Category: Advice

The Bags And Other Non-Electronic Gear I Travel With (And Highly Recommend For Travelers)

osprey sojourn 60

I carry a lot of electronics and when I recently posted all of the gadgets I travel with, many of you sent me messages asking what that gear was kept in. We often focus on the complex items, forgetting about the simple, yet critical bags, covers, and cases that protect our valuables.

These are the road-tested, non-electronic items I have used, in some cases for years, and would recommend for your travels as well.

Luggage: Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, 60L

osprey sojourn

The Osprey Sojourn 60L is a good medium between the larger 80L and compact 45L versions. The “L” is for liters of volume, roughly 63.5 centimeters (25 inches) by 35.56 cm (14 in) by 35.56 cm. It’s a roller; which I find preferable to a backpack so if you have another smaller backpack you don’t have to wear both in the “double turtle” tourist configuration. The Sojourn 60L does have backpack straps if you need to carry it on your back (a feature I’ve rarely used) but more useful are the interior compression straps. Those make it much easy to keep your belongings from dancing about, plus takes pressure off the exterior zippers. I have used the same Osprey Sojourn 60L for years, on hundreds of flights, over 6 continents, and they hold up incredibly well.

Electronics Backpack: SwissGear 1900 Scansmart Laptop Bag

swissgear smartscan 1900 laptop bag

This backpack has 15 pockets and comfortably holds all of my electronics, including the DJI Mavic Drone. Made of 1200D ballistic polyester fabric; I used a smaller version, the Wenger Synergy for over 12 years – only changing to the larger SwissGear 1900 to accommodate the addition of a drone.

Daypack: Osprey Daylite

osprey daylite

Carrying around a bag full of all your gadgets isn’t practical or very wise so for days out exploring. Fitting nicely into the Sojourn, the Osprey Daylite (22.86 cm x 22.86 cm x 45.72 cm) is an ideal size for a day pack, trips to the gym, or jiu-jitsu classes. It can carry a DSLR, Mavic Drone, gym clothes, though not all at once, it’s close. Weighing only 426 grams (.94 pounds) with a ventilated back panel, the Daylite is comfortable, small, plus has compression straps for times you need to push its capacity.

Cable Organizer: Cocoon Grid-It 10.5 x 7.5-Inch Organizer

I had put off organizing my cables for a long time but after another time in airport security having to pull out a clump of cords, send them back through the X-ray, and attempt to shake all the tangles out I decided on the Cocoon Grid-It, 5 x 7.5 inch organizer. It’s about the size of a standard sheet of paper with a very slim profile, plus its designed in a way that you don’t need to be very organized to make use of the Cocoon’s organizational benefits. Put the cable where they fit, then be on your way.

Toiletry Bag: SwissGear Deluxe Framed Toiletry Kit

swissgear deluxe toiletry kit

SwissGear make very durable products that are well thought out in design to an extent it’s easy to forget how useful they are. The main pockets of the SwissGear Deluxe Framed Kit are lined with rubber to make them water-resistant – ideal for packing deodorant, perfumes, shampoos or anything else you don’t want leaking into your luggage.

Drone Carrying Case: SwissGear Hanging Toiletry Kit

swissgear hanging toiletry kit

For those of you looking into a drone to travel with, the DJI Mavic Pro is a good combination of size (it’s collapsible) with excellent video quality (shoots 4K). Many of the hard cases sold for the Mavic are big, adding unnecessary bulk to a drone designed to be small. The SwissGear Hanging Toiletry Kit, odd as it may seem, is a soft case that perfectly fits the Mavic (in its sleeve), the remote controller (in the Altura Small Neoprene Pouch Bag), and charging cables nearly perfectly.

Laptop Sleeve: Incase Icon Sleeve

incase icon laptop sleeve

The Incase Icon Sleeve is a soft cover made for a number of laptops and what I keep my Macbook Pro in. The Incase has saved my laptop from what could have been a devastating fall at airport security, protecting it from the effects of traveling.

Wallet: J.Fold Men’s Roadster Torrent Slimfold

jfold wallet

Slim, durable, and as you may have guessed by now, with plenty of pockets.

A Few Other Covers And Cases

I don’t want to neglect mentioning the Moleskine Classic (5 x 8.25) Notebook. Although I tend not to be loyal to a particular notebook brand, I can recommend the Moleskine (5 x 8.25) because of the large writing surface for a compact journal. (The pages also fold flat; i.e. no gigantic hump when you’re writing in the middle of the notebook.)

