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Packing Carry-On Only with Ryanair

My husband and I planned a bit of a spur of the moment trip to Leipzig and Dresden recently and booked cheap flights with Ryanair. We did not want to pay the baggage fees (£40 one way for one bag!), so we decided to pack into our good old LL Bean Deluxe Bookbags. I’ve had mine since the mid-90s when I was in High School, and my husband got his about 8 years ago. These bags were made to last, so I can highly recommend one! They hold 32L, and weigh around 600g, so perfect for a carry-on!

We were going away for 5 days, one night would be in an Ibis in Leipzig, and the rest of the trip we stayed in an apartment in Dresden. I packed with the plans that I would wear everything at least twice, and if I needed to I knew I could wash things in the sink.

Packing list:

• Sport skort
• Short sleeved sport top
• Long sleeved sport top
• 3 x sport knickers

• T-shirt
• Pajama shorts
• Slippers
• Toiletries bag (see below)
• Nesting snack boxes
Travel cup
• Crushable sun hat
• Packable rain coat
• Laptop charger/UK to EUR converters/US charging hub
• First aid kit
• Bag of snacks
• Tea bags/sweetener
• Bread bag and bag clasp*
• Reusable shopping bag
• Folding mini rucksack

All my clothing fit into a single packing cube. I also had some zipper top plastic bags in the bottom of my cube in case I needed to separate any dirty or wet clothing or in case the airport didn’t accept my toiletries bag and made me swap it to a plastic bag. I deliberately picked a sport skort for having shorts built in to protect my modesty when I crouched down to take photos and also to help with preventing chafing. I took sport tops for their quick drying technology so I had the option of washing my shirts in the sink. The long sleeved top I packed along was one that has mesh shoulders and upper back, so it still kept me cool even in the heat. I even packed sport knickers for their quick drying properties. I worked out that I actually only needed to pack 2 pairs (plus the pair I wore on the plane) as long as I was religious with washing them, but I decided to take a third pair along for a spare. And I actually wound up adding in two more pairs because I had the space for them. I also added a bralette, which didn’t work out the way I had expected it to.

I packed slippers over flip flops since we were going to be in an apartment and I knew I wouldn’t need them for the shower. In Germany and Austria (at least), it is usual to remove your shoes when you enter a home, so we always pack hausschuhe when we visit these countries and are renting apartments.

The nesting snack boxes are from Paperchase, and they are excellent for travelling if you plan on making packed lunches while you are away since they take up very little space in your bag. We also took along reusable drink cups that could hold both hot and cold drinks in them since we had a rental car with cup holders. We just took the cheapie £1 cups you can get in Starbucks, so nothing fancy.

Curious about the bread bag/clip? In Germany and Austria (and likely other parts of Europe), fresh rolls daily is a thing. You can buy them in the grocery store or from a bakery, but the bags they sell them in don’t keep the bread fresh longer than a day. Since our trip was so short, we didn’t want to have to deal with getting bread daily, so I packed a bread bag and took along a bag clip. This actually worked and our bread remained fresh for the duration of our trip!

You also might notice laptop charger, but no laptop. My laptop fit into a sleeve in Tim’s camera bag, so I only needed to pack my charger. However, I had plenty of space, so I could have easily slipped my laptop in.

Toiletries:

• 2in1 shampoo/conditioner bar (Godiva by Lush)
• Dove bar soap
• Hibiscrub
• Zineryt
• Degree for Women solid deodorant
• Mist You Madly body mist
• Face moisturiser
• Make-up: BB Cream, powder,blush, eyeshadow, concealer, mascara, & lipgloss
• Anti-itch cream
• Anti-chafe cream (lifesaver!)
• Sudocreame
• Clinique Moisture Surge
• Boots Tea Tree blemish stick
• Toothbrush/toothtabs/mouthwash tabs
• Folding hairbrush and hair bands/pins
• Vicks inhaler stick
• Yes To Cucumber travel wipes
• Febreeze

and the clothing I wore on the plane:

Denim Skirt
Footless tights
Socks
Sport knickers
Bra
T-shirt
Thin Jumper
Fleece body warmer
Sketchers Go Walks

The tights and socks were the only ones of each I packed as I planned on washing them in the sink. I forgot to wash the tights and wished I had them on the return trip! I also didn’t need the body warmer again until our last day, but I needed it on the UK side the day we left and knew I would need it in the UK once we landed. Wearing it on the plane meant it didn’t take up any space in my bag, though I did have room for it. I wore my denim skirt the day after we landed and on the way home, and wore the skort the other three days.

After I came home and emptied my bag out, I decided to ask myself a set of questions. A girl on #HPLWorld calls it an “exit interview” with her bag. These are the following questions I ask myself:

1 Did I wear all my clothing packed? At least twice? If no, what and why?
2 Did I use all outerwear/accessories? If no, what and why?
3 Did I use all toiletry items including cosmetics but excluding first aid kit? If no, what and why?
4 Did I have to buy anything for immediate use? What?
5 Did I use all electronics/electronic accessories packed? If no, what and why?
6 Did I use all other items not previously categorised? If no, what and why?
7 Is there anything left unused that can be eliminated from a future trip?
8 Is there anything used on this trip that you do not want to pack again?
9 Was anything missing? Anything you felt like you should have packed?
10 Did the bag hold up? Was it too heavy or awkward?
11 Will you travel hand luggage/rucksack only again?
These questions apply to my main bag only. My personal item is my camera bag/purse and contained my DSLR, zoom lens, other camera accessories, and purse. I did not use my zoom lens, but it’s not something I would eliminate from a future trip if I was taking my DSLR.

1. Yes, I wore everything I packed at least twice, and in some instances more than twice. Except for my knickers, since I took enough pairs to last the whole trip.
2. No, surprisingly. It didn’t rain at all on our trip during the day so I never needed to use my mack in a pack. It also stayed ridiculously hot, so I never needed to add on a layer of wrist warmers.
3. No. Items left unused at the end of the trip were blush, eyeshadow, lipstick/gloss, and mascara. I used the BB cream daily as it had SPF in it and set it with setting powder, but I never used the other make-up items as it was just too hot for make up!
4. Yes – My folding brush broke the first day so I had to pick up a new one and we purchased sunblock in the airport before we left. I didn’t like the toothtabs, so I bought some toothpaste too.
5. We never tried out the HDMI cable (we were too tired each night!) and I didn’t need to use my card reader.
6. Yes. Er, I think. I’m sat in Starbucks enjoying the air conditioning while my phone says it’s 32C out, so I can’t double check everything. I think I had a leftover zipper top plastic bag, but that was it. Oh, I didn’t use all of the tea bags or eat all of the HiFi bars packed, but I left them behind. I didn’t know if we would need lots of tea bags or if I would be hungry daily for a bar.
7. This is a good question, and a puzzling one. I’d love to eliminate the rain coat, because it takes up a chunk of space, but rain is one of those unpredictable things. Originally, it was supposed to rain on our trip! An umbrella would take up less space, but an umbrella is less convenient as it ties up a hand to hold it. The travel cups turned out to be an excellent idea as we had a rental car and were able to pour water and soft drinks out of larger bottles and have it easy to hand. Probably wouldn’t take the travel cups on a trip we aren’t renting a car on, though.
8. No more bralette. Ugh. I really hated that thing. It offered no support whatsoever and I felt like I might as well have been wearing no bra. I think I’ll either just make space for a second proper bra (and I had space!) or I’ll have to hope I can wash/dry my bra overnight at least once during a trip. Or maybe use a bathing suit top as double duty. The Boots tea tree blemish stick I removed from its original packaging did not work out. It became dried out and unusable, and I would have had room for the original packaging anyway! I also didn’t really like the Yes To Cucumber facewipes, but they were passable.
9. I wanted a second pair of shoes desperately. The heat made my feet sweat in my sketchers so badly and it was just gross. So either a second pair to alternate or maybe just some powder to sprinkle in my shoes daily to keep them feeling fresh. And as mentioned above, a second bra. I also wished I had another top along because I had spilled something on my shirt at dinner and had to wear my pajama T-shirt out that evening since I didn’t want to swap into my only other clean shirt for a few hours. So another top would have been nice. I also wished I had some tea tree or acne fighting face wash along as I broke out pretty badly on my chin (though it was bacterial/an allergic reaction), I wished I had something better than Dove to wash my face with.
10. My bag is basically indestructible. The only problem it has is that it lacks structure, so I wouldn’t take it hiking or anything like that but it’s pretty good for point a to point b. It did get a little heavy (even though it only weighed 6KG on the return) when I was stuck wearing it going through the long queue at UK immigration, but for the most part it was fine as I wasn’t wearing it for very long periods of time.
11. Absolutely. Though my next trip my ticket includes a checked bag and we want to bring along a tripod and some other non carry on items, so we will be checking a small (it’s still carry on sized) suitcase between the two of us.

We’re off back to Germany soon, but for a longer trip. Hopefully, I can still keep it minimal!

