Five Tips on Having your Important Luggage arrive with you.

Have you ever found yourself at your point of destination without your luggage?  Was the suit you were going to wear while delivering an important speech in said lost luggage?  And, were you wearing your rattiest jeans?
Always consider the possibility that your luggage may not arrive with you and may, in fact, not be located in due time.  The following tips will help:

1)  If your trip is a short one, consider using a carry-on case that is large enough to hold all your necessary gear, while still coming in under the size guidelines for carry-on luggage.  (Generally 115 cm or 45 linear inches adding height, width and depth.)
2)  At the very least make certain that items which absolutely cannot be lost even for a few hours are packed in your carry-on case.
3)  Make sure the person checking your luggage through affixes the correct airport code for your destination.
4)  If at all possible, fly direct.  Transferring increases the likelihood of luggage being lost. 
5)  Try to make your luggage stand out from the rest.  Any personalizing addition to your luggage makes it less likely someone will accidentally mistake your luggage for their own.

Keeping these points in mind and adhering to them will greatly reduce the chance of you having to purchase a new suit on the fly or delivering your speech dressed in your rattiest jeans.

Don't leave home without it.

Guess what three items are absolute 'must packs' for me when traveling, no matter whether for a day, a week or a month. A good book? Yes, but if I forget to pack one, I can still purchase one along the way. Puzzles? Yes, but most dailies easily fulfill that passion as well. What is not so easily fixed along the way is first: Good, light weight luggage, second: my own music, and third: my Canon digital camera.
Good luggage needs no explanation. Good, light weight, rolling luggage simply makes traveling easier! My own music? It's difficult in strange surroundings to find a radio station that suits my tastes. My iPod, on the other hand, holds more music than I can comfortably listen to in quite a while. Most important, though, my DSLR camera!
For the duration of the trip my camera becomes an extra appendage - two legs? Check. Two arms? Check. One head? Check. One camera? Check.
I've lived and traveled this way for quite a few years. Proof is easily produced by the stacks of photo albums and, of late, the wonderful collection of images that slides across our monitor whenever our computer is not being used. Both my husband and I love to test our memory by standing in the doorway for a few moments and calling out the pictures' location: St. Augustine! Venice! Berlin! The Rockies! On good days it may even be: Jasper, 2006. Dresden, 2005. Riviera Maya 2004.
My heart absolutely melts, of course, when I see photos of the grand kids, who are growing up way too quickly. O, they were so cute! The older they get, the cuter they seem to us now, but every time they're over for a visit, they still make tempting photo objects.
On our daily walks in the park we often encounter camera crazies, who seem to enjoy taking pictures of everything around them. Some carry tripods and huge extra lenses, with which to zoom in on the tiniest treasures of nature. Others look for the best landscapes, or record their dogs bouncing after sticks, balls and Frisbee.
This prompts the exclamation: Aren't digital cameras the best thing since sliced bread? Isn't it a fantastic option to be able to experiment with your camera in all kinds of lighting, in all sorts of surroundings, with any object you choose, and then to be able to check over the results and discard what you don't like and save only the best? In the times of 35 mm film that would have been an expensive undertaking.
Years ago American Express coined the slogan: Don't leave home without it. That's exactly what I want to say about your camera. "Don't leave home without it," and you will sing like Bob Hope, "Thanks for the memories."
If you would like to create your own memories, go here:     "Finally... Learn How To Work That Darn Digital Camera Like A Pro"

If you Love to Travel, you will Love this New Special Interest Travel Web Page!

If you love to travel, here is a new web page you should bookmark.  It is very new, and because of that, it is still free.  Free is good, isn’t it?  It gives you the opportunity to take it for a test drive and then decide whether to keep it in your favorites list or not.

I’ve looked around in it and would describe it as a good substitute for having a willing and very knowledgeable friend or relative at your destination, one who can and will make certain you get to see not only the customary points of interest, but also the special places and events appreciated by locals.

Here are three examples:

Farallon Island Whale Watching from San Francisco – offered by the Oceanic Society
“Eight-hour, naturalist-led, boat trips leave from San Francisco and head to the Farallon Islands, spotting whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and marine birds.”


Taal Volcano Trek offered by Cultureight Travel
“Drive south of Manila and visit one of the most dangerous underwater volcano’s on the planet - Taal Volcano. Stay overnight at a family-run farm and partake in an authentic Batangeno meal. Learn how to fish atop bamboo stilts and take a pump-boat ride and trek to the warm crater lake.”

