Break 'em in or break down

sh.jpgThe light traveler can save some serious bag space and weight by taking only one pair of shoes. This may not be practical if you expect lots of wet conditions or if you plan ten-mile hikes and trips to the opera, but sticking with one well-chosen pair of shoes is a great way to simplify and lighten your load. With no fall-back pair, making sure your shoes are comfortable and fully broken-in is all important. Walk at least a couple of miles in your shoes before a big trip and wear them all day for several days. Otherwise you’ll curse the fool that suggested leaving home with only one pair!


FOUND: Fine forecasting function

wu.gifThe Weather Underground site has a cool new online trip planner. Tell it where you’re going and when and it will provide average temperatures, cloud cover, wind, humidity, plus weather charts covering you date range and location for the previous ten years. From the planner page you can reach current conditions and short-term forecast with one click. A good forecast is a must for the light traveler — since he’s not packing the entire closet.


Why we do news

hat.gifWhy does OBOW include so much travel news? Because the light traveler is more affected than most by rapidly changing regulations and restrictions. Weight limits and liquid bans hit the onebagger hardest, so OBOW tries to share up-to-date info drawn from the best international sources. Travelers should not be too trusting: don’t rely too much on any one source and be suspicious of dated information. Always go to the sources (airlines, government agencies) for the latest, but take even that with a grain of salt.


22 lb/10 kg - the magic number

133163278v2_240x240_Front.jpgFor international flying there’s a magic number: 22. Pounds that is; or 10 if you count in kilograms. That’s the most common carryon weight limit for international carriers. Some, like the smaller (mostly British) airlines have even lower limits, but 22 is the mark to shoot for. To be on the safe side make sure that your “personal item” is included in this weight and that it fits inside the larger carryon, since some countries - most notably the UK - allow no additional personal item unless it will fit in one larger bag. The dimensional limits have not changed: 45” combined still works almost everywhere, some allow a bag up to about 50”.

If you’re committed never to check a bag it’s never been tougher. But, given the mounds of checked luggage (and 1000’s of pieces lost every day) the rewards of going one-bag/carry-on have never been greater.

 This link has information on international luggage limits for various airines. It’s not 100 percent accurate (it assumes you usually are allowed the extra personal item, which is no longer always the case). Always check the website of your airline. Some carriers allow fudging, but the safest bet is to assume they will follow their own rules when it favors them.


Hit the tarmac rolling

estarm.jpgI inspected an Eagle Creek ES Tarmac 20” roller over the weekend, and it is an impressive bag. It’s lightweight (7.5 lb), has nice hold-downs for folded clothes, and has well-thought out compartments. The molded grip on the bottom of the case really makes it easy to hoist. With 43” combined dimensions it fits comfortably as a carryon by nearly any standard. I’m not a roller, but I can recommend this bag to anyone who is. At $225 with a lifetime warranty, it’s a good value for the frequent traveler.

Travelers or refugees?

“Several years ago I half-jokingly remarked in a column that the then secretary general needed to create a permanent post for a secretary of transport. Pulling together a variety of international agencies, this post would address everything from environmental issues to passenger rights and take a strategic view about the mass movement of people and goods around the planet….In the months to come tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people across the Northern Hemisphere will be mobilizing for some form of summer vacation. Many will be first-time travelers, many more will be unfamiliar with the changing landscape of what is supposed to pass for civil aviation. The impact that such a mass movement will have on everything from potential World Heritage sites to a fragile environment to creaking road, rail and air networks is enormous.” - Tyler Brule, International Herald Tribune

Brule compares the effects of the annual summer migration of travelers to a refugee crisis and traveler’s conditions to those of refugees. I’m no huge fan of the UN, but Tyler Brule’s point that the world’s travelers need help — from the UN in his opinion — is well taken. The tangle of security regulations and widely-varying quality of airline service are serious issues. One hopes that market forces and informed consumers will eventually sort things out. I’m doubtful that a world body will do a better job regulating the travel system than our national governments do.  


Welcome to Air Lunatic

USA Today reports on little-known, cut-rate Euro carriers now offering trans-Atlantic flights to and from the USA. Some are not impressed:

Because of their limited capacity and spotty brand identity, the low-fare carriers are likely to appeal mostly to what aviation consultant Michael Boyd calls the “backpack lunatic fringe.”

“You might find (a deal), but you have to go out of your way to do it,” he says.