***
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Packing Minimal Toiletries

12037841_10153724681382160_63833692_o I know I previously posted about packing toiletries in my Packing for Autumn in Austria blog post, but I decided to expand on it because I’ve been watching a lot of travel videos on youtube and a lot of “minimalist packing” videos and the amount of toiletries is insane! Someone went down to London for a weekend and they took a massive bag and then a huge train case full of toiletries and make up. Our weekend trip to London? A rucksack and the TSA sized baggie of toiletries. And some of the international travel ones make me laugh too. Americans visiting the UK or the EU, Brits visiting America…..people, none of these places are third world. If you run out of something or forgot something, you can buy it.

I decided to make my own “What’s in my Bag?” video sort of as a rebuttal, and as a way to show people who are looking for ideas on what they could do to pack into smaller bags. When we went to Austria, we each took a backpack and shared a wheeled suitcase. And the toiletries in this video and post are what we took with us and what I’ve taken before when we took backpacks only to Ireland to meet up with my cousins and it’s generally what I even take for a weekend away since it’s all basically what I use on a daily basis, although a single overnight I’ll take a lot less….I’ll detail that below too.

Tim’s Bag

Tim’s bag is the middle size of a three-pack of travel bags I bought at Marks & Spencer’s, but I’ve seen the three packs on Amazon for around £7. I used the big bag on our trip to the US in 2013 and I soon realised I did not need a bag that big. It took up way too much real estate in my suitcase, and half the stuff I had packed I never used. The middle sized is the appropriate size for taking in your carry-on and since it was piped in black, I gave it to Tim. Tim barely has any toiletries to begin with, so packing for him is simple and all his stuff, both liquid and non-liquid, fit in one bag. On longer trips, I sometimes steal space in his bag and put his non liquids in a separate bag! His toiletries are:

-Travel electric razor. I think its a Phillips, I’m not sure. I bought it at Boots when Boots had men’s razors on 1/3 off just before our trip to the states last May and it runs off AA batteries, so no charger to pack.
-Shampoo. He uses a 2 in 1, whatever is on sale usually. I think that might be an old bottle refilled.
-Body Wash. We use a 100ml bottle and I fill it with whatever he’s currently using (again, whatever was on sale)
-Aftershave. It’s in a little (30ml) bottle from Muji* because he really doesn’t use much on a daily basis.
-Deodorant. Whatever is available in the travel size.
-Toothbrush/toothpaste. We have folding toothbrushes where you unfold them and they’re the same size as a regular toothbrush. Toothpaste is, once again, whatever is available (do you see a pattern here? We are totally not brand snobs!)
-Deep Heat. This is in another bottle from Muji. We both use this for sore muscles especially after a long day of walking!
-Nail clippers. Because his bag has room for it 😉
-Tums/Pepto/Lemsip. Again, because his bag has room for it. We just travel with the things we might need if we get ill. Chances are, if we’re on a longer trip, one of us will get a slight cold or an upset tummy.

As you can see, not much. I think that’s pretty much all Tim ever needs even on a daily basis at home. Oh, and if we’re going on a longer trip, he’ll also pack his wet razor and a travel thing of shave gel. If he needs a brush, he just uses mine. Some of Tim’s things are from gift packs he was given for various gift giving occasions. We keep all that stuff in a drawer in the bathroom and pull things out as they’re needed.

For myself, I use one clear plastic bag that is size appropriate for a carry-on and then usually a second bag with my non liquids. I think my liquids bag might have come as part of a kit, either designed for travel, or with other stuff already in it. I had it in a box full of make-up bags (seriously. I have loads of free with purchase bags) and since it was clear and the right size for travel, it got used. My non-liquid bag is a Cath Kidston 20th anniversary wristlet that has served many purposes in it’s life so far**.

My liquids:
-Shampoo/Conditioner. I’m just refilling the bottles I bought ages ago with whatever I’m currently using. I saw on a video someone actually combined their shampoo and conditioner to make a 2 in 1 in a single bottle, and I might give that a trial at home to see if it really works…..if it works, I expect I’ll do that the next time we travel!
-Hibiscrub. It’s for my Hidradenitis Supperotiva. That’s a tiny bit that is enough for 4-5 days. For longer trips, I either pack 2 or a larger container….and when we go on a three week trips, I need about 200ml (but we also usually have checked bags for longer trips thaat I can put it in, and technically, hibiscrub is available without a prescription, it;s just pricey.)
-bodywash. Whatever I currently am using, usually decanted into whatever container I have around. Again, I’m not fussy.
-Deodorant. I prefer the Nivea Pearl stuff as it doesn’t agitate my armpits, but if that’s not available I’ll grab a different brand.
-Facewash. I bought 100ml foam pumping bottles off eBay before our trip to the US in May. I haven’t seen this in a smaller size anywhere yet, but if there was one I’d get it because even on a long trip I only use about 30ml as it’s a foaming pump so it distributes a lot per pump! I use a tea tree oil wash from Boots.
-Moisturisers. I bought the small tube at Muji and it’s filled with Boots Vitamin E face moisturiser. I also take a Nivea cream pot, since that’s good for all over the body. In the same vein, I always take a small pot of vaseline (it’s the lip stuff, but really it’s all the same). And there’s also a pot of Blistex lip balm. I recently discovered Lanacane anti-chafing gel and it’s amazing.
-Tea tree oil spot treatment gel and night cream. Zits happen. Especially when travelling.
-Antibacterial hand gel. I have a whole little drawer full of bath and body works mini hand sanitizers, so I just grab one in a scent appropriate for the season.
-Febreeze. Again, it’s in a bottle from Muji. Always handy if you plan on re-wearing clothing.
-Body Spray. I currently have Mist You Madly by Soap and Glory in a small sprayer I bought off eBay.
-BB Creame. I use this as concealer and foundation when I travel. It’s in a small pot from Muji (again!)
-Under eye brightener. Because I sometimes don’t get a lot of sleep on trips if we have late nights and early mornings.

Non Liquids:
-Travel hairbrush. £1 at Primark, though I just got a tangle teezer, so I might have to rethink this as the teezer is bigger (and I’m now obsessed with brushing my hair!).
-All-in-one Makeup pallet. Keeping it simple. 2 neutral eye shadows, blush, and a mini mascara in one little pallet.
-Face powder/Brush. Self explanatory. I wish they made these in a mini version. I’ll take any brand, so if you know of one, let me know!
-Lip crayon. It was in my advent calendar this year, but basically, I always have some kind of lip colour thing with me.
-Mirror
-Emergency sanitary product (you never know)
-cotton buds/cotton pads
-emery board
-mini first aid kit. just some plasters, blister band-aids, and antiseptic wipes. This goes with me when we’re out and about, too.
-Safety pins, hair grip/bobby pins, and hair ties
-mini medicine cabinet. Or at least, that’s what Tim calls it. It’s a weekly pill organizer I repurposed with all the little OTC things you might need – paracetamol, ibuprofen, kwells, pepto, and enough of my prescription Metformin for 2-3 days (any longer and I’ll add a strip of meds to my bag).

Missing from the video:
-Travel Razor. I got one of those Venus Snap ones and I love it. I’m hoping it’s in the bathroom and not left at Mom’s in PA! I’m not bothered about gel, so I’ll usually pinch a bit of Tim’s. I only take my razor on trips longer than a week because I’m lazy.
-Dry Shampoo. Depending on how long the trip is for, but this is handy especially if we have to be up early in the morning and shower the night before.
-Face wipes. They’re good for everything from their actual purpose to spot treating a stain or cleaning off a dirty table on a train. I usually grab the cucumber scented ones from Boots. They live in an outer pocket of my backpack when we’re out and about along with the first aid kit and pill container.
-Sun cream. Depending on where we’re going and the season. My face cream has SPF15 built in, but if we’re in FL or it’s the Summer, we usually take along a mini size of a sun cream and then buy more when we’re at our destination. Our three week trip to FL and PA last May we went through 3 cans between the two of us because Tim is a pasty British man and when he visited the US in the Summer of 2009 when we were dating I neglected to think about sunblock because I didn’t need any and he blister burned. And if we’re packing sun cream, I’ll probably pack a 100ml bottle filled with some aftersun too.

And, I think that’s everything. Anything else that we need or run out of we can easily pick up at a chemist/Apotheke***/grocery store. I tend to buy us pre-packaged travel sized bottles over refillable ones (And then refill them!) because if we need toss things due to space it’s not a huge loss, but Muji and Superdrug are both great places to get refillable bottles. Obviously, I use refillable bottles for things that either aren’t available in travel sizes or are specific products we need (like my Hibiscrub). And if we’re going to the US, we’ll only pack what we need for the first night in the hotel in London and usually make CVS our first stop (although now I have things at my cousin’s house in FL and my Mom’s in PA). For those trips, we usually take the dregs of a previous trip’s bottles and then we toss them in the morning.

