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Arrive alive

I'm doing the travel thing again this week, to sunny Zagreb, Croatia, where I'll be appearing at Kontakt, the 2012 Eurocon. Blogging will be patchy; for one thing I expect to be busy, and for another, international roaming data on my phone and iPad costs £10/Mb in Croatia (if I can't find a local SIM or free wifi).

It occurs to me that I haven't blogged about travel much recently. So here's a run-down of how and what I pack for a 6 day overseas trip ...

Luggage: you want to carry as little as possible without inconveniencing yourself. So for any trip longer than overnight I take (at least) two bags: a checked bag (rolling semi-rigid, expanding gusset, with extending handle) to go in the aircraft hold, and a carry-on. Actually, as much stuff as possible goes in the carry-on, but thanks to security regs a bunch of stuff I need simply has to be checked.

Note about luggage: the checked bag has wheels, and the main carry-on straps to it, so I can tow them along behind me. They have to be as light as possible, and as strong as possible, and ideally able to expand to contain extra stuff accumulated in transit. This is because airports are big. Use of a fitbit pedometer suggests to me that at each airport I hit, I can expect to walk a minimum of 2Km. So a two-sector journey (Edinburgh-Paris, Paris-Zagreb) will involve about 6Km of walking. (Maybe more, if I get bored and need the exercise.) Thus, it's necessary to have a load-out that I can tow comfortably, and hand luggage I'm happy to tote on my shoulders or back for a couple of kilometres in the middle.

What goes in the checked bag?

* Sharps (scissors, swiss army knife, nail clippers)

* "wet" toilet bag (including liquids, tooth paste, hand cream, and the like)

* most of my clothes:

- Clothes are colour-coordinated in black—makes it much easier to assemble an outfit if they're all monochrome.

- Clothes are selected to layer depending on weather.

* Being British, I also sling in a travel electric kettle and enough tea making supplies to keep me from going batshit insane from caffeine withdrawl.

* Folding umbrella (for deployment on arrival).

* On cold-weather trips, heavy outdoor gear also goes in the checked bag: you won't need it around the airport, but it's useful to have on arrival.

What doesn't go in the checked bag?

* Anything I can't live without or that I need in-flight. Which breaks down into:

- Amusements and diversions

- Essential medication

- Expensive or fragile items

- Anything irreplaceable

On this trip, I'm taking two carry-ons.

Carry-on (a) is a small shoulder bag—one of these, along with a world adapter for its power supply. This is a shoulder bag sized for an iPad in a Zaggfolio keyboard case, with built-in USB charging wires and a battery. It also has a side-pocket for my iPhone, another external side-pocket for travel documents, and room for some small extras (pill case, flashlight, Kindle 3G, headphones). Carry-on (a) lives on my shoulder around the airport, or under the seat in front of me while in-flight. It's my on-the-road IT kit for short journeys.

Why take a Kindle 3G as well an iPad? Well, the K3G comes with a web browser and free internet access in a whole bunch of countries where international roaming is expensive. You don't want to overuse it, but it's better than nothing. (Also, it'll keep running long after the iPad and Powerbag batteries are flat, in extremis.) If travelling within the UK, I'd probably carry a MiFi instead.

Carry-on (b) is a much larger expanding shoulder bag. It has a laptop pouch big enough to hold bag (a) at a pinch, and a much larger compartment which holds camera kit, all medication required for a month away from home, and a bag of chargers and cables and mains adapters. It also contains a change of underwear and a spare tee shirt. It goes up top in the overhead luggage bin: I don't expect to need any of its contents while in transit. Its job is to transport valuable items, and ensure that if my checked bag goes missing I will be comfortable for my first night at my destination (after which I will have to go clothing/toiletry shopping).

Medication includes not only prescription items, but other stuff: anti-diarrhoea, pain killers, rehydration sachets, anti-histamines, blister plasters. It's very hard to predict what is or is not available in pharmacies in foreign countries. For example: in the USA, you can't buy ibuprofen/codeine combination tablets over the counter. Nor can you buy ibuprofen or diclofenac anti-inflammatory gel for sprains. All of which are available in the UK. On the other hand, you can't buy Neosporin or other antibiotic ointments in the UK that are readily available in the USA. And in other countries restrictions on what you can and cannot buy get weirder. My general rule of thumb is: take everything you might need, but don't ever carry opiate pain killers (codeine, dihydrocodeine, whatever) unless you have a prescription and/or have pre-cleared it with your destination's customs agency, because some nations (e.g. Japan) have mandatory prison time for possession of stuff that's legal to buy over the counter in other countries.

Finally, what goes on my person?

* Clothes and shoes (ha ha, funny)

* House keys, mobile phone, wallet with driving license and credit cards

* Passport

* Boarding pass

* Documents describing my itinerary (hotel reservation, flight booking)

* Travel insurance paperwork

* Two or more wallets

- One wallet/coin purse per currency zone: home, destination, and any intermediate stops. (For example, on this trip I'll be carrying Sterling (UK), Kuna (Croatia), and Euros (we're flying via Paris and will spend over 8 hours in the transit area waiting for connecting flights). It helps not to get them mixed up!

What happens on longer trips?

* If a trip is over a week long, I may upgrade my IT kit to include a laptop. It depends how much work I expect to have to do. (On my last one month trip, I ended up tackling the copy edits to a novel in my hotel room.)

* If I expect to have to hire a car, I'll take my own satnav (renting them is expensive, and I prefer one with a user interface I know how to use)

* More clothing, up to ten days' maximum, plus additional types of clothing. Travel wash for hotel bathroom sinkside sessions. On long journeys, I expect to have to use a launderette once a week. It may also be necessary to haul wear-once items (e.g. formalwear for receptions, award ceremonies, and the like). With ten days' clothing you can launder a week's kit at a time and still have an emergency reserve.

* A collapsible bag-in-bag —usually a folding duffle bag—that can travel as a separate checked bag on the way home, in event of too much shopping. I try to avoid needing this, but on longer trips with my wife it tends to get used: dirty clothes go in the (lightweight, unstructured) duffle bag for the flight home, while purchases go in the (hard shell) checked bag.

Again: pack on the assumption that (a) a team of gorillas will play football with your checked bags, (b) they will then be inspected, both by Customs officials and by officers of the Ankh-Morpork Thieves Guild, and (c) they may go astray (10% probability of arriving 1-2 days late) or be completely and irrevocably lost (2-5% probability unless travelling via Heathrow, in which case 20-50%).

What are your international packing/travel tips?



"Being British, I also sling in a travel electric kettle and enough tea making supplies to keep me from going batshit insane from caffeine withdrawl. "

Why? There are Starbucks everywhere now :)

(runs and hides)


Starbucks are alleged to make and sell coffee. The wife, who drinks coffee, begs to differ. (Starbucks' house blend is scorched halfway to charcoal and tastes unpleasantly bitter.)

(And yes, they also sell tea. But I guzzle so much of the stuff that if I had to pay Starbucks prices while travelling I'd go bankrupt.)


1) USAian here, curious what a travel kettle looks like. Never even heard of such a thing.

2) My usual travel loadout is pretty similar, except I go with a large backpack for carry-on b) instead of a shoulder bag. I used shoulder bags for about four years, but they started giving me terrible neck and back problems because of the imbalance. A good backpack can have 15+ lbs in it and barely be noticeable.


It's a small electric jug kettle, capacity around 500ml, voltage-adjustable between 100 and 240 VAC. Mine's made of stainless steel, the better to survive the baggage gorillas.

I used to use backpacks for carry-on but (a) they attract unfavourable attention from some security types (who seem to think "backpacker" = "hippy" = "probable drug smuggler"), and (b) I get worse back problems from a backpack than a shoulder bag (and yes, I know how to load and adjust a backpack properly!).


Carry on? I thought you used SEV rev jackets for that!

I always have photocopies of essential documents, stored online too.

Backpacks are best for carry-on.

Plastic belt and easy to remove/put-on shoes

Evogrip wenger penknife (in luggage) contains all you need for nails, teeth, scissors etc.

IT: Ipad Ipod Nano Retractable headphones Kindle (same reasons as Cstross)

I have stopped buying expensive NR headphones but almost anything is better than what they dish out on the plane.

I do also recommend buying a bottle of water airside to stay hydrated. Actually Nuun tablets are great for this.

Lastly be very careful what you take medication wise to the middle east unless you like compulsory 4 year prison terms!

My wife has a bunch of travel tips for women - does anybody want them?


I'd add a packet of tissues, something for a sore / dry throat (since I usually feel dehydrated on planes, one of many reasons why I hate flying), a couple of books, at least one pen, and maybe some Sudoku puzzles.

If you'll be doing business with Brits at any point a cheque book may be a good idea.

The wife, who drinks coffee, begs to differ. (Starbucks' house blend is scorched halfway to charcoal and tastes unpleasantly bitter.)

Starbuck's coffee IMNSHO is designed as a delivery vehicle for dairy products and flavorings, and is therefore not coffee as such. When I'm traveling but not at a conference or other event where coffee or tea is easily and cheaply available in quantity I sometimes carry a small thermos that I can fill up in the morning and drink from into the late afternoon. If necessary I carry or buy coffee or tea in a local grocery or market to prevent reliance on crappy chain coffee houses and hotel beverages.

I use a backpack for a carryon because my chronic back problems require me to balance the weight on both shoulders; a one-side shoulder bag would probably trash my right side and leg after a day of running between terminals at stopovers. Using a backpack that was swag from a vendor conference and has logos all over it can reduce the "hippie" image.


Just for the record: there are no Starbucks in Croatia. There never will be, probably. Having spent several centuries in close contact and/or under Turkish and/or French and/or Italian* rule, what we call coffee generally tends to keep Americans awake and very, very nervous for about a week. Which does not stop the locals from drinking it in American quantities.

*depending on which part of the country you're looking at.


Having spent several centuries in close contact and/or under Turkish and/or French and/or Italian* rule, what we call coffee generally tends to keep Americans awake and very, very nervous for about a week.

Ah, good :)

(I can manage up to one small cup of coffee per day, and mostly rely on tea for caffeination. But Turkish or Italian coffee is fine for stimulant purposes.)


For example: in the USA, you can't buy ibuprofen/codeine combination tablets over the counter.

Actually, what is the official policy on this in the UK? I'm moving over for two years to a new job, and I'd be interested to know. In Ireland, where I am now, codeine (in the form of Solpadeine) is still available, but you have to get it from a pharmacist (as opposed to the pharmacist's shop assistant). Also, it involves being subjected to a Stasi-style grilling as to why you want it. Given that I usually only want it to have a pack in reserve to kill industrial strength hangovers (very rare these days--the kids!), this means lying through my teeth. Considering I can buy a pack of highly addictive cigarettes from the sullen teenager in the grocery shop next door without compunction, to say that this intrusion grates is an understatement.

As for travel, aforementioned kids make matters more akin to moving an army through manoeuvres than a clutch of people through an airport. Three checked bags, three hand luggage bags and one donkey to freight them (me). And when the airport is finished with, then there's the bus, and the taxi to the destination to negotiate. There's a strong case to be made for spending your whole life in the village ...


Toothbrush, change of underwear, waterproof. Everything else I buy as needed.


My barest minimum: wallet (credit card, green card), passport, travel papers.

With that, everything else is just a simple matter of expense.

Practically, electronic stuff goes into hand luggage ('cos I've seen people jumping on checked luggage). I don't put clothes into carry-on (see "expense" in the rare chance that my luggage does get lost; not done so, yet, so I'm gambling on lighter/smaller hand luggage vs potential hassle later).

For in the cabin: Ebook reader. Archos video player. Previously also mp3 player now just my phone plus spare charged battery. Noise cancelling headphones. And Opal Fruits (Starburst, whatever). I rarely (if ever) use the netbook when on the plane itself.


In the UK, medication falls into three categories: GSL (General Sales List -- sold retail without restriction in any shop that cares to stock them), P (Pharmacy Only -- must be sold through a pharmacy, although usually you won't get a grilling (in the UK); a pharmacy assistant can sell it, as long as the pharmacist is present and aware of the sale and can interrupt it to ask questions if they're so inclined), and POM (Prescription Only Medicine -- available only on prescription via a pharmacy, it may be an offense to be in possession of a POM item without being prescribed by a licensed practitioner). There's also the Misuse of Drugs Act and the various Controlled Substances classified thereunder, some of which are prescribable and some of which aren't, but no CDs are ever available for sale without a prescription, so we can ignore them.

