Still Not Sure If You Should Carry-On?

Twenty nine baggage handlers for Alitalia were recently arrested in Italy when cameras caught them stealing from passengers’ luggage.

Hidden cameras were placed in the cargo hold of numerous Alitalia aircraft—the one place the baggage handlers felt they were safe from scrutiny. The arrests were made at seven different airports in Italy, including in Rome, and an additional 57 are being questioned.

Here’s a video of the thieves in action:

Still want to check your bag? If you do, at least carry your valuables with you on the plane.


Gear Review: Lat 56 Small Messenger Case

I don’t normally review briefcase style messenger bags because they really don’t fit into the true onebagger philosophy. However, I know there are many of you out there who must travel with lots of equipment  for work purposes including, in some cases, two laptops. I realize that it is impossible for some, because of the requirements of their work, to be the ultimate onebagger but are doing their best to reach it.

So, why not include that group by introducing some bags that would help with the load.

Today I want to talk about the Lat 56 Small Messenger Case.

Anyone who follows this website knows that we have reviewed quite a few products by this company. Based in Scotland, they are known for their Military grade EVA material which I describe as sort of a rubbery, plastic material. (I’m sure they hate that. But it is what it is.)

Measuring 15.7” x 12.2” x 3.9” (40cm x 31cm x 10cm), the Small Messenger Case weighs 2.2 lbs (1kg). It holds approx 12L (732 cu in.)


On top is a padded handle with a D ring for the included padded shoulder strap and a loop for your brolly on each side.  (Not sure what a brolly is?  Google it. Okay, I’ll give you a hint—I’m not surprised it’s included considering the bag is from a British company. )

But I digress.

The back has a zippered pocket for magazines, files, etc. or can be unzipped at the bottom as well to act as a pass through should you wish to slide it on to the handles of a rolling case.

(Photo courtesy of Lat 56)

Once opened, the Messenger Case has a front organizer panel that includes a full length zippered pocket, two smaller pockets and three pen holders. (Note, while the picture shows one small magnet closing pocket and one small zipper closing pocket, my bag had two small magnet closing pockets.)

Inside the main compartment, there is a separate laptop section that will hold a laptop up to 13.3” and has a full length magnet closing top for extra protection. There should be enough room in the rest of the main compartment to hold an additional laptop. The entire compartment is lined with memory foam for extra protection but if you put a second laptop in the front portion of the main compartment, I would protect it with some type of cache just to be sure.

The bag is nice and definitely looks like it belongs in an urban environment—more briefcase than manbag/murse yet could easily be carried by a female in a nicely in a button down corporate or high tech world.

The Small Messenger case also offers a compromise for those who feel a soft messenger bag may not have enough protection for their electronics but also don’t want the weight and bulk of a hard sided case.

If this bag is not big enough, Lat 56 does offer a larger version.

The Lat 56 Small Messenger Case sells for $199.00

Lat 56 supplied the Small Messenger Case for review.


Unusual Sighting in Hong Kong Harbor

You don’t see this every day in Hong Kong:

(Photo courtesy of PA)

No, it’s not Photoshopped. It’s real. The duck is a 16 meter/54 foot artist rendering of the bathtub toy and is making its way around the world.

Imagine getting up in your hotel room, opening the drapes, and seeing this. I’d quit drinking for awhile.


Frontier Airlines To Start Charging Some Pax for Carry-On

Frontier Airlines becomes the third airline to charge for carry-on bags. But unlike Spirit and Allegient, the other two carriers who have this fee, Frontier’s will be limited to one type of customer.

Any passenger purchasing the “Basic” fare, only available on third party websites, will be charged between $25 and $100 depending on where they check in. The cheaper cost is if they check in online. If they book their tickets on Frontier’s website, there will be no charge.

Personal items that fit under the seat will still be allowed and are free.

The airline says that space in the overhead bins is getter harder and harder to find and they want to make sure their loyal customers get that space.

How they’re going to enforce this is your guess.

Additionally, anyone booking in “Basic” or “Economy,” the lowest fare offered directly by Frontier, will also begin to be charged for beverages on board. On the plus side, if you order a soft drink, you’ll get the entire can and if you order coffee, refills are free. Wow, just like in first class.