I don’t wear a lot of make-up on a daily basis, so the items I pack is pretty much what I’d use on a day I felt like wearing make-up. When we went to the US in May for Laura’s wedding, I also took a whole bag full of my special occasion make-up.

I don’t pack many “what ifs?” because I think they take up a lot of space and I could probably fill a train case full of things I “might need”. Just about the only what ifs I take are all medical related – medicines, first aid, and creams/balms. And that’s because I know I will need those what if items. I’m accident prone. Chances are, I’ll cut my finger open or bang my knee against a table and need pain relief or plasters. My rule is always if there is something I discover I need, I can probably buy it. If it’s not available where I’m travelling to, well then I probably didn’t need it.

When we go on single overnights, I won’t pack all of this. If we’re spending the night with a local friend and planning on coming home straight away the next morning I might only take deodorant, face wipes, moisturiser, toothbrush/toothpaste, body spray, a hairbrush, and dry shampoo because I’ll shower when we get home. If we’re spending the night down in London and travelling by train, I’ll probably take shampoo, conditioner, hibiscrub, face wash, deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, body spray, and a hairbrush. The little Clinique pallet will usually go into my handbag along with a lip gloss and a little concealer if it’s a short trip as my Cath bag might wind up being my purse on those trips! But Boots often does 3 for 2 on the travel toiletries, so it’s super easy to pop into one on our way through King’s Cross or St Pancras.

***

*Muji is a Japanese store that has a few UK locations. I stumbled onto them when I had one of my “Day of her own”s in London back in August and they have all sorts of travel sized bottles — loads more than they show online.

**It’s been used as a purse, a camera bag, a make-up bag, a cords organiser, a handbag, a pencil case, and probably about a dozen other things. It’s super versatile! The ribbon strap is surprisingly strong and the inside is lined with red spotted fabric and it has a little pocket on the inside too.

***Apotheke is the German word that signifies a chemist. In Austria, it’s a giant A on the outside of the building. We needed one twice on our trip, once for some plasters and once for some additional deep heat.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Packing for Autumn in Austria

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Whenever I plan a trip, I immediately start making pakcking lists. Things I know I’ll need, things I might need, and things I need to buy. If I’ve already made my itinerary, I try to match up my outfits to what I’m doing. So for example, if I have a trip to a beach planned, I know that autumatically means a bathing suit and sunblock need to go on my packing list. I also check to see if we will have access to a washing machine (this time, we wouldn’t) and plan appropriately. If there is no washing machine, I think about what clothing we have that could be sink washed and we plan on wearing one shirt for two days, and trousers or skirts for 3-4 days. I also bring Febreeze along on all trips in a small spray bottle to help keep clothing refreshed.

I also immediately start scouring the internet for suggested packing lists for the area I’m visiting to get ideas….and the one blank spot in many websites and travel blogs seem to be visiting Austria in the Autumn. Plenty of packing lists for going in the Winter, plenty of packing lists specific to visiting Vienna, too….but nothing for visiting in the Autumn.

I checked the long-range weather forecasts and saw that the weather was predicted to be chilly and slightly damp, with not many warm days. This immediately indicated to me that I needed to think in terms of layers. Things that could easily be taken on or off (either in public or by visiting a toilet), and easily packed into whatever I was carrying for the day, as well as packed into my main luggage.

Before I go any further, let’s go over luggage. My luggage consisted of my LL Bean deluxe Bookbag (I’ve had it since I was 15 and this was its third trip to Austria!), a borrowed cabin sized bag wheeled suitcase, and my camera bag (Tim had an LL Bean bag and a camera bag). We decided to share the single checked bag for on the way to Austria, and I packed a folding ‘weekender’ bag which we decided to pre-pay for to use as a second bag for the trip home (GOOD idea). The weight limit on Ryanair for both checked and carry-on luggage is 15kg per bag, so I didn’t want to use a bigger bag for fear that it would soon get overweight. Ryanair does now allow TWO carryon bags, but one has to fit under the seat in front of you (my canmera bag) and one in the overhead. They also let you carry on a single carrier bag from the duty free shops in addition to your two carry ons.

Ok, so now that we know how much space we’re working with, we need to think about what we’re packing.

12037841_10153724681382160_63833692_o

Toiletries for both of us immediately went on the list. I chose to buy pre-packaged travel sized versions of most things because I wouldn’t feel bad tossing them at the end of the trip to save space, but Poundland does a decent fillable set for £1 if you’d rather fill with your own products. I did also need a refillable pump with my armpit wash (prescription), and I filled a very small container with some aftershave for Tim. As you can see, nearly everything we needed fit into those two clear bags. I also had a separate bag that held both our razors and a small make-up bag that had everything non-liquid in it. I decided to put the toiletries in the checked bag, so I had an additional plastic baggie which I put in the things I wanted in my carry on (my liquid medicines, squash, and hand sanitizer). I packed minimal toiletries – Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, prescription armpit wash, face wash, deodorant, small body spray, toothpaste, face moisturizer, and pimple cream. My non-liquids included vaseline, a Clinique palate (blush, eyeshadow, mascara), a No7 face powder compact, a folding brush, nail clipper, tweezers, travel toothbrushes, and cotton pads. I went on the principle that Austria is not a third world country, and if there was anything we needed we could easily pick it up either at the Boots in the airport or once we were in Austria. Which we did do as I needed muscle rub, a sewing kit, and Tim needed bodywash partway through as I accidentally packed a 50ml bottle for him. Yes. I forgot my sewing kit. DON’T forget one, or if you need one you will be stuck for days wandering into shops using your German dictionary to ask for a sewing kit. Other than needing body wash for Tim, we managed to make 100ml of everything else last until the last day. If I was going for longer than 10 days, I would probably try to either pack extras of everything, pack bigger containers, or plan on purchasing things once I arrived.

Tim’s toiletries were just shampoo, body wash, deodorant, after shave, toothpaste, and shave gel. I also added a bottle of Dr Bronner’s All In One and a spray bottle of Febreeze to his bag.

The other thing I find incredibly useful day-to-day as well as for travelling is a pill container I picked up in Poundland. It folds over itself and one side has four large compartments (originally labelled Morning-Afternoon-Evening-Bed) and six smaller compartments on the other side. It’s supposed to be a weekly pill organizer, but I used Tim’s dymamo labeller and changed the labels on i onlit so I can keep with me paracetamol, ibruprofin, naproxin, pepto, kwells, antihisimine, and a few Metformin.

So now that I’ve waffled on about toiletries….let’s move on to outerwear, including shoes. You might have noticed from my pictures that I mostly wore a pink fleece body warmer (gilet). I deliberately chose this because I like having mobility in my arms and I knew it would fit over multiple layers and even if I purchased a fleece (I almost did, but stopped myself in the end), I knew the gilet would have zipped over that too. I packed the pink one only because I couldn’t find my black one the day before we left, but in the end, the pink matched most of my clothing anyway.

I also packed a black cardigan, black opera length wrist warmers/fingerless gloves, a headband earmuff thing, leg warmers, and a scarf. I always pack a scarf when I travel even in the Summer because it winds up being useful as a blanket or folded up as a pillow. I have loads of scarfs, but for this trip I took the pashmina I bought in a Vienna market in 2010. I bought one of those tube things (Tuk?) that can be worn multiple ways and a bandana as souvenirs. Both those items will be going into my regular travel rotation as I found them both very useful. You might be laughing at the leg warmers, but I wear a lot of skirts/dresses and a cheapie pair from Primark has kept my legs warm on more than one occasion.

Shoe-wise, I only had the hiking boots I wore most of the trip, and a pair of ankle boots. I hardly wore the ankle boots, but they were nice for my one dress-up day (my day in Salzburg) and they fit in the bottom of my rucksack. Because for the first four days we were staying halfway up a mountain, I was quite glad for my hiking boots. They were comfortable, dry, and generally warm. I paired my boots most times with wooly knee socks. Not particularly fashionable, but again, they kept my legs warm and I felt cute in them. Plus because they were wool I was able to wash them in the sink at our apartment and get multiple days use out of them, so I only packed 4 pairs of knee socks. I also packed 4 pairs of ankle socks for wearing with tights or leggings. I packed 3 pairs of cheap (Primark again) weather sensing tights, 3 pairs of footless tights, and one pair of thicker leggings. And while not strictly outerwear, I also had along a pair of bicycle shorts and a pair of knee-length leggings (to prevent chafing and to protect my modesty!). I only wore tights one day and I only needed leggings for two as my knee socks kept my pretty warm, but I always kept a pair in my bag (except for the day I forgot!) in case I needed them. They don’t take up a lot of room, so it wasn’t really a big deal.

