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Yep, that’s me!

I have taken quite a few photos over the years, but when it comes to appearing in photographs, that’s another story.

One shot has escaped though and it’s on P19 of the latest edition of Wanderlust magazine.

The quote is about the recent developments relating to taking tech stuff on aircraft and how it may or may not affect travellers.

As I don’t have a smartphone and had Wi-Fi problems in Spain, I suspect that you can guess which side of the arguement I took!

A slightly different version with a different photograph can be found here…

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/mywanderlust/forum/big-debate-has-the-uk-electronics-ban-in-hand-luggage-put-you-off-bringing-them-altogether_5639

Hola – plans v reality III

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Yes, normal service has resumed….

Where were we?

Ah yes, Seville. After booking into our digs and going out for our first meal in the city, we returned to our room and a request to move into a room downstairs as some last minute work was going to take place above us.

So we found ourselves in a ground floor en-suite – which was good as we needed to do our first set of washing our wash and wear clothing.

After doing the wash, wringing it out and rolling it up in travel towels and hanging it up to dry, we then noticed the sign on the back of the room door forbidding clothes washing in the room. Mmm…

Everything was dry come Wednesday morning though, which was a good thing as we headed out in search of places to see and things to do. When we got back though, we were pleased that everything had dried out, because we returned to a room devoid of all of our stuff.

We thought the worst at first, but some broken English came from above to tell us that we’d be back in the room that we’d originally been allocated and that all of our stuff was up there. Relief in one respect, but neither of us were too happy about our stuff being moved when we weren’t there!

Come Thursday and Caroline headed into the Cathedral after first checking the times for the roof tour she wanted to go on. After she’d paid and headed in, I headed off to do some exploring of my own, get a coffee or a beer and then return to our pre-arranged meeting place next to the Real Alcazar.

We met up again two hours later, swapped stories about our exploits and headed for lunch. As we finished, Caroline looked at her ticket and realised that she hadn’t been booked in for the roof tour at 16.30, but the 12.00 one…

Oops – she’d been booked onto the tour that a Cathedral guide had said was full. No matter though as we just decided to wander around some more, go for a beer and tapas mid-afternoon break and then head back for a siesta and some more clandestine clothes washing.

And that was about it for the small problems we encountered in Seville. The entrance to the flamenco club had moved, but that was about it.

We did have more problems with Apple Maps printouts in Cordoba, but we eventually found our hotel after much scratching of heads. Whilst we’d had good Wi-Fi at the basic guest house in Seville, in Cordoba the iPad got a signal in the hotel lobby or when we opened our room door…

When it came to Granada we took no prisoners in getting to or from the bus station to White Nest Hostel – we got a cab in both directions! It did however take us a while to find the ticket booth at The Alhambra the following day, but we got there and started to make our way around.

The site was busy and we weren’t the only ones who had difficulties with the vending machines dispensing coffee, sandwiches or snacks. The coffee one was interesting, the sandwich one dispensed not one, but two packs of sandwiches whilst the snack one behaved itself.

Best laugh of the day came when I headed downstairs to the gents toilets. As I was leaving, a whole party of Oriental ladies were heading into the gents.

They were rather surprised when I pointed out that it was the men’s toilets they were trying to get into and they soon scurried back upstairs.

Yes, I’ve been in rock or student clubs when ladies have invaded the blokes toilets (the queues were shortly and it wasn’t uncommon to hear the words ‘It’s alright guys, we’re not looking!‘ as the invasion took place….

Anything else? Not really as the rest of the visit to Granada was as planned.

In Malaga though, one problem arose after we checked into the hotel and switched the TV on.

One of the local channels was showing live footage of an event that had happened in London. The only English channel was CNN and their reporting was about an incident at Westminster.

With no signal for the iPad or for Caroline’s Android phone, it was lobby computer time to find out what had happened where we’d been back in February. BBC, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Independent websites told the story about what had happened.

Which almost brought us to the end of such aspects of our road-trip…

Friday’s posting will be about the stuff we took with us to deal with RyanAir’s luggage restrictions, the weather conditions we were expecting, the places we were heading to and their respective dress codes.

The story of the trip proper starts next Monday…

TTFN!

Hola – plans v reality…

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We knew there would be rain in Spain one day… Just not this much!

The planning for our trip to Andalucia started a while ago.

The initial thinking was to head over there in October 2016, but thoughts changed and we ended up visiting Herefordshire and Somerset.

The thinking started again back in November 2016 and a simple plan was drawn up – fly in and out of Malaga from either Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports and take a look at the Picasso and other art connections in Malaga before heading to Seville, Cordoba and Granada and then head back to Malaga for the flight home.

