Where is the Rest of your Luggage?

You’ll never meet a traveller who, after five trips, brags: “Every year I pack heavier.”

Rick Steves – Travel Writer

Walking out to the van with my carry-on bag, I caught sight of a colleague accompanying me on this five day business trip. He struggled towards the van with a medium size suitcase, over-stuffed suit carrier and a larger carry-on bag, looked at me quizzically and said, ‘Have you already loaded your bags?’

‘No, this is all I am taking.’

Even more perplexed, he stopped and asked, ‘You are only taking that one little bag, how did you fit everything in that?’

‘We are only going for five days, how many wardrobe changes are you planning to make each day?’

He did not offer a response and I tossed my bag in the van, and took a seat while he wrestled his steamer trunk into the back.

Rick Steves’ words echo in my head every time I pack for trip, whether business or pleasure, reducing the amount of stuff I carry always makes for a more enjoyable time. Packing light is easier than you think, and anyone can reduce their luggage to a manageable size with some planning and preparation.

My wife and I are committed to only carrying a Rick Steves’ Convertible Carry On bag weighing no more than 7 Kilos (15 lbs) plus a smaller bag for personal items like a camera. We use a convertible backpack/suitcase with zip-away shoulder straps that is lighter than your average roller bag, and easy to tote across town to the hotel. How do we do it?
Well, my bag contains the following items:

In my Crumpler Shoulder Photo Bag:

I used to carry a laptop but an iPod touch or iPhone provides me all the computing power I need for most travel.

The main advantage of this small uncluttered travel bag is mobility. Arriving home from a recent vacation, we cleared Customs before the first bag from our flight dropped on to the carousel. We can easily change planes, trains or buses when a delay occurs because everything is with us. Sure we have to do some washing along the way but it is often no more expensive to use a fluff and fold service than to do the laundry yourself. We also use lightweight wash and wear clothes that can be washed in a sink if necessary, and air dried over night.

Nothing in our bag is there because we might need it, we use every item continuously throughout our travels and when those one-off occasions arise we just buy what we need at that time. Plan for the best and be prepared to spend a little money if needed, why ruin a vacation lugging a huge bag of stuff you never use to save a few dollars. Travelling light is an awakening that can open your eyes to how little you need in your life, try it on your next vacation.


How I used Tripit during our Italian Vacation

According to their website, Tripit allows travellers to keep all their travel plans in one location to build an itinerary, get organised and stayed informed. Sounds great, I wanted to reduce the paperwork I needed to carry on our trip to Italy and Tripit offered an easy solution.

I signed up a free account with my Google account and and opened a new trip for our Italian vacation. Then I forwarded our flight details to Tripit, and they were automatically translated into our itinerary. Checking the translation revealed no errors, so I continued forwarding our confirmation emails for tours, accommodation and travel bookings to Tripit. Despite a growing list of supported sites, Tripit could not process every email but they quickly advised me when this occurred and I could enter the information manually. (See an example itinerary here.)

I downloaded the Tripit iPod/iPhone App to access my data on the road, and looked forward to not carrying a load of paper on this trip. I updated the application a few days before the trip without updating the itinerary, and put my iPod Touch into my bag.

Luckily I decided to check everything again before we left, and found I could not access our itinerary on the application. At first I thought the Tripit application needed to have an Internet connection for me to see the itinerary and this would have been a disaster for my plan. I established a wifi connection, retrieved the itinerary, and prepared to test the application.

When you open the Tripit application, it attempts to update your itinerary but if you do not have an Internet connection you can simply cancel the operation and your previously downloaded data is available. Confident I had the right tool we headed off to Italy.

Jet lagged but ecstatic to be back in Rome, we headed to our hotel. I used Tripit to show our taxi driver the correct address and he dropped us right outside the door 15 minutes latter. We headed up the stairs to reception and immediately we faced a problem, the owner to see our confirmation email but as I dragged out the iPod she waved me away saying that she needed to see a paper copy. Bugger!

I explained we did not have a paper copy, and after a little fussing she checked us in using our passports to check against her reservations. Was this a flaw in my plan?

We took a risk and moved to our next stop without a printed confirmation, and checked in without a problem. In fact, no other hotel asked for anything other than our credit card and passports, the latter required by law in Italy.

Tripit is a great tool and while it is usable without an Internet connection, you can only access all its potential when it can access the Web but for my money it is the best itinerary tool available.


Two Travel Writers who influence my Travels.

For most people travel is momentary, often it feels like you returned before you left as the post vacation glow subsides and work crowds in again. When my travel energy needs a recharge between trips I turn to my favorite travel writers:

Rick Steves‘ guidebooks made our first European vacations a simple delight. Rick’s potted histories and time-saving wisdom makes his books a must read before, during and after your travel. He also provides masses of free advice through his travel shows on PBS, weekly radio show (available as a podcast) and his website.

Anthony Bourdain hosts No Reservations (Discovery Travel), his passion for travel leads him to seek out the unique experiences. His passion for food (he is a chef by trade) always finds him in the best eateries available, although not always the most appetising meals.

Rick and Tony taught me to look below the surface of every society I visit and find the essence of their culture. I embrace the moment, try to live like a local, eat their food and meet the locals. Sure I use the guidebook and see the sights but more often I toss it on the bed as I head out to walk the streets. Getting lost is often a precursor to a great experience or at least a look at the real city. So get out there, push open the door to funny little restaurant you just passed, have a meal and see more than the sights.

This is my first post in a few months and marks a return to regular (weekly) posts, thanks to those who stayed subscribed during the hiatus.


Find Your Perfect Destination with Tripbase

Determining your next vacation destination can be hit or miss but Tripbase hopes to help travellers find the perfect spot. The website is still under development but there is enough functionality to give users a taste of the future.


Travellers set five sliders to indicate their preferences for nightlife, dining, shopping, nature and attractions then Tripbase provides you all the options that meet your criteria. You can further refine the selection by choosing the type of trip, budget and weather amongst a wider list of criteria. I found some settings like budget are not yet useful as no matter how much I entered there were no results but this is still developmental.

When I set the sliders to my preferences, it threw up a list that matched my favourite destinations and few options I had not considered, so I look forward to using the fully featured site.

Check it out, and share your opinion with us.


Visiting The Somme Battlefields

Next year is the 90th Anniversary of end of World War I, and many travellers will make the pilgrimage to honour the Fallen. An article in The Australian is great overview of the Australian Battlefields and Memorials found in France and Belgium. We visited The Somme region last July, and was struck by what a small area covers so many battlefields. If you are planning a trip to Europe, spare a day to recall their sacrifice.