Lastly, for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45 camera, I use an off brand, particularly mundane looking black case. Another benefit to cases are they can reduce the perceived value of what’s in them and uglifying your gadgets when they’re public can make them less enticing for pickpockets. Like any good case or backpack, you want something functional, not much bigger than the things it’s carrying, with of course, plenty of pockets.

How To Fly With Your Dog And Make Sure You Both Have A Great Flight

This is a guest post by Stephanie Yoder, a girl who can’t sit still! She writes about everything related to Millennial travel at Why Wait to See the World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel).

pug on a train

Owning a dog is just the best: long walks and cuddles on the couch from an eternally loyal best friend. The only huge drawback is that it makes it much harder to travel. Unlike a cat, you can’t just leave your dog alone with a bucket of food, a litter box and then hope for the best. You’ll need to leave him the care of a dog-sitter or at an expensive kennel. It can really cut into your travel budget.

Unless… you take your dog with you. It’s not the easiest, and not the most enjoyable for some dogs, but it is worth it when traveling with your dog is the best or the only option. Last year we took our funny little terrier Leo across the country and back again. It wasn’t a difficult process, but here is what you need to know.

Know the Rules

Every airline has slightly different rules for traveling with pets in the cabin. Some don’t allow it at all, and those that do generally have weight and breed restrictions. Unlike babies, dogs don’t fly for free. There is usually a fee per flight that can range from $30-$500.

traveling terrier

Usually the cap is about 9 kilograms (20 pounds) – although in my experience there is a little wiggle room as they don’t usually weigh your dog at check in. Larger dogs will have to fly in kennels under the plane. Some airlines also have restrictions against  brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds of dogs, which are more prone to respiratory issues while flying. Breeds like pugs, Boston terriers and bull dogs might run afoul of these rules.

Aside from that, your dog’s presence on the flight is subject to availability. Most airlines only allow a handful of in-cabin animals on a single flight. Makes sure you call and check that there is space available on the flight, and that you reserve both of your travel at the same time. Call again 24 hours before your flight to remind them you are traveling with a dog.

Talk to Your Vet

Most airlines will require a health certificate from your veterinarian issued within 7 days of departure (you don’t need  a second certificate for your journey home even if it is outside that time frame). You might need immunization records if you are traveling internationally.

In my experience, airline personnel usually don’t ask to see these records but you will want to have them just in case. If you don’t produce them, you’re dog could be barred from the flight.

terrier

While you’re at the vet, take some time to talk about the best method for keeping your dog calm during the flight. Some people choose to sedate their pets with low doses of Xanax, but you may want to do a test run first since it can hype some dogs up. Your vet may have some other ideas on non-medical ways to keep your pet calm depending on their health and temperament.

We chose not to medicate our dog, and tried some essential oils to calm him. The oils did nothing, so we kept him calm but talking to him during the flight, feeding him treats and stroking his head.

Prep Your Pooch

Traveling on a plane can be a pretty scary experience for a dog. It’s loud, and confusing, and smells kind of weird. You will want to do everything you can to make them as comfortable as possible.

terrier at the beach

Get your dog a comfy soft crate (make sure it fits airline restrictions for fitting under the seat). It should be big enough for them to turn around comfortably and the sides should be ventilated. Give your dog the chance to get used to the carrier, have them spend some time in there each day and reward them with treats. It’s a good idea to have them hang out in there while in motion as well- take a car ride with them.

Before our flight we spent weeks practicing with Leo. He would sit in the crate and we would shower him with treats and praise until he started to actually enjoy that space. We laid down extra padding and put a couple of his favorite toys in there. We also lined the bottom with absorbent puppy pads in case he had an accident in transit (which he never did).

On the Day

On the day you are flying, feed your dog 4 hours before departure, so that they have enough time to digest and pass their food. Give them lots of water to drink so they don’t get dehydrated during the flight.  Take them for a very long walk if you have time, to work off some energy.

Check in early for your flight. Most airports have some sort of designated pet area where your pooch can relieve themselves before the big flight. Once you’re up in the air, do your best to help your pet stay calm. They will probably need to stay in their crate under the seat for the whole flight but you can reach down and talk to and comfort them.

When you’ve arrived at your destination and de-boarded you can finally let your friend go free. Take them outside for some fresh air and breathe a sigh of relief – you made it!

