The Luggage Diaries: Wheeled Backpack Requirements

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Just like when buying a trekpack, it’s important to test out different types of wheeled backpacks before you settle on one. Not a lot of stores stock them at the moment. REI has a few, but they are huge, and super expensive. My best advice is to compare reviews on Amazon.com, then purchase a few when they offer free shipping AND free returns (the last part is crucial, as they sometimes take out a restocking fee for returned items).

Here were the things I considered while testing out bags. It’s a pretty good checklist for anyone else considering a wheeled backpack as their next luggage piece:

Size: This was super important, as I’m a very tiny traveler and can’t really handle normal luggage as it is. It needed to be carry-on sized (so 22” or less), and large enough to fit the necessities, but I figured I could also get away with something smaller, as I pack very light.

Shape: Something not too bulky, should not have unnecessary straps, durable shape.

Materials: Durable, hardy materials, weatherproof, comfortable.

Wheels: Rolls well, durable materials that won’t crack.

Pockets: What kind are available, and are they actually useful, or annoying?

Inside storage area: How much can it hold? What is the inner design like? If it’s closed, does it retain its shape? Can it hold awkwardly-shaped items within it? What’s the best way to pack it?

 Boot test: Can it hold my tall, weatherproof KEEN winter boots? How much space is left when they are packed? (Note: I know they say to wear your bulkiest clothing items on to the plane, but for anyone who has ever spent 8+ hours in a pair of winter boots, you know how wonderful it feels to NOT have to wear them for 8+ hours on an airplane. Especially if I’m traveling from somewhere cold, to somewhere warm).

Back pack straps: Padded, comfortable, easy to adjust, and that the convertible aspect is easy to use/doesn’t get in the way.

Wear-ability. How does it feel while wearing it? What’s the weight distribution like? How long can I keep it on my back before it feels uncomfortable? How long do the straps hang down, and would it become an obstacle if worn in a busy area?

Next up, I’ll compare/contrast two different pieces of wheeled luggage, and explore what else is available on the market.

 

5 of my fave resources for inexpensive flights

Every day I scour the internet in search of awesome airfares I can take advantage of.  I used to do the whole Kayak/Priceline/Mobissimo searches, but they became long, complicated guess-and-check processes and I wanted faster results. These sites below that offer me a lot of flexibility and send me into travel daydreaming super easily!  Check them out:

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TheFlightDeal

This is my favorite site for low-cost, flexible fares.  The design is no-frills – the price and location is laid out for you, along with explicit instructions on how to acquire the fare.  These are consistently deep discounts and if your travel schedule is flexible, you can score big time.

Example fare: $702, New York – Beijing, China.

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TravelZoo

This site is better for vacation package deals, but every so often, the provide info on discount fares.  It’s how I found out about round-trip flights to Norway for less than $450, January – March.

Example fare: $510, New York – Dublin, Ireland.

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Fly.com

This is the conglomerate site that TravelZoo directs you to once you’ve discovered one of their low fares.  The results are quick to collect, and the site is easy to use, but sometimes they fall short of their bargains.  For example, when looking for fares to Norway, a $222 RT fare popped up from Brussels Airlines. I went through their website only to discover that taxes and fees were not included.  Suddenly, the $222 turned into $850.  But they also have a great fare calendar that tells you the cheapest places to fly at the moment.

Example fare: $346, New York – San Jose, Costa Rica.

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SkyScanner

I use SkyScanner to price-check and compare fares.  Sometimes the fares are awesome, sometimes they are out of reach.  But their search criteria options are fantastic, and they also have an option to search “Everywhere” and “Whole Year” so you can pick a flight based on price, not destination or dates.

Example fare: $301, New York – Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

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AirfareWatchdog

This is sort of a weird site.  Often, they are the first to detect and advertise crazy-low fares, but you can’t actually book anything through their site.  Basically you have to then go digging on your own to find the fare, which is often gone by the time you begin.  They have a lot of functions which I suppose, if you sat down and went through them all, would help you out, but when I need a fare fast, I usually look elsewhere.  Still, it provides you with a good place to start.

Example fare: $795, New York – Johannesburg, South Africa.

How To Get Published: Listen to your F*%$ing Editors!

Jesus Christ I need to work on my Photoshop Skills...

Jesus Christ I need to work on my Photoshop Skills…

I have a lot of friends who call themselves “writers” but who don’t actually ever publish anything. They are talented, but they have a hard time finding work, and are always amazed by how much steady work I get because I’m not even a full-time writer.

“You must have awesome editors,” they tell me. “Editors are so annoying though. I hate working with them. They make me change my entire piece and then it doesn’t feel like it’s my own. I just want someone who is going to publish my stuff the first time I send it to them.”

Ah. There’s the problem.

People, you need to start listening to your f*%$ing editors. And here’s why:

1.  They know what they are doing

Your editors weren’t people just picked out of a hat by some random CEO – they are editors because they have experience. Some might have studied journalism, some might have just worked with the website/publication for a really long time. Regardless, their job is to make your stuff look good. And they probably do know better than you, because they’ve been doing this for a while.

2.  They have to abide by certain guidelines too

Matador Network has a style they like their articles to follow because that’s what makes the site unique. Thus, you can’t just write whatever way you want, if you hope to be published by them. A good editor will take time to steer you in the right direction and help you create a piece worth posting, that fits with the ethos of the company. Otherwise, what’s to stop them from publishing anything from anyone?