I packed in layers on top. Most of my tops were hiking/exercise tops that also claimed to be “quick dry” (They weren’t and only dried because I had a radiator to hang them on!). My favourite top was a new top I picked up at TK Maxx for a tenner (Retail price was £55!) a week before we left. It was a Reebok brand long-sleeved top with built-in thumb holes to make the sleeves into wrist warmers. My other long-sleeved tops were a Nike top I bought on a trip to the US at a deep discount (mint green with shoulder vents), and a cheap Primark pink long-sleeved shirt. I also packed along a M&S short-sleeved work out top, a black primark T-shirt (didn’t wear it), and 2 camisoles (one black, one nude). I also had a pink dress (worn for travel) and a grey and black striped dress. For my bottom half, I only brought along two hiking skirts – a Columbia skirt I’ve had for years, a grey skirt from H&M that has bright pink shorts under it, and a pair of grey lounge pants/pajama pants. I did wish I had packed one more skirt simply because I got tired of the two I had, but it was manageable. I also wished I had added extra camisoles, as they didn’t take up much space. I also packed slipper socks (well, they looked more like booties) because they took up less space than slippers, 11 pairs of knickers, and 3 bras (black, white, nude). I also wished I had packed another bra, but I was able to wash one in the sink.

Tim’s wardrobe consisted of his hiking boots, 2 long-sleeved hiking shirts, 2 polo shirts, 1 short sleeved hiking shirt, 1 t-shirt, zip off trousers, walking trousers, and cargo trousers. He was supposed to also have a rugby top, but I wound up grabbing a dirty one so he wore his work shirt (button down) for travel instead. He also had 10 pairs of socks, 10 pairs of boxers, sleep shorts, and slipper socks. I think Tim probably wished he had an extra shirt or two by the end and possibly pajama trousers instead of shorts. For outerwear, he had a fleece pullover, fleece jacket, hat, fingerless gloves, and a neck warmer. He didn’t wear the neck warmer at all, but made use of the gloves and hat.

We also each had a kag in a bag and I had an umbrella. They weren’t needed, but we don’t travel without them!

As far as electronics go, we both packed our 10 inch laptops (didn’t pull them out for anything other than watching cartoons), DSLR cameras (with lenses), tablets, and mobile phones. We also brought the camcorder (barely used it), my ipod (didn’t use at all), and a tripod (also didn’t use at all). For charging our mobile devices, I picked up 4-port USB plugs that came with 4 changeable plugs for the UK, US, EU, and AU before our trip to the US. These plugs come in handy around the house too as they only need one plug to charge up to 4 devices. We also packed some emergency chargers, which can be picked up for as little as £5 to as much as £30, depending on capacity. I have three small lipstick sized chargers and Tim has a larger one. Since they also need to be charge via USB, having the multi port plugs was a big help. These chargers came in handy as we took lots of pictures on our phones for instant sharing and used our phone for internet access. Since our laptops and camera battery chargers didn’t have EU plugs, we also took along a two-plug converter. Out of all the electronics, we only used my laptop twice (once to watch cartoons and once to look up something that we could have looked up on the tablet), and I don’t think Tim used his laptop at all. We had planned on using the laptops to remove pictures from our cameras and possibly even post them while we were away, but a lack of wifi at most places prevented this and we didn’t take as many pictures as we had thought we would. Would we take the laptops again? Possibly. Only because knowing we had the capability to back up photos and clear off memory cards meant we weren’t afraid to click away, and loading my laptop with some silly cartoons (in English) meant we had a small amount of comic relief to wind down to in the evenings if we wanted it. Plus the laptops are so small they don’t take up much space. Tim’s fit into his camera bag, and mine was in my rucksack. We also had a small electronic luggage scale, which comes in handy for making sure all your bags meet weight requirements!

We took along a railway atlas (because…..train geeks.) and maps of the area as well as a German dictionary and phrasebook. The dictionary came in handier than the phrasebook did as I do speak German, but we occasionally needed to look up either an unfamiliar German word or how to say something specific in German (like sewing kit!). Yes, my phone had Google Translate installed, but that requires having signal and we couldn’t count on that. (I did later discover I could download an offline German dictionary to Google Translate, but I’m not sure how good it is). I also had a small notebook about the size of an airline ticket, though we never needed it. I organized all our tickets and itinerary in an A5 display folder from Paperchase (£2.50). This wasn’t entirely needed, but it gave us an easy place to keep track of train schedules and tickets and a place to pop in brochures we wanted to keep. We also brought along baggies of teabags because we remembered how horrendous Austrian tea was, and knew we would need the pick me up first thing in the morning.

I did not take a handbag along, instead I have a camera bag that functions as a handbag. I used a small Cath Kidston travel wallet for my money, debit card, credit card, and driver’s license. All other cards stayed at home in my regular purse. I used a wristlet from Cath Kidston that I usually used for makeup as my purse and kept my passports, travel wallet, and travel cards all in one place. It also gave me a small purse for the evenings we went out without our cameras. I did wish I had brought along a cross body bag for these evenings though, as my small wristlet wasn’t big enough for everything I wanted to take.

We also each had a folding shopping bag and folding rucksacks. I had been wanting to get us folding rucksacks for a while as we tend to take our large bags with us on holiday but then find they are too big to use as a daypack (like a day out at an amusement park), but the cost of some of them (£21 for a Sea to Summit) always put me off. I found some on clearance at trespass for £6 so I picked them up, assuming with the trespass name on it they would be good quality. They were…..ok. Mine seemed to have a factory defect on it with one strap not attached to the bag (hence needing the sewing kit!) and Tim had a strap start to go on his. But I was able to rig them back together with some duct tape (I always carry a little!) and safety pins until I was able to get my hands on a sewing kit.

The only other thing in my bag was a selfie stick (used to take “selvsies” as Tim called them), Bagpuss (I made sure I had room for him, but could have left him at home) and Hamish, the scottish rubber duck. We both had 750ml water bottles attached to a carabeaner on our bags. We took them empty through airport security, then filled them and used one of those Robinsons Squash’d to flavour them.

Looks like a lot, doesn’t it? I started looking on YouTube for packing tutorials and found lots of tips and tricks, but the one that appealed to me the most was an Army Roll/Ranger Roll as demonstrated in this video:

I used this technique on everything except for my knickers (too small and slippery as they were all microfiber) and bras (yeah, there is no way of folding bras. haha!). It WORKED. We really did fit nearly all of our clothing in the two rucksacks, and I think with a couple of better choices (less bulky clothing items) or a better rucksack (on designed for travel/backpacking and not one designed for schoolbooks) we might have been able to manage without the extra suitcase, but we were glad we had it for the trip home as there was plenty of room for lots of chocolate! I also used zipper top bags to compress things further. You can buy space bags for travel, but the zipper top bags work just as well and are easier to replace if they rip.

Things I wish we had packed:

-A sewing kit (mentioned above)
-Extra plastic zipper top bags for snacks OR plastic containers.
-Additional camisoles (also mentioned above)
-Hair elastics
-Dry shampoo
-fleece pullover for myself
-pajama trousers for Tim

Things we didn’t or barely use:

-tripod
-laptops
-black t-shirt
-camcorder
-make-up
-notebook

Everything I wish we had taken are all things that are small enough to add to a bag in the future, and all the things we didn’t use could either be left at home or didn’t take up much space to begin with.

For the return we decided to check an additional bag, and we needed it! Even after abandoning some of the clothing (all Primark buys – socks, my shirt and cardigan, tights, and a few pairs of underwear for each of us), we needed the space for the 3KG of chocolate we purchased! Plus since we had the room, we were able to put some of the heavier books into the checked bag to take some of the pressure off of our shoulders.

I know I wrote a lot, but I hope this helps you plan your packing for your next adventure!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Planning Austria

September 2015 032

Recently, my husband and I returned from a a rather spontaneous trip to Austria. I say spontaneous, because we planned it 2 days after I received my British passport (yes, there will be a post about that) for travel the following month. We originally planned for a long weekend away to one of our favourite places, the Zillertal area of Tirol, but then realised Tim’s week of Autumn leave happened to be right after his long weekend, so a 10-day trip was put into place!

We booked our plane tickets with Ryanair, and I was pleasantly surprised at the cheap fares. However, once we added in checked bags (1 going, 2 coming home) at £15 and paid for our seats (£5 each each way), it soon added up and I was surprised to discover that British Airways actually offers cheap European flights that include both one bag and your seat selection for around the same price once you add in all of Ryanair’s extra fees. So, my suggestion is to shop around on several airlines before making your final selection. Ryanair might wind up being the best or go to the destination you need, but you might find BA or Lufthansa or Austrian Air offered a better price.

We flew into Linz, simply because it was the cheapest Austria option for flying with Ryanair. We needed to actually be closer to Innsbruck, and could have also flown to Munich, but after all the problems being reported with cross border trains in the weeks leading up to our trip, it was a good thing we chose to fly directly into Austria.

Our options to getting over to our first destination included rail, bus, or a car. We might have also been able to book a flight on a smaller, local, airline, but we skipped that option all together. We don’t like travelling by bus for long distances, so we also didn’t bother looking that information up. I did price out a rental car and I found a car for around €10/day. However, as my husband is a former BR staff member, he retained his BR privs and we get 4 48-hour free travel passes on OBB, Austria’s railway, so I began to look up trains.