Painting in Provence – offered by Ellen Greenberg and Bill Ternay
“If you want a great vacation and a chance to take a crack at expressing the hidden artist in you, this is an extraordinary way to start--- or if you just want to escape and take an exceptional fascinating journey (much more to do than paint!) then join Bill and me for wine, food and special exclusive excursions in the south of France!”

The page offers many more adventures.  You can actually book anything that appeals to you right there.  Payment is via paypal.

And here is another great feature!  Should you have an adventure of your own, one you would like to offer online, that opportunity is also given.  Really, check it out!  It’s definitely worth a look

Driving Long Distances.

Driving long distance, traveling thousands of miles by car, has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are getting to know new surroundings, people, customs, foods etc. The disadvantages are the need to pace oneself, to not overdo what can be done in a day and not to over estimate one's ability to stay alert.
Always try to plan ahead, check your route, investigate possible points of interest and turn every day into a bit of an adventure even though the goal is to reach a certain destination at day’s end.
Driving home long distance can thus be used to extend the holiday by a few more days, but here’s the shocker. Not everyone feels that way. Far more often than we like we meet people along the way, in rest stops for example, who make us feel like we’re crazy. “Six days to go home?” they blurt in amazement, “we do the same distance in three!”
Then they outline how they rise at 3:00 a.m. and have already traveled 350 miles before stopping for breakfast somewhere.
That is a shocker, isn’t it? Think about it. Here you are pacing yourselves, taking turns driving, asking the other whether he/she would like to be relieved, and there, in the oncoming lane, is someone who has been driving for hours like an automaton, and surely is not the most alert driver on the freeway. How often do we hear of accidents, where the description includes the statement, “road conditions were good at the time of the accident and are not believed to have been a factor; alcohol also is not believed to have been the cause." So, what else is there? Is it paranoid to suggest that driver fatigue might be responsible far more often than we all realize?
Please, take this to heart. Especially when roads are dry and straight, and the center line hypnotically guides you along. When road and weather conditions are challenging, it’s easier to stay alert; the most dangerous stretches are the ones that don’t demand much of anything beyond holding the steering wheel and keeping the gas pedal depressed. Even worse, of course, is driving with cruise control engaged.
I beg you. When driving long distance, don’t use cruise control for hours on end. Don’t drive such long stretches that you and your partner must take turns sleeping while the other drives. Four eyes are better than two. Conversation helps keep the driver alert. Sing! Munch away on carrots and celery sticks! - And don’t plan tours that involve driving day and night.
Driving long distances can be fun, and if you take your time, all benefits of the holiday will not be lost by the time you are home again.

Photography and Travel - a natural fit.

"Finally... Learn How To Work That Darn Digital Camera Like A Pro"

When I think of the photos my parents had collected in boxes - small, black and white - and then see my colorful digital images slide across my monitor (Can you think of a better screen saver?), I marvel at the technological progress I have been able to experience in my own life.
I also began with black and white snap shots, which quickly became colored, when we could afford them.  Stacks of photo albums give witness  to our love for travel combined with our love for photography.
We also took 8 mm movies, then video, then transferred the movies to video.  Progress happened so fast, we could barely keep up.
Nothing has made taking photos more enjoyable for me than the change to digital photography.  The ability to take as many pictures as I like - because I can decide instantly whether or not they are worth saving - is huge for me.  The Ebook "Learn Digital Photography now" was exactly what I needed to help me take even better shots than the ones I occasionally produced by accident.
Click Here!
Quite possibly it'll be exactly what you need as well.


Great news for Canadians traveling by air to the USA.  You are - as of today - once again allowed your one carry on luggage item in addition to your purse or camera or other small carry on.  Pheeew!  What a relief.

Traveling with Kids

At present traveling by air appears to be more stressful than ever.  Traveling with children can make it even worse, unless you are prepared and have prepared them.
Traveling with Kids helps you to prepare the children, whether it be a road trip or an airline flight, whether you travel to new surroundings or to visit with unfamiliar faces. Both you and the children will find the trip less stressful, because unexpected happenings are not quite so unexpected, and possible delays have been taken into account ahead of time.