Painkillers with codeine or dihydrocodeine, in combination with aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen, are all P medicines. Higher strength formulations are POM. This is a bit silly because you can usually take two of the weaker pharmacy-only tablets to double up the dose to match a lower-end POM formulation.

Solpadeine is a brand name for a range of pain killers, ranging from paracetamol plus caffeine through co-codamol (paracetamol plus codeine) with caffeine, and an ibuprofen/codeine mix. In general I distrust/avoid paracetamol due to hepatotoxicity, and would myself [I am not a practicing pharmacist and this is not professional advice] buy a Boots generic ibuprofen/codeine combination tablet like Nurofen Plus.

But not, obviously, if travelling overseas. Because life is too short to become an accidental colateral casualty of the War On [Some] Drugs.


I use NR headphones with my own audio sources (usually iPhone these days) - a must have for me and my wife on plane trips.


"if I can't find a local SIM or free wifi"

both are very easy to find/acquire. you'll have no problem there.


One paperback book to read in the take-off and landing periods when electronic devices are banned and they haven't worked out what Kindles are yet. I recently did 8 flights, approx 3 days in the air, over two weeks and read most of Wolf Hall in those take-off and landing slots, while getting through another dozen or so novels on the Kindle in the rest of the time. The battery life counts for those trips too.

The drugs thing is funny. To redress the balance on painkillers, Sodium naproxen is prescription only in the UK (well, it is for me) while OTC in the US.


I've already made enquiries. (Remembers: add SIM clipper to checked bag, in case of SIM -> iPad whackiness.)


Because the reason that Britain is Great is that we do take tea wherever we go.


Thanks, Charlie, for the excellent summation and advice--it's very much appreciated!


Once, in Oklahoma, I searched for my glasses for 20 minutes before finding them via the expedient method of stepping on them.

Since then, I've learned that I should probably bring a spare pair on any trip where I expect to wake up hung over.


As an alternative to a kettle, consider an immersion heater and thermos. You can heat and brew in motel room coffee machine carafe or even a paper cup and then keep the brew warm in the thermos.

If you ever want to haul your own coffee, add fresh beans, an aeropress and a small hand grinder, e.g., kyocera or hario.

A lightweight printed book or magazine for the sometimes extended electronics-off flight period. While most travelers sit there with thumbs poised over the on button you can be avoiding pre-flight boredom.

A small headlamp, e.g., mostly for late night reading to make up for poorly placed motel and guest room lighting.


I've got noise canceling Kross ear plugs that plug into sound recorders. I can't say if they work. I stopped flying.
American coffee. No long after the first American coffee vending machines come out, the price of coffee when up. Cutting back on the coffee made it look thin. (NO KIDDING) So every body started over cooking the coffee to blacken it. Now we think that's what it should taste like. Starbucks got big because they didn't. Then.


Wow. A rational write up on airline luggage. I'll have to show this to my wife. She'd been in the baggage department of a major airline for around 10 years. Mostly on the phone, a few times at airports to help out with messes and now in IT developement. (She knows airline baggage sucks and is there to try and be a part of making it better.)

Unless I missed it I'd add your name and address and contact information printed out in large letters with at least two copies in each bag. One near the top and one near the bottom. Luggage tags get torn off. Also since 90% of the luggage is a black rolling bag with a pull up handle do something simple to make it stand out. Like 3 orange zip ties around the handle so that 1) you can spot it faster and 2) someone else is much less likely to take it.

As to packing meds and such in carry ons, you would not believe (well maybe you would) people pack their insulin, 4 hours per dose heart meds, baby food and/or diapers, $10K ring, whatever into checked luggage. Then call up and ask the airline to do something for them while they wait out a 4 hour weather delay. Or pay for the ring when their bag never shows up.

Just as a side note. Bags in 99.999% of the cases are NOT tracked. That bar code that slap on it when you check in is mostly just a starting and ending city pair. There is a mostly unique ID but in general it is not processed on anything about bags flying around the world.

Oh, yeah. RIP off that tag when you get where you are going. Leaving it on the bag and forgetting about it can send your bag back to that city on a future flight. Or keep it from leaving with you when you head home.


I can pack for a two-week trip in carry-on only, though in reality I often check the bigger bag because I don't want to schlep two bags around the airport newsstand (I only buy magazines when traveling, and then I overindulge).

In my smaller carry-on, I have my ebook reader (these days I'm using the ipad for any number of reasons, so that in the Zagg folio), medications (duh), change of socks and underwear, laptop plus cords, camera plus cords and possibly alternative lenses, knitting projects for the duration of the flight (additional knitting will be in the larger bag), and gun mufflers, which I use to make that plane aural-numbness bearable. The aforementioned magazines also end up in there, and sometimes a snack or lunch, depending on the type of trip. I often pack along some kind of mp3 player, but hardly ever take it out as everything else I have with me brings an inner voice with it (those who find counting to themselves calming should take up lace knitting).

I always think of myself as a light-tech person, but then I unpack my carry-on bag and most of it is devices and cables. This is especially true when I travel for work, but I figure any device required by my job doesn't count as making me a technonerd.

Hot tips:

I recently discovered that when I travel on business I can "wear" my hard hat, so it does not need to get packed into a bag (taking up half the space in the bag), even though technically it is a third item to carry on the plane. The TSA agent who told me that told me a great story about a man traveling with an enormous fruit-covered drag queen hat.

I've also found that in countries I've visited lately, laundromats are non-existent, though in those cases most hotel laundries are inexpensive enough to be a substitute. In the past I would bring laundry soap and plan to do laundry after a week, but finding out how people in that country do laundry is a good idea, if the information is available.

There are a few things I've decided to buy in bulk and stuff a few into the carry-on from now on. One of those is plastic rain ponchos. They usually cost a dollar or so each and fall apart quickly, but having one with you when a sudden rainfall arrives is a lifesaver. The other is moist towelettes, which are workable for any number of purposes. I get the antibacterial ones and clean my tray table as soon as I sit down. With diligent attention to wiping things down before touching them, I have managed to avoid plane-acquired illness for three years.

If you wear a skirt through security, you will get a pat-down no matter what.


Good tip on the extra contact details; also on ripping off the routing tag!

(You probably figured out by now that I'm a frequent flyer ...)


Nice list. The suggestions on what drugs not to take may save travelers a great deal of trouble.

My checked bag is a medium-sized rolling duffle. It's lighter than many smaller rolling suitcases. Of course, it only has hard protection on one side. It's sufficiently large that I can fit a stardard camera tripod and/or collapsed hiking poles on the bottom. My clothes and other gear go in packing cubes. These can be layered over items that need some cushioning. I try to avoid putting fragile items in the duffle.

I've used this system for trips to New Zealand, Spain, Patagonia, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, Brazil, and Costa Rica - just to name some highlights. The duffle has held up well.

I'll list the brands of the duffle and cubes if anyone really wants to know.


You can still get an immersion heater through airport security, then? I was wondering if they had banned them. I'm not sure I would use one myself; I'm a bit too easily distracted. Most hotels seem to provide a kettle, probably to prevent clients bringing immersion heaters and setting their rooms on fire..


Most hotels seem to provide a kettle

It depends one where you are; the Marriott/Renaissance in Vienna that I stayed in last week had no tea/coffee facilities in the room. More than one US hotel that I've stayed in has provided tea bags and a coffee machine for hot (but not boiling) water.


Most American hotels provide a coffee drip/filter machine. Which sucks if you want TEA. (The mechanism almost invariably accumulates rancid coffee oil.) Of course, some provide no in-room refreshments, but a Starbucks franchise in the lobby -- or a free coffee service at some times of day in the lobby.

British hotels tend to provide kettles and okay tea facilities ... but really shitty instant coffee granules for the coffee addicts.

Continental hotels are a crap shoot, but my experience suggests about two thirds of them don't expect guests to eat or drink anything in their rooms.



Is that power bag a decent travel companion? It looks clunky to me but obviously very hard to say from just a pic. The Tom Bihn travel bags are excellent, btw, for anyone looking for a good carry on.

Sorry I'm missing Kontakt but my kitty is not well. Oh well. At least now I'm not flying sleazyjet.

Milena, try Stumptown and then get back to me. Your third eye will be opened. (And an Aeropress w/ assorted necessities makes an excellent travel companion.)


Dehyrdration on longer flights hits me most acutely in the eyes. So taking a tube of Viscotears (content free eye drops) can make a huge difference not just to comfort during the journey but to my ability to read and focus comfortably for some times afterwards.


She'd been in the baggage department of a major airline for around 10 years

Wow. I've had some luggage lost, but nothing that bad.

/bad joke


also on ripping off the routing tag!

True story. Few years ago famous movie star and wife flew to LA day before Oscars. Airline got a call. Wife's bag didn't arrive. So they started checking with various stations. And had the presence to ask where bag might have flown previously. Last trip was to London. And yep, old tag was still on it and was missed at check in. Ans sure enough bag shows up in London. With wife's many $k dress. There WAS enough time to turn it around and get it to LA before Oscar ceremony.

Famous actors was telling folks on baggage calls he understood it was their fault but he really didn't want to have to send his wife to Rodeo drive for another dress.

We watched for the dress on TV. Definitely wasn't worth the many $k mentioned. :)


I'll pass it on. It will likely get posted on the wall.

She toured the central baggage facility once. Where all un-matched baggage goes before being auctioned off. There were things like a small sail boat mast, multi $1000 sets of golf clubs, $1000 bicycles, etc... And none with claims filled against them that could be matched up. Some people have more money than sense.


If you have to deplane somewhere along your route plan to be without your checked bag when you get to your destination or some other point along the way. Your bags are NOT paired with you and pulled to match up with your new plans unless all are pulled for claiming. So expect your bags to travel based on the routing tags, not your new itinerary. And likely be different planes.


JDC: The smallest Powerbag is an excellent iPad accessory. Internal capacity is limited, but if you want to tote an iPad, keyboard, some boarding passes, a couple of gadgets like a flashlight and earphones, and a Kindle, it's just the ticket. It's also just big enough to accommodate a Macbook Air 11", although obviously the battery kit won't be any use for charging one of those (it's for USB gizmos).

I mostly run on Tumi luggage. Bought during sales or from factory outlets -- it's too damn' expensive at full price. On the other hand, it's lightweight and durable, and my travel schedule kicks the shit out of luggage -- up to thirty flight sectors a year for checked bags (i.e. thirty rounds of Gorilla Football).


If you have to deplane somewhere along your route plan to be without your checked bag when you get to your destination or some other point along the way. Your bags are NOT paired with you and pulled to match up with your new plans unless all are pulled for claiming. So expect your bags to travel based on the routing tags, not your new itinerary. And likely be different planes.

I get bitten by this regularly, and plan accordingly, because EVERY person flying through the United States -- even if their destination isn't in the USA; even if it's only a fueling stop -- is forced to deplane, enter via immigration and customs, then re-check their bag.


I was mainly referring to mechanical or weather related issues but you know the drill.

I'm printing out a boarding pass as I type and will note that if you print your own, put copies of these in with your contact information. It will greatly speed up matching a lost bag back to you as the bar codes will them to pull up the details of your travel. And again, toss out old ones.


"Starbucks are alleged to make and sell coffee. The wife, who drinks coffee, begs to differ. (Starbucks' house blend is scorched halfway to charcoal and tastes unpleasantly bitter.)"

If you want bad, there was a professor on a blog a few years ago who had a (USA) student comment after a trip to Italy that he was surprised that Italy 'didn't have a cafe culture'. When pressed, it was because the student hadn't seen even a single Starbucks when he was in Italy.


"Dehyrdration on longer flights hits me most acutely in the eyes. So taking a tube of Viscotears (content free eye drops) can make a huge difference not just to comfort during the journey but to my ability to read and focus comfortably for some times afterwards."

Note - there are three grades of eye drops which I'm aware of: the standard, 'artificial tears' (better) and 'gel drops', which are very, very thick, and work really well.