Thank you very much Stephanie for this guest post! Stephanie writes about travel for millennials on her website, Why Wait To See The World. You can also follow Why Wait To See The World on Facebook, Twitter @whywaitworld, and Instagram.

How Travel Changes From Your Twenties To Your Thirties

This is a guest post by Stephanie Yoder, a girl who can’t sit still! She writes about everything related to Millennial travel at Why Wait to See the World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). 

stephanie yoder

I started traveling prolifically in my early twenties. A semester studying abroad in London gave me a taste of the freedom, and discovery, that comes with international travel. And I was hooked. I spent the next ten years working, living and traveling abroad as much as I could.

Along the way I met a similarly travel-loving guy, married him, got an apartment and a dog in Seattle and (like everyone eventually does) I turned 30. A couple years later I had a baby. While my wanderlust never changed, my life did. As a result, the way I travel has changed significantly too. Many things have stayed the same: I still love to walk until my feet hurt, stuff my face with local food and explore off the beaten path. At the same time, I thought I’d list what’s different now, and why.

Now I’ll give you a caveat that your results may vary. There are plenty of free-wheeling, young at heart thirty and forty-somethings, just as there are 23 year-olds with serious responsibility.

Changing Priorities

In my twenties, I didn’t have a ton of responsibilities beyond keeping myself alive and not going any deeper into debt than necessary. Otherwise, my major goal was simply to travel as much as humanly possible. All of my spare time and most of my money went towards planning my next escape.

why wait to see the world

Now I have a million things to think about besides stamps in my passport, starting with, but not limited to,: my career, my family, can I afford rent this month and who is going to watch my dog? That doesn’t mean travel isn’t on my radar, it just makes it harder to take off on a whim, consequences be damned.

More Selective

As a result of the above, it’s not so easy to just take off for any old reason. With limited time and money, I need to be selective about the trips I take.

In my twenties I would grab any available opportunity: girl’s trip to Puerto Rico? Last minute cheap fair to Europe? Impromptu road trip? I was always game. I racked up stamps in my passport and saw a good chunk of the world this way.

why wait to see the world yoder

Now, I plan my travels ahead of time, and I pick what I want to do more carefully. I’m not going to waste precious money and vacation days to go somewhere I’ve already been or don’t really care about. I would much rather save up my resources for a trip I’m really excited about, like our three week babymoon to Japan last year.

Less Late Nights, More Early Mornings

You never realize how much energy you have until it’s gone. When I was a young twenty-something backpacker, drinking late into the night with locals or other backpackers was the norm. I’d compensate by sleeping in (well, as much as you can sleep in in a hostel dorm room). I saw the sights, but this was usually secondary to socializing.

Now that I’m in my thirties, I appreciate the merits of a good night’s sleep, and staying up until the early morning drinking is much less appealing. Hangovers last longer when you’re older, and it takes less to get there. Now I’m all about one or two craft cocktails or local beers, a hearty meal, and an early bedtime. I’d rather save my energy for  getting up early to explore my surroundings.

A Higher Standard of Living

One of the bonuses to traveling in my thirties? My budget is bigger. Because my trips are usually shorter and because I have a job supporting me, I have more money to spend on each trip.

travel in twenties thirties

I’m nowhere near a luxury traveler, but having some extra funds enhances my travels in a multitude of ways. Instead of cramped hostel dorm rooms, I’m staying in a comfy apartment rental. Instead of cooking spaghetti in a group kitchen, I can afford to go out for a nice local meal. I have more money to spend on special excursions and tours, and I can pick up a nice souvenir to take home.

I also have the means to make my travels more inclusive. I used to travel alone (and sometimes I still do), but over the years my travel style has expanded to include my husband, my daughter, and even my dog. In 2014 I took my Mom on an Alaskan Cruise, and it was amazing to spend that time bonding with her.

More Confidence

Perhaps the best part of traveling in my thirties is that after over a decade of travel, I really know myself really, really, well. I know the sort of things I enjoy (beautiful cities, rich cultures, good food), and the stuff I really don’t (party islands, loud hostels and skiing). I know that I get sick at high altitudes, and that I vastly prefer warm weather destinations to chilly ones. I know what I like, and I’m willing to go the extra mile to find it.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try new things. It’s just that when you clear out what you’re not interested in, all sorts of new possibilities emerge. In the past few years, I’ve taken trips that never would have occurred to me in my twenties. I went to Vancouver to watch the Women’s World Cup, I saw wild elephants grazing in Sri Lanka, and I ate sushi (at 5 months pregnant) in Tokyo. When I first visited Japan at 26 I wouldn’t even touch raw fish.