Just think back to a past family adventure; one that did not quite turn out as you had envisioned.  Is it possible that the children also had other expectations?  Even Disneyland may not live up to your or your children's mental image, if the odd TV commercial is all you base it on.  Preparing every one ahead of time by creating realistic expectations and stocking up on ideas on how to pass the time on long car rides or waiting around in airports makes every trip more enjoyable for the entire family. 
The abundance of thoughtful tips offered in Traveling with Kids helps parents put themselves into their children's shoes.  Children, on the other hand, are empowered to cope with new 'adventures.'

Restrictions not so temporary --- or so it seems.

International travelers flying to the US still have to cope with the following regulations:.

 • Reduced carry-on baggage. Passengers may carry only limited personal items, including one or more of the following items: small purses, laptops, cameras, coats, medication or medical devices, baby care items, crutches, canes, walkers, life-sustaining items, a special needs item, musical instruments or diplomatic or consular bags.
• Additional security screening.
• Full-body pat-downs and other enhanced screening for people travelling to the U.S. from or through 14 countries deemed “state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest”: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The screening also applies to Canadians holding passports from these countries.
• The additional screening is causing delays and passengers are advised to arrive at the airport three hours before their flight.
(These were compiled by Jill Mahoney for the Globe and Mail.)

New (temporary?) regulations for Carry-On Luggage

Carry On Restrictions:
(Of interest to international travelers)
Once again, just when we began feeling a little more secure, an attempt was made to blow up a passenger airliner.  It's particularly galling that it happened on Christmas Day.  Fortunately the attempt failed. Still, there are consequences.  There always are consequences!
At present no more real carry on luggage is allowed.  You may carry on a diaper bag, if traveling with an infant, a medical supplies bag, a camera, laptop case or purse.  Please make sure they don't contain any items, which might be on the not permitted list, as all carry on items will still be hand searched.
For now the resulting extra checked luggage will not cost you an added fee.
Be prepared to spend extra time in line and arrive at the airport keeping that extra time in mind. Touchmaster may just help the time pass a little faster.

Great Advice for Holiday Travelers

With so many of us trying to get together with family and friends to celebrate the holidays together, our present weather conditions are not very helpful. It's difficult having to cope with being stuck in an airport because our flight has been canceled. It's also difficult to sit at home and worry about a loved one stuck in an airport somewhere.
Nothing helps more in such situations than planning ahead. Planning ahead helps us focus our minds on what can and very well may go wrong and doing the practical preparations necessary to make it easier to cope with any unexpected travel adventures; in fact, planning ahead makes any so called adventure a little less unexpected and easier to endure.
Claire Newell has written a jewel of a book for travelers. It's full of great advice and costs mere pennies. Take a look at Travel Best Bets: An Insider's Guide to Taking the Best Trips Ever.

Is this really your luggage?

Several years ago, a friend of mine went to the airport to pick up a relative coming in from Germany. Everything went like clockwork. The flight was on time, customs were quick, her suitcase came onto the carousel as one of the first, and before they knew it, they were back at home. Since the relative had a nice surprise in her bag, she was eager to share it, but ‘dang,’ the suitcase wouldn’t open. The keys didn’t work; the latches didn’t work. Reluctantly, they finally used the screwdriver. You guessed it. The contents were someone else’s. Nothing in the suitcase belonged to the relative.

This little intro makes clear how important it is to make certain the luggage you pick off the carousel is actually your luggage. Having luggage tags with your name and address is always useful, but that alone may not always be sufficient. Luggage tags have been known to get lost or, in your rush to get out of there, you forget to check them altogether.

For years now black has been the preferred luggage color, and black luggage tends to look very much alike. Luggage identifiers to the rescue! Some people crochet their own – colorful little pompoms, which they attach to their bags.

Others attach neon colored grips to the handles on their bags.
Others again attach stickers to the sides of their luggage.

Personally, I’ve been making good use of colorful belts that rap around the case, but that also is not the perfect solution, because the Automobile Associations sell them to other people as well. Nevertheless, the combination of luggage look, size and identifier will make it less likely for you to pick someone else’s suitcase off the carousel.

A look at the little picture at the beginning may convince you that crocheting your own identifiers will give you the most unique product, but if you don’t know how to crochet, and you don’t know anyone who can do it for you, one of the commercially produced identifiers may catch your eye.

Good luck. Use luggage identifiers, and don’t pick a stranger's luggage off the carousel

An Ode to ‘Guess What’.