This was expanded upon by getting hold of both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide paper guidebooks to Andalucia. Although I’d already taken a read through the LP and RG books on Spain, the area specific guides provided more insights to the cities we were intent on visiting and useful snippets regarding travelling times between cities by bus or train, eating out, flamenco and a few tips on speaking Spanish.

Flights and our hotel in Malaga were booked via Expedia whilst digs in Seville, Cordoba and Granada were booked via booking.com.

All of this happened back in November 2016, as did upgrades to the basic flights as we chose to pre-book seats on the plane in both directions and opt for priority boarding.

Yes, this put the price of the flights up, but we reckoned it was worth it as a means of getting settled in to our seats and as a means of ensuring that our hand luggage wasn’t stashed in the hold instead…

The decision to use buses rather than trains in Spain came down to two factors – cost and journey times (which in one or two cases quoted in the guidebooks were shorter on the bus rather than the train…).

Booking the buses was left until January and it has to be said that booking buses between Malaga and Seville, Seville and Cordoba along with Cordoba to Granada was pretty easy via the http://www.alsa.es website.

A problem did arise when it came to book the journey between Granada and Malaga. My UK bank card had been used for the first three transactions, but wasn’t being accepted for the one that would take us back to Malaga in readiness for the flight home.

Technology being what it is, a web chat was established with Alsa and it transpired that I should have used a Spanish bank card or PayPal for all of my ticket buying transactions!

As the first three sales had gone through without any difficulties and I had both printed off the online tickets and the ones sent to my email address, I decided to press on for the fourth transaction and book it via PayPal.

The problem being that I hadn’t used PayPal for years and couldn’t remember what my password was. That took a bit of time to resolve, but hey presto! That last set of tickets was bought, paid for and printed off…

With all of the flight, accommodation and almost all of the internal travel sorted out, there was a couple of things left to do – book tickets for our visit to The Alhambra in Granada and sort out transport to Manchester Airport.

Tickets were easily booked and paid for via The Alhambra’s website and that was almost it.

Next up was the booking of rail tickets and we almost came unstuck.

We were travelling on a weekend when there was planned maintenance on the railway line. Although the website showed this, it didn’t tell us the full nature of the replacement bus service operating on our day of travel.

After three attempts at finding out, it was time to jump in the car, head to a mainline station and ask questions. Once answered and the printouts handed over, the tickets were bought and paid for and that was it for two months.

When March came around, all we had to do was get some notes, check the mid-range weather forecast and go…

There was however one small problem left – neither of us speak Spanish!

Ten things… to take with you

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  1. Your camera – digital compact, DLSR, smartphone, tablet or even film!
  2. Travel towel – to dry self or roll laundry in when washing on the road…
  3. Wet wipes – to clean up after spare ribs, fixing a bike or on a hot day!
  4. Body spray – high temperatures and it’s sweaty when you’re in a crowd!
  5. Bottle of water – handy at any time (sparkling rather than still).
  6. Trousers with zipped pockets – to keep thieves at bay
  7. Bags that can be locked or have pull-tight openings – see number 6!
  8. Copies of passport, travel docs & insurance (and phone numbers).
  9. Comfortable shoes, sandals or boots suitable for what you’re up to
  10. Loose change – for purchases in shops that don’t want €20 notes…

Signs of the times?

I’m losing count of the number of stories that are being discussed via media outlets old and new relating to travel matters of all different kinds.

Some are about the biggest international travel story of the moment whilst others talk about things to come here in the U.K. and the E.U. and then there’s those that relate to the travel industry and the way that it’s coping with the after effects of world events.

There’s also the way in which decisions by residents or governments have impacted on the financial affairs of travellers, cultural sites and airlines to consider too.

I don’t normally take notice of television advertising, largely because I only watch a handful of programmes on commercial channels, but I have spotted an increase in the number of ads for Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2, Virgin, Trivago, Air B n B, plus state ads for California, Texas and for countries such as Israel over the last couple of weeks.

It would appear that there’s a lot of people after the pounds in our pockets, but recent conversations and posts seen on travel forums regarding potential travellers wanting value for money as they head to destinations old and new.

We currently have three trips in 2017 that are in different stages of planning.

The first is a daft one that harks back to my days as a band manager hawking demo tapes around record companies, the second is a Spanish road trip and the third is a return visit to an area that both of us have visited on a regular basis.

It’s going to be interesting to see how busy the various places we’re visiting are going to be and what the respective costs per person per day are.

Budgets are being put together, but they will be flexible enough to ensure that we’re not missing out on potential experiences. We don’t go for posh eating, overpriced coffees or expensive bowls of cereal in hipster cafes and we’re not adverse to using buses or long-distance coaches to get around rather than trains or hire cars.

Will the foray into the E.U. end up being more cost effective that staying in the U.K. even though the pound has taken a battering thanks to the changes in exchange rates?