You will have to spend 20 seconds blinking afterwards, until you can see again :)


That is definitely a regional thing. In Canada, backpacks are very common for anyone under 30, and sometimes worn by middle-aged men in businesswear. High-status female outfits tend to rely on a purse or shoulder bag instead, but for men a backpack doesn't have much social significance. A frame pack, or one plastered with pot leaves and Burning Man decals, might be different ...


Day packs are pretty common in the UK and US and around Europe, too. It's just ... security staff at airports! Feh!


In 1971, in what was then Yugoslavia, tea was easily available. However: It was served presweetened, and was too sweet for my taste. And at the time, I habitually used five teaspoonfuls of sugar in my tea.


Worst experience so far: fly 5 hours. Swap planes. Fly 6 hours. Bags arrive a day later. Well, one bag and someone else's large picture frame/painting/bit of wood. I rejected the extra gift and started chasing my other bag. It arrived two days later. The problem? I had flown in to join some friends who were cycle touring. They couldn't really wait around for several days, so I ended up two days behind them.

I'm really happy with the travel clothes you can buy now. It means I can do a week's worth of travel out of my camera bag. Without removing the camera. And the whole thing is carry-on. The Desley BP-200 Backpack appears to have been built around the dimensions of the "carryon size checker" things you see in airports. And since most airlines allow you to wear a camera I can usually get my full camera kit plus laptop onto the plane (Canon pro zoom setup) by attaching the 70-200 lens to the camera and hanging that round my neck (hint: not for very long), once with the flash attached.


Starbucks house blend is indeed scorched so as to be undrinkable. But they have other blends that a pretty good. Pikes Peak is one, Blonde Roast is another.

Verdana is another. Yeah, they have a coffee called Verdana. They have one called Comic Sans too, but the hipster designers sneer at it.


But they don't have a cafe culture in Italy, not as Americans our Europeans understand the word. They have bar-like shops where Italians belly up, order a shot of powerful coffee, toss it back and get on with their day .


On meds:

Two incidents over the past decade have taught me something.

I'm on blood pressure medication. Going without it won't kill me immediately -- it's not like diabetes -- but it's definitely Not Good. So from the outset, I started carrying a pill case.

Incident #1, a couple of years in: a long-haul trip, three sectors. I loaded up my pill case with 72 hours' supply (for an overnight journey) and left the rest of my meds in my checked bag. Then I ran into weather. Three cancelled flights, an unscheduled rainy night in Brooklyn, and some alarums and excursions, and I was finally reunited with my checked bag eight hours after I ran out of pills. No harm done, but it was a wake-up call.

Incident #2, a couple of years after that, and I had learned to always fly with all my meds in the carry-on. We went to Japan for a 22 day trip. So I took pill case (with 5 days' supply) and a set of unopened packs -- good for another 28 days.

Which would have been fine, except on day 19 of our trip, 48 hours before we were due to fly home, a certain unpronouncable volcano in Iceland blew its top and shut down air travel across Europe!

We were a week late getting home. 22 day trip plus 7 day delay = 29 days plus one extra day in transit. I had set out with 28 days' medication plus a 5 day emergency reserve -- I got home with 3 days to spare, despite having set out with a 30% safety margin.

So my current routine is:

  • Pocket pill case with at least [trip duration] plus 48 hours' medication -- in my pockets

  • Packaged medication for double the trip duration, minimum two weeks (i.e. for that 22 day trip I would, these days, take a two month supply) -- in hand luggage

  • Optional can't-buy-abroad stuff (vitamin pills, pain killers, ankle strapping) in checked bags -- only stuff I can survive without


Yeah, but to be fair, Americans don't have a pub culture; they seem to mostly go to the pub to watch shitty ESPN sports TV and get drunk, rather than as a socialisation thing.


Weirdly enough on my drive in to beautiful Newark today, I started thinking about containerisation and how it could be applied to luggage and carry-ons for airlines.

Imagine if the airlines specced out a standard luggage unit (SLU). They would just provide the specs, Samsonite and Louis Vuitton et al would build it. They would be designed to be a standard size optimized for cargo bays and overhead racks. They would be stackable. They would contain a wi-fi enabled GPS unit ( and maybe a weight sensing gauge in the handle so your luggage could email you if it was over the weight limits when you lift it up)

If you are a frequent traveller, if the airlines waived baggage fees, or offered a discount, the things would rapidly pay for themselves.

For the airlines, they could see huge savings in cargo optimization and tracking. Imagine being able to track your luggage, tied into the check in data. Getting an email saying your luggage has just been Loaded into a flight to Honululu when you just boarded your flight to London.

You could even create a stand alone unit for enclosing in non SLU's like guitars.

It made a lot of sense to me, but I am sure I have missed some idea why it makes too much sense




"What are your international packing/travel tips?"


That is, don't put much of anything and don't bring many bags.

You travel pretty light compared to the late Temple Fielding (I keep a few of his guides as fascinating historical marvels of a lost age) but you're still overloaded compared to me.

I travel lighter and lighter as the years go on. When the airlines started going loony over electronics I stopped bringing them aboard. I shifted to taking all kinds of notes or diairies on paper (mostly blank books) instead. When they tell the passengers to shut all their devices off before takeoff I'm the only one who keeps on writing in the entire plane.

Same thing for my pocket tools or multi-tool Swiss knives. I don't put any in any baggage ever since the airlines went loony over them. I borrow sharp objects from the locals where I go and things often get interesting that way. Or I postpone buying a needed kitchen knife or other til a trip comes along and I mail it (or them) back to myself at the end. Of course I always travel for vacations to knife -producing countries where the locals are proud of their national workmanship.

On those instances where I travel for business and I don't have the time to flatter the locals about their knife industry or whatever I know I can count on hotel staff to supply knives or whatever sharp object I might need. They also supply net access on borrowed computers.

On my two week vacation to Finland ago I had no checked luggage at all. I just had a big old hockey bag and a document bag. No waiting for checked luggage. That's what I usually do on business trips though I have to admit I did have some small pieces of soft luggage checked on my last two vacations.

Travelling light like this requires that I know ahead of time what exactly is available in any given country. I usually prepare my vacations 5 to 20 years in advance. I advise everybody to do the same. Don't worry about spoiling the "surprise" effect. You always get surprises when you travel to foreign lands and nose around a bit. It's more efficient this way and instead of bothering the locals you're flattering them by asking those things they're proud of supplying.

Sometimes I prepare for this kind of trip to country X years ahead and never get a chance to do it, having to settle for country Y given the lack of money or time. But somehow, I always find some kind of use for the information I gathered, eventually. Also, that way I look cultured in the eyes of many people, even though I am not.

I know that it's too late for someone going to Croatia in a few days but maybe next time?


In March I went to France from London Stansted for three weeks. I wanted to avoid checking in a bag (an extra £15, when the flight was only £11) so stuck to carry on luggage.

So I made a list, as below. Now, I am cheating a little, as I was going to house-, cat-, dog- and chicken-sit a friend's place (he was already in South Africa for three months and his girlfriend was going to visit him for a time). So I had access to soap, towels, washing machine, and I could nick a fresh razor blade and dispose of it before I left. Also, I knew of a spare pair of shoes that fit me, and I could always borrow t-shirts, waterproofs, brollies if necessary (though I didn't in the end need to). And I wasn't going to any black-tie affairs.

With a bit of pushing, this is what I managed while keeping within the limits (on Ryanair, it's 10 kilos in a bag max 40cm wide, 20cm thick, 55cm long):

to carry: passport boarding passes insurance glasses wallet (cards, cash, oyster, driving licence, train tickets, copy documents etc)

to wear: t-shirt shirt fleece leather jacket wristwatch underpants multi-pocket work trousers socks timberland boots

hardware to pack or have in pockets: phone & charger camera & charger & SD card reader 15" laptop (& sleeve) & power supply ipod and cable/charger & headphones wacom tablet, mouse & pen mobile broadband USB stick

clothes to pack: underpants - x5 socks x 5 t-shirts x 4 collared shirts x3 black jeans

other: extra pair glasses pens paper toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, comb, shave stick

and I pack a piece of paper with name, addresses, flight details in case I get separated from my bag.

I was a little overheated, as I rarely wear t-shirt, shirt, fleece and leather jacket at the same time but hoped it would not be too hot and anyway most of the time I was able to carry jacket and fleece.

I was able to stuff the (thickish) gloves, scarf and ski-hat in the capacious pockets of the work trousers. And on the way back I packed more. The girlfriend had brought me back a thank-you present of a South African oval salad bowl and wooden spoon! I managed to pack those in the bag too and re-pack some of the socks, underpants and a t-shirt in the large knee-pockets of my work trousers (Caterpillar types).

All worked fine, and I was light enough that when I got to Poitiers airport it was simple to walk the 40 minutes or so from the airport on the edge of town down to the railway station in the centre.


International Travel?

Passport. Credit Card. Balls.

Everything else is optional.

Although a clean pair of socks is a must have.


Everything is carry on. I can travel for 10 days or more with a rollaboard plus a laptop bag:

wearing: shoes, trousers, shirt, jacket, coat (if destination demands one)

1 pair shoes + 1 pair sneakers in bag, workout clothes, jeans, a few t-shirts, at least 2 pairs of trousers, 6 dress shirts (dry clean on day 3/4 for pick up on Saturday/Monday), additional jacket, socks, underwear, toothbrush, electric razor, toothpaste (travel size).

Laptop bag = laptop, ipad, chargers, cables, and adaptors. Everything needs to be USB so wall warts are multipurpose and shared (e.g. laptop charges phone while ipad is being charged overnight), plus an umbrella (still british, still carrying, even if going to a desert!).

Relying on carry-on only means I need to be aware of restrictions, so no nail scissors, etc. np (I can always find someone or somewhere willing to groom me, if necessary)


Charlie, I'm not being critical of Italians for the lack of cafe culture.

As for the lack of pub culture in the US, I miss it based on yours and others' descriptions. But then again maybe it's active here and I'm just not looking in the right places.

A good con seems like the closest I come to a pub. Go, hang out, talk with people about stuff.


Oh, and as for my packing for long trips:

I don't check my coat for cold-weather trips. Every few years one of my bags decides to take a different trip than the one I'm on, and it takes me a few hours or a day or two to be reunited with it. I'm going to need that coat to get from the airport to my destination.

I find the Kindle much more comfortable than the iPad for reading books, particularly in bed. The configuration of electrical sockets in hotel rooms means I need to charge the iPad overnight on the hotel desk, while reading myself to sleep on the Kindle and laying it on the nightstand when I'm drifting off. That's pretty much what I do at home too, except the Kindle lives in the living room at home.

Two carry-on bags, one big enough to contain the other, is a good idea.

I almost always bring the laptop. If I'm traveling on business, I gotta bring it. If it's a trip to visit family, well, it's easy enough to set up the laptop when I arrive and leave it set up while I'm there. The exception is vacation trips when I'm making an point to NOT bring the laptop so I can focus more on vacation.

I often bringing a laptop, iPad, Kindle, and iPhone. That's a lot of electronics. And cables too.

My satnav is an app on the iPhone.


Corkscrews have been on-again/off-again on the TSA no-fly list for the last several years. If you don't have one and want to quietly drink a bottle of locally-purchased wine in your hotel room, remember that the hotel bar has a corkscrew. The barman will be more than happy to open your bottle; give him a dollar/euro tip.


No need for wifi, GPS, or weight sensors. A standard slot to put an RFID tag in will do.

At check-in, the luggage goes on the scale and an RFID is put in.

At boarding, the RFID is recorded as you go in the door.

At deplaning, the RFID is scanned as you leave the plane. If the list going out doesn't match the list going in, an attendant walks back and retrieves your bag. If you haven't left the airport yet, you get paged. Otherwise, it goes to a holding tank. RFID tag can be recycled or disposed.

Designed by somebody competent, this would cost around ten thousand dollars per airplane, averaging the small ones with the jumbos. Designed by the usual suspects, around half a million.