Remember what I mentioned above about the border issues? Yeah, our train should have been a corridor train that crosses into Germany for about 45 minutes with no stops, but due to Germany deciding to close the borders, this was going to become a nightmare with a 90-minute delay! In the end, Germany decided to allow the corridor trains, so we were fine and in fact, things worked out so well that we managed to snag an earlier direct train to Jenbach without going out of our way to Innsbruck and got to our destination a lot earlier than we thought we would!

For rail schedules, I downloaded an app to my phone called OBB Scotty. For ticket prices and buying, you will need a separate app called OBB Tickets, but the Scotty app will prompt you to download it if you want to buy tickets. Also helpful is the DB app as DB has schedules for all European countries. The nice thing about all of these apps is that they seem to be automatically working in English for me. And if you’re using Chrome to look at websites, Chrome can automatically translate things into English.

Our schedule looked like this:

24 September- TRAVEL Stansted-Linz-Fügen
25 September-Brenner/Brennero (Italy!)
26 September-Achenseebahn/Achensee/Spieljochbahn
27 September-Zillertalbahn Dampfzug
28 September- TRAVEL Fügen-Zell am See
29 September-Salzberg
30 September-Pinzgauerlokalbahn/Krimml Wasserfälle
01 October-Pinzgauerlokalbahn Dampfzug/TRAVEL Zell -Linz
02 October-Pöstlingbergbahn/Linz
03 October-TRAVEL Linz-Stansted-Lincoln

We did have to modify our plans slightly as due to the no trains to Germany thing we had to cancel our plans to visit the Chiemsee, but we replaced it with a quick trip to Italy instead, so not all bad!

We changed locations twice, so we had a 4 night stay in an Apartment in Fügen, 3 nights in an Apartment in Zell am See, and 2 nights in a hotel in Linz. I will detail our stays later, however you can read my reviews of the first and last place on TripAdvisor. On average, we paid €50/night for our accomondation, but both apartments also charged a cleaning fee.

The nice thing about renting apartments is you get to eat on your own schedule, and you generally have a bit more space. The downside is you have to buy all your own food, but more on that in a later post.

Over the next few days/weeks I hope to post about our entire trip, since after all, my blog was originally a travel blog!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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How The TSA Stole Christmas

I flew back to the UK from the US on Christmas Eve so I would arrive back in the UK to spend Christmas Day with my husband. My aunt gave me two small containers of Christmas cookies before I left – one was a small round tin filled with about a dozen and a half peanut butter cookies, and the other with some of my favourite cookie of all time, pinwheels. Since she packed the containers tight I packed them into my checked bag along with loads of Christmas presents for other people, including 6 packets of a McCormick Buffalo wing mix my FIL likes and some peppermint Hershey Kisses, so my bag smelled pretty interesting.

I checked my bags in Philadelphia and headed to security. Security in Philly was a LOT tighter than it was in London*. In Philly I was required to remove my laptop from it’s protective case, remove my kindle from it’s case, and remove my shoes. Oh, and could I step to the side even though the metal detector didn’t ping for a personal pat down?

Yeah. Don’t wear a dress when travelling through Philly or they will have to give you a pat down. Fortunately, there wasn’t many people present and the woman doing my pat down was very apologetic and explained to me that it was required because a dress/skirt doesn’t show the contours of your body so they have to pat you down. Nice. Here I thought I was making it easier by not wearing trousers that might have bits of metal all over them. The agent patting me down did not touch me above the waist, did not pat down my rear, and did not pat higher than mid-thigh. I thought the whole idea of the pat down was to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything? Not that I’m complaining. It just all seemed pointless, especially considering my dress was fairly form fitting to begin with and the fabric was clinging to my tights. I wonder what happens to people who go through wearing baggy clothing. Soon we will have to fly wearing form-fitted bodysuits.

Funny enough, I went through security with my 1-QT bag of liquids and yet in the bottom of my carry-on I later discovered two items that had fallen out – a small container of hand sanitizer and a breath spray, neither of which were detected by their machines. I also had a packet of mustard my mom stuck in the bag with the lunch she packed for me and that didn’t get flagged, either.

First trauma over, I headed on my merry way to the gate, boarded my flight, and was soon landing in London (LHR). The UKBA was on the ball and I didn’t even have to answer any questions on my return to the UK, she just told me “welcome back” and stamped my passport on the page opposite my spousal visa (unlike when I landed in the US!**).

I noticed the “cleared by TSA” sticker on the outside of my suitcase and found the “Notice of Baggage Inspection” buried inside as soon as I got home. I didn’t really think anything of it and assumed the combination of the peppermint Hershey Kisses and the Buffalo wing spice caught the attention of the baggage inspector. But it wasn’t until this morning that I discovered something was wrong with my luggage.

As I mentioned above, my aunt sent me home with two small containers of homemade cookies. The first container was a square vintage Tupperware container that contained my beloved Pinwheels. No problems there. The second container was a small tin she was re-using that contained some peanut butter cookies. When I opened the tin this morning, I discovered HALF MY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES WERE GONE, and the remaining cookies were broken and crumbled due to being shaken around the half empty tin.

I am NOTimpressed. Thank you, TSA agent for stealing my little bit of a homemade Christmas. I hope you were allergic to nuts.

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*Security in London consisted of taking my laptop out of the bag but not the case, having my kindle out (but in it’s case), and I was able to keep my shoes and cardigan on.

**Oh, this is great, too. When I got up to the desk at US Immigration I was GRILLED by the agent. Excuse me, but isn’t it the right of an American Citizen to be able to freely leave and return to the US? No? I got asked when I was last in the US (I was vague and said “about two years ago”, why I moved to the UK, why I was returning to the US, who I was staying with in the US, and the best one? When was I leaving the US. Again, I thought American Citizens are allowed to stay in the US for as long as they’d like. Apparently not. I suppose I should consider myself lucky I didn’t get a time limit visa stamped in my passport!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Homeward Bound

My aunt passed away during the night. This morning, Tim and I had a short discussion about if I should go to Pennsylvania or not, and my response was “it’s Aunt Barb”, and Tim said “there’s your answer”, so flights have been booked.

I’m going solo because Tim just can’t ask for the time off this week as one of the other MOMs is currently on holiday and well, one ticket was enough!

I’m heading out on Friday and will arrive in Philly around 3PM and take the train to Lancaster so my mom doesn’t have to worry about picking me up at the airport. I’ll leave on Christmas Eve. Because it’s an overnight flight, I will arrive back in the UK on Christmas Morning. It was the only way to book things and still be able to afford anything reasonable that didn’t involve a lot of crazy transfers and layovers (seriously, one flight I looked at was Birmingham to Dublin, an 11-hour layover in Dublin, then flying to Miami, five hours in Miami, and then onto BWI). To make things easier on me, I’m not checking any bags. I’ve got toiletry type items still at Mom’s and if I need anything, she has a CVS and a Rite Aid around the corner from her house (within walking distance, even). I’m just going to toss a few changes of clothing into a carry-on. Mom has a washing machine, so I can always wash things.

This isn’t the way I had hoped to return to the US for a visit, but I am glad that I am able to. This truly IS the hardest part about being an ex-pat.

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Reduced Airfare?

Okay, I know about Kayak, but Kayak isn’t giving us anything reasonable….My mom wanted to come out this Summer, but late August is already up above US$1000 for PHL -> LHR. Then, she looked for September/October, and it’s still over US$800. I just checked December, and the cheapest I can find is US$850. Last December we found a flight for I think it was US$700something, and that was with US Air.

*sigh*

I’ve even checked BWI and IAD for departures and Birmingham and Manchester for arrivals. This sucks.

Anyone know any other sites I should be checking or ways we can get a super good deal?

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

[the contents of this post, including images are @copy; Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley and should not be reproduced without permission.]

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Volcanic Ash…What a Pain!

First, I must say that I’m incredibly happy that my mom’s flight managed to land last Thursday. Her flight must have been one of the last to land at LHR before they decided to close the airport, as we were hearing things about cancelled flights on the radio on the way back home after picking her up. We didn’t worry much about her return trip since it was all the way on Tuesday, and we had our reception for Tim’s family on Saturday (separate post about that later). On Monday, we found out her flight was officially cancelled. The email directed me to a link to rebook her on a new flight, and the earliest I could schedule her was on MONDAY, the 26th of April. Please note, Mom was originally supposed to leave on the 20th, and had only been granted 5 days off from work. Fortunately, her bosses are understanding and have told her to “enjoy her extra time” with me, but at the same time, this issue could cut into our future plans for her to visit this Summer.

Of course, we are enjoying the extra time together and managed to do a few more touristy things on her visit. We went to Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday since Tim already had the day off, and this weekend plan on going to Woodhall Spa. We were concerned about how we’d get her to the airport on Monday, but Tim’s bosses managed to let him take off Monday on short notice (after he explained why he needed it off).

