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“L” is for luggage

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I got my first set of my very own luggage when I was about 8 or 9; I was so excited! Owning my own suitcases, ones that were mine and mine alone, just seemed like such a grown-up kind of thing. Never mind that the only place I was really going “on my own” was summer camp. It was a two-piece, turquoise blue set, one large case and one smaller – and “overnighter” I think you’d probably call it.

Although I obtained several new sets of luggage over the next few years, that little overnight case just seemed to hang around. I can’t even say it got much use; but it travelled with me through several moves for years until I finally set it out for a garage sale a few years ago.

As I mentioned, there’ve been several sets of luggage since then. And we always tried to make sure the girls had their own suitcases too – initially, a tiny pink “Going to Grandma’s” suitcase that didn’t hold much more than a pair of pajamas, moving gradually to larger pieces. At one point, we bought a purple set and broke it up among the girls – the largest suitcase was big enough to hold the five-year-old and her clothes for a week, besides. In fact, that behemoth is still in service, as the Ottawa girl hauls it back and forth every time she comes home for a visit. It’s big enough for  her clothes, her laundry, anything she’s bringing home to store, and the hedgehog wheel.

One of the luggage lessons I’ve learned is that cheap luggage is cheap for a reason. It usually can’t stand up to the rigors of even light travel. Any strain on the zippers or fabric, and you may find yourself hastily repacking your underwear in the middle of an airport concourse. Now, I’ve rarely seen luggage actually being loaded on or off a plane – I’d like to imagine they handle everything with kid gloves. I doubt it though – you’ll want your suitcase to be able to stand up to a few tosses, and having other luggage land on top of it.

Wheels are another consideration. Almost all luggage has wheels these days, which is a good thing. It makes it easier for people to manage their own luggage. However, wheels break – most suitcase wheels aren’t going to withstand being rolled up and down stairs or curbs, or on and off of escalators for long. Be kind to your wheels! And for the average person, it’s never a good idea to pack more than you can lift – sooner or later, you’re going to encounter a situation where you actually have to carry your suitcase.

The newest luggage is coming in lots of cool patterns and colours. I like it, because it’s distinctive, and might even reflect your personality. I’m also seeing a return of “hard-sided” luggage; I haven’t tried any out yet, but I’m curious as to how these suitcases are standing up to the demands of travel. Are they easily scratched? Broken/crushed? Are the closures/zippers holding up to repeated use?

Of course, most of us only think about our luggage when we’re actually using it. But there’s more to good suitcase ownership than hitting the road, and remembering what to pack. I found this short list of luggage care tips. Feel free to add your own in the comments. And do tell me about your experiences with the newer hard-shell luggage!

“A” is for Airports

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It’s rare to find anyone who has anything very positive to say about airports. While much is printed, blogged and tweeted about the hassle involved in traversing this no-man’s-land between here and there (wherever “here” and “there” happen to be), I can’t recall reading or hearing about anyone who’s been particularly happy about spending time in an airport.

Until now. I love airports.

I’m not what you’d call a frequent flyer – I’ve flown perhaps two dozen times in my life. And none of that internationally. And I can’t say that I’ve a specific airport that stands out as a favourite. But I haven’t yet met an airport I didn’t like either.

From Denver (the largest airport I’ve ever been in) to Elliot Lake, Ontario (I recall it was about the size of my living room), there’s something about the coming and going that I find at once soothing and exhilarating. Leaving home, stepping into the airport is the point at which I begin to truly feel “away.” Coming back from a trip, it’s once again the arrival at the airport that turns my attention away from the vacation just passed and toward home. For me, the stress of traveling- going or coming- stops when I get to the airport, not the other way around.

The airport is the world in miniature; I’ve never understood those who glue themselves to a movie or book for two solid hours before their flight leaves. Oh sure, I read; I also people watch, shop, eat, wander, eat some more. I particularly like browsing the news-stands; were it not for the aforementioned Denver airport, I likely never would have discovered Mental Floss magazine, for instance. My gut reaction to the plot of The Terminal was “how cool would it be to live in an airport?” It’s right up there with the concept of living in a shopping mall (thank you Richard Peck)

I’m sure part of it derives from when I was little; my grandpa would often take me out to the local airport to watch the planes take off and land. This was back in the day when anyone could get through the gate and go right up to the window. We’d watch a few planes, then adjourn to a nearby truck stop for  a snack. I even loved watching the baggage pickup – staring at that hole in the wall, trying to guess when it would spit out the first suitcase, and who it would belong to.

I’m the first to volunteer when anyone I know needs a ride to the airport. And I’ll even pay for parking and go in to wait when I’m picking someone up. It’s not as much fun anymore, with all the good stuff on the other side of security, but I’ll take what I can get.

What’s your favourite airport experience?