Packing a Suitcase: Traveling Light, Traveling With Caution

I believe almost everyone has grown up with some notion of how to pack for travel. Be it a childhood sleepover, camping, or (as we’ll talk about here) a vacation.

When going on vacation, especially one involving airplane travel and security, packing your luggage can be an extremely important step. Taking measures to ensure your things don’t get lost or damaged can help put your mind at ease and no one wants to get stuck at the airport with extra costs or because their luggage doesn’t meet the airline’s guidelines.

On cruises, the baggage policy tends to be simply that if your baggage fits in your room you can bring it. (Although this may be tempting for all the heavy packers out there, just remember, the more luggage you bring the small your room becomes) However, almost every vacation will involve some sort of airplane travel. As many seasoned travelers know, THIS is where packing can get tricky and what we will be focusing on in this post.

First let’s discuss the difference between carry on and check in:

  • Check in luggage
  • Has size and weight restrictions
    • Usually costs extra domestically but is free for 1 bag per person internationally
    • Is stored elsewhere
  • Carry on luggage
    • Has size restrictions
    • Usually has no extra cost
    • Stays with you

Carry on is usually the best way to go fot shorter trips. Your luggage stays in sight, isn’t tossed around as much, and you don’t have to pay any extra cost. Check with your airline about their baggage policies when you begin packing and keep rechecking as these policies change constantly. Be sure to ask:

  • How much you can travel with: size and weight limits for both carry on and check in
  • How much it costs for check in luggage (it usually ranges from $25 to $40 per bag)
  • What is allowed as a carry on: dimensions of the bag or suitcase

When you do begin packing the first 2 rules of thumb are:

“If you can’t replace it easily, don’t bring it”  IE if you will be really upset that the airline lost the special shirt that yout wife bought for you don’t pack it.

“If you need something no matter what , keep it in your carry on.” IE Prescription medicine, glasses, contacts, anything that would be hard to replace where you are going makes this list. If you can hit a local drug store and replace it you are set but not something that you need scipts for.  SIDENOTE: prescription meds MUST be in the original bottles with the labels attached. TSA types love to mess with this stuff and you don’t need the hassles and delays.

Remember that anything you take can get stolen, damaged, or simply forgotten and if it is irreplaceable, its best left at home. If it is something you need for the trip, like medication or a camera, keep it in a carry on. As mentioned before a carry on stays with you on the plane and is less likely to get lost, stolen, or damaged through your travels. If something does happen to your check in during airline travel, travel insurance will cover missing, lost, or stolen baggage up to a point. The airline will cover very little.

Other Tips for Packing:

  • Get sturdy luggage
    • Luggage gets thrown around, prepare for this as best you can. Buy sturdy luggage that is unlikely to be dented. We at On Site Travel actually recommend hard-sided plastic, it doesn’t dent. Strap down the contents inside and don’t put breakable items in a check in.
  • Avoiding check in baggage is avoiding extra costs and extra headache
    • Try to keep your baggage within carry on restrictions. If you can’t, all breakable and valuable items go in the carry on.
  • Leave extra room for souvenirs
    • Remember, you may buy things on your trip, and they will require extra baggage space. Account for that in advance so you aren’t surprised that your baggage no longer fits within airline policy on your way home. There are two ways to do this:
      • If you’re allowed 2 carry ons, pack a smaller suitcase within a larger suitcase (suitcase-ception) on the plane ride over so that you can use smaller suitcase for souvenirs on the ride home
      • Use an expandable suitcase (make sure that the expanded form is still within carry on limits) and make sure it isn’t expanded on the trip over. You can use the expansion space on the trip home to gain the extra room.
    • If you buy something large while on vacation, ask about shipping options. If it can be shipped home you will not need to worry about fitting it in your luggage.
  • Ask about laundry facilities where you are vacationing (be it a hotel or a cruise)
    • If there are, you can pack less.
  • NEVER USE VACUUM SEALING BAGS
    • Although they save room, think about how much room they will take up after they are unsealed after the trip when you are repacking or even during a baggage check. Also, if one of them breaks your baggage can explode. All in all, not a good idea. If you have problems preserving room with clothing, I suggest looking into the KonMari folding method instead.

Happy Packing!

Hawaii Interesting Fact
A creole language in Hawaii spoken by many locals is known as Pidgin. It started on the sugarcane plantations as a way for the English-speaking plantation owners and Non-English speaking Hawaiian and foreign workers to communicate with each other. Pidgin is American English based but includes traces of Hawaiian, Portugese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and Tagalog. In recent years a few local books, poems, and plays have even been written in the local dialect and a few popular works have even been translated to Pidgin. One popular example (available on amazon.com) is the Bible, or in Pidgin, Da Jesus Book.

image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/travelling-travel-traveling-packing-30855/

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Adventure of the Month: Hawaiian Islands

Happy August! As this is the first post of the month we will be taking the time to promote a special country or place to help our readers learn more about the world waiting to be explored. This month we are promoting the Hawaiian Islands. Once a country of it’s own, Hawaii is now the U.S.A’s 50th state with tourism being its main industry.

Growing up in Oahu, I can say from first hand experience that it is a wonderful place with beautiful scenery, rich history, and a laid back local culture. It is a place that I miss dearly and one that I would definitely recommend experiencing firsthand.

