Monday, February 25, 2008

Traveling in Thailand - Thoughts about Travel Gear

My first thought about travel gear occurred as I checked in for the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. We were flying Singapore Airlines. The beautiful and smiling young woman behind the counter checked our passports, issued our boarding passes and asked about checking luggage. "We're carrying everything on," I said. I had my 20 inch Tarmac and a daypack. I have always carried these two bags on. I have traveled the world carrying these bags on. "OK, weigh please," (smiling beautifully). I put my roll-aboard on the scale. "Sorry, too heavy for carry-on." She grabbed it, tagged it and off it went as checked luggage. This reinforced the advice I always give customers. There is no universal standard for carry-on luggage. Every airline has their own rules. Check with your airline and be prepared for the fact that the person at check-in or at the gate is going to make the decision. The whole situation was a little frustrating once I was on board and saw several people carrying-on bags larger and heavier than the one that was taken from me. So it goes.

Thought two about gear also had to do with my main bag. I hadn't traveled in Thailand before but found making my way around Chiang Mai, Tha Ton and Chiang Rai with a rolling bag to be very difficult. There are many places where there are no sidewalks and the sidewalks that do exist are full of obstacles. I would have preferred a travel pack for this trip. Even at my ... ah ... "advanced" age. I wish I had taken that Explorer LT Women's Fit I carried to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (twice :-)

Third thought about my traveling stuff was that I wish I had brought my Black Diamond Headlamp. The rooms have all had poor lighting and it has been nearly impossible to read after dark. We also found ourselves walking back to the hotel in the dark, one night, in Tha Ton. It's a small town and there were no street lights. We had a small flashlight but the headlamp would have been the perfect solution to both dilemmas.

OK, number four. I'm nearly done. I should have brought the entire Plug Adaptor Set with me. I took out the ones I didn't think I would need but found an instance where one of them would have been a help (long but boring story). Anyhow, from now on I take the whole set with me. Interestingly, nearly all the outlets I have seen in Thailand will accept either US or European style plugs.

Finally, I LOVE MY CONTOURWEAR SKIRT! It is the best piece of travel clothing I have ever owned. I zipped off the bottom section for running around during the hot and muggy day in Chiang Mai but put it back on, lengthening the skirt, when we visited a temple. It packs down to almost nothing, doesn't wrinkle, dries in a night and looks cute ... if I do say so myself.

I learn something about packing and travel gear on every trip I take. As usual, I have things with me I won't use and, as I said, there are things I wish I had packed. One of these times I'm going to get it just right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

United is Charging For Checked Baggage

It appears that the major USA carriers are starting to take a page from the Ryan Air playbook. They are allowing only one piece of checked baggage - the second piece will now cost an extra twenty-five bucks. If you check three pieces, that bumps up to $125 total. So that means you should get the biggest bag possible, and jam everything in there, right? Probably not. If your bag exceeds 62 linear inches (lenght + width + height), then they'll charge you another $100. The best option for your one big checked bag are the Eagle Creek Tarmac 28 (60 linear inches), the Victorinox Mobilizer 27 (60.25), or the Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30, which squeaks by at 61 linear inches.

Or, really, maybe you just don't need all that crap. You could do like I do, and just go carry-on. One 22 inch rolling bag, and one daybag/briefcase. Voila. Light, mobile, and you don't have to worry about all the extra charges, fees, etc.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sheets Loves the Steri-Pen and Injinji

Today at O.R., we met with inimitable Jeff Sheets, our sales rep for Ex Officio travel clothes. Jeff is a great sales rep because he is gregarious, an incredibly nice guy, and because he has a deep belief in (and excitement for) the products he represents. Jeff reps a panoply of other products aside from his main gig with Ex O (as we in the business refer to it), and among those are Injinji Socks, and the Steri-Pen, which Jeff has been trying to get us to carry for several year now.

The Steri-Pen is a great idea, but one we think people would not buy at our store. It sterilizes water using UV light. It's small. It runs on AA batteries. But we've never had much success with water purification of any kind. If anybody reading this disagrees, please feel free to send us an email or comment.

We didn't expect to be too into Injinji socks either. We sell some travel socks online and in the store (Travel Sox, Tilley Unholey Socks, and Zip It Socks) but we were not sure that toe socks were in our niche. But after hanging out at the Injinji booth and talking about them, we think we're going to bring them in. The thing that sold me was the point that socks that individually cover each toe are great at counteracting blisters. When I travel, I walk a lot. And for at least the first week of a trip, until I get used to walking from one corner of London to the other (like I did in November of 2006), I end up with some vicious blistering. And I remember wrapping Band-Aids around my toes to keep them from rubbing against each other and aggravating the blisters. After talking to Jeff and the folks at the Injinji booth, I kind of wish I'd had a pair of their sock with me instead.