Archive for the ‘Packing’ Category

Some friends of mine made an unhappy discovery when departing the Czech Republic with a long-sought bottle of wine (or two):  their duty-free purchase was confiscated when making a connection in another EU airport.

As much as I complain about the security theater Americans abbreviate TSA, there is one upside to the system:  once you’re in (and don’t connect in a stupid airport [ahem, JFK] where you have to exit and reenter secured areas when changing flights), you and your liquids are in.  Put that chapstick back in your pocket, enjoy a long swig from your refilled water bottle — no one will bug you about those items again.

Unfortunately, if you are connecting onward through a European airport, you will be subject to repeated searches — necessitating the return of your chapstick to your 1L ziploc, the dumping of your secure-area beverages and, for the unlucky, the confisciation of your duty-free liquids, creams and gels.

How do you avoid this expensive dilemma?  Find out after the jump.


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The Russians have a term — avoska — for a small tote bag carried “just in case.” Theirs were used for the random times where lines spontaneously formed for things like bananas. When lines appeared, people would join even if they weren’t certain what was on offer (on the grounds that, if people were lining up, something good must be for sale)!

In the same “Be Prepared” spirit, such a reusable tote bag is one of the smartest things a no-budget traveler can stash in the outer pockets of their luggage or in their handbag.

The nice folks at Wellcare want you to have this tote for free. It appears to have nice long straps for shoulder carrying. If you don’t like the design, I recommend you simply turn it inside out!

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For the times when the airline loses your bag . . .

. . . or your clothes get so grotty you can’t stand to put them on one more time.

. . . or you forget and throw all your laundry in the machine, leaving you with nothing dry to wear.

. . . or you think, a few sheets to the wind, you *will* just join that wet tee-shirt contest.

Back-up wear is never a bad idea. Here’s the perfect solution: a FREE compressed tee-shirt! Stick it somewhere in the bottom of your carry-on, then forget about it till emergency strikes.

More Friday Freebies here.

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Welcome to the sixth Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Here you’ll find South American, African, and Middle Eastern (and Antarctic!) travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend.

Photographic inspiration this week thanks to Heather Bays and the kind folks at Intelligent Travel. You can read about Heather’s setup for the “perfect shot” in her hostel at Global Eye: Cordoba, Argentina.

Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler interviews a round-the-world cyclist on the most hospitable country that he has visited in (surprise?) Iran by Bike.

Nomadic Matt explains how a frugal lifestyle and travel ethic easily finance an unusual amount of travel in his post How I do it, part 2. Also a good read is his post on Keeping Yourself Motivated to Travel.

Joel Widzer has provocative ideas — such as (no joke) following natural disasters — to save you money on travel in his post Insider’s Guide: Contrarian Travel Tactics at “Where Next?”:The Away.com Travel Blog.

Greg Laden encourages you to neither give nor request travel souvenirs in his post Vicarious Travelers and the Poison in the Gift at Greg Laden’s Blog.

If you buy that, then perhaps a read of Flyaway Cafe‘s Mary Jo Manzanares‘ post Create a Travel Journal on the Go is in order. She writes, “You can save on expensive souvenirs by making your own travel journal as you go.”

Steve James covers the most common amateur packing mistakes in What NOT To Bring Backpacking: 10 Things To Leave At Home, a guest post at nomad4ever.

Last but not least, if company’s coming, lay out fresh towels, scrub the toilet and read Tip Diva‘s post on Top Ten Tips – Being A Courteous Host posted at Tip Diva.

Thanks for reading along. If you’d like to see your post on budget travel in South America, Africa or the Middle East in this carnival, submit using the online form found here. Encourage your favorite regional bloggers to submit posts for next month! Our next carnival will be posted Saturday, when we return to Europe. You can submit your posts through Wednesday for that carnival here.

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Help *me* feel the love!  There’s just two more days for you to give me your advice on Frankfurt-Hahn and surrounds, Cologne/Bonn, Seville and Granada.  Everyone leaving a comment has a chance to win a modest prize, hand-selected from each destination by yours truly.  So get entering!

Carla from Phoenix is planning some extensive travel around the Midwest, “Chicago to Madison, from Madison to Minneapolis, from Ann Arbor to Chicago from Chicago to Iowa City and Urbana,” and wanted to know the cheapest options for getting around.

It makes most sense to look at the major ground carriers: Greyhound, Megabus and Amtrak.  If you’re willing to share rides, Craigslist for each of those cities should come up with a list of people offering space in their cars (for example, Minneapolis); don’t overlook university websites, either — try contacting the student government at each university for more information on online ride boards.  If you have more money, you can fly between the bigger destinations.  Naturally there is also car rental as an option.  What’s right for you will depend on both the budget and the time frame involved.