My original thought was RFID, but I got ambitious


As it happens I'm on an international trip right now. It's a 10 day trip to the USA and I travellied out with carry-on baggage only. My carry-on bag is a 2 wheel rolling bag which can be converted to a backpack, but for the majority of the journey the straps are safely zipped away. Plus I have a small, lightweight shoulder bag, which was originally for my old netbook, but now carries my iPad in a Zaggfolio case/keyboard combo. Squeezed into the small bag is my Kindle, spare clothes for one day, meds for 2 days (at the moment, antihistamines and decongestants dominate), and in the main carry-on bag, clothes for 5 more days (I expect to do laundry part way through), laundry sheets, carry-on sized wet toiletries bag, travel brolly, more medicines, hairbrush, small clear zipped bag containing USB cables, chargers for iPad and phone, external battery for phone, and a Coleman foldaway backpack to use as an extra bag on return should I buy too much stuff (already done that and I haven't got to the con yet). In addition I wear an old photographers vest, the pockets of which are big enough to take a paperback book, lightweight waterproof jacket, light-weight gloves, woolen hat, noise-cancelling earphones, pens, a sharpie, small spiral-bound notebook, spare wallet with US currency and coins, and as I may have a day trip over the border, a ziplock bag of Canadian currency too, paper and PDF copies of all my travel documents, the PDFs on iPad, phone & Dropbox. Passport kept in an RFID blocking cover which will get swapped from bag to pocket to vest as required. Fortunately a local friend is supplying the kettle and tea that civilised life requires as my travel kettle broke.


One thing I have learned as a tea drinker: a place which labels itself as a "coffee shop" generally doesn't produce a drinkable cup of tea. In fact, in most coffee shops I've been to (note: sample largely taken in Australia) the process of creating a cup of tea (or a pot of tea) involves taking a teabag, throwing it into a cup with hot water, and waiting for the teabag to jump out on its own.

Given I'm not a fan of tea strong enough to hold up a spoon, I tend not to buy tea from coffee shops these days. Instead I tend to get a mocha and add enough sugar to keep the Australian sugar industry ticking over for another month or so.


I wish I would remember to bring some lib-balm on flights with me. But I usually forget. And a pen for customs forms.

Oh, and snacks. Always some snacks and a bottle of water. Don't want to be totally dependent on the in flight service.

Recently I started bringing a couple lightweight nylon stuff bags for organizing things, dirty clothes, stuff I bought, pulling a bit out of a carry-on to take to the seat with me.

My major difference with some of the people here is the amount of clothing. I tend to more like 4 days than 7+. I don't mind doing laundry every 2-3 days. Helps that the minimum dress code for game development is somewhat below the minimum for having people accept that you may be able to afford a plane ticket.

Recently I often have a toddler along which eliminates the 'no checking' idea due to the car seat. It does, however, work well with the 4 day clothing cycle because 4 days of clothing for a toddler is more than I feel like owning, let alone carrying around (though it is small). 4 days is about 6 pants, 8 shirts, 5 socks, 2 coats and some good luck!


I use the plastic laundry bags provided by hotels for my own laundry.

As for what clothes to pack: Jeans or shorts, T-shirts, and fleeces are my everyday wardrobe. They're not all the same color -- not all black -- but everything goes with everything else. I've lately added mock turtlenecks to the mix in cool weather. That's another thing Steve Jobs was right about; a lightweight turtleneck is as comfortable as a T-shirt but a little dressier.

I often wear suits when traveling on business. I know that's horrible for fans and other varieties of geeks, but the suit's secret superpower is that it's easy to maintain, you don't have to worry about your clothes matching, and a good suit and dress shoes are comfortable. If they're uncomfortable, they don't fit.


One thing I learned by accident when having to make a long-haul flight on rather short notice is that the common laptop bag is capable of holding quite a lot of stuff if you pack it carefully. Mine ended up containing the following:

  • 10-inch netbook. (Cheaper than an iPad, does most of the same things, and I can play Dwarf Fortress on it.)
  • Various accessories for the above; power cable, USB mouse, 3G dongle and an external hard drive with everything I don't want to lose if the house burns down. (I don't do cloud storage.)
  • Mobile phone.
  • One emergency change of t-shirt, underwear and socks.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Emergency reserve stash of teabags. (I bought a box of 200 that went in my check-in luggage.)
  • A small jar of Nescafe Gold Blend, which distinguishes itself from the instant coffee on sale throughout North America by not being unspeakably foul.
  • A bag of boiled sweets.

unless travelling via Heathrow, in which case 20-50%)

I don't know how luggage is handled at Heathrow, but I've shipped two racing car engines by air for Heathrow pickup, about three years apart. BOTH of them were damaged by the Heathrow cargo handlers, who apparently think ramming forklift forks right through the side of a crate is an appropriate way to lift it.

[list of stuff]

I don't fly, but for motorcycle trips I have a tailbag that a holds about 8 liters. When my wife is with me we're limited to the tank bag, with about 4 liters to hold both of us for two weeks. She can fit about 10 liters of stuff in there, somehow. I've learned to let her handle it, because if I unzip it stuff pops out like a Jack-in-the-box.

My three main tips: pack anything that can be damaged by rain in plastic bags. Mail anything you can to your destination before you go (and mail it back when leaving). We buy socks, underwear, and toiletries at the destination, then mail anything we want to keep home.

Probably not relevant to foreign travel by air, though.

Kwai-Chang Caine only needed his bedroll and flute, but I don't want to travel that light...


Like the idea of multiple wallets Charlie, that's a new one on me. Also, clear ziplock small bags to put the shrapnel in, one for each currency.

This time round I'm experimenting with making my carry-on(a) a folio case, containing: Tablet(7", non-jobsian), ePub eReader, NC headphones with adapter, tickets/passport, phone, earplugs, etc. - since I think that should fit in the seat pocket. That way you have paper and pen to hand, and if you have meetings it can double up for that.

It's worth making sure you have a micro USB cable so you can recharge phone/tab/eReader using the sockets appearing on most seat entertainment systems. 32GB of microSD card can go a long way.

Carry-on(a) fits inside carry-on(b) a hard backed case of the right dimensions, with wheels and handle.

Unfortunately I have yet to find a smart luggage firm that does a carry-on hard case that zips onto the main luggage for dragging around - it would be more sensible than trying to strap one to the other.

Oh, and make sure you wear a shirt with a top pocket, and place the passport/boarding card in there at the airport - ready and waiting when needed. Make sure the passport is in an RFID shielded case.


As a former luggage gorilla (albeit for a cruise ship terminal) I have the following tips.

  • Have the least amount of decoration on your bag as possible. The rip-plop sound as a bag caught in the edge of the conveyor and then splashed down into the water (we never bothered retrieving them) was unbearable. This applies to name tags, ribbons to distinguish bags, those annoying little padlocks that are marginally stronger than the zipper that the potential robber could just rip off to gain access, all of this does nothing but gum up the works. luggage is engineered for these environments, you ruin that if you try to add on to it. One day we counted how many of the little padlocks were under the conveyor and we stopped counting around the 200 mark. And they all still had the zipper ends attached.

  • don't pack anything in your checked baggage that you wouldn't want thrown, dropped, crammed into a metal cage with a whole bunch of semi rigid bags.

  • Remember porters get crap pay and don't give a stuff about your property, make their job as easy as possible and you will have a better chance of having a pleasant experience.

    But I generally try to only take carry on luggage where ever possible.


    Frankly, if luggage can drop into the sea off of a conveyor, that machinery is not designed to be fit for purpose, and blaming it on the sort of attachments you describe is a weasel-wording corporate denial of responsibility.

    But that's oligarchic corporate parasites for you. They're on a path of consuming all of us until they are a bloated grub nesting in a heap of worthless cash, wondering where the ants have gone which were feeding them.


    I use fluorescent yellow nylon zip-ties as a tamper-evident alternative to locks. I also pack a small Balanzza luggage scale to avoid having to rebalance luggage due to increasingly stringent airline policies. The Scottevests I usually wear help with carry-on limits. In-ear monitor earbuds help me sleep (I use Etymotic ER-4Ps).


    Travel tips, effective since you-know-when: Don't travel. Between airline policies, security theater, customs, immigration, and the risk of being renditioned, there's hardly any justification for not staying at home.

    The only transport infrastructure the world needs is for freight.


    Good advice Charlie :)

    Since I mostly travel in the north-south direction I usually prepare for abrupt weather changes. Lightweight rainclothes of good quality and merino wool underwear in my carry-on makes it possible to handle temperature differences of 30 degrees C or more with ease, even if my checked in luggage gets lost.

    It only takes about 2 litres and barely any weight. (Record is temperature diff of 46 degrees C, from Rio to Oslo in February but that was harsh..)


    Depending on where you go, take a travel adapter or two so you can plug in your electrical devices.


    Most of what I would say have already been mentioned. The rule of thumb "never check anything you can't afford to lose" holds true.

    Coats with big pockets is a good one. Mine also has what in the UK is referred to as a "poacher's pocket", or a "game pocket" - it's the full width of the back of the coat, between waist and hem, with zip access from both sides; designed to hold a rabbit or similar.

    :) :) You should try travelling with firearms. For some strange reason, those bags don't tend to get lost after being checked in, even through Heathrow :) :)

    Actually, here's a firearm-specific tip. Grease/oil it before travel, inside and out; it's going to be sitting in a very cold hold, and if customs decide that they are going to unload, inspect, and photograph all of your target rifles somewhere humid (Hong Kong in our case - even though we were only in transit) then you have the delight of watching the condensation form on cold metal as soon as the case is opened (on the tarmac next to the plane, natch), and then watching the case being shut and reloaded with the knowledge that you now have wet ferrous metal that you aren't going to be able to dry for the next ten to fifteen hours...


    Curmudgeon @ 68 WRONG Train travel, especially proper high-speed is certainly effective and pleasant. Requires investment NOT in shiny airlines ....

    I'm giving up on flying to go to Germany in July. London/Brussel/Amsterdam/Rheine - be even quicker in 2014/6 (Cheaper, too, unless you are dumb enough to go RyanAir [ To US readers - don't ask! ]


    Something that surprised me about a year ago when I had a bad cough was walking into a chemist shop and asking for something that worked well and fast. The pharmacist handed me a bottle of pure codeine solution containing one or two grams. I thought it had been banned years ago. One swig and it worked its wonders.


    Years ago TVs"60 Minutes" went to a air line lost baggage sale barn. It was full of things with the IDs cut out. Make of that what you will. Who cut them out?


    I'd add a set of noise-cancelling headphones (unless you find it easier than I do to mentally tune out the background noise) and recommend a satnav app for your phone with global maps pre-loaded (to save on those roaming data charges) rather than taking a single-purpose unit.


    I used to be able to manage one business week (5 days/4 nights) in one carry on -- but now most of my travel is with two pre-teen kids. For anything more than an overnight, you are almost guaranteed to max-out your baggage allowance once kids are involved.


    I recently discovered that my patent solution - laptop & electronics briefcase in IATA-approved carryon bag, lid pointing to the zip for a quick grab of the laptop at the security checkpoint - was actually verboten at about 13kg. I'd just succeeded so well in using the automated check-in route that nobody had ever weighed in. Hence I'd managed to clock up some tens of thousands of miles since last checking in baggage.

    Unfortunately, on this occasion, Virgin Atlantic's check-in machine did an off-by-one error scanning the OCR strip on my passport, which meant that the passport number didn't match the one on the ESTA. I pressed, and eventually the VS security manager agreed that they could just try scanning it again, but I had to go via the actual check-in, and they weighed the little chap.


    EVERY person flying through the United States -- even if their destination isn't in the USA; even if it's only a fueling stop -- is forced to deplane, enter via immigration and customs, then re-check their bag.

    Except when they don't, of course. I went to Peru (LHR-JFK-Lima) and it was exactly as you describe. But the return journey was Lima-Miami-LHR and we had a very long wait at the carousel for baggage that never arrived... until we discovered that on that route, although the passengers self-loading freight has to go through US Immigration, baggage is checked through to the final destination.

    There's nothing like being consistent.


    The last few times I've travelled internationally I let the train take the strain.

    No badly paid porters to worry about... I carry my own luggage onto and off the train. So does everyone else and while I wouldn't deliberately pack anything delicate there's less forcing and smashing things around because that's there bag they're smashing into yours.

    There were security checks but of pre-9/11 airline standards or less I think. How much of that is due to being internal to the EU travel, how much that it's hard to crash a train into a building and how much that there are fewer paranoid Americans involved I'm not sure.