Are things better or worse now? I think they are just different. Sometimes I miss the freewheeling, spontaneous fun of my twenties, but I also really appreciate my current, more thoughtful and experienced travel style – and the family I now have to share it with. In the end I don’t think it matters so much what age you choose to see the world, just that you are getting out there at all.

Thank you very much Stephanie for this guest post decades in the making. Stephanie is right, no matter how young or old you are, traveling can open you up to many new insights and experiences. Stephanie writes about this very topic on her website, Why Wait To See The World. You can also follow Why Wait To See The World on Facebook, Twitter @whywaitworld, and Instagram.

How To Get To The Top Of Tirana, Albania’s Mount Dajti By Cable Car

dajti ekspres

Albania’s capital city Tirana doesn’t have the reputation of being the most beautiful, but I ask you to try agreeing with that from the view atop Mount Dajti overlooking the city. Something more objective however is Tirana’s ad-hoc system for pretty much everything, including public transportation.

You can get to the top of Mount Dajti, just outside of Tirana, by taking the Dajti Ekspress, the longest cable car in the Balkans. There are a lot of options for getting there but only a few that make sense. Here are the best ways to get to Mount Dajti.

From Town To Base Station

Before you do anything, it’s important to make sure you have, or withdraw, enough cash for the journey as well as cable car. The credit card machine at the base station hasn’t worked in forever – show up with only a Mastercard and you’ll have to go all the way back into town.

et'hem bey mosque tirana

  • Cash To Bring – A round-trip cable car ticket is around 800 lek ($6.30 dollars) and the bus about 65 lek (.50 cents US). There’s a good cafe and restaurant up at the top that do accept credit cards but I wouldn’t rely on them, so bring extra cash to enjoy some food as well.

Head to the Et’hem Bey Mosque in the center of town. Looking at the Et’hem Mosque (with the clock town on the left) about 50 meters to the left is a bus station. You’ll see people waiting around, possibly a bus, or neither. Look for the Linze bus and confirm with the driver he or she is headed toward Dajti.

  • Dajti Cable Car Hours – From 10am to 7pm (winter); extended hours to 10pm during the summer months. The Dajti Ekspres cable car is open everyday except Tuesdays.

The trip from the bus station to nearby the cable car station is about 25 minutes. Go to the last stop – it also helps to sit near the front so the driver can let you know you’re at the right place.

Drop Off And Ready To Walk

From this point, you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes uphill following signs that aren’t very accurate. As you walk in the direction the bus was pointing when it arrived at the station, ask every few shops to make sure you’ve not gone off track. The shop owners are very helpful, often leaving their stores to give overly detailed instructions for the deceptively winding roads.

mount dajti tirana albania

Unless you’re arriving with a bicycle, get a round-trip ticket up to the top by taking the 3.6 kilometer (2.2 mile) Dajti Ekspres cable car. A lovely 20 minute ride, unless you have serious fear of heights, take in all of the views of Tirana on the way. After arriving don’t miss the countryside on the far side of Mount Dajti.

  • Meal With A View – Although the pizza is pretty good, be sure to get a seat by the window, even if there is a wait at Ballkoni I Dajtit, the sight is spectacular.

Above it, there’s a cafe that rotates 360 degrees, like this:

Other Options To The Top

Taxi is an option but you’ll have to negotiate your way there, expect to pay about $15 USD for a one-way ride. There’s also a shuttle which connects with one of the bus stops but since there’s no set timing information available, consider it the very leisurely (possibly uncertain) way up. Up, by the way, is the direction it’s easiest to go – finding a taxi nearby, especially close to closing hour means bus is likely the only way you’ll be getting back into town.

How To Stick To Your 2017 Travel Resolutions

“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”
-Muhammad Ali

Angelina Eberly statue austin texas

There’s a really big problem with New Year’s resolutions – namely, that most of us don’t keep them. And when it comes to travel, making plans in the middle of a holiday season that often involves being intoxicated doesn’t help get you anywhere in June. Fortunately for us, technology is much less forgetful than we are and our brains can be hacked to get the results we want from them.