Let the nickel and diming continue!!!!


United Increases Change Fee

If you want to change your tickets on United Airlines, it will start to cost you more.

The airline has increased its domestic and Canadian destination change fee to $200 from $150 on its cheapest tickets. On South American routes the fee goes from $250 to $300. For Asia and Europe, it stays at $250.

So far, all of the other major airlines have stayed at $150 but only time will tell if they too increase their fees. Southwest doesn’t charge a ticket change fee.


Addendum:  4/24/13—US Airways has raised their fees to match United.



Leave the Knives Home for Now

You may remember in early March we reported that the TSA was going to allow passengers to carry knives  less than 2 1/3 inches long bag onto planes starting this Thursday.

Well, don’t rush to pack that “shiv.”

After much opposition, from flight attendants, air marshalls, and much of the general public, the TSA has decided to postpone their decision to allow greater feedback to their plans to change policy.

The delay also means no golf clubs, ski poles or baseball bats.


Shoes The Pros Wear

Recently, we’ve had discussion in our Reader’s Forum about shoes—with one admittedly started by me.

So isn’t it nice that the New York Times has an article today titled Shoes The Pros Wear. In it, they interviewed numerous tour guides in Europe and asked them what they wore.


Diane Von Furstenberg on Packing Light

I saw this video and thought it might be an inspiration to some:


Did you notice the graphic at 1:12. It seems her idea of “packing light” is three suitcases.



Problem Posting to Reader's Forum (Fixed)

It looks like the problem has been fixed. If anyone still has a problem, let me know.


In the meanwhile, I’ve disabled captcha on all postings. As long as spam doesn’t pile up, I’ll keep it off because, let’s face it, it’s annoying.  If  you see it back it’s because spam got out of  hand.


Can Printed Travel Guidebooks Survive?

Last year, there were two major sales that pretty much answered the above question.

The BBC sold the Lonely Planet series, which it bought in 2007, to an American digital media publishing house. A few months earlier, Frommers was sold to Google.

Both buyers placed an emphasis on digital content so it seemed the handwriting was on the wall.

But not so fast. Earlier this week, Google sold Frommers to, well, Arthur Frommer, the man who started it all in 1957. Frommer said that while they would be expanding the Frommer website and ebook line, they would also continue to publish the traditional travel guides.

Frommers has had numerous owners over the years including Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons. And now it’s returned to where it all started.

So perhaps at least one portion of the travel guidebook industry will continue—for awhile. Personally, I think the move to ebooks and apps is the real  future for this genre.

Google stills owns Zagats so it’s possible that line may disappear from store shelves sometime in the near future.


Weighty Issues

Well, it’s finally happened. One airline has decided to start charging for seats based on your weight.

When you book a seat on Samoa Air you are asked to estimate the total weight of yourself and your luggage. You will then pay a certain rate per kilo. The less weight you bring on board, the less you pay. (Aren’t you glad you’re a onebagger!!!!). When you get to the airport, you and your bags are weighed. If you’re close to your estimate you’re good to go. If you are a lot more, you pay more. Don’t expect a refund if you paid too much.

And if that isn’t enough to get your diet started, Delta Airlines will begin unveiling  new, smaller lavatories  on the 737-900’s they plan to start flying later this. That’s right, smaller than the current ones.

While they won’t go into specifics, these new bathrooms will allow the airline to install four additional seats in coach.

Is it me or are airline flights getting to be on par with bad bus trips?


Gomadic Portable Chargers

We all travel with gadgets. It’s inevitable that, at some point, we’ll have to recharge them. Good luck finding an outlet in an airport that isn’t already being used, or an outlet on a plane that works. (Do they purposely make sure that no more than 50% of the power outlets on aircraft actually work?)

For the past few years, I worked around both issues and carried back up power for my Ipods, cell phones and small tablets.

One company I’ve been dealing with for years is Gomadic. They make top quality products, have excellent customer service and offer a lifetime warranty  guaranteeing all their products are free of any defects.

Gomadic uses a tip exchange system. Rather than carry multiple charging cables, Gomadic allows you to change the tip (plug) so you can use one cable with many devices. This saves weight and space.

