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Stop Checking Your Bags And Start Living Free

Don’t Check your Luggage Airlines and airports are modern marvels which I’m amazed run as well as they do, but even well-oiled machines have their problems. Hundreds of airplanes, thousands of people traveling in different directions and each with bags of personal belongings, mistakes are bound to be made. There are too many moving parts […]

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Don’t Check your Luggage

Airlines and airports are modern marvels which I’m amazed run as well as they do, but even well-oiled machines have their problems. Hundreds of airplanes, thousands of people traveling in different directions and each with bags of personal belongings, mistakes are bound to be made. There are too many moving parts to trust a machine that big, that’s why I never check my luggage.

 

I hate checking my luggage when I fly and you should too. Checking a bag just complicates things and is essentially a waste of my precious time. I’ve logged hundreds of thousands of airline miles and the one thing I can definitively say is that checking luggage is bad news.  

I’m a professional traveler, one who lives out of a suitcase for weeks at a time and I never check my bag with the airlines. Checking luggage is another cost that these airlines tack on to an already hefty price tag. Checking bags cost extra money that I’d rather spend on my trip. Some airlines do offer free checked bags but restrictions usually apply, so its best practices to figure out your carrier’s baggage rules ahead of time.

 

Not only do most airlines charge you to check luggage, they regularly go lost and sometimes are even ransacked by airport employees. My mother had her digital camera stolen from a checked bag, granted she shouldn’t have checked her digital camera in the first place.  Theft and damaged bags is a serious problem that airlines and airports don’t seem to take seriously.

It’s no secret that airlines lose luggage and never give you a good excuse as to why. Many times they are just delayed because they missed a connecting flight, but any delay in not having your personal belongings can really ruin a trip.

 

Is there anything worse on a trip than the airline losing your luggage? How about checking your suitcase and when you get to your destination, something of value has gone missing? These scenarios can ruin a perfectly good vacation, so why put your fun in the hands of others? I’ve been burned by the airlines enough to learn my lesson and hopefully you can learn from my experiences too.

If you learn how to pack your carry on bag correctly and only bring the bare essentials, anyone can forgo checking of bags altogether. Now I understand that not every trip allows you to go checked bag free but to ease your travels I suggest you make an effort. Packing smart and planning ahead are your two keys to victory and a hassle-free experience.

 

I always tell people that if you can’t wear something multiple times during a trip then you probably don’t need to bring it. Of course, circumstances arise where you need to bring something special, in these cases you can make sacrifices to make it all fit. I tend to pack one less of everything I think I need. If I’m packing two pairs of jeans, I’ll toss one last second and go with my gut.

Always remember that hotels have laundry and it’s easy to do a quick load or two mid-trip to essentially double your wardrobe. Resorts and higher-end hotels will even offer a laundry service so you don’t even have to break a sweat. I love staying at AirBnb’s where you can choose laundry as one of your search criteria, so you know you’ll have in-house laundry.

For some people packing light is a terrifying ordeal and you can’t imagine not having choices. Sounds like my wife, but once she planned ahead and packed smart, she was amazed at how convenient packing light truly is. Save yourself the hassle of having a bulky bag when you get to your destination and enjoy the freedom of packing light.

Time is the most valuable asset we all have and you only get so much, so save as much as possible by not checking a bag. Arriving at the airport hours in advance and waiting at the gate for an hour or so is a real drag and is seriously cutting into your pina colada time. Save yourself an hour on each end of your flight and get your vacation on.

 

Tips to Pack Smart

Russian Doll

Everything has a home when you are packing smart, so learn from the Russian Dolls that your grandmother probably had. Russian dolls perfectly fit inside each other to save space, think about this principle with packing. Socks balled up can fit inside your shoes; extra purses should be packed with underwear or other small garments. If you pack like this then you will be amazed at how little space you actually need.

Plastic Bags

Pack each individual article of clothing in a plastic bag that has a zip top enclosure and vacuum seal each bag by sucking excess air out.  This packing trick is an excellent way to make extra room in your luggage and also helps you organize your bag.

Make a List

I’m a list maker and a double checker, but these practices actually help with packing smart. I try and plan out my outfits by checking what the weather will be like and packing accordingly.

Layers

Layers are your best friend when packing light. Believe me when I say that three shirts and a windbreaker pack much easier than a bulky winter jacket. Each layer can be worn separately to create varied looks.

Pack smart, pack light and never check your luggage again.