Dana from Durham wanted to know what detergent to carry for travel laundry needs.

If you are cheap or have allergies, it is possible to use the laundry detergent you have on hand while on the road. If you use a liquid, pour some over into a 100ml or less travel bottle and carry in your liquids bag. If you use a powder, half a snack-size baggie should be more than enough for your trip.

Popular in Europe are “travel tubes” of handwashing detergent.  You can get these tubes for under a euro at any drugstore.  Unfortunately, most are 125 or 200 ml, making them too large to fly in carry-on luggage.  I did find a travel-sized tube of Burti, but 30 ml struck me as quite small!  I will purchase the mini Burti for my upcoming trip and report back.

In a pinch, shampoo is always quite good — it smells nice, breaks down oils, is readily available and cheap!

Next cheapest option is simply buying detergent wherever you arrive. A bottle of store-brand detergent can be found for $2-3 in most any grocery or drug store.

Then for convenience and peace of mind, there are travel-sized packets of Tide or Woolite for washing, Shout Wipes for instant pre-treating. 

Finally, a worthwhile addition to the travel laundry kit is Febreeze — it handily takes the stink out of smoky, sweaty clothes when you don’t have time to wash. There are now “Febreeze-to-Go” bottles that are TSA-friendly, but you can pour over any bottle you already have into a mini spray container or atomizer.

Patricia from Norman wanted to know how to best exchange money when arriving in [insert developed country here].

Most straightforward and cheapest is an ATM withdrawl.  There will certainly be cash machines at any international airport; often if you google for the airport in question, you can even find which banks have ATMs and where they are located, which can save you withdrawl fees if your bank has international partners.  Don’t forget to call your bank and credit-card companies in advance and warn them of your impending international transactions; otherwise, you may find yourself blocked off from your own money, for your own security!

You should ALWAYS have at least one backup method; if your primary method is electronic (i.e. credit or ATM), be sure your secondary method is physical currency, such as cash or traveler’s cheques.  $100 in backup is enough to get you through a pinch, if necessary. 

Megan from Ithaca wrote with a plea on behalf of international exchange students:

American families can help make international travel and education affordable for high school exchange students by hosting these young travelers. If you have seen the world and relied upon the generosity and kindness of the international travel community, I encourage you to give back by hosting a young adventurer. Volunteer host families in the U.S. are hard to come by these days, but they are the reason that many of these students are able to visit the U.S., learn English and share their culture with us. To those of you who have hosted, I thank you on behalf of the international education community. For those of you who have considered hosting and have not, please take that next step — reach out and help a student study in the U.S.!

Even if you cannot take someone into your home for a school year, remember there are lots of ways for you to help foreign students while they are in your country:  invite them over to celebrate holidays with your family; take them along on an outing, excursion or vacation; drive them around (since they don’t have driver’s licenses and cars, even trips to the mall are welcomed!); teach them how to cook a local specialty and let them cook theirs in your kitchen; etc.  Start the good karma rolling by reaching out just once this year to an international student (university as well as high school students).  College students, it is so easy for you to extend hospitality by simply inviting the kid from down the hall to go to the dining hall with you or to accompany you on your next Target run!  They will be grateful for your efforts, I promise.

That’s all for this round.  If you’ve got a question, feel free to shoot me an email via the contact form

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Planes, trains and automobiles! We’ve got it all in this week’s news roundup.

Traveling around the UK over a bank holiday weekend can lead to major delays on public transportation, warns Pam Kent of the IHT Globespotters Blog. In a recent post (inspired by tomorrow’s holiday), she notes,

Network Rail, the government body that looks after the rail network, tries to schedule engineering work on weekends, particularly those with a public holiday tagged on. That may be a plus for business travellers and commuters. But if you want to get away on a public holiday weekend, beware!: . . . [this weekend] major road and rail disruptions are expected, including the complete closure of the main railway line north out of London, between Euston and Birmingham. There are alternative routes to destinations on this stretch but they are not as direct. 20 per cent of the network will be undergoing improvement – in many cases replacement bus services are laid on for the stretches that are closed – but these lengthen the journey time considerably.

It’s always a good idea to find the transportation authority websites of your destinations before you travel and note (or bookmark) the section on delays, construction and strike warnings.

Greyhound has announced a new service in the vein of other low-cost bus services called NeOn, connecting Toronto and New York twice daily. A limited number of seats on each 10-hour ride (ugh!) are available for the low, low price of $1. The good news: like BoltBus, the buses are equipped with WiFi and each seat has its own outlet to power laptops and portable DVD players. Even more good news: in celebration of its launch, all seats from May 29 through June 1 will sell for just $1.