Hawaii consists of an archipelago with 8 “main” islands which all have their own special characteristics and culture that make it unique:

  • Hawaii – “The Big Island”
  • Maui – “The Valley Isle”
  • Lanai – “The Pineapple Isle”
  • Molokai – “The Friendly Isle”
  • Oahu – “The Gathering Place”
  • Kauai – “The Garden Isle”
  • Niihau – “The Forbidden Isle”
  • Kahoolawe – “The Target Isle”

Some have a certain island that they particularly enjoy but for those that have never visited the islands themselves we at Onsite Travel suggest visiting all of them on a cruise in order to get a “flavor” of each.  This way if you fall in love with one you can always come back!

There are two main ways of cruising the Hawaiian Islands available:

  • Pride of America with Norwegian Cruise Lines : a U.S. based ship that starts and ends in Honolulu and cruises the Hawaiian islands for 7 nights/8 days
    • The Pride of America is a mid-sized ship that can hold about 2500 passengers at a time. It’s rooms are smaller than the later option but it cruises all year round and offers discounts to military and local residents of both California and Hawaii. With this option, our travel agents suggest booking your flights a few days earlier and/ or a few days after the cruise ends and staying overnight in a hotel to spend a few days at the state capital. The Hilton Hawaiian Village or the Ilikai hotels are located between the pier and Waikiki.  This will allow you to see North Shore, Pearl Harbour, and Waikiki.  Something to keep in mind with the NCL Pride of America, the service on this cruise is about 1 star lower then you may be used to.
  • A secondary option is with Princess or Holland America Cruise: two cruise companies who do cruises of the islands that start and end in the West Coast (California).  Still 7 nights in the islands with with 4-5 days at sea on either side of the islands.
    • Although this cruise is longer, it is around the same price as the Pride of America cruise with great service and technically the better “bang for your buck” if you have the vacation time. Because of the longer time period, these cruises have some days at sea to relax and sometimes overnight stays at the islands so you have more time to explore. However, they also only run for three months: September, October, and November. This is perfect for those that want to stay away from busy summers in Hawaii, which is when the islands are flocked by tourists.

Throughout August we will be posting small “blurbs” on twitter (@onsite_travel) and at the bottom of our posts on travel tips with more facts about Hawaii and sites worth seeing.

Want to know more about booking a trip to Hawaii? Contact one of our travel agents! Or go on our travel site under “Cruises” to search for more Hawaiian vacations yourself.

Aloha and A Hui Hou!

image (coast of Kauai) by Paul Bica: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dexxus/5621252335/

 

Booking and Planning a Trip, Full Disclosure for the Best Experience

In the last post we discussed things to think about before you talk to an agent about booking a trip.   Once you have decided on a type of trip you need to narrow the focus and get into details that may make or break that overall experience of your vacation.

Although your TA will likely ask you about most of the subjects covered, don’t be shy to ask about specific accommodations you may need or questions about things that are unclear to you. Remember, one of the benefits of booking through a travel agent is helping you meet individual needs with honest, knowledgeable advise.

  • Make sure you fully understand what documents you are responsible for:
    • Travel agents can organize flights and airport pickups and drop off but the traveler is the one who must arrive with all their legal documents, tickets, and baggage at the ready. If you don’t completely understand what you need to have with you, don’t hesitate to ask!  your TA to go over it and it’s always a good idea to write everything down.
  • Discuss the trip accommodations and extras and be sure that you are getting what you need to make your trip a success:
    • Ocean cruises offer a vast array of options that most people aren’t used to and /or don’t know are available.
    • Adjoining rooms for extended families, different dining times and table sizes. Does anyone in your party have special needs like dietary restrictions or physical limitations that will impede your trip?   These issues need to be covered in advance and if it is a modified room you may need to act quickly as these are limited in number and tend to book up quickly.
  • I am bringing this up again because it needs to be addressed. Discuss any accommodations you as an individual may need!
    • Even if you think you will be accommodated for, you may not be! This is not Walmart or Starbucks in a major US city.  It is a surprisingly common problem that a client’s with physical handicaps do not plan ahead or know what they are getting involved in and their trip is severely hampered. For example, perhaps one of your party is wheelchair-bound but your room isn’t handicap accessible. Perhaps one of your party is allergic to shellfish and part of the tour you take includes a lobster dinner. A surprising case came in when an american woman vacationing in Europe complained that many of the tours were not “RASCAL accessible” and that the food portions were not enough for a woman her size. Be sure to mention allergies, health concerns, alternative modes of transportation, and anything else that may need to be accounted for.
    • If you show up with a wheelchair or electric scooter without the proper paperwork you may be denied boarding.  This is reality and NO refunds will be offered because you did not plan ahead.
    • Think long and hard about the method of travel that you are planning as well if you are physically limited.  Europe has many cobblestone roads.  If you are in a wheelchair or use a walker and are not used to walking long distances this is not a great idea for a trip.
  • Ask about the culture of the place your visiting
    • As mentioned before, a travel agent accumulates knowledge about different places through their own customer reviews and experiences. See if they have any places they would recommend visiting or things you should avoid. See if there is anything you should try or be wary of when immersing yourself in a different culture. (We will discuss more about tourist safety in a later article.)
  • Go over emergency precautions and safety tips
    • Hopefully nothing happens when you are on vacation and this is the vast majority of peoples vacations but just in case, most travel agencies offer travel insurance.  It is important to discuss these options with your agent so that you know what to do and who to call. If you are in a foreign country and are unsure of what to do, it is best to go to your country’s embassy or call your agent. (If it is an emergency the first choice is more recommended.)