Gosh, why didn’t he just go ahead and say Euro trash? Shouldn’t there be a similar term of derision for us low-class Americans who would jump at the chance to save $300? I say lighten up, and welcome to the low-cost carriers who may help keep prices low for everyone.



Lingering liquid ban

According to Travel Weekly (registration required) the liquid ban will be with us for a while:

Kathy Kraninger, director of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s Office of Screening Coordination, said she thinks the restrictions are “here for the foreseeable future, at least.”


Responding to a delegate’s question following her speech to the Association of Corporate Travel Executives’ conference here earlier this week, Kraninger said the DHS has not identified technology up to the task of identifying liquid explosive materials.


Automated technology may not be available, but the Brits have resorted to litmus paper to randomly test carry-on liquids.


Thanks to the liquid rules not checking luggage is a greater challenge than ever. For the latest rules:TSA (USA) and DfT (UK). Links to our posts on the liquid issue: UK litmus testworldwide rules, 3-1-1 tips, TSA info with link to downloadable PDF.

You can buy almost anything in TSA-approved travel sizes here

I prefer cattle...

Fly.jpgDo you know the favorite term for passengers (especially those in coach/economy) used by flight crews and airplane employees?  It’s SELF-LOADING FREIGHT. I prefer cattle inasmuch as even livestock are entitled to feeding and humane treatment.

Litmus testing carry-on liquids

blq.jpgFirst the little baggie, now the litmus paper. Carry-on liquids will now be pulled randomly from travelers’ carryon zip-lock bags and checked with litmus paper in UK airports, assumedly to ensure that no explosive chemicals leak through the security checkpoints.

The London Times:

A spokesman for Heathrow said that the airport had been trialling the testing process, which involves placing litmus paper in the liquid under test, since January. “We have been running the trial as if the DfT’s (UK Department for Transport) rules had already been implemented. We are already geared up for testing and there should not be any impact on passengers.”

In a letter leaked on a pilots’ discussion forum, the DfT told airports: “It is anticipated that this introduction will cause inconvenience to customers, airport staff and crew travelling through UK airports and will potentially impact the speed of security processing.”

Commentary from the Times reporter: 

I’m not against reasonable security but this seems to be going too far. Next thing we know we’ll all be having to get to the airport four or five hours in advance to go through all these different security checks.

The DfT should listen to the concerns of regular travellers and not take disproportionate measures that will do little to catch real terrorists who must, by now, have realised that there are far easier targets.


As for what you put in the baggie - you can buy almost anything in TSA-approved travel sizes here.


Binge flying the new tobacco

Mark Ellingham, founder of the Rough Guide travel publishing empire says he is

horrified by a new travelling trend. ‘If there was just one thing I could change, it would be this new British obsession for binge flying,’ he said. ‘We now live in a society where, if people have nothing to do on a Saturday night, they go to Budapest for 48 hours. We fly anywhere at the slightest opportunity, 10 times and upwards a year. This needs to be addressed with the greatest urgency.’

Maybe the creeping, worldwide security strangle will slow down this more casual type of air travel. If “binge flying” is the “new tobacco” the hassle of lighting up is increasing daily.


Pack mules, smelly haulers & wandering launderers

A traveler has two choices: light or heavy.

The heavy traveler carries ten outfits for ten days. This makes him, first of all, a pack mule lugging 40 or more pounds of gear. It also makes him someone who, by the end of the journey, is carrying a large quantity of dirty, smelly clothes.

The light traveler carries only a few outfits, hauling maybe 12-20 pounds, but must rely on some form of laundry. If staying in one fairly civilized place a real, reliable laundry may be found. It will cost something. The more flexible and far-traveling type will be his own laundry, having chosen clothes that can be easily sink-washed and line-dried. This costs only a little time and convenience, but may be most convenient of all in the long run.

You decide: smelly mule or sink-washing laundryman. Neither is easy, but remember that travel and travail come from the same root word. The traveler’s skill, planning, and resourcefulness determine how apt this word lineage will seem. Traveler or Travailer? What’s in your bag, and how much, may decide which modern word best describes you.


Tyler's shocking, unthinkable flight

The IHT’s Tyler Brule says his recent experience with Japan Airlines was nothing less than shocking:

Few things can throw off a finely tuned itinerary quite like a pleasant surprise. Having been conditioned to expect and almost accept overbooking, cancellations, rudeness and incompetence as a normal feature in the modern travel experience, a slight twist of good luck or a subtle humane gesture can leave even the most experienced traveler reeling in disbelief. A whole series of pleasant surprises can send a hardened globetrotter into shock.