If you’re planning to book, here’s the salient pricing info: maximum round-trip (refundable) fare is $165 (excepting holiday periods, when the maximum fare rises to $192). 1-day advance purchase will net you $150, 2-day $120, 3-day $90, 4-day $50, 5-day $30, 6-day $2 round trip. However, discounted fares are strictly limited, with no more than 5 seats each (searching shows max. 3 at $2 and $30 and max. 4 at $50 and $90) at the lowest four levels. It pays to book these tickets early! $1 tickets are now available for itineraries till September; check the booking website directly for more details.

Thanks to This Just In for the tip!

Finally, unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard the news that American Airlines will begin charging passengers for all checked luggage. This follows the announcement in February of $25 fees for the second piece of checked luggage, a move which quickly became standard across U.S. legacy carriers. Price for the first piece of checked baggage on all American flights after 15 June is $15. Interestingly, there’s still no mention of the change on the airline’s luggage FAQs. While this is standard fare among low-cost carriers in Europe (a checked bag on RyanAir currently costs the equivalent of $21, including the necessary airport check-in fee), the public is likely to react negatively to perceived nickel-and-diming by major (read: expensive) airlines. Here’s hoping the rest of the industry doesn’t follow suit this time . . . In the meanwhile, keep honing your carry-on packing skills, just in case.

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First up this Monday is musician Marie from Canada, who is trying to fly on RyanAir with two violins and a guitar. She writes,

Hi, I’ve been trying to talk to someone from Ryan Air for the past 3 weeks and it’s impossible! My question is about carrying musical instruments in the cabin. They say you must purchase a seat, but we have 3 instruments (2 violins & 1 guitar), the violins are small so they’d fit into one seat no problem … are we supposed to purchase 3 seats for the instruments? I’m sure we’d actually fit all 3 if they were in a seat next to ours (there’s 4 of us travelling). Anyway, if anybody knows anything about this I would very much appreciate it.

Have you flown RyanAir with multiple small instruments before? Feel free to chime in here.

RyanAir’s policy on instruments currently reads as follows:

Large musical equipment . . . may be carried in the hold of the aircraft in addition to your personal checked baggage allowance upon payment of an additional discounted fee per item, per one way flight if booked at the time of reservation. Smaller musical items such as a guitar, cello, violin or viola which exceed our cabin baggage dimensions may be carried in the cabin if a seat for it has been reserved and the appropriate fare paid. There is no checked baggage allowance associated with the purchase of an extra seat.

Due to space restrictions, we recommend that all musical equipment is pre-booked and pre-paid at the time of booking . . . as not to do so may result in the item being refused carriage at the airport.

My advice to Marie is to measure the violin cases and see if they are indeed small enough to count as simple hand luggage (current dimensions 55cm x 40cm x 20cm). If they are, you only need to buy a seat for the guitar. If not, you will surely be in the right only by buying seats for all three. If the tickets you are looking at are over 30 euros, you may consider — depending on the sturdiness of your cases and your own risk aversion — checking the instruments, as there is a flat fee for carrying them in the hold.

Next up is reader Jen in Paris, whose recent flight to New York on Air India was delayed by eight hours. She had contacted me about her EU passenger rights, and I pointed her to my previous post on this subject, “Over Two-Hour Delay in Europe? Get 250 Euros.” Jen wrote again today after doing a little research of her own — it appears the Airfare Watchdog, from whose site I had taken the interpretation, was incorrect in his reading of the law. I’ve corrected the original post, but for the lazy, here’s what you need to know:

  • If your flight is CANCELED less than 7 days before scheduled departure and the alternate flight leaves more than one hour later, arriving more than two hours later — then you are entitled to 250 euros for intra-european flights, 400 euros for longer flights;
  • compensation similar to the above is due passengers who are involuntarily BUMPED from flights; 1/2 of the aforementioned amounts are awarded when passengers arrive within two hours of their scheduled arrival time;
  • If your flight is DELAYED (over two hours intra-european, over three hours for longer flights), you are entitled to meal coupons, phone calls and paid overnight stays as necessary. After five hours, you have the right to request a full refund of the unused portion of the ticket with a free return to your departure airport on a multi-leg journey. You may be eligible under national laws for compensation for costs incurred by your delay or cancellation (i.e. for hotels etc. on the other end of your trip); however, the EU law in question DOES NOT GRANT DELAYED TRAVELERS RIGHTS TO COMPENSATION.

Updated links to resources on this issue have been added at the original post.

That’s all for this edition. If *you* have specific questions, updates or comments, feel free to contact me directly.

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