What You Need To Know
I can spend hours researching for my next trip and get great satisfaction hunting down the best deal or learning something new about a destination I am considering travelling to about some travel gadget or accessory that will make my life easier or more comfortable. In my “travels” I have also learned some interesting things that most people haven’t tried or don’t know about. In this week’s post I’ve got some helpful insights into luggage (using carry-on and not using packing cubes) and locks that you might not know about.
TSA Locks Can Be Easily Opened
For many years I would use TSA (Transportation Security Administration from the US; in Canada it is called CATSA–Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) approved combination locks not just to secure my luggage when flying, but also to lock up my belongings in the hotel room. I was astonished to discover that these locks are not so tough to pry open. A while back I was fiddling with one of my locks and changed the combination. Unfortunately, the number that I changed it to did not work, so I was left with a lock that wouldn’t open.
YouTube to the rescue! I did a search and discovered that the lock can be easily opened with a penknife in the space where the TSA master key would go. I tried it and, voila, it opened in less than 10 seconds. So, there went my “secure” way to keep my belongings safe. What do I do now?
- I will use TSA locks if I have to on flights to the USA, although most often I bring carry-on luggage
- I only use NON-TSA locks when locking up my luggage in my room. That means there isn’t any key or TSA key space. If the thief really wants to get into my luggage, they’ll have to cut the lock.
Travelling To Europe: How Much To Bring
All I can say is: Do carry-on!
One of the best reasons to do carry-on, particularly for trips to Europe is the following: Do you really want to lug your 70 pound suitcase up 5 flights of stairs? Not all hotels in Paris have elevators and of the 13 apartments or houses that I have rented in France, Italy, and Spain, only TWO had elevators!!!
Even though I do carry-on I STILL pack too much. There have been trips where I did not wear some of the clothes I bought. Yet, I was able to do carry-on in 2010 when I travelled for 6 weeks to France, Italy and Morocco. The temperature ranged from 12 degrees C to 28 degrees C. Layering works. Granted, by the end of the 6 weeks I didn’t want to wear any of those clothes again. Here are my top suggestions for packing:
- Wear your heaviest items on the plane
- Download books onto your tablet. You will save a LOT of space and weight. If you insist on bringing a tour book, rip out the sections that you will use. Don’t bring the entire book!
- Do NOT pack a hair dryer. Most hotels/apartments have them.
- Test Run: Do a test run on how much shampoo/conditioner you will really need. 50ml can last me weeks! Most hotels will supply shampoo and even if you have to buy some, it will be cheap
- Essentials with you: If you do check your luggage, be sure to pack your essentials in your carry-on bag, JUST IN CASE they lose your luggage. Essentials include anything you would desperately need if they lost your luggage, such as the following: contact lens solution, glasses, toiletries, 1 pair of undergarments, important documents/travel confirmations, medicines, electronics (the last few are givens, as you should never pack anything valuable in checked luggage).
- Packing Cubes: I know there are a lot of bloggers/travellers who LOVE these packing cubes; however, I don’t. Yes, you get to organize your clothing into categories and everything is in one zipped-up container; however, I did a test and discovered I could actually pack MORE into my suitcase by NOT using the cubes. Here’s the problem: your clothing cannot fit in the nooks and crannies that are available in your suitcase, particularly when the telescopic handle takes up some room. Rolling your clothes and putting socks or whatever in shoes is one of the best ways to pack.
- My final piece of advice—-DUCT TAPE!!! It is a lifesaver. Just ask my friend Laurie whose suitcase fell apart during our trip. Duct tape saved the day and enabled her to get home without having to buy a new piece of luggage in France.
Carry-On Luggage: Baggage Size Limits
During my last trip, I packed to only bring a carry-on bag. Nowadays more and more people are doing this because they don’t want to pay the checked luggage fee of $25 or more. As I proceeded to my gate, the Air Canada rep stopped me and said my bag was too big. My bag was packed quite full and it would not fit into the sizing device. So, I moved to the side, took a few things out of my bag and put them in my knapsac and proceeded to the gate. At the gate, upon boarding, no one stopped me. Lucky? Maybe.
I was also stopped in San Francisco a few years back and they put my carry on luggage in the cargo bin because it was too big but they did NOT charge me. Lucky again I guess.
Just be forewarned that the airlines are really clamping down on the size of your carry-on. I have been shopping for new luggage and I always bring along the Air Canada and Air France carry-on requirements just in case. The measurements are different and my advice to others would be to check all airlines that you will be flying and don’t assume one airline is the same as another.
For those travelling via Air Canada, here are the size dimensions for carry-on baggage for all destinations:
Allowance: 1 Standard Article + 1 Personal Article
23 cm x 40 cm x 55 cm (9 in x 15.5 in x 21.5 in)
Wheels and handles included.
Maximum weight: 22 pounds (10 kg)
16 cm x 33 cm x 43 cm (6 in x 13 in x 17 in)
Maximum weight: 22 pounds (10 kg)
Check out the Air Canada website outlining the rules and baggage size limits.
If you’re wondering if it’s safe to travel to France, check out this post Are You Scared To Travel To France?