Having just returned from a short but sweet holiday, I must once again stress how great it is to have good luggage items. Good luggage is important no matter whether your holiday lasts 5 weeks or 5 days, no matter whether you fly or drive. Coming to think of it, even if you hike or bike you need good luggage to make your trip comfortable and definitely more enjoyable. Does it need to be rolling carry on luggage? I suppose, if you hike or bike that would actually be a hindrance. For a flying holiday rolling carry on luggage would likely be ideal, but don’t think it can’t help with a driving holiday, also.

The more I travel the more I realize how accommodations have changed. Yes, there still are a few of the old one or two story motels around, and nothing beats parking right in front of your unit! If you find yourself on the third or fourth floor, however, you may not want to hop back and forth between your unit and your car. You definitely want to have a good rolling carry-on case along for those endless inside hallways

Our little trip was a driving holiday, and we actually were fortunate enough to be able to park right in front of our unit. Nevertheless, we had packed one of our rolling carry-ons with what was required. Now I ask you, which packing item do you suppose I appreciated the most this time around? It’s actually one I have appreciated for several years in several countries already. When I first purchased it six years ago, it was a desperation purchase. I needed a new one; I had to fly to a funeral. Thinking about advantages and disadvantages of a ‘toiletry bag’ was the last thing I was inclined to do at that time. And I didn’t. I grabbed the bag, thinking I would probably not like it, but whatever ….

Well, I not only learned to like it, I very quickly learned to love it. What an improvement over my former one zipper one compartment bag! Picture a longish bag with three smaller compartments - and one larger, expandable one at the end – all of them zippered and see-through. It’s like traveling with a nicely organized, four level, medicine chest. Depending on how you pack your suitcase, this bag can be folded in three. Most of the time mine is folded in two – one slightly deeper and one slightly thinner side. That’s how it fits best into my rolling carry-on bag.

Wherever we go, it hangs from its coat-hanger type contraption, either on the shower curtain rod, the towel bar, or a hook placed strategically somewhere in the room. The coat-hanger contraption can easily be removed to make the bag washable. So, you see, rolling carry on luggage can actually be upstaged by a toiletry bag. Since you’re probably curious about the make of my bag, it’s a MaggiB. The closest one I could find to compare is a Tepper Jackson Mariposa Roll-up, strictly based on looks. So, this has been my ‘Ode to a toiletry bag.’

How to pack with pickpockets in mind

Rolling carry on luggage makes travel easier; money belts, security belts, travel pouches, neck wallets, security wallets etc. make travel safer.

On September 14th TripAdvisor pointed out the 10 worst places for pickpockets. I’ve experience with pickpockets in only one of them, Rome, Italy. While taking a train from the Colosseum back to the main train station – standing room only – hanging on to one of the straps installed for that purpose, just before the final stop, someone swiped my cousin’s wallet from his back pocket. He noticed it immediately, but the culprit had already disappeared in the crowd leaving the train. My cousin was not well prepared for such an occurrence. Had he planned ahead, he could have saved himself a lot of grief. As it was, we spent hours at the police station, all documents in his wallet had to be replaced and his money was gone.

How do you plan for such an event? Actually you should consider two questions:

 How do I try to prevent it from happening in the first place?
 How can I make it the least troublesome, if it should happen?

Here are my suggestions:

1) Leave everything you cannot bear to lose at home. This will also help you keep your luggage to a minimum.

2) Before you leave home, make copies of all important documents, which you will have with you. Leave one copy with a trusted person at home, and take another copy with you, stored separately from other documents.

3) Bring a set of extra passport photos with you, just in case you do need to replace important documents, and don’t forget to bring emergency contact numbers.

4) Divide your valuables. Don’t keep cash and credit cards together. If you keep your cash safely pinned in one pocket or money belt and credit cards in another, chances are you won’t lose everything at once. Speaking of pinning items inside pockets, take along an extra set of safety pins.

5) Pack as few things as possible. You will not have to carry more than you can handle, and it is easier to keep an eye on your belongings.

6) Try not to look like a tourist. The more you fit in with the locals, the smaller the chance that you’ll be targeted. Buy something in a local grocery store or drug store and use their bag to carry some items.

7) Never keep your wallet in your rear pocket. Never pay by showing a wad of cash.

8) Avoid getting into confrontations with anyone. Stay in areas that are populated and well lit. Don’t take shortcuts down alleyways.