Gomadic offers two backup power chargers for small devices:



The first one (seen on the far left in the above photo) is the AA Battery Extender. It takes four AA batteries, either standard or rechargeable, has an on/off switch, and weighs 4.8oz/137g (with batteries.) The AA Battery Exender comes with a tip of your choice. $19.95

It is simple to use. Just attach the tip you need, plug it in to your device, and turn it on. I’ve been able to fully recharge an Ipod Touch with this. I  liked it and only recently stopped using it because of the next device.


The Lithium Rechargeable Pack (second from the left in the above photos) holds 3400 mah of power and can be recharged from any USB port. It offers an LED display to let you know approximately how much charge is left. It weighs 3 oz/84g and comes with a coiled USB cord, a mini-USB tip for charging, and a tip of your choice. I used my Gomadic rectractable cable (far right in the photo above) in lieu of the coiled cable and it worked fine.) $49.95 (By the way, the other two items in the photos are examples of “tips.”)

The Lithium Rechargeable Pack utilizes both a standard USB and mini USB port so you don’t have to use Gomadic cables if you prefer not to.

The rechargeable pack has given me hours of extra time on my iphone and 7” tablet. I won’t travel without it.

While the devices come with a tip of your choice, I’ve purchased extras of all types. Most are $5.95.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Why spend all that money on charging cables and tips when you can buy Chinese knockoffs for much less. Well, I have purchased those Chinese knockoffs. Some work, some don’t work, some stop working when I need them. With Gomadic, I’ve never had a product fail on me.

It’s also their customer service. I’ve been in touch with the company numerous times to ask questions. They have never taken more than one business day to get back to me and in most cases, the same day.

But two incidents stand out that have proven they care about their customers.

The AA battery extender I mentioned above is the 2nd generation model. I purchased the first generation when it came out years ago. It worked fine with my cellphone and mp3 player but it wouldn’t work on my Ipod Touch 2nd generation. I contacted Gomadic, they said they were aware of the problem, and were working on it.

Shortly thereafter, they came out with the 2nd generation battery extender. Being the cheapskate that I am, and a true believer in the phrase: “You don’t get if you don’t ask,” I contacted Gomadic and asked, since I already owned the first generation model, and couldn’t charge my Ipod Touch, if they’d be willing to sell me a 2nd generation model at a discount. The response was unexpected. They would be glad to send me the newer model at “no charge.” (Now in case some of you are thinking I got that because of this website, well, this was done before I was involved with OBOW. I was just another customer.)

The second incident took place a few months ago when I got my Iphone 5. Apple has yet to license any of the new “Lightning” tips to 3rd parties including Gomadic. So, to use the Gomadic system, it was suggested I use the  charging cable that came with the iphone and a USB tip. I already had a USB tip to use when charging my camera battery. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I contacted Gomadic and found I needed a different USB tip and they would be happy to send me one at no charge. ( I found that many of the tips may look the same but the inside wiring is different.)

Yes, I do pay a little more using Gomadic products. However, between their quality products, and excellent customer service, I feel I’m getting my money’s worth.

Gomadic supplied the Lithium Rechargeable Pack for review.


More Budget Airlines to Charge for Carry-On

A large group of budget airlines from all over the world have announced they will begin to charge for carry-on bags.

The International Budget Airline Association (IBAA) said the majority of their members voted to begin universal  carry-on bag charges. Beginning today, all carry-on bags will be measured and charged at a rate of $1/1 Pound/1Euro, and so on, per inch. So, a full size carry-on of 45 linear inches would cost $45. Additionally, any bag weighing over 10 lbs would get charged an additional dollar per pound.

The IBAA claims these additional costs are needed to help offset rising fuel prices and the increased demands for outrageous bonuses and golden parachutes by the airlines senior executives.

In a surprise move, Spirit Airlines, only one of two U.S. based carriers to already charge for carry-ons, said the would lower the free carry-on size to that of a one quart ziploc bag—similar to what is currently allowed for liquds through security. Anything larger would be charged at the new rate.

Other revenue producing programs being considered include:

“Auctions for Food”— Under this new policy, no food or drink would be allowed to be brought on board. The airline would only bring enough food for about half the passengers. Instead of charging a set fee, each food or drink item would be auctioned off.