    It doesn't change what I pack that much, nor oddly the idea of two bags - one to take to the seat, one into the storage rack. But since everyone is travelling internationally they put in enough space for luggage for everyone. If you don't travel at peak holiday time weekends you get enough business people travelling very light to make up for the family with 200 bags.

    But, since it's on the carriage with you, less chance of the stored back getting separated. If you do, it's been stolen though, so less chance of getting it back.


    Berna, I assume my readers hereabouts aren't idiots. How about you?


    On Starbucks - You've already covered pretty much all of it, usually funnier that I would too. TR:DL My preferred coffee is strong enough to leave most people wired for a week or 3.

    On baggage handling - I used to work with a guy who used to work for a firm that made instrument cases for the oil industry. $Firm tested them using coffee mugs as contents as follows:- Test 1 - Throw case out a 4th floor window onto concrete. If no mugs break, perform Test 2. Test 2 - Kick (literally) case out of helicopter hovering at 100 feet. If no mugs break, perform Test 3. Test 3 - Post case first class from Aberdeen to London. This will involve both road and air freight transport. If no mugs break, case is fit for use with actual instrument.


    From the combination of tests 1 and 2, I deduce that the highest building they had available was five stories, with a peaked roof rather than flat.


    I've had them all(NR headphones) and they tend to break easier, the on ear type take and so much room and the battery source is annoying on in ear types. Now I just use retractable sony earphones which are hassle free and being in-ear block a lot of noise anyhow.


    I just had an unpleasant thought: How long before there is an incident on a plane involving headphones used as a garrotte? Bye-bye headphones in your carry on luggage ...


    Not to mention that Americans think half and half (half milk, half cream) is okay for Tea. Yuck.

    Anyone got any suggestions for that (apart from wrapping up portion sizes of milk powder, destined to be discovered by airport security.)

    I am always stunned by the long queues for Starbucks in the states, I've counted 40 people in a queue before.


    Surely this would be so peoples' name and home addresses weren't sold with the luggage? Seems like it would be standard practice to anonymize anything being flogged off like this. Also, if they knew it was going on national television, anyone with an ounce of sense would have removed personal details.

    If the baggage handlers wanted to swipe it, why would it be on sale?


    A couple of points I've picked up:

    A full change of clothes in carry on is worthwhile because you will wear someone's airline dinner (not always yours!) at some stage. You may be able to sponge it off, but a clean shirt/pants is nice. There's also the possibility that nothing will be open at whatever local time you land if you need to buy clothing urgently. Even airport shops close sometimes.

    Second - carry one power adapter (per outlet-type you'll need obviously) and a powerboard (aka powerstrip). Small and light enough to not be a hassle in checked luggage, and immensely useful if you have more than one charger. This is particularly important if you're travelling with someone else, or if you're staying somewhere that has an old-fashioned approach to GPO provision.


    Actually, those bar-like shops are the place where you go if you want to sit down and rest/chat e.g. when meeting friends, as a pause during shopping or city turism, or even if you want to have a more informal chat with business parterns, often after a more formal meeting.

    It is true that most such places are quite small and they don't have room for many groups to sit, but there are many of them.

    Of course most sales of coffee come from people who are just getting their caffeine fix for breakfast or during a break from work (in the latter case usually because they either don't have a coffee machine in the office, or more often they have one which makes bad coffee), and that of course happens in the quick way described in the article.

    One think you don't usually do in the italian bars is sitting there alone reading or working: the noise level tends to be in a range that allows chatting, but is a bit too high to concentrate on quiet activities.


    I travel by plane 10-15 times per year, but only once or twice a year longer than 3 hours. Since 2001 and several bad experiences I aim to avoid checking out luggage. It does not help that my local airport has few flights, so airport arrival is usually followed by a mad dash to get in time to a train/rented car, so avoiding the extra delay is critical.

    Modern materials, in terms of non-iron shirts and wrinkle free suits, make business travelling easier, and security is nicer to suited people. Tailoring is worth the extra cost if you will be travelling with suit, shirt and tie.

    I always carry a coat/windbreaker/jacket, specially now with the current one piece of luggage craze, to use as extra storage. The carry-on case is the old Muji one, made to a cm to the maximum allowed dimensions, and box-like, for maximum inner space. Not up to checked out treatment, however.

    The coat gets a paperback, extra copy of the boarding card, extra travel documentation if travelling to a Schengen destination, and ipod touch.

    Maybe I am lucky, but the only pills I take with me are Bayer aspirin tablets, easily recognized by security everywhere, that I buy instead of a generic brand for that same reason. The few times I have needed something else, the hotel staff kindly supplied it, or gave written instructions for a local pharmacist. Another advantage of getting older with more disposable income is that good hotels give better service.

    As for drinks and food, I rely on the local infrastructure. Which may be why I do know there is a living Italian cafe culture, though they charge 2-3 times the cost of a coffee at the bar, for the privilege of seating at a table for as long as you want.


    Bye-bye boot laces too. And belts, don't talk to me about belts. Ties too. And suspender (garter) belts.

    More seriously, while garottes can be used to kill people, they require the victim not to have people around able to help him. So I think we're OK on this one. Otherwise, we're looking at everyone having to change into disposable paper uniforms for flying. (I'm still wondering why I've not seen this idea put seriously.)


    I am always stunned by the long queues for Starbucks in the states, I've counted 40 people in a queue before.

    You don't even have to go to the states, I've seen that at St Pancras station before! Literally a queue that went out the door and on a bit.

    I'll use starbucks if I have to (i.e. there is nowhere else around to sit and get free wifi) but what you pay for what you get is shocking. Anywhere that sells tea for more than £1 is taking the piss.


    A couple of plastic bags are often useful, especially if you are space-saving with only carry-on. Good for wet tooth- and shaving- brushes and so on, and, on your way home or after staying over at someone's house before boarding your flight, keeping your dirty socks & pants separate from your fresh clean clothes.

    I used to travel on business in the 80s & 90s to some Middle East and African countries (as a rep for a college publisher). One colleague in another company who had travelled a lot more than me recommended taking a small long-wave transistor radio in case of diplomatic incidents requiring listening to the BBC world service for advice on where to go for rescue, which I subsequently took up.

    May sound overly melodramatic, but my predecessor in my Middle East job in the early 80s did once find himself keeping a low profile in a Libyan university's electrical engineering department, if I remember the details right, while a couple of students were being hanged after a kangaroo court on gallows built in the civil engineering department. The nearest I got was seeing the army in big presence on a Turkish university campus, though there was always the possibility of something cropping up in, say, Tehran during visits in the early 90s. (My first ever flight was as a 6-month old babe in arms in an evacuation to London from a small civil war in Beirut in 1958).

    Another top tip in those days (and also for the old pre-wall-down Eastern Europe) was to always have a toilet roll with you, bulky though it be. I had the shits a bit in a publisher's office in Nigeria and the toilets had no paper, but I had come prepared.


    Further to the previous comment, I tend to use shaving brush and shaving stick as they are less bulky for travel than some big can of foam. In carry-on only mode, though, I don't take a razor, relying on getting a disposable at the other end or something.

    You can usually get all sorts of things at the other end, of course, including toothbrushes, but there's a limit to budget and my desire to buy and dispose of stuff will-nilly. Besides, you might want to brush your teeth en route without buying one of those little packets of travel stuff from a condomlike machine in the bog.


    Oh yes, the nice thing about laptop bags is they are almost always exempt from being weighed, especially if you have it loose over one shoulder.

    My last long haul flight had a checked back at 20kg, a backpack at 8kg and a laptop bag at 13kg. Took a fair while to empty it into enough baskets to keep security happy, but nicely avoided excess weight charges.

    I also have to echo the comment about firearms - a friend of mine frequently travels with a rifle to some pretty out of the way areas, and they've never lost a single bag of his. He even tends to beat most people out of the airport.


    When you were in Boston and having trouble getting the hotel to get you a humidifier, I believe I pointed you at Air-O-Swiss's travel humidifier, which I always take with me when traveling. It's remarkably compact, and very cute. Did you ever get a chance to check it out?


    All it takes is one lunatic to try it, they don't even have to succeed ...

    And given the ridiculous excesses of the current security-theatre, I too am surprised that the "paper-suit" idea hasn't seriously been floated. Oh, people would cry about dignity and inconvenience, but we're already required to strip shoes, belts and so on in a lot of place (particularly US).


    A couple of plastic bags are often useful, especially if you are space-saving with only carry-on. Good for wet toothbrushes

    Er why? I take "almost worn out" toothbrushes, and dump after my last overnight at $location.


    Nope: the tip came a bit too late for me to order it online for delivery post restante to the hotel I was staying in. And the cost of ordering that kind of gizmo for trans-Atlantic shipping -- once you factor in customs and duty charges -- frequently exceeds the value of the device.

    I should be back on US soil in August/September so I may have another go. (Plans not definite, but I should be in Boston for a week, then at the Worldcon in Chicago; I might subsequently be all over the place with my tail on fire doing a signing tour with Cory Doctorow, but that's not yet been decided by our publisher.)


    half and half (half milk, half cream)

    So that's what this substance is.


    @71: :) :) You should try travelling with firearms.

    There's at least one sizeable blog dedicated to that very subject. Some people make a point of putting their valuables in the gun case, which, as you pointed out, seldom gets mislaid by the airline.

    Grease/oil it before travel, inside and out; ... condensation

    Neither are particularly effective at preventing moisture damage. They're permeable to moisture, so the best you can hope for is that corrosion is slowed down a bit. There are some "high tech" sprays designed for protecting machine tools that are supposed to help, but they don't work as well as plain old petroleum jelly, marketed as "Vaseline" in the USA. It doesn't stain, wipes right off, and is an effective moisture barrier.

    Even so, a big bag of silica gel desiccant is probably better, plus you can pack some in with any checked electronic devices, many of which are also unhappy about condensation, such as a friend's very expensive video camera that fogged up when he when outside on a cold, damp day.

    If your gun case has a foam liner, be aware some type of foam will trap and hold moisture, providing a nasty wet environment when the case is closed. Wrapping the foam in plastic trash bags and sealing it with duct tape may look a little weird, but it will put an end to that problem, anyway.


    @72: Train travel, especially proper high-speed is certainly effective and pleasant.

    Hard to get a ticket for the Chicago to Edinburgh rail, though...


    OK, I'm Australian so our International travel is usually 24 hours in duration and usually starts at 6am or midnight. This makes membership of the airline club a very good idea since the lounges in the big hubs have showers. It also made a huge difference when we got stuck in Dallas for 10 hours en-route to New York and were able to use the co-share airline's club while we waited for multiple cancelled flights to be rebooked. They didn't have showers and their food was pretty poor but it was quiet and comfortable.

    I think someone else mentioned a power-board for all of the power supplies. Very handy since although we are 230v we have different plugs to the rest of the world and this way I only need one adapter. It goes into the bin before we head home.

    I have learned the hard way that when travelling on trains the only appropriate place for camera gear is on your lap, so the camera bag shouldn't be too heavy or have odd protrusions. Most camera bags can't be locked, let alone have burst-proof zips or slash proof fabric. Pac-safe do, but their bags are small (lap-size) so for the airline part, the camera gear is in a regular carry-on size back-pack and the (empty) camera bag is in the checked luggage. If I can't afford to lose something then it is in carry-on or it stays home.

    On the tea thing, well after the Montreal world con we spent four weeks touring the eastern coast of Canada and encountered the coffee maker only syndrome at every hotel and B&B. Annoyingly on the first day we had visited a discount store and seen an electric kettle for $10, but decided we didn't need it since the hotels would have one. Once again, that would have been thrown out at the end of the trip.


    @96: And given the ridiculous excesses of the current security-theatre, I too am surprised that the "paper-suit" idea hasn't seriously been floated.

    About ten years ago I started wondering how long it would take before they just stripped people to their skins, locked them inside conveniently-sized shipping tubes, and loaded them as bulk cargo.

    At the destination, you unseal them, hose them off, and inform them their clothing went off to a different continent.

    Actually, compared to the last time I was on an airplane (thick cigarette fog, half a dozen colicky babies, and the Movie From Hell, I might voluntarily pick the shipping tube...)


    You can get Ziplock-type transparent bags suitable for firearms, including long guns. I've even seen ones with a vacuum cleaner port that lets you suck a lot of the air out of them which keeps them drier and also means they fit better in the foam inserts inside a hardcase.