I suspect that it will, even though we’ve gone for pre-booked aircraft seats, fast-track security and priority boarding to make things easier at the airport.

Flying hand luggage only helps, as does frequenting local shops that aren’t just for local people and cafes/other eateries that aren’t on the main streets or popular tourist areas….

Watch this space for the end results!

Bye-bye big bag…

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Where we’re going, we don’t need big bags…

I’d had my Lowe Alpine Travel Kinni 60 for years, but as the Travel Kinni hadn’t been used since 2008, it’s finding a new home.

Which shouldn’t be hard as the bag has found its way to Geneva on its own before – it went on an earlier plane than I did, a no-no even in pre-911 years!

Yes, the bag and the Monarch luggage label from the bag’s last trip has been handed in at our local charity shop, as has a small Lowe Alpine pack and an elderly Karrimor hand luggage bag.

Apart from wanting space in the back room, there’s also the matter of having standardised my travel luggage to just three bags – the studenty man bag bought at Imperial College, London in 2015, the large size Healthy Back Bag that came courtesy of a BOGOF deal Caroline took advantage of five years ago and the almost four year old Osprey Farpoint 40 that has been used on our European (and a few longer UK ones) trips since 2013.

At 10, 15 and 40 litres respectively, the bags mentioned in the last paragraph should be fine for all of the trips we have in mind over the next few years.

The one from Imperial College has been commented on by staff when overnighting in Hampton by Hilton and Holiday Inn hotels in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield whilst the Healthy Back Bag proved useful for weekend-length trips to London, Northumberland and North Norfolk.

The Ospreys have been commented at airport check-in desks, whilst wandering up to our hotel in Tavira (the lady making the comments was a seasoned traveller from Hawaii who was wheeling a big wheelie case) and stared at in disbelief by a bunch of fellow Brits as we checked out of that Tavira hotel with our bags two days later.

Although the benefits of travelling hand luggage are well-known, it’s been interesting to see what people have been looking at in the way of travel bags in shops here in the UK.

Most have been going for big bags rather than smaller, more practical items. I’ve kept quiet as people have been plumping for those big bags, even though I’ve heard some of the prospective destinations that the purchasers were heading to.

When I was in retail, it proved difficult to convince people that they didn’t need a 70-80 travel pack for two weeks in Thailand (consensus is 35-40 litre max) as there are things called shops over there that mean that they didn’t need to take EVERYTHING with them!

We weren’t the only Brits using hand luggage on our last visit to Portugal, even though the hotel we were in iss regarded as one of the Algarve’s best.

All we did to stick to the unwritten dress code was to have smarter wash & wear clothes and to eat in family owned cafes and restaurants rather than the hotel dining room or gaffs with high prices on the menus displayed outside the establishments.

Luggage matters

Farpoint 40 Lagoon Blue

Our faithful packs – Osprey Farpoint 40

After watching a couple of episodes of The West Wing series two last night, we switched the DVD player off and up came one of the presenters of The Travel Show on BBC News who was talking about the latest in packing technology for travelling with both hand and hold luggage.

First up was a hand luggage pack with wheels that could also be used as a scooter that came in at an unladen weight that was fast approaching what some airlines have as their fully packed weight allowance for bags being used as hand luggage.

Somewhere in the mix was also a bag that you didn’t have to hold onto whilst negotiating the airport terminal or a hotel lobby as the bag is designed to follow you around as you make your way through fellow passengers or people seeing fellow passengers off.

Yes, it was a motorised bag that homes in your movements – a handy thing to have you may think, but dare I allege that it could cause problems when used in proximity to those with visual problems, children running around or even a potential passenger using the same type of bag (especially if they look identical as they haven’t been personalised!).

We phased out big time though when the hold luggage that could store flight and destination information was talked about, largely because we don’t travel with hold luggage any more.

The last time we did this was back in 2008 when we headed off to Austria for a walking holiday based in a hotel that was offering half board as part of the last minute deal. Since then it’s been hand luggage all the way when flying or getting a ferry to Bergen in Norway.

There have been a few posts on travel forums over the last few days as to what pack to take when travelling light and even a few from one person who is designing a potential hand luggage system as part of his third year projects for a degree course.

Osprey Farpoint 40 packs have been mentioned once more on these forums and it was purely coincidence that I had some time to take a look at a 2016 version yesterday whilst wandering around shops in Leeds city centre.

Yes, it’s gone up from £80 to £90 since Caroline and I bought our examples, but I had to look long and hard to see what changes had been made to the pack. From the outside at least, all I could spot were changes to the zip pullers for the two main compartments on the pack.

You may not be able to use the Farpoint 40 as a scooter, but you should be able to pack it for a trip and fly on an airline with a 5kg hand luggage limit.

Not as much fun if you’re a scooter fan, but at least we may not be handing over cash at an airport for last minute bags in the hold charges!