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Travel

How to Pick your Travel backpack

Picking the right bag for your trip is going to save you so much hassle. The right bag will benefit you and make your trip easier, so make the right choice for your specific adventure. Weigh the pros and cons for what you will be…

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Picking the right bag for your trip is going to save you so much hassle. The right bag will benefit you and make your trip easier, so make the right choice for your specific adventure. Weigh the pros and cons for what you will be doing, where you will be going and more importantly, how are you traveling. These all will determine what bag to chose, Backpack or Suitcase. Just remember, every journey is different, so a bag that worked for a work trip to Minneapolis may not work as well on a trip to the Nile River Delta.

 

Suitcase versus Backpack

First, you must decide to bring a suitcase or backpack? Each has their advantages and disadvantages, so chose wisely. Suitcases are better if you are traveling to one location and not moving for a longer period of time. Backpacks however are better in almost every other situation.   Suitcases are awkward to carry around, they seem to get damaged easier than backpacks and are just not as efficient. I can pack so much more in my backpack than I can in a suitcase of comparable size.  

If you have physical restrictions like back problems, then surely you should choose a roller suitcase, but for all others, go backpack.

 

What to look for

So, we decided on a backpack, I guess you are going on an adventure. If you chose a suitcase then you should read another blog by some nerd who only uses suitcases.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, here is my backpack picking protocol.

 

Water Rating

Check out the fabric to see what it’s water rating is, which is a very important and you’ll thank me later. Waterproof is the best but water-resistant is acceptable depending on your trip. If you are going white water rafting, maybe choose water proof, all other trips water resistant should be fine.

 

Lockable

Does your bag have a built in lock? That is important if you are flying or staying in a hostel or other group living situation. Think about it, the bag has all your belongings for your trip so you want to make sure your stuff is safe. Nobody wants some stranger rummaging through their stuff while they sleep.

 

How Many Pockets

This is a crucial question to ask, because you want to know how much packable space the bag offers. These numbers are usually offered in cubic feet.   It also matters how you pack, so make sure you read my blog on packing tips to get the proper techniques. The amount of pockets and the space they provide is very valuable information to help determine which bag to use.

 

Frame?

Does the backpack have a frame and is the frame external or internal. Frames help to distribute the weight of a bag on the person’s back, to make carrying more efficient. Check out all three types of bags: frameless, external and internal frames, to see what suits your needs and preferences better.

 

Padding

How’s the padding, is it soft enough or is it hard or just plain cheap feeling? Does the back have ample padding as well for the shoulder pads? I prefer a good amount of padding on the shoulders, as this is the area that carries the most weight.

 

Size

How big is the bag and how easy will it be to navigate your trip with this bag fully packed on your back? Trial and error is probably the best way to determine these aspects.

 

Price

Finally, how much are you willing to spend on such a bag and what’s too much? This all boils down to personal preference and your bankroll. I would tend to stay away from the cheaper bags because they will be made poorly and you don’t want your bag to break mid trip.

 

Good luck finding the perfect bag for your adventure and remember proper preparation makes for a better trip.

 

Read the full article over at NomadicMatt

Photos Courtesy of physictourism, ubelong, TravelHack, travelfashiongirl

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Travel

Should I Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Back in 2008, I joined my first frequent flier program. Despite having traveled around the world for close to two years, I never saw the value in signing up for one – I’d always been more concerned with price than brand loyalty, so I switched…

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Joining a frequent flyer program is important and very valuable if you fly often.  Saving you money, making booking easier and enjoying in all the perks related to frequent flyer programs, you will be a happier traveler for sure.

Back in 2010, I joined my first frequent flyer program. Despite having traveled around the world for close to two years, I never saw the value in signing up for one – I’d always been more concerned with price than brand loyalty, so I switched networks and carriers all the time. The lowest price always won.

Another reason I had never signed up before? All my favorite carriers are spread out over different alliances. Japan Airlines (JAL) is on the Oneworld network, while Singapore is on Star Alliance. Emirates Airline, the carrier that makes me salivate the most, isn’t on any of these networks.

Yet back in 2010 I realized that as I was going to fly around the world more, blogging as I went, it was probably a good idea to join an airline alliance – racking up miles, earning upgrades, and getting lounge access was probably a good idea for someone who was going to be in an airport every few weeks.

Over the years, I’ve been a member of all the alliances and my opinion about these programs has changed since I first wrote about them in 2008. Last year, I wrote about why people should not be members of frequent flier programs. Sure, you should always sign up for the program to get the points, but if you aren’t flying enough to hit elite flier status, then you should base your decisions on price. Go with the lowest price and when you do get miles, exchange them for a free flight.

But if you do think you are going to fly enough to make it worth it, you should totally join a frequent flyer program. The lowest tiers in the program, while not great, usually start at 20,000 flown miles.

You can read a lot of opinions on which program to join. Some people will say to join them all, others will tell you to join the ones with your favorite carriers, and others believe you should join the one with the major airline in your home town. I’m of the last opinion. The right alliance to join is the one on which you will most likely earn elite status.