    As for travelling with firearms...

    A few days after 9/11 a swarthy Arab-looking gentleman approaches the counter at an American airport.

    "Hi, I'm wearing body armour and I'd like to check in my guns."

    It was Massad Ayoob, on his way to a law enforcement conference.


    The humidifiers are available in the U.K. -- it's a Swiss company.

    To be sure, though, is showing a price of £72.24 (plus shipping), whereas shows $48.99 (with free shipping). Seems a bit extreme, even for rip-off Britain.


    re: "long-wave" transistor radio

    Oops, I meant short wave. For long distances!


    I am always stunned by the long queues for Starbucks in the states, I've counted 40 people in a queue before.

    Starbucks is one of the best examples of brand marketing ever. Items serve now only have to be "not too bad".


    If you'll be doing business with Brits at any point a cheque book may be a good idea.

    A what? Really? This Brit can't remember the last time he actually used a cheque...


    I use fluorescent yellow nylon zip-ties as a tamper-evident alternative to locks.

    Not helpful, alas. It is trivial to open and close a zipper back with the zipper tabs locked. If the zipper is anchored, it's better in that they can't close it easily afterwards, but if not, you will never know that they went in there.

    And, of course, if they stuff something in there and customs finds it, that little ziptie is evidence that you did try to secure the bag -- thus, you must have put the contraband in there.

    Simple rule. If it is worth something to you, and it is small, do not check it. If it is large, think hard, but do not check it unless you can afford to lose it, then, do not lock it.

    The bag liability limit is very small. Keep the cost of replacement under that.


    Oh, I can.

    April last year.


    Are their still airlines that fly with smoking sections? Or have you just been mercifully free of the need for air travel in a loooong time?


    I'm sure our "civilized" approach to smoking on planes does not apply in large parts of the world. If I had to get I'd say smoking is allowed in China.

    In another area of in flight differences someone who grew up in Oz and India told me about an apAir India flight between the two countries the had 8 passengers with standup tickets for the 8 hour flight. He didn't say what discount they got.


    "I take "almost worn out" toothbrushes, and dump after my last overnight at $location."

    Ah, but maybe you are going to several places, and don't want to carry several end-of-use teethbrush to dispose of one by one.

    I went on holiday to Thailand with Explore Worldwide once and I spent ten consecutive nights in different "beds": my house, parents' house (dropping off cats), overnight plane, Bangkok hotel, Thai sleeper train, Chiang Mai hotel, and then a four day 3-night jungle trek so Hut 1, Hut 2, Hut 3, and finally Chiang Rai hotel, where we finally spent two nights in one place. That's a lot of old toothbrushes! (For completists: Trek TH 26/6 to 10/7 1994, see p58 of the Explore Worldwide brochure for that year).

    In any case, a small plastic bag usually fits somewhere. Better than taking a washbag. And maybe you have a wet shaving brush as well, and a damp flannel.

    As for travelling with firearms... A few days after 9/11 a swarthy Arab-looking gentleman approaches the counter at an American airport. "Hi, I'm wearing body armour and I'd like to check in my guns." It was Massad Ayoob, on his way to a law enforcement conference.

    One of my friends travels with guns regularly. He says it's always simple, he walks up to security and hands them in, along with the relevant paperwork that says why he's got them etc. (this being the UK and concealed carry guns unusual).

    But, if you think about it, security isn't there for people like my friend, nor Massad Ayoob going to a law enforcement conference. If you declare your guns etc. you're probably not a threat. They're after the people trying to smuggle them on to hijack the plane.


    Used a cheque as in wrote one? The book is in my top drawer and the last stub is dated 2005.

    The last time I handled one? Maundy Thursday. I was paid for some work from a US University and they pay by cheque. Every UK university I've worked for (I consult, I'm up to 27 I think now) has put me on their automatic system and paid by bank transfer. One school in the US has now (they tried to post a cheque three times and it never arrived, so they went electronic) and one university has. Out of about 20 I've worked with. VERY parochial in the US about their payment systems it seems.

    As an aside I've also worked for 3 US publishing houses in various ways. All three have paid by electronic transfer from the start. With one I know their payments manager personally and he tries new methods to pay people abroad on me because we trust each other about it. The other paid that way as their norm.


    Cape Town airport has special firearms counters, in the check-in area in departures, in the baggage hall in arrivals.


    You travel with a rabbit? Wait, what?


    I was co-signatory for 10 years on an account that issued cheques for something in the region of £35,000 per annum. Utterly regular payments to suppliers, but it was too much hassle trying to set up anything that didn't use the two signatures. So I counter-signed a couple of cheques a month before posting them.

    The last cheque I handled was one written by my wife to the cattery a few weeks back.

    The last one I wrote, now I think about it, was to my college alumni society, and it has yet to be cashed. So not last year after all.

    I've not had any use whatsoever for taking one travelling in a very long time though. Credit cards are much more widely recognised, and for those very few places I use that don't accept them, I'll get some cash out.


    @86: Or have you just been mercifully free of the need for air travel in a loooong time?

  • I don't pick up people at the terminal any more, either, since the couple of pounds of orthopedic surgical steel embedded in one leg causes major security theatre at each and every metal detector. As I've gotten older I'm less and less inclined to suffer fools at all, much less gladly.

    There's no place I want to go that's worth the hassle of dealing with an airport terminal.

  • 120:

    I usually wear a suit - haven't been upgraded yet but it's always a possibility. Laptop, shitty iPhone (I don't mean all are shitty, just mine is missing buttons & has cracked screen). Big Berghaus jacket and fleece liner, spare phone and travel guitar, that's about it. Anything else I'll buy locally.

    And I've been dying to say this sometime - @Greg: WRONG! Trains are shite, in the UK. But let's not fall out over it.


    I hope that you'll be able to get to the coast, because that's where Croatia is more likely to install the biggest number of its teleport gates.


    This year I bought a Swiss Army computer knapsack. It balances nicely and holds its shape. It REALLy makes a difference in comfort, dragging a MacBook, iPad, Kindle, and other gear around in that thing.

    I love it.

    The only negative thing I'll say for it is that it has too many pockets.


    I've written 5 this month. 2 because I wanted a paper trail, 2 Eastercon registrations, and one because the alternative was {spits} Paypal {spits again to get nasty taste out of his mouth}.


    The last cheque I handled was about two hours ago. Admittedly I was paying it in at my bank's counter, along with a foreign currency deposit formset -- but basically it turns out that my bank charges significantly less for depositing a dollar cheque in a dollar deposit account than for receiving a wire transfer, as long as the amount is less than about $20,000. And this cheque I was paying in was, alas, for less than $20K.

    (The last time I wrote a cheque was probably about 1-2 months ago.)


    I don't pick up people at the terminal any more, either, since the couple of pounds of orthopedic surgical steel embedded in one leg causes major security theatre at each and every metal detector.

    Not a problem in the US. You are not allowed through security to pick up people. And sitting in your car outside of the terminal for more than a few minutes will get you told to move on. In no uncertain terms if you don't take the first suggestions. Which is why most US airports now have a "cell phone" area if there's not a convenient place to wait away from the terminal(s). Although I've yet to find on at BWI but luckily have not yet had need of it. And with BWI there are basically no side streets near the airport that I have seen.


    If I can't afford to lose something then it is in carry-on or it stays home.

    Leaving stuff at home doesn't always work. In 1993 I decided not to take my nice hefty Nikkormat SLR on my first trip back to Beirut (where I was born) in 18 years. I was on a business trip and it looked a bit photo-journalistic and I thought it might be confiscated or at least cause questions - probably daftly, but Lebanon was still Syrian-occupied and suspicious. So I left it at home and took pics with a cheap camera and of course while I was away I was told that my house in the UK had been burgled and my Nikkormat camera had been taken.


    "But, if you think about it, security isn't there for people like my friend, nor Massad Ayoob going to a law enforcement conference. If you declare your guns etc. you're probably not a threat. They're after the people trying to smuggle them on to hijack the plane. "

    One hopes; the general rule of thumb with a lot of police/security is that they go after the easy cases, since the real ones are harder.


    My two local airports (nominally in the UK) are now similar to the US set up you descibe, except they've added an extra wrinkle -- you can wait a distance away, in some unofficial free on-street-type parking area, then come to collect whoever you're meeting when they call you; however, the pick up areas are now also gated, and you have to pay a small fee (usually equivalent to an hour in the short-stay car park) to enter. Both airports are also located in places where there is no easy way for anyone with luggage not in backpack form to reach somewhere they can be picked up gratis.

    Of course, I could also reminisce about security precautions at my local airports in the 70s and 80s -- that made modern security-theatre look like the tradgi-comedy it truly is.


    One hopes; the general rule of thumb with a lot of police/security is that they go after the easy cases, since the real ones are harder.

    My brother in law is a policeman with over 20 year in a small to mid sized town in Oregon. His comment on this is policing would be very much harder if the bad guys were not as a group so stupid. He claims that when they get an arrest warrant for someone the first two places they check are their last known address then their mom's. That gets 80% to 90% of them.


    I would guess that 90% of the hard work (and real trouble) comes from that remaining 10% ...


    "RyanAir"="Cattle car with wings"?


    That's rather generous. They'd cut back on the wings, if they could.


    I've not done this myself but I've met a couple of people at conferences who swear by the practice of FedExing their carry-on baggage to their destination to avoid airline hassles. Hotels are, apparently, usually okay with it and FedEx are in the business of not losing stuff.

    BTW Since drugs came up earlier. Any tips for travelling with prescription opiates? My partner is on a chunk of Oxycontin every day. On prescription I hasten to add. We've not been brave enough to try international travel with 'em yet...


    Ditto: Cheques? Haven't written a personal one in at least ten years, a lot of shops don't accept them anymore. It's cash or card & pin.


    Yes. At a very minimum, ensure you have a copy of your prescription with the meds. Also ideally have a note from your doctor explaining what it is, the dosage, and why you are taking it.

    You also need to check with the regulations of the country you are visiting - most first world countries are fine with the above. Some african countries are emphatically not, and South East Asia is extremely strict. Check with their embassies before you travel, they may have additional forms you can have your doctor fill out to clear you through customs ahead of time. Some may ban the substances entirely, and you will either need to look into something else, have a medical contact to obtain them legally locally, or go somewhere else.


    I don't see marmite anywhere on that list. Could have sworn you were a fellow addict.


    Anecdata re checks:

    American here. The only thing I still use checks for on a regular basis is paying the babysitter. She's a private individual and so the only alternative is cash, which lacks an audit trail in case one party misses a payment.

    I barely use cash either, mostly just for the soda machine. Nearly everything goes on my bank card or is electronic.


    Here in the UK, from my perspective, cheques are still very useful for doign business with small businesses or charities or small organisations.
    But many are now setting themselves up with direct debits, pay online via paypal or similar, and debit card readers that work via mobile phone.
    Thus the need for cheques is slowly decreasing, but they are still handy.


    Eddie Cochrane 58: “... RFID blocking cover” --- What brands/types would you recommend? What tips for how to use/not use these effectively/securely?

    Eloise 115: VERY parochial in the US about their payment systems it seems. --- I don’t think it’s parochial as much as too many (000s) banks in the U.S., so unless your client deals with one of the top-5, most of the smaller banks don’t know/trust each other or may have incompatible banking systems. Partially ‘explains’ the insane delay in clearing funds between a US and a non-US bank.

    Travel suggestions ...

    Separate debit and (i.e., business/corporate) credit card used for travel that has a much lower limit and not tied to any personal accounts. This makes it much easier to keep track of expenses, more secure personally, and as importantly – once you’ve established with your company’s AP (accounts payable) department that only business-related items are ever charged – they’ll process your expenses in time to pay the full balance owed so that they (not you) won’t have to pay the usurious 20%+ (compounded) interest charges.

    I live on coffee with lots of milk so when travelling in the U.S., I always pick up at least a couple of small milk containers at a gas station. Gas stations are ubiquitous in the U.S. and most sell milk and at least a couple of edible snacks (i.e., nuts, fruit juices, yogurt). All hotels I’ve ever stayed at had complimentary ice machines plus at least a couple of plastic lined trash cans per room -- so I use one plastic bag of ice to keep milk and juices cool/fresh. (Good for about 12 hours.)

