Addiction, or obsession, rules – even in the luggage shop

My daughter looks at me wryly.  I know what she’s going to say – she’s sitting on my bed looking at the top shelf of my wardrobe.

This is what she can see.

“Why have you got three cases the same size?”

I explain: the red one is a hard-shell case and I use that for my checked luggage, it has two expandable zips; the lavender one on top of it is the one I use for weekends away, and I know, should have checked the size of that before I bought the dark blue one last week – which was to replace my small red carry-on bag which I had to jettison during my recent travels after a bedbug scare!  I thought it was smaller than the lavender one.

However, I know I have been sprung: I have a luggage obsession – what else can I say? 🙂

So, I’ve got all my bags out and photographed them just for you!  Do you have a luggage obsession?  Do you find it difficult to walk past a shop selling luggage?  I do.  I wonder if there is a word as describes an addiction to luggage – a luggage-aholic perhaps.  If so, I’m one.

Here are my bags – and they don’t even show my many multi-coloured handbags (do Americans still call them pocketbooks or some-such word – the ones you take when you go to the café, library, mall etc) – although I now notice my yellow handbag in a photo – recently bought in Malaysian Borneo.







And, this is the last bag shop I went in to.  It takes time to compare and contrast the pros and cons of each bag!

It’s on Lambton Quay in the Wellington CBD.  I went there to get a small, hard covered carry on suitcase to keep my photographic gear, my laptop, or tablet, and of course all the bits and pieces needed to keep them going when you’re on the road.  Leads, battery chargers, power plug converters: you know, all the things that weigh so much in our luggage.  They are also the most important things in my travels.  I can replace clothes or toiletries really easily, but not so my electronic gear.  (Of course, when I started my long distance, long-term, solo travel  (1995)I didn’t have any of those.  Just a little camera with film.)

After some time, comparing, opening, wheeling, and checking the weight of hard-shell cases, I decided although they are great, that they keep your gear safer and, you cannot overpack  – I also realised you have to open them completely to get the offending, suspect gear out, when going through security.

I prefer a carry-on that has a front pocket big enough to put everything that needs to be screened in the one place and pull it out quickly – so not holding up the line and having to repack at the other end  – to be checked as I go through security.

So that long-winded explanation is how I explained to my daughter why last week I bought a suitcase almost the same size as my lavender one, but with a better pocket on the front – well, that’s my reasoning – it didn’t wash with her either 🙂

A travel writer confesses to breaking her own rules and tips

Confessions from a travel writer: I’m not as perfect as my blogs may imply!

No doubt with a book called Naked in Budapest you could assume my confessions will be racy – sorry to disappoint you but these confessions are about packing and any ‘racy confessions’ will stay in my travel memoir – not this blog.

So, confession #1

Despite having written a few really popular and helpful blogs about packing for travel and another about carry-on luggage, or for cruising,  I occasionally fail by not reading my own words of wisdom, and if i do, not heeding that voice in my head that says “Heather, I hope you are listening (in this case via reading’) to yourself”.

My recent trip to the USA saw me break my cardinal rule of don’t take anything for ‘just in case.’ and although I think I wore everything once, there was too much in my bag.

I guess swimming gear doesn’t really count – its hard to use  what we Kiwi call ‘togs’ for anything else but in the water or poolside. (mine were only worn twice, once swimming with the Florida manatee and a very quick dip in the Pacific, despite the heat)

A soiree in Atlanta
A soiree in Atlanta – at the Coca Cola site

Confession #2

I’m now gathering things together for my trip to the Rainforest World Music Festival (#RWMF) and already I know I have way too much to even choose from.  So I’m taking myself in hand by writing this confession and hopefully shaming myself into taking what I need – not what I want, or think I want. I will also, this time, reread my helpful packing tips!

One of the issues around packing decisions is the variety of activities we often have to do in one trip.

The USA trip saw me attending a convention, a couple of parties, shopping, hiking, exploring tourist places and checking out restaurants.

My August trip to the music festival, in Malaysian Borneo, also has its challenges: a fancy dinner reception, surviving the photographers mosh-pit, planting a tree as part of ‘greening the festival’ – possibly in a mangrove area, attending performers’ interviews, meetings with tourism officials, exploring Kuching, AND spending part of my significant birthday in a drumming circle.

So, once again, many occasions, and very hot weather, meaning I need to think layers and interchangeable tops and bottoms and colours that mix and match.

