Friday, August 13, 2010

Bag of Tricks for Travellers, part 2

Are you acquainted with the challenges of restricted luggage allowances? Whether you fly to your destination, catch a bus, or drive in a very small car, you will benefit from knowing travel tricks that maximize your luggage space and give you more freedom in closet choice.


A baby hot water bottle fits in a case or pack much more readily than an adult, and is just as hot.

Travelling light means not having many outfit options should you get caught out in a rainstorm, so the happiest position is not to get wet at all. If you're not going to encounter strong winds, the smallest of lightweight umbrellas (below on right) should be ample for keeping you dry between car and building or crossing the street. If you have to wait for a bus, it will probably keep all but your outer edges dry. Alternatively, stow a compact plastic poncho that goes over everything. It will be less than half the size of this umbrella, but you may need a stoic dignity to go with it.

On the spur of the moment, I grabbed a NZ$4 bag-within-a-bag (above on left) from The Warehouse and I'm very glad I did so. It's light, takes up hardly any space, and is more elegant than a plastic bag. The rolled-up inner bag turns into a capacious and comfortable shoulder bag that will swallow groceries to beach towels. The zippered case keeps sharp things in my purse like keys from scratching my electronic equipment.

How big does your computer need to be? Up until 2009 I carted a full size laptop by car, bus, plane, and foot. I don't know how I did it. I remember straining down Wellington's Wakefield Street from bus stop to youth hostel towing my roller pack with my backpack balanced against the handle, a food cooler in the other hand and my laptop case hanging from that shoulder. Yep, I was mad. I made two trips for the return to the bus stop.

Since then, I've been very interested in downsizing my portable equipment. As you see, I now have a baby. Nova is an HP mini 210 netbook, Vivienne Tam edition. She fits into my purse which fits into my backpack. I can do everything on her a writer/photographer needs except tasks that require a lot of grunt such as desktop publishing and fancy photo editing. I save those tasks for home and PC.

And while you're packing a laptop, consider how many cords you really need for your other electronic equipment such as cameras, cellphones, and mp3 players. If your device plugs into the computer for charging or data sharing, leave the chunky adaptors at home.

You may be wondering why take a purse as well as a backpack. Have you ever tried going to a classy restaurant or evening concert wearing a backpack? It just doesn't feel right, does it?

I admit that I gazed with envy when a young lady boarded my flight to Brisbane carrying only a handbag. It was half the size of this one! The truth is that my lunch box and travel pillow would have a hard time fitting into her handbag. They won't even fit into my handbag, so I take a backpack and handbag that can be used separately and also one inside the other (plus cushion, plus lunch box). This works for me. Explore the myriad of bag options and find what works for you.

I'm certain that most of you are hardy enough to not need a travel pillow. I've used mine as a writing table, to balance my lunchbox, to insulate me from rigid church pews and plastic airport seating, to alleviate the pressing interest of seatbelts, and to support my neck when sleeping on unyielding foreign beds.

The cushion is 33x33cm and cost me $4 at The Warehouse. I reshaped a torn but otherwise luxurious bed sheet into a zipped cushion case with carry handle, x2. Are you one of those who prefer sleeping on a fresh pillow case? Considering the places that cushion gets used, frequent change of cover seems to me a reasonable luxury. If my suitcase is pressed for space, I tuck the extra cover inside the one in use. The carry handle means I can shoulder the cushion independent of whatever else I'm carrying and it actually looks like a shoulder bag.

If you have your own tricks for resizing and adapting the contents of your suitcase, we'd love to hear from you!

Photos of Darina courtesy of her Nana Isabel Worboys.

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