But still, such a pain. Thankfully, Mom was visiting me and so has a free room to stay in. I can’t imagine what would happen if she was staying in a hotel somewhere!

Even worse is the predictions that the ash might move over the weekend and could disrupt flight again. If her Monday flight gets cancelled, I don’t know what we will do (well, have a longer visit, I suppose!). On the other hand, I’d rather her flight be grounded over the plane going through potential engine damaging ash!

Also, fortunately for Mom, her passport was stamped with the generic 6-month visitor stamp, so we have time if she is stuck longer. Also, the UKBA is allowing anyone who has an expired visa as a result of the volcanic ash stay with no penalties, they are just advising people to hold onto proof that they were originally leaving. See http://blog.us2uk.net for details.

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Establishing Myself in the UK

I landed at LHR (London Heathrow) in the wee hours of the morning on the 22nd. We were the first plane down for the day (at around 5:30AM) and I managed to get through immigration and customs before Tim even left the hotel room! Sitting in Business Class (thanks Friend! [you know who you are]) rocked. They passed out these “fast passes” for immigration which goes to a special line only for First & Business class, so not a long wait there at all. I held my passport open to my spousal visa when I walked up to the counter and was asked one question “Where is your husband?” I replied that he should be waiting for me on the other side of Customs, and the I/O stamped my visa and said “Welcome Home, Mrs. L”.

Fortunately, luggage carts are free at LHR, and I piled it high with my bags and managed to get myself through Customs (nothing to declare) and out into the arrivals hall….to no Tim. Granted, it was 6AM, and my plane was supposed to land at 5:55, so I wasn’t upset. Instead I called Mom to tell her I had arrived and then called Tim. Turned out he was just leaving the hotel (since we live about 3 hours away from London by car, we figured a hotel was the best idea).

We were soon reunited and loaded the car…and we almost took the bags of someone parked next to us (who was even on my flight!) who had a purple bag, because Tim is programmed that all things purple must belong to me. heh. We had breakfast at the hotel, then went to our room and crashed for a few hours.

I woke up around 11, and after a shower we decided to head into the nearest town (though not into London proper) to find some Lunch and pick up a few things at Boots (Pharmacy), and tehn it was mostly hanging around in our hotel room until our pre-paid dinner at the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately, my stomach hadn’t figured out the time change yet, so I spent most of my afternoon being sick, but I felt well-enough to go down to dinner and nibbled a bit. Again, we didn’t do much after dinner (partially due to me not feeling well).

The following morning we decided to stop at IKEA in Essex on our “way home”. It wasn’t entirely on the way, but closer than any of the IKEAs in our area, and we wanted to go window shopping for new bedroom furniture.

We wound up spending 5 hours in IKEA! But it was worth it. We now know what we want and have a plan for renovating our bedroom.

We returned to Lincoln….and then the errands started. Oh, the errands.

Monday we went over to the GP (Doctor) so I could register. The receptionist had a little trouble with registering me, as she thought I needed to call the NHS to get a NHS number, but after calling the helpline from the lobby we got it straightened out and I should have my NHS card in a few days. We also headed into town, thinking that we’d be able to add me to Tim’s bank account. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out and we had to make an appointment for Tuesday. We also stopped at the Library though, and I got a library card and then to the Co-Op to sign up for a membership there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my NI number (It’s similar to an SSN), but I have the number to call to get that, too.

Tuesday we had our bank appointment and after a two-hour meeting overviewing our finances, I was added to the account, we paid off the credit card mostly (we used it for my visa & moving fees), and we have a plan for a new savings account once I have my NI number. I should have my bank card in a few days!

We’ve also been doing a lot just to get the house in order. We plan on celebrating our Christmas on Sunday, complete with putting presents under the tree. At IKEA we purchased a new laundry hamper that ought to handle a week’s worth of two people’s clothing (and it even has a divider), and a cute side table for under the living room window. We’ve also been opening the wedding presents and started to use them – yesterday I made bread in the bread machine and it turned out really good.

Sadly, last night the washing machine decided that this was teh PERFECT time for it to crap out. So today we went off to Comet’s and picked out an inexpensive washer dryer combo. We figured since we knew we needed a new dryer eventually, we might as well spend the money now to get the combo, because buying them separate would have been twice as much. Plus, this gets rid of one of the units in the kitchen, so more space for other things.

Hopefully we’ll have a quiet weekend (other than Christmas on Sunday) and start to get things in order. My shipment got to Felixtowe on the 25th, so hopefully it won’t sit in customs for too long….but hopefully long enough for us to make room for the boxes.

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The Trouble with Philadelphia

keystone Tim left yesterday (and I will be updating the blog with our adventures over the next week or so), and I accompanied him down to the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) via Amtrak to 30th street and the SEPTA R1 regional rail line.

We had no problems getting there, other than a surely woman at the SEPTA ticket booth, but I ran into a problem on the way home…

Because of the time of Tim’s flight (9PM), and the time of the last train back to Lancaster (8:55PM), I knew I’d wind up spending some time at 30th street waiting for the train. Tim needed to be at his gate no later than 8, so we parted around 7:15 (and it was sad, but it’s how things go when you’re LD!). SEPTA had no problems getting me back up to 30th, and I prepared myself to wait out the hour until my train. Around 8PM, the message board flipped my train to “Delayed”. The person at the information booth didn’t have any further information, he only knew that the train attempted to leave NY-Penn and had engine trouble, so it went BACK to NY-Penn to wait for a fix or different engine. *sigh*. So, I sat down, got out my N810, and started IMing people. Meanwhile, I checked the status of Tim’s flight and found out he was leaving at 9:15 instead of 9. He and I were in the same city, but separated by more miles than we had been for the past three weeks of his visit! I don’t think we were ever more than 30 or so feet apart his whole visit.

But it really can’t be helped, and it’s not Amtrak’s fault they had a faulty engine. The problem, however, is the way Amtrak handled the issue. When the train got back into NY-Penn, I am told passengers had been advised to take other NY-Penn to 30th Street trains, since the NY-DC trains, and the Boston-DC trains all pass through Philadelphia as they did not expect to get the Keystone running. But….here’s the problem. They had 50 or so people waiting in Philadelphia for this train as it was the LAST TRAIN OF THE DAY between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

Since dating a railway man, I’ve tried to be a little more understanding about delays and problems because I know what Tim has to deal with sometimes, but it’s still upsetting to find out that one set of passengers had one piece of information, while another set was told something else entirely! As far as those of us waiting in Philly were concerned, we were still going to have a train out to Harrisburg that night.

They didn’t cancel the train. They got a different engine, and our train was listed as “40 minutes late”. I calculated it out, and the train was traveling an average of 90 mph to get to Philadelphia from NY-Penn in an hour!

Another problem Tim and I encountered yesterday is how ridiculous the Philadelphia International Airport is set up. When you get off SEPTA, you have to go upstairs to a breezeway that connects you to either arrivals or departures. However, it does not connect you to several of the European airlines (BA, KLM, Air France, etc.). It connects you to USA 3000, Air Jamaica, and Frontier. The two check-in areas are NOT connected on the inside, so Tim and I had to exit the terminal at Air Jamaica and walk along side the car loop around the airport dragging his bags (there was a sidewalk, but it still would be loads safer to have people walk inside!) to enter at British Airways. When we first entered, the information monitors said “BA Flight 68 is now departing at 1:15AM”. This caused a minor panic. Firstly, Tim didn’t have a mobile on him to call anyone to update about the time. Secondly, a 1:15AM EST departure time meant he wouldn’t land at LHR until almost noon BST and he still had to get a train up to Lincoln. Not to mention being stuck past the boarding gate for over 6 hours. And I had to leave no later than 8 to catch the train back.

Fortunately, the woman checking in Tim’s bags told us there were no delays and it was on time. We mentioned the sign we saw on the other side of the terminal and the woman said that they “have nothing to do with that side”. So then, why was there a random message board listing one of their flights as being delayed so badly? I hastily scribbled more phone numbers onto a piece of paper for Tim (since he didn’t have his phone, I needed to give him my US numbers) in case it really was delayed so he could call me from a payphone or use my Skype-to-Go to call his parents.

In the end, everything was fine. Tim’s plane took off at 9PM as scheduled (though it landed in LHR 40 minutes late and didn’t have a gate so people had to be bussed to the terminal), and I made it back to Lancaster. That’s all that really matters.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me.]

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Made it to the UK!

For those of you wondering, I made it to the UK! 😀 I even managed to get the last seat in Business Class for the flight instead of having to fly in Economy Plus. Woot. United has incredible service (at least in Business Class). I don’t think my water glass was ever empty, and they were constantly trying to push glasses of wine!

The food was alright, but I wound up having to have the steak wrapped in bacon, which as a vegetarian was a no-no. So I ate the salad, the veggies, and potatoes. Fortunately, I had planned ahead for this and packed a bento so I had plenty of food.

We actually got to London around 5:30, but because planes aren’t allowed to land until 6, we had to circle around. 6 was still early for our flight, and we were the only international flight heading to immigrations/customs.