Now to choose what makes the last cut! ( and my next blog will be from the annual Rainforest World Music Festival)

2015-07-27 08.45.56

Now to choose from too many items!


Photo of the end result for boarding tomorrow … red bag for checked luggage, plus my carry-on and personal handbag (combined they weigh just under the 7kg rules – and the ‘handbag’ could be put into the grey carry-on which is mostly my electronic gear: of course NONE of which I needed when I first started travelling :):)






Travel packing list and tips

Packing for Poland
Packing for Poland


I’ve written a few blogs about how to pack for travel including one about ‘Far away places with strange sounding names.’ And, one with tips for carry-on and checked luggage  that I’m told has been really helpful.  But I’ve been thinking, as I pack for my next trip, (Poland & Thailand) that perhaps my pick and mix list is my best idea – sort of like the supermarket sweets/lollies section. Chose the flavours you want or need! Here’s my current jelly bean and toffee luggage list:


Travel checklist           

  • International plugs
  • Multi plug for USBs
  • Camera (s)
    • Extra batteries
    • Charger
    • Memory cards
    • Tripod
    • Mono-pod
    • Small tripod
    • Headlight
    • Waterproof bag
    • Soft wrap bag for camera
    • Bag for camera gear
  • Small camera
    • Batteries /charger
  • Walkman/MP3
    • leads/headphones
  • Samsung tablet
    • keyboard
    • cover/ leads
  • Phone
    • leads/power plug
  • Solar charger
  • Battery pack for ph/tablet
  • Pedometer
  • Binoculars
  • Toiletries/ 1st aid
  • Medication
  • Towel/Togs
  • Umbrella/Sun visor/block
  • Travel docs/ passport
  • Spare glasses & script
  • Credit cards
  • Journal/pens/address book
  • Kobo e-reader
  • Waist bag
  • Small backpack
  • Map/guide-book
  • Small handbag

I go through my list and strike out the unneeded and mark what I want in my carry-on bag. I recommend travellers make their own list . . . after all, we all need different things for different travels and this time I have three very different trips within the one trip. As you can see there are no clothes on this list as I have written about them in my other blogs.

What would be on the top of your list?

sorting my carry-on bag
sorting my carry-on bag


Far away places with strange sounding names …. the call of travel

I was only 2 or 3 years old when Vera Lynn sang the song about ‘faraway places with strange sounding names’ and it’s always resonated with me – no wonder I finally morphed into a travel writer!

While I haven’t been to China, I have seen the ‘castles in Spain’ and been ‘to Siam’ (Kingdom of Thailand) as mentioned in the lyrics sung by the popular, WW2 UK singer, Vera Lynn . (Lyrics below) I’ve also been to many other places around the world some with ‘strange sounding names’ – and if I haven’t been somewhere, you can guarantee it’s on my bucket list!

With all the travelling I do, I have found lots of luggage-type  odds and ends that helps keep my bag to the smallest size while making sure I can find my gear – and more importantly I don’t forget something vital – electronics have changed our travel needs (and or wants).

In 1995, when I started serious, long-term, traveling and writing I didn’t even have an email addresses let alone a computer or mobile phone. How quickly things have changed!

I’ve written about packing for plane travel before, but here are a few more tips for you so living out of your travel bag is easy;

  1. Buy a smaller bag than you think you need! This will help concentrate your mind on your NEEDS. (I always take too much when I’m traveling by car, from home, as I know I have space for all the just-in-case items – which should be culled.)
  2. Use organiser type bags or cubes so you can keep like with like. E.G. one mesh bag for underwear and socks. I also use airline toiletries bags for electronic bits and pieces.  And of course your toiletries need to be in small containers in a small bag. Keep any medication in your carry-on bag.
  3. And of course, rolling or folding? I believe rolling creates less wrinkles – in fact I sometimes roll clothes as complete outfits – usually clothes that are for ‘best’ or will rarely to be worn but are needed.
  4. A waterproof bag for keeping electronics/ passport/tickets can be useful if you will be on boats or during monsoon season. The same bag is great for keeping out sand in deserts or the beach.
  5. And, finally, keep all these in one bag along with lists of what’s needed for a ‘weekend’, a ‘month’, in a ‘hostel’ or a ‘5-star’ trip: and of course for that last-minute invitation to travel. Even with a list I can forget something in the last minute rush.

Here photos of my mix and match bags that I use when on the move – it all depends on the length of the trip, destination and of course the type of accommodation and transport.

