How to Pack Your Carry On Baggage

I’ve only checked my suitcase five times in thirty years.  Flying standby can mean a last minute dash to the gate and if my bag doesn’t get onboard, neither do I.  Skip carousel chaos and lost luggage limbo by bringing your suitcase onboard.

 Choose lightweight shirts and sweaters that can be worn separately or layered.   Good fabric choices are silk, cotton and merino wool. Visiting a tropical destination? Remember that air-conditioning can be bone chilling.   I always pack a hat and scarf, though they may range from a boater and sarong to a beret and pashmina.

Carrying enough toiletries aboard is simple once you know that only liquids, gels or aerosols have to fit inside the one litre clear, resealable “security baggie.” A medium-sized zip-lock freezer bag works well.   Place toothbrushes, razors and powdered cosmetics in your regular travel kit.

Toothpaste, shave cream and mascara are considered liquids and must be in containers no larger than 100ml.  Buy travel-sized products and make substitutions, like stick deodorant for roll-on to reduce the quantities of liquid.  

 Prescription medications and items like contact lens solution are exempt from these limits. Visit the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) or the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for current regulations about carry on and checked luggage.

© 2011 – 2013, My Flying Fingers. All rights reserved.

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The Best Airplane Seats

Crew members get a pre-flight briefing and so should you.  Before you check in online, check out your aircraft.  SeatGuru.com posts informative seating charts for more than 60 carriers.  You can locate the most coveted spots (extra legroom over-wing) and avoid the worst (near galleys and washrooms). Flight attendants know some seats that may seem wonderful – like bulkheads – come with their drawbacks, like no underseat storage and the chance of being seated next to cranky infants.

Even perennial favourites, like overwing exit seats, may have limited recline and are chilly in flight, as you are sitting next to an operational door or window.  Depending on the aircraft configuration, these seats can also be next to lavs (washrooms.)

To change seats easily after boarding, know airline protocol.  The final count of passengers and their location gives pilots critical knowledge on the weight and balance of the aircraft.  You might disrupt their calculations by switching seats before take-off.  If you want to move, do so before the count or in the air.

 For both passengers and crew, the smartest attitude is “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” not “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

© 2011 – 2013, My Flying Fingers. All rights reserved.

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Maximize Your Overhead

Statistics like “42 million suitcases mishandled last year” never bother me.  I always make sure my luggage fits onboard. Flying standby can mean a last minute dash to the gate and late check-in is one reason bags go astray.

 Travelling light saves you money and increases your mobility. I’ve successfully toured for up to ten days with only one carry-on.  On longer trips, local dry cleaners are an economical option.  For creative packing tips and current regulations, visit onebag.com, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority website CATSA and the US Transportation Security Association TSA.

© 2011 – 2013, My Flying Fingers. All rights reserved.

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What Not to Pack

Airline employees and savvy travellers know better than to check their luggage.  That means efficient packing is paramount.  Though these tips may seem controversial and against accepted travel wisdom, you’ll be more comfortable, better dressed and less of a target if you follow this practical advice.

BLUE JEANS

Unless you’re going to a dude ranch, bulky blue jeans are a waste of valuable luggage space.  They can also be uncomfortable to wear for long distance travel and can discourage gate agents from offering you that coveted upgrade. Designer or discount, jeans are still taboo in some clubs and fine restaurants. Instead, travel in non-wrinkle cotton or linen pants, which are classier and lighter to pack.

WHITE ATHLETIC FOOTWEAR

Runners, gym shoes, trainers, call them what you like but don’t call them stylish.  There are many other ways to keep your feet happy while promenading along the boulevard.  Try wearing a pair of chic loafers like the French do, and café waiters will assume you parlez like a local. If you must wear athletic footwear, at least avoid white. 

BACK PACKS

Nothing says “tourist” louder than a bulging backpack.  A more sophisticated way to travel around town is with a canvas messenger bag.  Sling it over your opposite shoulder for better security than a backpack, which is often accessible to everyone but you. There will still be enough room to carry cameras, guide books and the ubiquitous bottle of water

Of course there will be times when you absolutely must check your luggage. In that case, bring your valuables onboard and use a comination lock and luggage straps on your checked bags.  But if life is a journey, why not travel light?

© 2011 – 2013, My Flying Fingers. All rights reserved.

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The Perfect Travel Map

MAP QUEST

Anyone who has ever used a free tourist map quickly learns  it’s only worth what you paid for it.  You’ll make the most of your time and travel dollars with a pocket-sized atlas filled with useful information, not glossy advertisements.  Here are some of the best.

PARIS

L’Indispensable’s “Paris par Arrondissement” classifies the city by arrondissement, or neighbourhood, which is essential for carefree meandering. Though updates are published regularly, I still use my 1998 copy paired with a current RATP map for the Métro (subway).

www.ulyssesguides.com  or at most newsstands and bookstores in Paris.

 LONDON

Best selling “London A-Z” is both an atlas and a guide book. Clear, detailed maps of the city centre and nearby areas are broken into grids for easy reference.  The central underground (Tube) route is on the outside back cover. A downloadable edition, “London Visitors’ and Tube Pocket A-Z Map” converts the paper version for your Windows based pocket PC.

www.a-zmaps.co.uk

BANGKOK & CHIANG MAI

Nancy Chandler’s maps look like what a diligent friend might bring back after a trip to Thailand.  Brightly annotated with highlighters and rainbow ink, there is a method to her psychedelic madness as hotels, shops and markets appear in different colours. A separate compact guide details everything from accommodation to transportation.  Worth ordering ahead of time.  www.nancychandler.net

 VENICE

Part of Venice’s charm is in getting lost, or so I like to remind my husband after we round another corner to nowhere.  It’s true that maps aren’t much use in this beautiful, maze-like city. Once you’re familiar with the Grand Canal, use the vaparetto or water bus stations to get your bearings and follow the signs.  The yellow markers are official, the rest are placed by helpful Venetians.

  If we’re renting a car, a road atlas is essential, otherwise I pair a city map with a transit route guide. My husband likes to bring a map of the entire country, which usually provides other entertaining information.

 Get your hands on a real map ahead of time and get your bearings as soon as you arrive, jet lag notwithstanding. For the best maps for other destinations, see what the experts, like Frommer’s, Lonely Planet or Condé Nast Traveler recommend.

© 2010 – 2013, My Flying Fingers. All rights reserved.

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