3.  They make suggestions because they WANT to publish you

An editor has no problem telling you if the piece you submit is not totally in line with the types of things their website/publications post. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it just means you have to write the kinds of things they want to read. Lots of times I’ll pitch an idea or send a draft to my editors, and they’ll send feedback that might take the piece to a totally different level. “Write it in the style of…” or “Take this part out and elaborate on this more…” means that they trust you to take your initial concept and make it publishable through their suggestions.

4.  They will want to work with you more if you are willing to work with them

The best thing you can do to advance your writing career is show an editor you are capable of following directions. To them, complacent writers mean less time back and forth discussing edits because you aren’t constantly fighting with them to “get your way.” It means you are a hard worker and are dedicated to the site you are writing for (especially if you hand stuff in on time).

“But what about my ‘voice’? I don’t want to compromise myself for someone else’s benefit.” Okay sure, I get that. Here’s a little secret through: publishing is about trust. Your editors have to trust that you’ll give them things they want to publish. You have to trust that your editors are helping to make your work look amazing. Once that relationship is established, things get easier; most times you’ll start out writing one way but then develop your own voice in the style they are looking for.

If that is still dissatisfying to you, ask yourself: why am I writing for them? You should want to work with websites/publications that you care about, or at least can tolerate enough to get a paycheck. If you are butting heads on a scathing level, move on. There are plenty of publications out there and you’ll find the right one sooner than you think.

How do you deal with editors? Any other tactics you can advise hopeful writers to take into consideration?

My Latest for Travel Fashion Girl: Laser Hair Removal for Travelers

My latest article on Travel Fashion Girl

My latest article on Travel Fashion Girl

I’ve been following Travel Fashion Girl for quite some time. I’ve always wanted to create a site dedicated to travel and fashion, but Alex beat me to the punch! We have been talking about collaborating for quite some time on various subjects, so expect to see more of my posts on her fabulous site, dedicated to everything from what to pack by country, to budget versus luxury travel fashion, and even interviews with famous travel bloggers on how to travel without looking like a pile of garbage!

My first post on her site deals with laser hair removal. I am a HUGE fan of this process because A) I am a naturally hairy gal and B) shaving while traveling is a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS. For reals yo, if you’re a woman you know it’s either spend fifteen minutes (sometimes a day) shaving your bod, or go caveman style and embrace the furriness.

But LHR is incredibly beneficial for male and female travelers alike. It’s effective, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and most of all, it is one less thing to worry about while traveling.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Laser devices send specific concentrated beams of light through the skin that are absorbed by the melanin (dark) pigment present in the hair follicle shafts. Because hair grows in cycles, repeated treatments are necessary to destroy the hair follicles.” You can find more information online and always read reviews before purchasing a package, to ensure the laser clinic or dermatologist is a good fit for you.

Read up on why I think laser hair removal is the best thing for travelers since the invention of the sarong:

Permanent Hair Removal for Women – Toss the razor!

Will Indie Revolutionize RTW Travel?

My fantasy RTW trip - is it doable?

My fantasy RTW trip – is it doable?

BootsnAll recently helped launch a very exciting travel website entitled Indie, aimed at helping travel folks easily put together their dream of traveling around the world. With this program, one can plot out their RTW trip and get a nice, quick price quote for what their RTW trip will potentially cost them (prices are for airfare only, however you can plot out your land travel as well to get a better idea of how your trip will work. The land travel is not factored into the final price though).

Does it make it easy to create a RTW trip? Sure does! I love being able to map out where I want to go and how I’ll get there. Except there are a few problems…

I tried mapping out a few potential places based on location proximity. I hate flying as it is and like to be on a plane for as little amount of time as possible, so I tried to map out a route with airports relatively close to each other. The results are not so ideal. When I wanted to go from Mexico City to Bogota, Columbia – pretty close, as far as I could see – I’d have to fly from Mexico City, back to New York (my initial launch pad), then from New York to Bogota. Not only did I increase the amount of time on a plane, but I’m flying northeast to fly back southwest.

That’s about twice the gasoline emissions sent into the air for a trip that should be a one-stop shot. I have to tinker around with Indie’s site a little more. I do like that they include a section of successful RTW itineraries, which I’m going to browse, because maybe I’m setting my sights too high. But when you can book a 25-stop RTW trip in one shot, what’s to stop be from experimenting a bit?

I also wanted to fly from Brazil to Namibia, being that they are literally “across the pond” from each other. No dice. It would require me to fly from Rio, to New York, New York to Johannesburg, then Joburg to Namibia. A totally convoluted route to reach somewhere that, according to what I’d plotted out, seems like a straight shot. Not to mention all of the gasoline emissions from flying back, and forth, and back again.

What gives?

Anyone know why this would be the case? Surely there are people who fly from Rio to Namibia who don’t have to deal with all of this crazy international hullabaloo. Does it have to do with visas/being an American citizen, and having to travel through an American hub? Maybe it’s just the flights that come onto the radar at the time I search, or maybe that’s just how the airline industry works.

Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong. I’m not planning on doing a RTW trip for some time, but when I do, I want it to be as easy as possible. Travel dudes, help me out!

Sign up for your own account on Indie here.  Hopefully you have better luck than I!

PS just found this post on BootsnAll’s site: 5 Affordable Round the World Routes.  I will definitely keep this in mind for planning my own trip!