Media needs a variety of bags .. for batteries, leads, chargers etc
Media needs a variety of bags .. for batteries, leads, chargers etc
Waterproof and dust proof bags are often essential
Waterproof and dust proof bags are often essential
My cat - Mista - is alert once these bags appear .. false alarm this time!
My cat – Mista – is alert once these bags appear .. false alarm this time!
I keep all my travel bag bits and pieces handy in one bag
I keep all my travel bag bits and pieces handy in one bag

What are your best packing tips? Add them in the comments for others to try for size.

See below for the lyrics to the song:

Faraway places
With strange soundin’ names
Faraway over the sea
Those faraway places
With the strange soundin’ names
Are callin’, callin’ me

Goin’ to China
Or maybe Siam
I want to see for myself
Those faraway places
I’ve been readin’ about
In a book that I took from a shelf

I start getting restless
Whenever I hear
The whistle of a train
I pray for the day
I can get underway
And look for those castles in Spain

They call me a dreamer
Well, maybe I am
But I know that I’m burnin’ to see
Those faraway places
With the strange soundin’ names
Callin’, callin’ me…

At the airport – your pre-flight check list

Air NZ – at Christchurch International Airport

Travelling? Here’s your pre-flight check list to make the sharing of such confined spaces means we need to be considerate – and we want our fellow-travellers to be respectful too.

It starts at home – before you left home or hotel you put comfortable clothes on and soft socks to wear during the flight and then, items you will need during the flight have been put in a little bag (for inside your carry –on) for at your seat – notebook, pen,  e-reader/ paperback, moisturiser, lip balm for instance.

Of course before you approach the check-in desk you will have your passport/photo ID, and tickets handy and, of course, you will only have the number of bags you are allowed on the flight and they will be the weight permitted.

Once you have your boarding pass, now is the time for a pre-boarding check and some reminders about how to be a considerate passenger. I’m sure you follow these ideas, so pass this blog on so the people you have to travel with are pleasant to sit beside too!

Head to the lounge in plenty of time – you don’t want to start your flight flustered by racing against the clock.

And, before you get to the security checkstep aside, let others go past and  . . .

  • Take your laptop out of your carry-on bag
  • Coat off
  • Everything out of your pockets
  • No prohibited items (depends on airline/country) but no knives, scissors, inflammable items
  • No ‘funny’ jokes  about  terrorism, bombs, hi-jacking, or explosives

Once in the lounge:

  • Board in the sequence you’re called: they do that for a reason!
  • Have your in-flight needs handy so you don’t hold up others in the aisle as you rummage for your e-reader or MP3 player before you put your bag in the overhead locker and finally take your seat.

Now, sit back and enjoy your flight – and I hope you sit next to someone as considerate as you are!

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I’m a backpack gal … what are you?

good post from Lonely Planet

It’s a longstanding debate: which form of luggage is best?

Without access to a distinguished steamer trunk that comes with a team of porters, most folks have to choose between two options: suitcases and backpacks.

Both sides have their evangelists and detractors. Often, suitcase-wielders label pack-carriers as uncouth hippies, while backpackers see ‘the other kind’ as inexperienced, awkward travellers.

The truth is that both backpacks and suitcases have their place. Choosing your luggage based on the type of trip you’re taking makes much more sense than a slavish devotion to either camp.

If you can’t decide, here are some tips to help choose.

You might prefer a backpack in the following situations:

  • You need your hands free (to carry a child, to ward off pickpockets etc)
  • You’ll be travelling over rough terrain (such as dodgy sidewalks or in the backcountry)
  • You plan to walk long distances – even in urban areas
  • You’ve packed a lot of lightweight, wrinkle-free clothes
  • You’ll be getting on and off buses, trains or other types of transportation constantly

You might consider taking a suitcase if

  • You’re travelling with lots of other luggage (such as carry-on pieces)
  • You’ll be mainly in urban areas that have smooth sidewalks or paths
  • You need to keep your clothes tidy, ready-to-wear and presentable
  • You’re hauling around a lot of heavy or fragile  items, such as books, laptops or gifts
  • You’re travelling with awkwardly shaped items that might poke you uncomfortably (such as large, firm parcels)

Either way, invest in quality. A backpack with fraying straps or a suitcase that doesn’t have solid, well-built handles and wheels will make your life miserable. Don’t sacrifice your travel happiness for pennies.

And, if you’re lucky enough to be travelling light, remember that simple carry-on luggage is the best bet for comfort, flexibility and security.

What do you think? Are you a confirmed backpack/suitcase enthusiast? Any additional tips to share?

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