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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!

Here comes the rain again

It’s raining again, which is, sadly, becoming more normal than snow during the winters in these parts. I see all these rom-coms and sob-fests of US Thanksgiving homecomings, yada yada, and there’s always this white fluffy blanket of snow. And I think, where do these people live? I’m in Canada and the marigolds and roses still have their blooms.

But rain’s got me thinking about a particular travel challenge. Everyone feels more enthusiastic and adventurous when the sun is shining, or the weather’s co-operating. But how do you cope with the rain? Let’s face it, walking, using public transportation, and especially any outdoor sightseeing, just suck in the rain.

I saw a Samantha Brown travel video a while ago, she was in Munich IIRC, and she mentioned remembering to bring along her umbrella. It was just your basic, collapsible, telescoping umbrella. Folded down to a size where she could fit it in her shoulder bag. I was surprised by how insubstantial it looked.

And there’s the problem. I purchased an umbrella this year that I’m happy with, as a public transit user. It’s lovely, black with red polka dots, makes a bit of a statement, and most importantly, keeps me relatively dry. But it’s not telescoping- folded, it’s still two feet long, and there’s no strap on the handle for hanging, so it’s a bit of a pain to put it somewhere when I arrive, wherever somewhere happens to be.

But those little collapsible “travel” umbrellas, the ones like Samantha Brown had in the video? I don’t get it. I’ve never had one last more than two rainfalls before it breaks – the wind gets under it, the flimsy little hinge on the rib breaks, you name it. It becomes useless faster than you can say “It’s supposed to clear after lunch.”

So, give me some hints here. How do you cope with the rain when you’re wandering the world? Imagine you aren’t driving, and your budget will only withstand so many taxi rides. And do you believe Samantha Brown really gets by with such a flimsy umbrella?

Travelling light

When I was a little girl, I used to spend two weeks at camp every summer. My mother would let me pack my own suitcase; then, the night before departure, I’d have to drag it out into the dining room for inspection. Whereupon, my mother would add all the things I hadn’t thought of, and any extras she believed I would need. (she was usually right) The end result was that my suitcase always seemed to contain far more than I would need for 13 nights away, and it was full full full.

You would think that after years of cramming a family of five – and their luggage – into a minivan for vacations, that I’d be an expert reducing my luggage to its essentials.

You would think, but you’d be wrong. All those folks that were so upset about airlines charging for checked bags? Yeah, I was one of them. This, in spite of the fact that I usually get where I’m going, use only half of what I brought, and always swear that NEXT TIME it’ll be different.

I’m off to Toronto for the Students in Travel Conference tomorrow; I’ll be away from home a total of 39 hours. Theoretically, I need what I’m wearing tomorrow, something to sleep in, what I’m wearing for the conference on Tuesday, and that’s about it. Sounds easy, right?

Ha!

First, what am I wearing on the train? The train is often cold; I’ll need layers. Plus, things to entertain me, like the laptop, Kindle, etc. And train snacks. At the other end, I’ll be staying with a friend, but I need to use the TTC to get there; hence, I will need my coat, mittens, and possibly a hat. And my umbrella.

I have to decide now what I’m wearing to the conference on Tuesday. Not too big a deal, but what if I change my mind? What if I spill something on my shirt, or something rips? Will the convention centre be blazing hot, or freezing cold? And then there’s the fact that everything I’m not wearing will have to go to the conference with me – on the bus – because I’m leaving on the train again right after. Plus, I’ll want to make sure that whatever I’m wearing will also be comfortable train attire. And the train is often cold, etc.

The inability to travel light isn’t the only thing that’s stopped me from being a world traveller yet, but I have the feeling it’s something I’m going to need to get a handle on.

What are your favourite tips for travelling light?