This year I switched from Oneworld to Star Alliance. I did so because I was supposed to move to Europe and the major airline out of Stockholm is SAS, a Star Alliance member. But now that I’ve moved back to the States? I’ve switched back to American, a Oneworld carrier, because they have a hub at JFK and I like them better than United, who is part of Star Alliance.

I strongly recommend that if you are going to be traveling a lot, you stick to one alliance and earn elite flier status. Your status will last 14 months, so even if you don’t fly a lot the following year, you can still reap the benefits for a little while longer.

Because there is nothing like seeing the line for security check-in and realizing you can whiz right on past it or sit in a comfortable lounge with free drinks to make the flying experience infinitely times better.

 

 

 

Check out the full article over at NomadicMatt

Photos Courtesy of Baltia, dailyMail

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Don’t Ever go on a Road Trip Without Packing These 10 Items

Road trip season is almost here and you have to be prepared. The weather is going to clear up soon; spring break is on the horizon and your need for travel will be growing. It’s an American tradition to pack up the car and head…

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Road trip season is almost here and you have to be prepared. The weather is going to clear up soon; spring break is on the horizon and your need for travel will be growing. It’s an American tradition to pack up the car and head out into the great beyond, navigating your way through the beautiful country. I know once the first signs of spring begin to appear, its road trip time!

 

Let’s look at what essentials you should bring to make your road trip epic and unforgettable.

 

Sunglasses

You can’t leave home without your shades dudes. I live in California so I wouldn’t even think about starting a road trip with out my favorite pair of sunglasses and I might even bring a backup, because you never know. Driving down the highway with the sun glaring back at you can be dangerous, so the shades aren’t just for looking cool, although they certainly help.   Make sure your sunglasses protect against UV rays and you should be safe.

 

Water Bottle

Water is the basis of all life and we need it to survive and thrive, so make sure you pack a quality water bottle. I enjoy one that keeps my water cold for longer, like a Contigo. We should be drinking 4-16 ounce glasses of water a day at minimum to keep you hydrated, so a good water bottle is key. Plastic water bottles are environmental nightmares, so steer clear of these bad boys and get yourself a refillable bottle.

 

GPS Navigation

Most smartphones come with map apps already installed but I prefer an aftermarket one. Try WAZE, it’s a navigation app that adds in the functionality of social media to increase its effectiveness. This app tells you where traffic is and redirects you to minimize your travel time. I honestly don’t drive on the highway without first checking WAZE to see what the traffic is like.  Getting lost can be a fun adventure, but getting found is much better.

 

Tunes

What’s a road trip without some great tunes to guide your way? I always make a road trip specific mix so that my trip soundtrack reflects the drive.   If your car has an auxiliary port, make sure you bring that aux cable so you can hook up your mp3 player, or just burn some sweet mix CDs.

 

First Aid

You never know when you may need a first aid kit and if you are on a road trip, who knows where the closest help could be? You may just need a bandage or some aspirin, but a properly stocked first aid kit will always come in handy.

 

Emergency Kit

Going along with the first aid kit, a roadside emergency kit is very helpful to have in the trunk. A good roadside emergency kit should contain jumper cables, road flares or reflective triangles, a shovel, rope and a battery jumper. I have a great battery jumper in mine and it’s saved the day multiple times. Believe me, accidents happen and it always is good to be prepared. I knew being a Boy Scout would come in handy.

 

Camera

You need a good camera for your road trip or did it even happen? I pack my GoPro when I travel because you never know when adventure will happen and you need to document it. On a good road trip, you will see some sites that you’ve never seen before and you better record it. A simple point and shoot digital camera works great for this purpose, just toss it in the glove compartment and make sure your battery is charged.

 

Snacks

How can you go on a road trip without the proper snacks? I advise a good mix of sweet, salty and sour. Candy and chips are the standard with some beef jerky tossed in for sustenance. I always like to drive with emergency food, just in case you get stranded somewhere.

 

Sunscreen

Believe me, you will notice a driver side arm tan after a few days on the road. I always pack sunscreen or sunblock for road trips.   Make it an SPF of 30 or higher for the proper protection and you won’t have to keep reapplying throughout the day.

 

Cell Phone Mount

A good cell phone mount is key, especially since distracted driving is fast becoming a cause of many fatal car accidents. I use a vent clip phone holder, while many will chose the suction cup version that sticks to your windshield.   Either way, this will keep your hands free to drive and your attention on the road.

 

Hopefully these items make your road trip one to remember. Drive safe and follow all posted signs, its an epic adventure out there, just waiting for you to take it.

 

Photos Courtesy of Trend Hunter, ignant, sunglasswarehouse, travelsupermarket 

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