9) Don’t listen to sob stories. Even people who seem to be no threat can be scam artists. That includes women with babies, children alone, even other tourists.

10) Watch out for tag team distractions. Always have your guard up when someone asks directions, accidentally spills something on you or other such diversions, while a partner steals from you or cuts your purse straps.

Following the above advice will protect you from having your holiday spoiled by events, which can leave you stranded in foreign surroundings.
Finally, there are products on the market, which are an added protection against theft: Money belts, security belts, travel pouches, neck wallets, security wallets etc. Consider that you may occasionally fall asleep. Therefore, never forget the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
And just in case you’d like to know the 10 worst cities for pickpockets, here they are in order:

1) Barcelona, Spain
2) Rome, Italy
3) Prague, Czech Republic
4) Madrid, Spain
5) Paris, France
6) Florence, Italy
7) Buenos Aires, Argentina
8) Amsterdam, Netherlands
9) Athens, Greece
10) Hanoi, Vietnam

Everyone loves a parade

One thing which makes travel exciting for me is living like the locals do. You know, “When in Rome, do as the Romans!” Yesterday, while peeling carrots and turning them into carrot sticks, I suddenly remembered a local parade I experienced in Holtville, California, when they were celebrating Carrot Festival. Everything revolved around carrots. The people accompanying the parade floats went so far as to throw carrots at the crowd. Coming to think of it, that was exactly the reason why a week or so later we opted not to attend the neighboring town’s Tomato Festival!
Parades are wonderful! I come from a city with a famous annual parade, the Calgary Stampede parade. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line up hours before the official start, just to obtain a good vantage point from which to observe the floats and horses and countless marching bands.
The first parades that I participated in personally were religious ones for the feast of Corpus Christi in Germany. People built altars laden with flowers throughout town and created a long carpet of flower petals leading back to the sanctuary at the church. The local Brass Band accompanied our singing and kept us in step. All the children attending catholic schools participated with flags, banners and flowers, and adults marched alongside as well.
Imagine our surprise, when on a trip through New Mexico we happened to stop in Santa Fe on the precise day when they were doing their Corpus Christi procession. Needless to say, we went along. It was hot. People carried umbrellas as shields against the sun. We felt just like the locals, especially when we realized that they also had their individual groups who did their own thing, not necessarily as planned by the organizers. People will be people, no matter where you are.
Another surprise parade, two actually, came about because of Carnival. Having just missed the parade in New Orleans, we were more than pleasantly surprised to have one go along the sea wall in Galveston, Texas, right in front of our hotel room. Our balcony probably granted us the best parade view ever. Another carnival parade happened in Estepona, Spain. This one made us realize that even catholic regions don’t all follow the same rules. Germany, which also has super Karneval hot spots in the Rhine region, stops celebrating on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday puts an end to all the shenanigans. Not so in Spain, since the carnival procession in Estepona happened at least 2 weeks after Ash Wednesday.
There’s nothing like a parade, not just to observe people, but to help us realize that we all belong to one human family.

More than Rolling Carry On at Heathrow Airport

The other day it occurred to me that having talked quite a bit about Rick Steves’ globetrotting ways and his personal preferences for certain luggage, especially his Convertible Carry-On, I should give a nod to his travel books. I especially like Rick Steves Italy 2009 and a companion Italian phrase book. There are many others, however: Paris 2009. Rome 2009, European Christmas, Europe through the Back Door, and Great Britain 2009.

Speaking of Great Britain, did you see a week or so ago that London’s Heathrow Airport has appointed a writer-in-residence. What a great idea! His name is Alain de Botton. He is a popular philosopher and has set up shop in the airport’s new terminal 5.

Alain de Botton writes on a laptop, and as he does so, his thoughts are displayed on a screen behind him Alain de Botton claims to always have been mesmerized by airports, stating that all the big themes of life can be found encapsulated in the daily occurances of an airport: the power of technology, globalization, the environmental debate, consumerism, the frenzy of the modern workplace and the dreams of travel.

Many of us share his sentiments, I’m sure, and we won’t be surprised to learn that, ultimately, Mr. De Botton’s thoughts will be published in a book, entitled: “A Heathrow Diary.” Printing is scheduled for next month, with 10,000 copies to be set aside for distribution to Heathrow airport passengers.

One more time: What a great idea!

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