“Lavatory by the Minute”—In this scenario, a passenger would swipe his or her credit card to get into the lavatory. There would be an initial charge of $2 to unlock the door, and then a meter would run charging 50 cents per minute. (The concept came to one of its members as he took a taxi to the airport.)

The IBAA said for the first time representatives from the world’s major air carriers attended their recent meeting in Cyprus to see if they could “borrow” some of these revenue enhancing schemes.




Gear Review: The Travel Halo

This may sound surprising to some, but I have a hard time sleeping on airplanes. I just can’t get comfortable enough to doze off and rest. I don’t trust the cleanliness of the pillows offered by the airlines and I can’t stand the inflatable “things” called neck pillows. Very uncomfortable.

I recently heard about a new product that is supposed to make sleeping easier. It’s called The Travel Halo

 The Travel Halo is basically a stretchable  headband with two pillows sewn into the back of the headband and a fold down travel mask on the front.

The pillows are placed at 8 and 4 o’clock and act like chocks to stabilize the head and prevent it from rolling to one side. The fold down travel mask prevents light from disturbing your slumber.

The Travel Halo rolls up nicely into the included carry pouch. While rolled up it can fit in your hand. It’s made of polyester and spandex and weighs a whopping 2.5 oz.

Their website said it can not only be used on planes but also on high back chairs so I tested it on my own recliner. I put it on, rolled down the eye mask to block out all light, laid back and fell asleep. My head did not roll during the nap and no light got in preventing me from sleeping.

If there’s one drawback, it’s this. I have a large head. (Keep your comments to yourself.) I mean that literally not figuratively. (Okay, maybe figuratively too but that has nothing to do with this review.) With that in mind, I did find the head band to be fairly tight. There is no way to adjust the size of the headband. Perhaps future models can incorporate an adjustable ‘Velcro closure. Or perhaps over time the headband will loosen slightly to make it more comfortable for people like me.

 The Travel Halo sells for $29. It’s lightweight and it works. And did I mention it won Third Place in the Product Innovation Award category at this year’s Travel Goods Show? (The rest of the winners were wheeled bags.) It’s machine washable and is made in Colombia.

Disclosure: The Travel Halo company suppled a Travel Halo for review. OBOW is an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small commission for any items purchased through the Travel Halo link in the previous paragraph.

Photos courtesy of The Travel Halo.


Gear Review: Google Nexus 7


A few months ago, I purchased a Google Nexus 7 tablet to replace the netbook I had been lugging around.  I did it for one reason: to save weight. I like it. It does everything I need.

 Is that enough of a review or do you want more?  All right, I’ll give you more.

Let’s take a step back and start from the beginning.

Like most people, I first set my sights on the Ipad. But after playing with it in the store, I felt it was bigger than I needed and much heavier. Rumors were all over the place about a smaller Ipad but they never seemed to materialize. The Kindle Fire was released but it seemed more a platform for Amazon than a fully functioning tablet It was also without Bluetooth, something I definitely needed.

 And then I started reading about the Google Nexus 7.

Specs: A 7” screen, weight of 12 oz, wi-fi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth, 8 or 16 GB HD, 1 GB SDRAM,  microphone, GPS, a standard micro-usb plug, and the ability to load books, music and video direct and not have to go through something like Itunes.

Sounded great.

There were downsides:  no support for flash, limited to 8 or 16 GB of HD, not all Android apps would work on it.  

Yet all the reviews at the time said it was the best of the 7” tablets. So, I plopped down $249 and took one home.

I was happy.  It did everything I wanted. I downloaded apps to take care of just about all my needs: word processing, surfing the net, posting and editing to this site, making and keeping track of travel arrangements, news, streaming radio, etc.

And then  I found one app that changed the game.

For $2, I downloaded Nexus Media Importer.. The app, when paired with a Micro USB OTG to USB 2.0 adapter, less than $2 on Amazon, lets you plug a flash drive or SD card (if you have an SD card reader) into the tablet and read from it thus expanding the HD to basically unlimited amounts depending on how many flash drives you take.  I currently have a 32GB flash drive with books, audio and video attached to mine. (Unfortunately, however, you can’t download to the flash drive as of yet.)

