Tag Archives: packing

A bag, in a pouch, in a bag

My Love Affair With Dorky Luggage

Rick StevesPBS travel writer and presenter Rick Steves is a lot of things. A good writer, an intelligent and passionate traveller and someone who successfully preaches to Americans that there’s a world out there (OK, Europe) that is worth not just travelling to, but really seeing and experiencing. But, no matter his qualities, I’m happy to consider him the friendly old uncle of travel writing, encouraging the emptynesters to get out there and explore. But my guilty secret is I lust after his bags. Particularly his convertible carry-on and his daypack – all sorts of cool features, the best of all of which is they’re durable but damn light. But they’re so lacking in badass cred that they ought to come with a pair of slippers and a bus pass. But the design! The practicality! However, they don’t appear to be available anywhere in Australia and Amazon, fortunately my own self image, won’t ship them to Australia.

Today The Geeky Traveller caught my eye with the Kiva Keychain Backpack, made by the same company as Rick Steves line.

Kiva Keychain Backpack 1

Kiva Keychain Backpack 2

The Kiva Key Chain Pakc is a 120 gram nylon backpack (around 40 cms x 30 x 7) that collapses into a keychain pouch roughly 10cms x 6 x 3. A great idea for a daypack or extra capacity for things picked up along the way, even if the few Amazon reviews seem to (predictably) warn that it won’t carry a whole hell of a lot of weight. Like the Rick Steves bags, Amazon will only ship to US addresses. Saved from my own unconcious yearning for naff baggage again.

All in all, I reckon Kiva are a company that deserve a more active, better, or just bigger, Australian distributor.

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Luggage Logged

Luggage TagOne of many interesting outcomes of Heathrow’s T5 scandal has been stories about the life of lost luggage. Unclaimed and untraceble luggage ultimately it finds its way to an auction house where it’s flogged and the proceeds given to charity. If the prospect of someone ‘winning’ your dirty underwear at auction doesn’t thrill you there are some interesting services promising to unite you with your baggage, no matter where it ends up.

i-track, TraceMe and GlobalBagTag all work on basically the same theory – by providing stickers or luggage tags with a unqiue serial number which register against your contact details – if your bag is found the finder contacts the company and the serial number matches the luggage with the owner. You’ll be contacted by SMS or email to let you know where your luggage ended up. Are there any real advantages over clearly labelling your luggage? Well, obviously the service allows for greater anonymity and saves having to label your luggage with an address and phone number, and you may be re-united with your luggage sooner. Beyond that, I’m not convinced that luggage tagged in this way isis any more likely to be returned than luggage which is clearly labelled with texta inside and out.

The real question mark over these services is whether they’re worth the asking price of £9 plus per bag. I’m not sure I can justify the extra cost over scrawling my name and details inside and outside my backpack which, in most situations will be sufficient to have your bag returned, but if you travel with checked luggage frequently or have very valuable items checked it may be worth your while.

How do you label your checked luggage? Let me know if you have any experiences with such services, whether or not you think they’re worth the money or any lost luggage stories!

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Tiny and Light But Worth Packing

Some things are so light and small they’re not worth leaving home without. Despite the plethora of travel aids and gizmos the best travel knickknacks are cheap, light, small and (generally) multi-use.

SarongsScarf / Bandanna / Sarong

A towel might definitively be the ‘most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have‘ but for my money, with the advent of the micro-fibre towel, this is the new champion. High fashion or improvised basket, sun hat, sheet, towel, sling (with some safety pins) and many other uses besides. Available world-wide and probably more cheaply than at home.

Light strong cord

For use as a clothes line and for securing bags in a pinch. A travel clothesline, designed to hold clothes without pegs, is a widely popular alternative but I’ve always managed to survive without one.

Zip-lock bags

Literally millions of uses – for dirty laundry, snacks, carry on liquids, keeping a travel journal dry, the list goes on. Larger bags are simple replacements for packing cubes.

Universal rubber plug / sink stopper

Cable TiesA must if you’re planning to do your own laundry. Whereas laundry powder is easy to buy most places, it’s worth buying a decent plug at home. Even if you never have to use it, it’s light and small enough to be worth packing and lugging.

Cable ties

A simple and cheap means of securing your luggage during flights – not necessarily tamper-proof but tamper-evident (as suggested by Budget Travel)

Rubber door stop

A small rubber doorstop is the simple and effective means of securing a hotel or hostel room door.

Passport PhotosSmall tupperware container

Useful if you have anything you wish to avoid crushing in your bag. In the meantime, perfect for storing most other things on this list.