 Brule says the Japanese have figured out travel industry customer service and he wishes they would spread it around:

Perhaps it’s time for the country’s major travel brands (JAL, ANA, JR, Kanky taxi, et al.) to start spreading their wings a bit further and investing in needy airlines, airports and rail companies abroad. Travelers need a better solution and the Japanese have mastered it.

If Brule can be believed, it would seem that the JAL never got the “passengers are cattle” memo. 


Ryanair puts finger on scale, wheezes

The Times of London loves Ryanair, Britain’s cut-rate carrier. First, a story from the Times accusing Ryanair of having “faulty” scales which add around 2kg to passengers’ carryons - causing them to be checked with additional charges:

“One piece of baggage that was weighed by The Sunday Times at 14.8kg registered 17kg on Ryanair scales as it was checked in for a flight back to Britain last week. It meant it was levied with an excess charge of £11.”

Nice. Then a few days later, this from the Times:

“Has anyone else caught on to Ryanair’s latest money-making wheeze? Go to book on its website and you’re asked how many bags you will be checking in. Wanting to travel light – and avoid the airline’s charges for checking in your bags – I went to click “none” … only to find that there wasn’t a zero option.”

Wow. Those Brit MBA’s are really something. 


Ryanair chief wants nothing but carryons

rya.jpg“Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, has said that he’d like to get rid of checked-in luggage altogether and he appears to be moving towards this by making the on-line check-in service available only to those without luggage for the hold.” - UK Daily Mail

This trend favors the carry-on traveler. Low cost airlines don’t want to deal with checked bags at all unless they can make some extra money. To that end, they are charging extra - in the case of Ryanair and Flybe in the UK - for all checked bags.

Mike Rutter, Flybe’s chief commercial officer, says: ‘It is inevitable that charging for baggage will become the industry norm for short-haul flights.’

Thankfully, Ryanair and Flybe have a carryon weight limit (one piece, personal item must be stowed in carryon) of 10kg/22 pounds instead of 6 or 7kg like some smaller British airlines.


Check an extra bag: $480

ba.jpgWow - now we know how British Airways is paying for the move to the new terminal at Heathrow. They’re charging up to 240 pounds ($480 at current exchange) for an extra checked bag - and the weight limit for the one you get is 23kg/50 lbs. You only get one carryon now at any British airport now too, so go light or go broke.

This policy takes effect in September. For the moment the highest extra bag fee is 120 pounds on long-haul flights.  

Once again, current developments are making light travel not just a wise option but an economic necessity. 


King-sized travel king

burr.jpg“His suits are custom-made by Alfred Dunhill in London with a military-grade lining to handle the stress of a heavy shoulder bag. Inside the jacket are five custom pockets for gear, including cellphone, passport and two travel humidors.”

Dean Burri is a big man and a big traveler. This Fortune story on CNN.com is an interesting look at upscale one-bag travel. I totally sympathize with his need for custom pockets: it is the rare sport coat that properly accomodates a boarding pass. Burri goes one-bag by packing (somewhat) lightly and using hotel laundry. But, if you see this guy in the airport, get out of his way:

“Shadowing Burri in an airport is like following a Porsche around in a Toyota Corolla. Though he’s 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, he has the agility of a left tackle.”


Note the reason for his agility - no wheels. Burri uses a shoulder bag. Might I suggest this as the king of carry-on no-wheelers - the Red Oxx Air Boss.


Self-described goon at London Heathrow


Pass the bunny chow - eating local

“Ostrich, crocodile and kudu are all on the menu. A fantastic snack in Durban is bunny chow, a hollowed-out loaf filled with curry.”

Fiona Sims in the Times of London says when traveling, eat as the locals do. You may want to check the Pepto-Bismol post below though before going local with a vengeance.


Packin' Pepto, Pardner

pepto.jpgJudy at Mouse Tours is high on regular ingestion of Pepto-Bismol as a preventitive for traveler’s diarrhea. The amount she suggests and the fact that it’s a liquid make it tough for the light traveler, but there’s always the chewable tablets. For travel to many parts of the world packing the pink stuff is a good idea. I hate Imodium because it makes you feel so bad on day two.

Check out the nice site by the nice people at Mouse Tours. Also, here’s Pepto’s official travel tips page, which looks pretty good for a corporate site.