How well does it work?

When paired with my wireless Bluetooth keyboard, I can do almost anything I could on the netbook. (I even find the onscreen keyboard easier and more responsive than the ones on the Ipad. )

Surfing the net is easy with the included Google Chrome browser. Apps for Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, and more, work fine.

GPS works if you only have one destination and pre-set it. If you need to add a destination after you leave, you’ll have to find a way to connect to the internet first.

The only trouble I’ve had occurs occasionally when I disconnect the USB OTG cord. the Nexus 7 sometimes crashes and needs to be rebooted.  More of a nuisance than a real issue.

Usage time is pretty good. They claim up to 10 hours of web browsing or ereading. I get about 7-8  hours of browsing as long as there’s no audio or video streaming. Being continually connected to wifi uses up battery time.

Overall, I like it.

The Google Nexus 7 is no longer available in the 8 GB version. You can buy it in the following configurations:

16 GB wifi—$199

32 GB  wifi—$249

32 GB wifi and HSPA (ATT or T-Mobile)—$299

(Both the ATT and T-Mobile versions come with unlocked.)

I know some of you are going to ask: Why Android over Apple? Well, I had an Ipod Touch and liked it. I was planning on getting an Iphone 5 so I knew I would continue using Apple products. But, I had never had anything with Android. Everyone I know who used the platform loved it so, I thought, I might as well give it a try.

And that’s the reason I chose Android.

I’m sure there are some of you with specific questions. Feel free to ask as I know I didn’t cover everything.



TSA Lightens Rules on Knives, Bats, Golf Clubs, Etc

By now, most of you have heard that the TSA is changing some of its rules to allow very small knives and some bats, golf clubs and hockey sticks in carry-ons so they can spend time looking for more serious weapons and explosives.

You can read about it, and see photos of what  you can and can’t take, on  The TSA Blog.

How did I learn about it? From our own Reader’s Forum. That’s right, one of our reader’s posted it before I even got a chance to see it on my news feed. So, I’ll give credit where credit is due and link to the lively discussion about this decision:

One Bag, One World Reader’s Forum

By the way, I realized that some of you who read this blog dont’ know we have a Reader’s Forum where anyone can start or take part in any number of interesting discussions related to one bag travel. If you haven’t visited, I hope you will.


Finding Products To Review and the Problems We Encounter

One of the most time consuming parts of running this website is constantly looking for new products to review.

Sometimes a company will contact us. Other times, I’ll hear about a product and contact the manufacturer to see if they’re interested in having us do a review.

I’m going to focus in on those companies we contact because let’s face it, if someone contacts us, they want us to do something.

When I reach out, the responses usually fall into three categories:

1) I never get a response or get a polite no. They aren’t interested. That’s fine, their marketing strategy may only include big name websites or none at all.

2) Companies who have us do reviews. We develop a good relationship with them and they trust us to do honest reviews in the future. 

3) Companies who are eager for us to do a review and then flake out.

I have no problems with companies who fall into categories #1 and #2. It’s category #3 that perplexes me.

Years ago, I worked in both journalism and public relations (not at the same time.). I heard from fellow journalists how PR people were horrible and got in the way. I never had any trouble with them. When I switched sides, I understood what the journalists wanted, tried to give it to them, yet still felt animosity and disdain from that group. We were all seen as this evil bunch who couldn’t be trusted and got in the way.

Fast forward a few years to when I started editing this website. At first, most of the people I contacted fell into groups 1 & 2. But lately, a few have fallen into group #3 and I just don’t understand it.

Let me give you a couple of cases:

I read about a new backup battery supply for small electronics. It was lightweight, packed an amazing amount of power, and was very inexpensive. So I contacted the company and they responded with a letter saying they would love for us to do a review and would even include other products they thought would be of interest to our readers.

A couple of weeks went by and I hadn’t received anything. I wrote asking and the response was: “We’ve run out of samples to give out for review and should have some the following week.” That was over a month ago. I’m not holding my breath believing I’m actually going to see something sent to us.

The second one is about a company whose product we did review. They were very happy with the review and suggested some other products we might be interested in. I did find one, a messenger bag, and sent an email requesting one. 