    I dislike most hotel breakfasts and prefer to eat upon awakening anyway so now travel with instant oatmeal cereal packets. They don’t take up much room, are easy to make (need boiled water though), nutritious with nuts and/or fruit and milk. Yogurt/muesli/trail mix also makes an excellent breakfast. If in doubt about dairy at your destination and soya milk is unavailable, use ‘ice cream’ for your coffee/tea. (Ice cream is less likely to be contaminated.)

    Fill out those in-room guest surveys: management often uses these as their primary “customer service” report card. If enough travellers request electric kettles, management will gladly make it available – either in-room, or on-demand from the front desk.


    /sigh. Attempt three to post this (and people think spam's a victimless crime...)

    You think you have trouble travelling with firearms? Try doing it with an Irish accent, especially in the UK. :D

    In the last few years I've flown from Dublin to Helsinki, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, London and Schipol while carrying a rucksack of clothes for up to a week, a 15kg+ kitbag with shooting jacket, trousers, tools and so on, a 15kg+ rifle case, and a carry-on valise with laptop and anything else I needed (like, you know, firearms licences so the nice security staff don't get frisky).

    Because this kind of thing is stressful and tricky, I wrote up all my notes about how it goes for other shooters following behind, but given that this week just saw the 2012 Olympic Shooting Range in London being tested out, maybe you guys might find it interesting to compare travelling to conferences with the kind of fun and games Olympic shooters have when travelling?

    And the earliest lessons I ever learnt about this are still not written up on that blog:

    • Baggage handlers come under "Act of God" in your insurance. Buy a peli case and put your rifle in it. Then buy another peli case and put your first case in that
    • Don't seal the case before you get to the airport, they will want to open and inspect it.
    • Do bring duct tape or some other kind of tape and the locks for the case - after inspection, close, lock and then tape over the clasps so the case can't be opened without everyone knowing it was opened (and check that on the far end).
    • Ammo goes in a seperate case, make sure it does not rattle. Don't lock the case and don't put the case in your kitbag because AL staff know nothing of firearms and may want to see for themselves that the .22 rounds in the eley box can't rub up against one another and go off in the hold...). Again, keep the lock and tape handy for after the inspection. Tins of air pellets tend to get ignored, but better safe than sorry, keep them seperate if you can.
    • The guns always go through the large baggage x-ray, not through regular check-in, but your kitbag and ammo go through regular check-in.
    • Keep your bolt seperate and discharge your air cylinders fully before you get to the airport.
    • Heathrow is bad, especially during a bomb scare. Gatwick is actually quite excellent, especially if you're getting the train to Bisley (the station's in the airport basement). Not been to Stanstead.
    • Leave lots and lots of time before your flight in your schedule, and bring a pocket-sized book to read, there's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait involved in this.
    • On the far end, run to the carousel, do not walk. You may be greeted by your rifle/ammo/pistol box, clearly marked 'Firearms' or 'Ammunition', merrily spinning round the carousel unattended. If the airline's smart enough not to do this, they'll page you to collect your stuff.
    • If you see a baggage handler throwing your kit about, don't yell stop, it only encourages them.
    • Europasses aren't really a golden ticket in the UK and Ireland, but in the rest of the EU, they are given more weight. In general, the more paper you have, the better, especially since Irish licences are almost always given a raised eyebrow given their half-assed formatting and printing and nearly-inevitable scribbles and errors. Keep the paperwork with your own passport at all times.
    • Pack like someone was going to throw your kit from the aircraft a few minutes before it touches down at your destination.
    • Travel insurance.
    • Trim down the list of what you're taking. If you're going as part of a team, you don't all need to bring a bleed valve for air cylinders or a cleaning rod, for example.
    • Travel in uniform if you're part of a team, and make sure you let the airline people know you're an official team.
    • Get some sleep on the plane, you're going to need it
    • Laugh when you realise as you queue for the security desk, that the sign on the wall listing what you cannot take into the cabin lists off replica firearms - but for at least a year after that sign went up, it didn't list real firearms. You might as well laugh, it's the only one you'll get out of this whole thing...

    A few years ago I was the point guy flying our demo to Mobile World Congress (the biggest conference around for mobile devices). Me, my luggage and a 23kg Peli case with our demo server loaded into it, and I was to go there, setup the apartment the team would be staying in and do all the initial prep work. Compared to flying to a rifle competition, it was a piece of cake...


    In another life, I was a daily newspaper reporter, covering crime among other things. SOP for criminals was to commit the crime, get drunk, brag about it, and then someone overhears them and snitches to the cops. Guy gets arrested in 24 hours.


    Pretty much everything I'd say has already been said. The only thing I'd add, particularly for long-haul flights (especially when landing late-afternoon/early evening in a time zone west of where you started) is to chuck a packet of crisps/sandwich in any checked luggage you may happen to be porting. Perhaps it's just me, but after a long flight, I'm not set up to go out for dinner, no matter how easy that might be. Something light to eat, sleep for as long as possible, and I'll wake up passably human.

    As a result of work requirements, I either use a standard carryon+handbag combo, or a suitcase of doom. The carryon is suitable for trips of <1 working week, or where I don't have to do the full suited-and-booted thing. Suitcase of doom comes out for long trip, or when marketing have been clever (fcvo='clever') as I can get a stack of A2 poster boards in there with not much trouble.

    On a hotel note - I recently stayed at Hotel M in Glasgow. Loved everything about it bar the utter lack of tea making facilities in the room. Nevertheless, still vastly preferable to one of those American ginormo-hotels with two double beds in the room and no noticeable personality.


    BTW Since drugs came up earlier. Any tips for travelling with prescription opiates? My partner is on a chunk of Oxycontin every day. On prescription I hasten to add. We've not been brave enough to try international travel with 'em yet...

  • Get a copy of the prescription.

  • Ideally, get your doctor to write a "to whom it may concern ..." letter, describing the drugs being prescribed and explaining what they're being prescribed for, with contact info (on letterhead).

  • Before flying, research the law in (a) your destination, (b) any intermediate stops. If necessary, phone the embassies and ask what hoops you should jump through.

  • If you follow steps 1-3 you will be okay. Unless your goal is to travel to a country where opiate painkillers are illegal, in which case: don't.

  • If the plane is forced to land in a different country due to technical issues, leave the meds on the plane when you disembark. If you get back on the same aircraft, no problem. If you end up on another aircraft, make sure the airline know -- it's then their problem. If necessary, at your destination go talk to a hotel doctor. Paying for replacement meds is cheaper than spending four years in prison in one of the Gulf emirates.
  • 144:

    There's at least one sizeable blog dedicated to [traveling with firearms]. Some people make a point of putting their valuables in the gun case, which, as you pointed out, seldom gets mislaid by the airline.

    Actually, that can work the other way around (in the US, not so much where gun laws are different).

    A friend told me of a professional photographer he knew who found that moving thousands of dollars in resellable equipment did indeed attract thieves. After the second or third Pelican case went missing, aborting his business trip, and with no detectable interest or sympathy from airport security, he was feeling pretty fed up. So he bought a travel gun and declared it.

    Ten thousand dollars of camera equipment? Nope, security doesn't care; let anyone who cares grab it. But one $70 crap pistol and a single .22 round? Now they care!

    Apparently he's had no trouble since adding the pistol to his luggage.


    The only negative thing I'll say for it is that it has too many pockets.

    I think myself fluent in English, yet I cannot understand this sentence.



    I have a uncle who was a airline executive. He says his line had rules about handling baggage with care. The handlers paid no attention to them when the bosses were not looking. The FBI has broken rings of handlers busting into locked bags. It helped then to tape the bags.
    He still can get discounted tickets. He no longer fly's anywhere. He had a go with the security people and finally told them he helped write the rules and knew they were wrong. And he was right. They did not like that.


    @124: bank charges significantly less for depositing a dollar cheque in a dollar deposit account than for receiving a wire transfer,

    Same thing on this end, though it varies from bank to bank. I've had my main bank for over thirty years, but I opened an account with a different with another bank a few years back, which didn't have new management that thought it was acceptable to charge US$60 for an automated incoming wire transfer.

    I sold a book to a British publisher in 1988, and they mailed me the advance in a British cheque that no US bank would touch without a very fat fixed fee plus percentage. I mailed the cheque to the issuing bank (The Royal Bank of Scotland) and opened a pound account there, and it was a handy dump for all the pre-Euro notes and cheques, anything from German marks to New Zealand dollars. Every few years I'd wire a chunk to my main US bank. I finally closed the account a few years back.

    At the time, the RBS didn't charge any fees for handling foreign currencies, which was a welcome change from the almost comical befuddlement of the US banks I was dealing with...

    But one $70 crap pistol and a single .22 round? Now they care!

    Just be sure to never fly KLM...


    Hi Sparks...

    They did lose my rifle case once in LHR. After a couple of hours and no news, I went home in the evening. Called the airline baggage office the baggage office first thing next morning, to explain (terribly politely) that it was now approaching the point where I had to notify the police. They'd found the case within the hour, the courier delivered it to the door in another two.

    Don't worry, this didn't mean armed couriers - the ammunition has to travel in a separate bag, and I always put the rifle bolt (critical part of mechanism that makes the thing in the rifle case a useless if expensive length of pipe) inside the metal ammunition container.

    The downside of travelling to competitions with this stuff is weight - my last big competition saw me with a 21kg SKB case (rifle + spare), 32kg kitbag (full set of PSK kit, and the maximum allowed 5kg of ammunition), team issued uniforms and bags (another 20+ kg) and a tiny amount of kit of my own to last me four weeks. I found myself trying to check in almost my own body weight; just as well I wasn't paying for the tickets (excess), it was a very long flight. Standing in one checkin queue having been forced to ditch the trolley wasn't much fun...


    That's always the reaction when I complain about too many pockets in the knapsack. But I can't remember where I put everything.


    I'm sure our "civilized" approach to smoking on planes does not apply in large parts of the world. If I had to get I'd say smoking is allowed in China.

    Nope. I have yet to find an airline in China that allows smoking on flights, and I've flown with most of the large ones anyway. Smoking basically everywhere else, yes, but not on planes. (Average of about once a month Beijing-Shanghai and back, plus other random cities.)


    1985? And you assume that flight conditions haven't changed in a period longer than that from the Wright brothers first flight to the widespread presence of commercial airlines?

    Nope, they have.


    One tip about toiletries: Lush solid shampoo bars work really well (for me: YMMV) as shower soap and shaving foam as well as shampoo, thus removing the need to carry liquids. They also last a lot longer, even triple-use, than an airline sized bottle of gel, and they don't leak.


    @137: I barely use cash either, mostly just for the soda machine. Nearly everything goes on my bank card or is electronic.

    If you're knowledgeable about data security, go down to your bank and have a chat with their EFT and DP people.

    I did, which is why my account no longer has a debit card or internet login associated with it, and normally doesn't have more than $100. I've moved from plastic to cash, not because I'm a whackjob, but because I got paid to wear +10 hobnailed Security Admin boots once upon a time, and the answers I was getting from the bank were doubleplus ungood.


    @152: 1985? And you assume that flight conditions haven't changed in a period longer than that from the Wright brothers first flight to the widespread presence of commercial airlines?

    Yes, I'd heard smoking is no longer allowed, and more or less made the assumption that "seat-back entertainment systems" may have replaced sitting in the dark with a movie I didn't want to see.

    If you're telling me they have "no screaming infants allowed" flights now, I'll agree major progress has been made.


    They serve the screaming infants as meals. Saves on catering costs.


    Phil Knight @ 120 UK trains are NOT shite. SOME of them are, but some of them are excellent - it depends on the TOC (is't franchising wonderful?) Compared to where, incidentally?


    You might consider splitting the main supply, half in checked bag, half in hand luggage.

    That way if the hand luggage goes astray in the airport or wherever you still have a supply.


    If you want a side street at BWI, that would be Elkridge Landing Road; but the airport's web site does claim to have a cell phone lot now.


    (Self-redacted, as it slipped from sarcasm into bile.)


    Buying water on long multi-leg journeys doesn't work so well now. Flying from Sydney to London I used to get a couple of litres of water to carry as I dehydrate quickly. Now you have to take everything off the plane at Singapore or Bangkok (water left behind will be disposed of), but you can't get back through security at reboarding time with the water, and there's nowhere to buy it on the other side.