Going through Immigration/Customs was a breeze! Tim wrote a letter stating he had invited me for the length of time I was staying, and that *really* helped.

Of course, this meant I was ready to go by 6:30, and Tim wasn’t coming to get me until 7:30!

Tim and I decided we would make afew stops on the way back, and after trying to stop at two different manor houses that were both closed for the season, and being unable to locate the castle he wanted to take me to, we headed to Stamford for a few hours. We walked the town and the shops – a lady in a store selling hair clips convinced Tim to buy my clips (75p), and we went in a few used bookstores.

I loved Stamford. Such a lovely old beautiful town with even prettier buildings.

A sneak peek of some photos:


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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I really love the old classic comedy movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, but I was beginning to feel yesterday like I was a part of the film….minus the sharing hotels with strangers and setting things on fire, of course.

Part of this entry I wrote yesterday while waiting in Winnipeg, the rest I wrote this morning.

12:07CST
I’ve made it as far as the “holding pen” for US bound persons. There’s wireless, but neither Captain Jack nor Gwen can seem to gain access to it. Jack will connect, but never bring up the access page, and Gwen brings up an access page that wants me to log in with my Telus account….something I don’t have. 🙁 Ah well.

My day started out on a VERY bad note. Actually, let me backtrack to last night. I’m not sure if I’ve spoken of my immense arachnophobia on this blog yet, but suffice it to say – I have it in the worst possible way. Anything other than daddy long legs completely freak me out to the point where I sometimes even cry.

Last night I went to carry up the dirty litter and got the bag stuck on a loose nail, so after I got the bag out of the house, I decided to grab the swiffer to sweep all the litter into the basement, where I planned on then using their basement vacuum to get it all up. Except that while I was sweeping off the steps…TWO large black spiders (the size of a US nickel including legs) popped out of a hole and terrified me to the point where I lost my balance and fell down the steps. Not a good thing when I still had some cleaning to do. I emailed Sarah and Joe to let them know what happened, and Sarah told me not to worry about cleaning the rest up.

Anyway, so cue this morning.

My flight out of Dauphin (on a 12-seater prop plane!) was at 7:50. The airline confirmation said to arrive an hour ahead, which made it 6:50, and I decided I was going to call for a cab around 6, figuring on it arriving to pick me up at 6:15 and I’d get to the airport between 6:30 and 6:50.

I was ready to go by 5:45 and had everything packed including my laptop, so I decided to just start giving the cats some good-bye love (which Quincy ignored, Casper was indifferent to and meowed, and Hobbes climbed onto my shoulder), and call the cab company. Sarah told me to use Parkland Taxi, as they were on the other side of the highway. I called around 5:50 and got a recorded message that told me the hours were 6AM til whatever time at night. Wow, glad I didn’t need a ride earlier after all. So, I chatted with my mom on Skype for a bit and tried again at 6 on the nose. Same message. I tried at least three more times and STILL got the recorded message. I was sort of starting to panic. Fortunately, I was able to load the dauphin website on Captain Jack and got the number for Dauphin Taxi. Located a bit into town from Sarah and Joe’s, but they answered the phone and I had a cab by 6:20. My taxi ride was $13 though, so I’m not sure if I had to pay for him to come GET me too or what as the airport wasn’t that far away!

Anyway, we arrived at the airport before the counter person was even there to unlock the door. I think the cab driver wanted me to stay in the cab and let the meter run, but I saw a picnic bench so I told the driver I’d wait there for it to open. As I was paying the driver, the person with the keys pulled up, so I didn’t have to wait outside after all.

While waiting for the flight to leave, I met someone who is some type of Government person. He was pleasant, and we had a nice chat. Soon, it was time to barod the plane and about a half hour later we were landing in Winnipeg.

Two other women on the flight with me who needed to go to the International part of the airport offered to share a cab with me, which was really nice. One of the women was headed to South Africa to visit her family and it was going to take her 2 days and an 11 hour layover in London to get there! (and I complained about my 18 hours?)

Before I continue, I want to add in my little rant about this airport business in Winnipeg. The airport we flew into and the International airport are in the same compound yet if I had taken a cab alone, I’d have had to have shelled out $10-12 for a cab plus tip/baggage handling. To essentially GO AROUND THE BLOCK. Why don’t they offer a free shuttle between the two? Or even a shuttle for a $5 fee or something like that? All they’d need is a 15-passenger van or something. Just seemed ridiculous. In the end I only paid $5 anyway because of sharing the cab (he got $5 from me because I wanted to give him $4 and hold onto my loonie, but I accidentally handed him a toonie and a loonie and didn’t want to grab the loonie back out of his hand, but wanted to give him more than $3 for my share).

Anyway, back to my travel story.

NWA wouldn’t let me check in. Well, she said she could, but then I’d have had to have gone though to the Customs screening right away and been forced to wait in the “pen” all morning where there isn’t alot of food options…but yet if I didn’t check-in, I was able to go upstairs to the main airport….I didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t have checked in for the flight, gone upstairs and then come back downstairs to go through customs, but whatever. I had to drag my suitcase around with me upstairs. I went into a small souvenir shop and picked up a thimble for my neighbour and a few other items (and a really cute purse/bag for me that had pockets on the front the perfect size for my LG9900 and N810).

Then, I went back downstairs to check-in, and the people ahead of me were being a pain. THEIR flight wasn’t until 4, but they were checking guns (eek!) and obviously couldn’t carry those around the airport. So, the counter person had to spend some time trying to get them onto the earlier flight that I was on. (oh joy!)

Surprisingly, it was very easy to get through everything. Checked my bag, got through customs with a grand total of ONE question (“What did you buy in Canada?” “a bathing suit, some gifts for family, and some candy”), and even security was a breeze.

I’m typing this from the lounge though becuse I needed to make sure TSA didn’t do anything to FUBAR my laptop…they ran a freaky wand over the top, bottom, and then opened it to run it along the inside. I asked the woman what it was for and she explained it was to check for any chemical residue. I asked her if she needed me to power it on, and she said no. So, laptop owners can be re-assured that TSA is not out to get us with taking laptops internationally.

Okay, my second leg of my trip starts in about 20 minutes, so I’m going to save this and shut down. Perhaps Minneapoilis will have free wi-fi I can grab…at the very least, I know Philadelphia does!

***

I got so sick on that flight. I was seated at the back of the plane right next to the turbine (I think that’s what it’s called),and I guess the back of the plane is like the back of the bus and I got airsick for the first time in my life. When we got to Minneaplolis, I booked it over to the connecting gate and explained to the guy at the counter that I wasn’t feeling well, could he move me closer to the front of the plane. He said “If I have it, you got it” and moved me to row 5. Then, I spent about 20 minutes walking all over Minneapolis to try to find PLAIN bread/bagels to eat to try to calm my stomach, and finally settled on tea from Caribu Coffee.

The flight wasn’t bad. Row 5 happened to be the first row after first class, and I guess the counter person put a note that I was ill because I got lots of attention from the flight attendant. She brought me ginger ale while we were waiting to take off, and when they were serving first class their meal, brought me a dinner roll. She also told me if I wasn’t feeling well I could use the first class bathroom and could get up even if the seatbelt sign was on.

At Philadelphia, it was a mad dash to get my baggage and try to not have to wait for the R1. Fortunately, our bags came out in record time and I managed to make it onto the 8:39 R1….and then I had problems. See, apparently the Zone 5 ticket I purchased 2 months ago was no good on the R1 line because it didn’t say “CCP” on it, and the conductor wanted me to buy another ticket from her at $7. The problem was, I only had $4 in US Currency. The people who had been with me on the plane and made the mad dash with me didn’t even offer to make up the difference, which I thought was kind of rude, but typical for Philadelphia. Anyway, I explained to the conductor that I only had $4 and asked if I could give her my bad ticket AND the $4. She told me no, and said that she would take my not good ticket “this time”.

I had to wait at 30th street for about 2 hours for my Amtrak train. There were loads of creepy people around at that time of night, but the Cosi offered free wi-fi, so I was chatting to a few friends. Finally, we were able to board the train and I was headed home!

We arrived slightly early, and I think I walked in the door at home at exactly midnight. Mom and I stayed up until 3 in the morning talking!

I shouldn’t be awake right now, I sort of feel like a zombie. I have a lot to do today though. Will was acting a bit weird around my suitcase, so I want to empty it out and febreeze the whole thing because I’m sure he smells strange kitty.

I was going to add some photos from yesterday, but my camera is in the living room, so I will do a separate photo post later in the day.

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Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

…don’t know when I’ll be back again.

Last post from Dauphin. Farewell kitties, new friends, CBC, prairies, and labels half in French.