Passport Photos

A few spare recent passport photos tucked away in the bottom of your bag may well save some unnecessary grief if you need a visa extension or a replacement passport.

Medicare Card

For Australians travelling to countries with reciprocal health agreements your medicare card is worth taking along.


You should ensure you always have access to:

  • Photocopy of your passport
  • Details of insurer and your policy
  • Contact details for Airlines/Lodging
  • Contact details for your consulates or embassies
  • Bank / ATM or Credit card provider contact details (especially emergency contact numbers)

Photos of your luggage (highlighting any identifying features) and any valuables you’re carrying are also worthwhile. You can keep copies of these details in paper format at the bottom of your luggage or store them or electronically – a good approach is to either email them to your web-based email account (or simply save them in a draft message) or take advantage of a free online storage site. It’s also worth leaving a copy of all of the above with a friend or family member back home.

Anything I’ve missed?

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[Sarong image via somesatellite], Cable ties image via fotocitizen, passport photos image via imperialdoghnut]

The Universal Packing List

SuitcasesLike a battered suitcase emerging from the darkness of Heatrow’s Terminal 5 the Universal Packing List seems to have returned from hell of 404. A long time favorite of mine, the site produces a customised packing based on criteria such as trip length, style, conditions, activities you intend to undertake, bag size and it its latest incarnation destination.

The script spits out some genarl before-you-go tips and a list of luaggage stuffing items based on your criteria. Specialising in useful (but space-taking and weight-adding) travel knick naks like nylon cord, a rubber door wedge for securing hostel/hotel doors (a good tip in itself) and even two-way radios the site (particularly if you choose the “I’m taking a sherpa” option) will leave you youinundated with potentially useful items you’re sure you cannot now travel without!

If you share my preference for travelling only with carry on luggage the ‘exteremly small’ size bag is a good list to start with, although it is still ripe for trimming (e.g. buying toiletries, clothes, especially t-shirts, on the road).

Got any great packing tips? Share ’em in the comments!

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[Image via Bryan Ledgard on Flickr]

12 Travel Sites EVERYBODY should know (and love)


You may well already be familiar with many or all of these sites, most are very popular – and with good reason. These are websites that you will find yourself returning to again and again.

1 ) Lonely Planet’s Thorn tree

The granddaddy of internet travel forums – not the very best for every country or every topic but no other forum has the breadth, readership or so fully embodies Lonely Planet’s ethos of independent travel. If you have a travel question to ask then there’s no better place to start. The FAQS for each thread can be chaotic but contain a wealth of basic knowledge and useful information.

2 ) Center for Disease Control’s Yellow Book

The first and best reference for travel health -tips for avoiding mosquito or tick bites, FAQs for traveller’s diarrhea, suggestions about what a traveller’s first aid kit should contain as well as information on specific destinations that should be consulted before arrival.

3 ) Onebag.com

Travel with one carry-on size bag. Ditch the ballast: no excuses, no regrets. This site, which has become the most popular online packing resource provides all the packing information you could ever need.

4 ) The Man in Seat Sixty-One

Route details, maps, photos, timetables, prices and anything else you might need anywhere in the world that passenger trains run. Terrifyingly exhaustive and irreplaceable when planning a trip.

5 ) Trip Advisor

Reviews of everything travel related, especially hotels. The sheer number of reviews are likely to give you the details travel brochures leave out and guidebooks overlook, even if I would treat the ratings with a pinch of scepticism.

6 ) oanda.com

There are any number of sites which provide currency conversion, but Oanda’s FX cheat sheets, which can be adjusted to account for a margin to represent conversion costs, lift it above the pack for the traveller.

7 ) Whichbudget.com

There may be prettier alternatives but, in my experience, the most up-to-date listing of budget airlines and where they fly. Not beautiful, but wonderfully functional.

8 ) SeatGuru

The easiest way to ensure you have one of the best seats (and possibly more importantly avoid one of the worst), short of flying at the pointy end. Plans of planes colour coded to allow you to check at a glance where you’ll be seated.

9 ) World Electric Guide

Plugs and voltages worldwide. Never be without you travel kettle again.

10 ) World Airport Guides

Check airport services and transport options before you arrive, but if you’re planing on catching some kip the venerable Sleeping in Airports is your guide.

11 ) MasterCard Global ATM Locator

Find MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus ATMs in over 210 countries. Far from comprehensive but worthwhile to give an idea of ATMs around your hotel, airport or attractions.

12 ) How to: Use a Squat Toilet

Prepare before you go – don’t learn, well, on the job. Trust me, the first time you come across one of these beauties you’ll be thankfull.

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