A week went by and no response. I wrote again thinking the first email didn’t make it but also included a technical question about their website. I got a response from someone in their tech department about the website issue but heard nothing else about an additional review. And I doubt I will.

There is a third story currently brewing but I’m not sure how it’s going to play out so I won’t mention it—for now.

I’d much rather these companies be honest  and tell us they can’t supply the product than just ignore me altogether.

I haven’t mentioned the names of the companies I discussed earlier nor do I plan to. I wrote this because I thought some of you might like to know a little of what goes on behind the scenes at OBOW.


True Waste; This Brought Tears To My Eyes.

Technically, this has nothing to do directly with travel. However, it does take place in Scotland, we have readers who live in Scotland, and some of you may travel there. So, in a “Six Degrees of Separation” sort of way, it fits with this website.

Someone at the Chivas factory in Scotland hit the wrong button or opened the wrong valve and instead of sending wastewater into the drains, sent thousands of gallons of scotch there instead.

This factory makes Chivas, Ballantine, and Glenlivet—not exactly the cheap stuff!!!

Luckily, Chivas Brothers said this will not affect supply and there will be plenty of scotch for all to enjoy.

Personally, I think the culprit responsible should be tarred and feathered, drawn and quartered, or forced to fly in the middle seat on a long Ryanair flight. Preferably all at the same time.

After writing the above, I think it’s time to pour myself a “wee dram.”



How to Earn Millions of FF Miles

Ask any frequent flier, especially those trying to maintain elite status, and they’ll tell you anything is fair game when it comes to earning miles.

End of the year mileage runs,  use of mileage earing credit cards for every penny spent, and taking advantage of every bonus offer including miles.

But one inventive fellow came up with an idea that got him nearly 4 million FF miles.

Brad Wilson, author of the new book, “Do More, Spend Less,” saw, a few years ago,  that the U.S. Mint was trying to get one dollar coins in circulation. To do so, they were offering to sell coins direct to consumers at face value, include free shipping and accept credit cards.

Wilson starting buying coins using his American Express Rewards Card that gave him one bonus point for every dollar spent. He would buy the coins, deposit them in his bank account, and then pay his credit card bill with the money deposited in that account. He was essentially using the coins he bought to pay off his credit card bill for the coins.

Over the course of eight months, he bought $3 million dollars in coins earning him 3 million points. He then transferred those points into his airline FF account.  AMEX converted each point into 1.25 FF. So, he now had just  3.75 million FF miles.

I’m only sorry I didn’t think of it. By the way, in case you were thinking of trying it, the dollar coin circulation program is no longer offered.

For the full story, and more money making ideas from Brad Wilson, check out this article in Daily Finance.

(Full disclosure: If you purchase his book from the link above, this website gets a small commission but there is no extra cost to you.)


Hotel Chains or Spy Organizations

I’m well aware that decent hotels go out of their way to make my stay more enjoyable. They want to know if I have a particular preference when it comes to pillows, view, smoking or non-smoking, low or high floor, etc. And those are things I don’t mind sharing with the hotel.

But now according to this CNN Report, some hotels are going above and beyond simple information gathering.

They are going through your trash, making note of items you brought with you, writing down details of conversations you have with hotel employees and even search  the internet. They scour Facebook, Twitter, websites, and just about anywhere they can to gather information on you.

They claim it’s to make your stay at their hotel better. I think it borderlines on the “creepy.”

If I’m a repeat customer, I don’t mind them keeping records of my like and dislikes pertaining to my stay—pillow preference, which newspaper I like delivered, any food preferences I have, etc. This is information I choose to share with the hotel.

But to do an online search about me, my likes, dislikes, interests, and my family, well, that, in my estimation, is invading my privacy. If I walked into a hotel room and found a gift for me that was chosen because of something the hotel found out about me online, I would seriously think about checking out and never staying there again. I would wonder if they are recording my phone calls, tracking what websites I go to  while using their internet connection, or even have hidden microphones in the room. (Dont’ laugh, one well known hotel in NYC did put hidden mics in some rooms.)

What about you? Would you find it flattering or scary for a hotel to spend time online finding out about you?