My next expected update will be tomorrow from home. I have a nearly 18-hour trip to get myself back home ahead of me:

6:50AM – Taxi from Sarah and Joe’s to Dauphin Airport
7:50 – Small plane Dauphin to Winnipeg
8:40 – Arrive Winnipeg (small airport), take Taxi to International Airport
1:21PM – Depart Winnipeg for Minneapolis Airport
2:42 – Arrive Minneapolis Airport
4:45 – Depart Minneapolis for Philadelphia Airport
8:30 – Arrive Philadelphia Airport
9:39 – R1 from Airport to 30th Street
10:00 – Arrive 30th Street Amtrak Station
10:45 – Amtrak Keystone Service
11:55 – Arrive Lancaster Train Station

I’m hoping since I get to Winnipeg so early that I’ll be able to get myself put on earlier flights – or at least that I can get an earlier flight to Minneapolis. If I have to wait there for 5 hours for the original connection I won’t mind so much because once I’m back in the US I have access to my mobile phone. I really don’t like it that I have to be in the Winnipeg airport without a working mobile.

This morning when I got up to use the bathroom I didn’t notice Hobbes sleeping next to me, and when I got back into bed, he was like this:


I made myself a HUGE travel bento so I hopefully won’t have to buy too much food on the trip:

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Food in Flight

I know serving food ON airplanes hardly ever happens anymore on domestic flying….you can fly across the country, and as long as you’ve got one of those layovers to break over the chunk, the airline doesn’t think you deserve more than a cookie or pretzel pack and a free soft drink. But on International flights, you get fed.

When I thought I was flying AirIndia and was going to spend all day traveling on trains and shuttles to get to the airport, I was planning on packing bento for the flight and train, as the food offered on AirIndia was Indian food (curry, most likely) and I can’t eat pre-packaged Indian food. But now that I’ve switched over to United, I wanted to see if I could dig up what kind of food they offered. My friend Linz told me that you get complimentary drinks (wine with dinner, etc), but nothing about the food. I’m assuming since I’m technically stand by, I can’t actually request the vegetarian option, so I’m hoping I can just pick off meat or eat around it or something. I don’t like doing that, but if I have to, I will. I also might pack a snack bento just in case I don’t like the options, or I’m still hungry, or I get hungry in the airport.

I ran a google search,and all I could find was articles about United starting to charge for meals in Economy, and then people complained, so they decided against it. I can’t find anything with specifics on what’s offered, just if it’s “good” or “bad”, but this is directly from the United website:

United FirstSM and United BusinessSM
Enjoy multi-course meals graciously served. Settle in, relax and savor the flavor of warmed nuts served with your favorite premium spirit, a regional specialty beer or a glass of one of our award winning wines. Additional courses include fresh salads and appetizers, a choice of entrees, seasonal fruit, aged cheeses and decadent desserts. After dinner liqueurs, Port Wine and Starbucks coffee complete a memorable dining experience.

Later in the flight, we offer more options – hot sandwiches, chilled salads, light breakfasts, fresh fruits and savory snacks. The selection will vary but our commitment to your comfort and satisfaction is constant.

Now, compare that to how they word Economy service:
United EconomySM
We serve complimentary meals on most international flights between the US, South America, Europe, the South Pacific and Asia. Shortly after takeoff, customers will enjoy a beverage service with cocktail snacks, complimentary soft drinks and premium liquors, beer and wine. Alcoholic beverages are complimentary on trans and intra pacific flights and availabe for sale on other international flights. The main meal will consist of salad, appetizer, a choice of hot entrees and dessert. On longer flights we also offer a light pre-arrival meal.
(copied word for word, the typos are there!)

So…business and first class get “fresh salads”, but economy just a “salad”…and it’s “decadent desserts” versus plain dessert. What? It almost sounds like the airline doesn’t even care about the economy passengers….which I’d think make up the bulk of their business.

I’d really like to find an actual list of what the food is, so if anyone knows where I could find that, I’d appreciate it.

Gratuitous cat photo:


Casper in the sink (where he’s not supposed to be!)

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Freak Out

I booked my trip to the UK back in August through cheapfareguru.com to fly on AirIndia on Oct 16 out of JFK (getting to LHR Oct 17) and coming home on Dec 22 because my mom wanted me home for Christmas. My flight was US$602, which was perfect for my budget.

They called me today to tell me my flight was canceled and it will take two weeks to get my refund!

The exact conversation went like this:

cgf: Your flight’s been canceled
Me: can you put me on another flight?
cfg: Air India canceled all their flights for the next three months
Me: Can you put me on another airline?
cfg: We can’t apply money paid for one flight to another. We can rebook you using the same card
Me: I don’t have enough money to do that. Did the refund get credited back today?
cfg: It can take two weeks
Me: that’s not acceptable, I need to leave for London on October 16
cfg: We can try to expedite it
Me: Are there any other flights you could put me on after I get my refund and I rebook? Anything in the same price range?
cfg: I will look into it and call you back, but I can only hold a price for three days

…and then I went to their website and the best they have is $760..which I can’t afford right now, and it would even be tight to try to re-book after I get my refund, assuming flights are still that low.

My mom has agreed to letting me stay over through Christmas, so if I can find a cheaper flight that’s longer, that’ll work, but Tim and I have tickets to a show on Oct 21, so I need to be there at least by then. And Tim took leave Oct 17-31 so we could travel, so if I go later, we wouldn’t have that leave available and I wouldn’t actually get to see much of the UK because Tim would be working.

But I can’t book anything until I get my refund. because I don’t have any extra money hanging around to book with.

But the saga gets deeper.

I called cfg back to find out if there were any options. Sam (the guy I talked to) told me I needed to call Air India directly, and gave me their 800 number.

Cue two hours of getting no where. The 800# goes to Bombay, btw, and they have no connection with the New York office. They give me a 212 number, and I call it and get nothing but piano music. So, I call the 800# back. I get another number, but this one goes to a law office in NYC. I call back, get another number that no one answers. I call again, and get another number that goes to the law office. I call the 800# again and ask for a supervisor right away.

Supervisor (which I swear I kept being bounced around. I’d abruptly get told to hold on and then I’d have to re-explain everything) told me that this was all my travel agent (cgf)’s fault, and they couldn’t re-book me because a refund has been issued. I said I hadn’t gotten the refund, so why couldn’t they cancel the refund and re-book me through EWR (which a friend of mine on another message board told me they had been doing to everyone booked with a JFK flight that was cancelled). They told me they couldn’t because of something with cfg. Oh, and this person told me the refund could take two months!

So….I called Sam back and told him what happened. He told me it wouldn’t take two months, and he was trying to get me my refund faster so I could rebook something. He’s calling AirIndia to see what he can do, since all AirIndia would tell me to do was “call your travel agent”.

Tim and I also did some flight hunting before he had to leave for work, and I found a BA flight for $722. The problem is that without the refund, I don’t have $722 to book anything, and if I have to wait 2 weeks? I’m sure the flight will be way more than $722. I mean, I’m supposed to leave in 28 days! 2 weeks for now leaves me with…two weeks to get a flight.

So, I’m at my wits end. I need a way to re-book a flight before the refund comes through and I just don’t have it.

I can’t completely cancel this trip. Tim and I have been looking forward to this and we have tickets to Shakespeare in October and we have loads of plans.

*sigh*

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Leg One: Philadelphia, PA to Winnipeg, MB

Today I embarked on the first leg of my trip up to Dauphin!

Flights:

Northwest Flt 1765 PHL -> DTW Departed 9:25 Arrived 11:12 at Gate A-40 (or some insanely high number)
Northwest Flt 4739 DTW -> YWG Departed 12:15 at Gate C-29!!!

YIKES! I had to travel across pretty much the entire MacNamara terminal to grab my connection…but I still had time to grab a gardenburger from Fudruckers. It wasn’t a bad burger, and surprisingly only $5.79. And other than a bagel I scarfed down in the car, and a peanut butter and jelly uncrustable, the only food I ate today so far. Oh, and I get to add “tram” to my list of transportation devices I’ve taken on this trip. IF I go to the mall, I’d also add a bus, but I just walked around one mall,and I’m not sure I have the energy to walk around another.

Types of transportation today: Car, Plane, Tram, Cab (do the people mover things in the airports count?)

Probably the most nerve-wracking thing for me was going to be going through Customs once in Canada, but surprisingly? No problems at all.


here’s my passport stamp!

Thank you, Canada for hiring competent customs agents who are BNL fans and who just stamp my passport while babbling about BNL instead of asking me all the required questions!

After breezing through customs, it was a short (albeit pricey – CDN$12.30) taxi ride over to the holiday Inn, where Sarah had booked me for the night. The hotel is really nice, here’s a view from my window:

After settling in, I took a walk down to the Shoppers Drug Mart and a mini mall, then I headed to The Bay to do some browsing. Now, I’m back in my room, drinking the horrible excuse for tea the hotel offers for free.

Oh, and I turned the sink in the bathroom into a wet bar:

To see more photos from today, check out my album for today: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/winnipeg-manitoba-august-2008

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Is TSA Power Hungry?

I’ve published an article about this on Associated Content. Please click here to read it: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/879175/is_the_tsa_too_power_hungry.html

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