    Not so much packing as "things to get between airport and accommodation": 1. Germany is credit-card averse. If you don't have a special German debit card or cash, you will get turned down at cashier more often than not. Very frustrating if you need camera/tech gear and your daily ATM limit doesn't suffice. I needed to replace a broken camera in Köln last year and couldn't buy one, even from chain-stores that have credit services in other countries.

  • Italian hotels don't provide soaps, shampoos. Pick some up on your way to hotel if you want to freshen up.
  • 162:

    Can you not empty the bottle, and then refill it from a water fountain once you're back through?

    As for credit cards, the only shop I've been recently in where a card machine was visible and they wouldn't accept my credit card, was in England. (Aldi, which accepts only debit cards.) I've not encountered problems in Germany in recent years, though that's not to say there aren't any. I do try to carry both MC and Visa though, since I did once encounter a bar in Switzerland that only took one and not both, and it was a pain in that case having to pop out and get cash from an ATM.

    (And oh, some budget hotels in the UK also don't provide soap and/or shampoo. But I'll take your advice under advisement, since I'm currently intending to visit Rome for the first time this Xmas.)


    Lidl does the same as Aldi.


    My advice is very local: If flying from Canada into the USA, avoid doing so via Toronto, which I now call Minas Torontor after my last attempt to transit it.

    Taking every possible step to obviate known, previously experienced delay factors, from arriving an hour early to negate the unhelpful chaos at immigration (a legacy of the pre-911 years I might add) to traveling with only one small carry-on bag to avoid the apparently internationally infamous baggage carousel, I was still prevented from a timely boarding of my plane and forced (again) to take a middle of the bloody night one when the incoming plane landed at one terminal which was apparently being demolished, and the outgoing plane left from another miles away on the other side of the airfield - a distance so far as to require a (slow) bus to move everyone.

    So my advice is to go via Ottawa. The terminal signs are lousy so expect to get lost, but the airport is still a more pleasant place to be than the hell-hole of Toronto International.

    Oh, and unless things have changed dramatically in the last few years, don't get laid-over in Lansing Airport. The worst "food" I've ever been served in a setting tailor-made for the Zombie Apocalypse.


    Checks/cheques: I use at least three a month. And one thrift store (charity shop) I shop at takes checks but not cards. (Another takes cards but not checks.)

  • No water fountain on the other side of security. You're basically in a tiny holding pen before re-entering the plane.
  • I do't know where you're from, but I'm guessing someone in England turned you down for not having a chip & pin-enabled card. However in those cases they are required to allow regular signature access ... but the sales droids are often not clued in to this and will simply make up an excuse.

    Apparently the German credit card aversion has also spread to Denmark. I couldn't even use a Euro-denominated French debit card in stores and at transport ticket-vending machines in Germany. Hotels and autobahn petrol stations are fine, but good luck anywhere else.


    There's nowhere between security and the plane? What if you want to use the lavatory!

    (I flew down to Melbourne, but it was change planes at HK. HK airport didn't dump us outside security.)

    As for Aldi UK, no, they don't take credit cards. It's not that they don't take non-chip cards: my card is a full Tesco Mastercard, with all the C&P stuff, which German transport vending machines are perfectly happy with even though its not denominated in Euro.

    Quite what they don't like about your card, I dunno. It is either Visa or MC, isn't it?

    168: 166 and 167 - legal position, based on my father having been a banker and actually knowing the relevant laws!

    UK shops must accept exact payment in "coin of the Realm". Offering "change" for an overpayment is actually an additional service. So is accepting payment of more than about £5 in coins, or £10 and higher denomination notes. They are not required to accept any of cheques, credit and debit cards, and may not make a charge for doing so unless the fact is clearly stated (like in most package holiday brochures, charges for credit cards but not debit cards on DVLA and TVl websites...)


    You wait to use the lavatory on the plane at that point. In any case at that point I no longer even had a container to put water in.

    It's not a matter of being Visa or MC, it's that it has to be German Electronic Cash card. There are plenty of primers on the net on German payment systems.


    Er, no. The hand luggage does not go missing. Not without a physical fight, anyway. The word "hand" refers to the portion of my anatomy that is connected to it most of the time. (Did I mention it's not just for meds but for anything valuable/irreplaceable?)


    There's nowhere between security and the plane? What if you want to use the lavatory!

    That's how they designed it. It's the same at Schiphol. The flip side is, you only go there when it's boarding time and if you know the airport you don't go there until it's damn well time to board the plane.

    I've encountered the annoying get-off-the-plane at fuel stop then search-in-the-queue to go back on board thing at HK. It's indeed a nuisance, like the AMS boarding pens, if you need to carry fluids to avoid dehydration. Flip side: the airlines know this and on the long haul flights there's invariably a mini-bar with bottled water and beverages for passengers to grab in the galley; you just have to know that's what you're supposed to do.

    Ditching the liquid restrictions on hand luggage can't come soon enough for me ...


    I'm sure there are plenty of primers.

    I'm just amused that I, with sterling credit cards, have yet to encounter this. Perhaps it's just that I've not been wandering round the right parts of Germany: for instance, in Lörrach, this doesn't seem to happen. But then that's close to the Swiss border, and they may well clear 20% of their turnover from foreigners.


    When I left Australia for France I needed to get a refund of monies from a government agency that looks after road tolls. They told me that it was flat out impossible for them to simply deposit the money back into the local account they were regularly deducting from.

    Instead they seemed to find it easier to mail me a Euro cheque drawn on the German outlet for their Australian bank. When I deposited this to my French bank, I lost a third of it in transfer and clearance fees charged by the two European banks. Long live le common currency.


    I'm in Japan for 16 days (from Sheffield, UK). My luggage is one SMALL daypack (16x12x8 inch approx). I expect I will not use everything I've packed - I almost never do. (So far there a 2 T-shirts and 2 sets of underwear I haven't needed.) I'm typing this on the 10-in netbook I use for travel, which fits in nae bother. Only problem I have is with Japanese customs, who cannot believe that I don't have a checked bag, and are very reluctant to let me through to the exit! One further irritating feature is that I need RGP contact lenses (I have keratoconus), and my cleaning solution doesn't come in sizes <100 ml, so I have to decant some into a smaller bottle. Of course this wouldn't work if I were going to Moscow in midwinter - Japan in May is quite mild and requires no bulky clothing.


    I travel for work 2 or 3 times a month; mostly simple, direct trips into Europe; occasionally further afield.

    I take advantage of frequent flyer programs to get access to the lounges - this is a huge improvement to the darwinian battles that rage in the airports. It's also worth paying for one-off access on longer layovers - free wifi and snacks, relatively comfortable surroundings and access to printers and power sockets are worth the £20.

    I've also found that dressing moderately smartly while I travel works - upgrades are rare, but welcome; security staff tend to be less awkward, and you get better service. For me, this takes the form of a nice-ish suit-style jacket along with my usual jeans and shirt outfit.


    BWI, that would be Elkridge Landing Road; but the airport's web site does claim to have a cell phone lot now.

    For some strange reasons I live in NC but have had to meet my wife there about 6 times over the last year. And I've yet to see a sign for this cell phone area. I'll look for it. You'd think it would be the one of the biggest signs there. Of course there's no signs at my local RDU either. You have to know that Sheets is the best place to wait at the main entrance and the Kiddie observation area for those on the back side. Otherwise you get to circle and dodge people.


    I always try to take a plugstrip (or powerstrip, or multiple-outlet, depending on your country of origin and particular linguistic bent) with one multi-national plug adapter. That way, no matter where I end up (unless it's South Africa -- no multi-adapter has that beast), all it takes is a quick slide and all my regular UK adapters should work.


    In the carry on I always bring a very small outlet splitter. Never enough outlets in airport transit areas and letting three people share will get you in the outlet for phone/tablet recharging even if someone else is already using it.

    Food! Most of my trips these days involve a long trip to the airport, an overnight flight, and then changes somewhere in the US. A few resealable bags of things like unsalted almonds, some chocolate, small individually wrapped/waxed cheeses, etc. can get me through a flight without food service or allow me to avoid extortionate pricing on crap sandwiches in the airport. Sometimes a small loaf of good bread finds its way in there too.


    Towel, definitely.


    Food: yes, definitely important. I tend to take 2-4 flapjack bars. Not because I mind airport food (although it tends to be overpriced if you go for the good stuff and nasty if you go for the cheap stuff) but because I've occasionally found myself stuck aboard an airliner giving me a guided tour of the taxiways of a huge airport for four hours before giving up and going back to the terminal. While the cabin crew are usually good with the bottled water during such hiccups, they never distribute the hot food (because the weather might clear up and we might get to take off at any moment), so having a small meal's worth of rations in the carry-on is pretty much essential.


    You've not flown from Glasgow recently (say last 2 years) have you?

    Once you've gone from "shopping arcade" to gates the only access to food without re-doing the "security" theatre is overpriced sandwiches and chocolate bars.


    I suspect that Glasgow makes no sense for Charlie. Either he can get to where he's going directly from Edinburgh or he can't. In the latter case, he seems to prefer to bounce via Charles de Gaulle or Schipol. (He's held forth before on the lousiness of getting to Glasgow airport from where he lives before now.)


    It made a good place to complain about the rottenness of a layout that amounts to detention without access to proper food etc in the event of a flight delay (and I got more than a fair share of those returning from Satellite 3).


    Glasgow airport is two hours away from where I live by ground transport. Because I live in central Edinburgh, but on the wrong side of the city centre -- so to get to Glasgow I have to drive through Edinburgh, then the length of the M8 through Glasgow, then out to the airport. I can't even save time by heading east out of Edinburgh and using the City Bypass -- I'm just central enough that fighting my way out to the bypass and then using it to circle the city centre takes exactly as long as cutting through the city.

    Buses and trains are no better. I can do bus to Glasgow, bus from Glasgow to airport, but there aren't any direct EDI-GLA bus services that I know of, and even if there were, it'd be the same as driving in terms of duration. Train: from Waverley to Queen street would shave 10-15 minutes off the bus, but then IIRC I'd have to walk to Glasgow Central to catch a train to the airport, or walk to the Buchanan Street bus station, or something.

    Frankly, Glasgow Airport is, in travel time, nearly as far away/hard to get to from where I live as Newcastle or Manchester. (And don't even ask about Prestwick.)

    I'm pretty much stuck with Edinburgh as my airport, unless I travel via routes that have to be booked separately -- you can't do through-ticketing on trains and airliners in this country (I gather it's different in Germany). Luckily EDI has lots of connections to various hub airports. Unfortunately they're all a long way south and east of EDI, unless you count Dublin (and are willing to use Delta and/or Aer Lingus for trans-Atlantic routes). Once you're airborn on a regional jet travelling at at 550mph, Paris and Amsterdam are effectively equidistant with London. So I'm an Air France/KLM frequent flyer (Heathrow and Gatwick suck).


    About caffeine: This will work anywhere provided you can manage about-boiling water, which is usually doable (a good thermos bottle works alright, too). Pack a few ESE pods for the road, until you can locate a local source for decent/good ground coffee (which can often be found in the duty-free shops on your way out of the plane), and you're all set.

    About the backpackerist profiling issue: Finding a good backpack that doesn't make you look like a hippie-commie-hiker-drughead is entirely doable and certainly helps. Without going so far as always flying in a suit, freshening up in airport bathrooms between connecting flights also helps postpone the airline-drifter look, and smoothes encounters with airport security and customs.

    I've been flying around with a North Face Fuse Box as everyday bag and cabin luggage for a couple years, and that sort of backpack handles all electronics, camera and a 17" MacBook, plus overnight change and other essentials safely and comfortably. While this specific model is out of the market, many brands offer functional backpacks and messenger bags that are still stylish enough to pass muster from the stormtroopers.

    Added bonus, such bags typically allow you to comfortably mule up to 15 free kgs of gear on top of your allowed luggage because they're widely seen as "laptop bags" and are seldom called to the scales.

    Riddle: I still haven't found a proper solution to the big shoes dilemma, however: either you check them and they eat half of your suitcase real-estate, or you wear them and cross every checkpoint in socks… any ideas ?



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    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 23, 2012 5:12 PM.

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