. Plus, I can carry it on my shoulder. (I also have a carry on roller duffle from L.L. Bean, and generally, this, along with my Orvis, are my go-to bags.) On this trip, because it was long, (3 weeks divided between Scotland and France) I used the L.L. Bean extra-large rolling duffle to carry all of my painting gear and clothes and carried the nylon tote as my carry-on. I had a lot of extra room and everything, tote and backpack, could fit in the roller when I wanted to consolidate.
On the downside of all of this, when it was all packed, this extra large duffle was at the 50lb limit and was really tiring to roll around, especially at train and bus stations where I had to maneuver stairs and gaps. And there was no way I could lift it, without a lot of help, to store in the luggage sections. On trains the bag didn’t fit in the luggage area at all so I sat with it in the train car entry area. For me, because I was taking my larger easel, and because I didn’t have an intermediate size suitcase, I was limited to the largest duffle.
Obviously rolling suitcases are best. Mine only has two wheels but I’ve helped my friends with their 4 wheeled versions and they are super smooth and easy to maneuver. I would suggest comparing overall weight when empty and making sure it will be long enough to carry a tripod or painting umbrella, if you are taking one.
My take-aways are 1)Keep your gear light but make sure it’s strong and well made. 2) Make sure the length of your suitcase will be long enough for your longest piece of painting gear. 3) Ease of movement is super important. If you can afford to have a choice of luggage, choose wisely. Smaller is usually better.
I’ld love to hear your solutions!