Luggage – What Worked and Didn’t

One of the big challenges for us was the way we decided to take leave. About two months before Nick graduated Signal Captains Career Course, we sent Hillary and the kiddos home to Minnesota to spend time with a good portion of our families. This meant they needed a pretty decent amount of stuff, since I was also going to be taking a month of leave before we headed to Korea meaning three months total at the awesome in-laws.

For the majority of our stuff I settled on Rothco Parachute Bags, and they worked WONDERFULLY.

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They’re big enough to hold a decent amount of stuff, but not so big to put you over that 50 lb limit where things get truly unwieldy. They’re also quite light, and pretty tough. The snaps on that cover are not, however. We had a few fail on multiple bags. Not the end of the world. Additionally, your orders limit you to 50 lbs for bags that exceed the free limitation by your airline. That being said, we’ve yet to have an airline penalize us for going over when we’re traveling and present a DOD ID. AMC didn’t even weigh bags individually, they just had Nick keep stacking them on the scale until it hit 300, or we couldn’t stack any higher.

For a lot of our clothes and the bedding/pillows we had with us, these vacuum space saver bags were money.

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The ones above are cheaper than the Ziploc brand, but we could only find them at Wal-Mart. They do a pretty awesome job of compressing your stuff. A parachute bag holds three stacked up, one on an end and one on a side. They typically weighed up just around 45 lbs.

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The downside of these bags are if you’re putting anything breakable in them. Since they’re not hard-sided, a good kick or drop might cause some problems. We brought one large traditional suitcase for that type of thing.

In total for checked luggage we had eight parachute bags, one large suitcase, and one of the new Army duffel bags (zippered type) for a total of 10 checked bags. Add on three car seats and the base for Caroline’s car seat. It was a lot.

For carry ons, we had four kids roller bags from Target, and the older three had their own backpacks. We had Nick’s 5.11 Rush 72 (huge) and 5.11 MOAB 10 (not huge) bags, the Phantom 4 drone in the case it came in, and our Nikon photo equipment was in our Monoprice backpack that was packed into a Delsey Helium roller (great case) for a total of 12 carry on bags. Also add on the stroller and Caroline’s car seat. It was just a massive pain in the butt.

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If I hadn’t been able to find a skycap with a big cart at the Seattle baggage claim, we don’t know what we would have done. It would have been at least four luggage cart trips to move from the downstairs baggage claim to the upstairs ticketing floor. So leaving a pretty decent amount of bags unattended, or shuffling them all over to the Delta baggage claim counter, and then upstairs one cart at a time. That Skycap got a hefty tip and hearty thank you.

Lessons Learned

  • Parachute Bags and Vacuum Bags = winning combination. The parachute bags are relatively easy to maneuver, cheap at $20 per, and easy to fold up and store when you’re not using them. The vacuum bags let you stuff a lot more in there than you’d expect.
  • 28 items = too many. While we were allowed that many, it was stupid to try. The kids were too tired/whiny/crabby to be much help most of the time, which meant Nick was humping 60 lbs of backpacks, rolling the photography case with another carry on stacked on top of it, and rolling one of the kids carry ons with another stacked on that. Hillary was pushing the stroller, carrying Nataliya in one arm, and the kid in the front seat (switched between Olivia and Ian, whichever one was less crabby) was holding on to the drone case. The rest of the carry ons were wedged wherever they would fit. It was a nightmare. The only reason we didn’t accidentally leave bags at Yokota is because the Airmen/NCOs there were so outstandingly awesome and kept bringing them out to us at the bus as they found them. Apparently Nick’s accountability skills start failing by 45 hours of no sleep.
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