Where do you want to go in 2017? Let’s get started:

remember the milk androidRefine Your To-Do List (aka. Resolutions) So It’s Believable

The most common list problem is the easiest to solve and neglect at the same time – where to keep your list. The free site Remember The Milk lets you set specific lists (e.g. ‘2017 Travel Resolutions’), prioritize them, and set schedules to make sure you stay on track. Remember The Milk also syncs with your iPad, iPhone, Android, and email accounts if you choose, as well as a few other online services you’re likely using.

getting things done  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

amazon buy now

There are 4 types of travel lists that won’t help you very much and you can avoid creating one by keeping your travel resolutions short, have well defined steps toward your final goal, and set rough timetables for each item.

Use The Winner Effect To Knock Out Resolutions

Don’t make the first resolutions you want to tackle be the most difficult. Rather, use the winner effect to improve your chances of accomplishing more difficult goals down the line by setting up easier victories now. It works for boxers, 3-point shooters in basketball, and can for you by modifying your physiology for increased confidence.

3 pointer shot

The winner effect in many studies was nullified for subjects not in their territory (think home-team advantage) so for added chances of success early on, set up your early travel resolutions in familiar surroundings. Rather than making your first goal “travel to Thailand and live for a year” set yourself up for smaller victories like “go to the bank and open a savings account”. (Here’s how to choose the right bank for international travel.)

Digitize Peer Pressure

An effective way to get around saying one thing and doing another (a form of cognitive dissonance) is to hold yourself accountable to others. You can do that by informing close friends of your plans (and the key steps in your resolution lists – the winner effect can encourage them to believe in you more). That makes it all the harder to ditch your travel resolutions.

habitlist app ios

Another way to keep the pressure on yourself to get out the door and travel is to use apps where you can set goals, see progress towards them, and be nicely reminded when you might be falling off track. The Habit List app ($3.99 iOS) and free Habit Bull (Android/iOS) both let you set goals big and small, showing you streaks, and creating a flexible schedule so you can plan your way to success.

Motivate Yourself By Visualizing

The biggest path to our memories is through our eyes and we tend to believe what we see. That effect goes beyond what our eyes see to what our minds can visualize. Imagine yourself accomplishing each of your travel resolutions and you’re much more likely to believe it’s possible, less risky, and rewarding. (For more on this bias check out How Risky Is It?)

We often spend much of our travel-motivational efforts externally, trying to convince our family and loved ones who might not be as supportive initially as we’d like. The real conflict happens when their doubt becomes contagious or rather, they highlight flaws in our overall plans. Be an efficient and powerful dream-to-reality converter by motivating the most important person who needs it – you.

steve jobs biography  Steve Jobs

amazon buy now

The Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson is a great read for geeks for the technical tale it weaves; but also highlights what an incredible motivator the stubborn innovator he was. His 2005 Stanford commencement speech is both touching and powerful. A 15 minute dose of confidence and conviction for your travel resolutions and other passions in life.

The Hardest Steps Are The Ones You Haven’t Taken Yet

Traveling means many things to many people and there is no one way to go. Whether you want to take one trip to a nearby city once a year or go on a one-year RTW, define your goals for you. Once you know where you want to be, it’s up to you to get there. You can get from your desk to all the places you want to travel. Your craziest dreams are only crazy until you believe in them. Your biggest obstacle is yourself. I believe in you. Believe in yourself. Now go make those crazy dreams come true.

Happy New Year,
-Anil

This is an updated version of a post originally written in 2012.

Use This Tip To Save Yourself Up To An Hour When Landing At Havana’s International Airport

Havana Cuba Jose Marti International Airport

The first thing almost all tourists will need upon arriving in Havana, Cuba’s Jose Marti International Airport, is cash. This is particularly true for Americans, whose ATM cards won’t work; nationals of other countries have no guarantees either. And everyone can pretty much forget about using credit cards in Cuba’s heavily cash-based society.

As a visitor, it’s practically a necessity to take all the cash you’ll need with you for the duration of your entire trip prior to departing for Cuba. Unless you’ve got a prepaid ride waiting to pick you up at the airport, you need to convert some cash (e.g. dollars, euros, etc.) into the tourist-local Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Since everyone else has the same idea long, long, lines form outside of the exchange office in the arrivals hall.

Understaffed hardly ever open on time, here’s how you can forgo up to an hour of waiting in arrivals at Jose Marti International Airport after you land.

Go Upstairs To Departures

Walking into the arrivals hall your first stop might not seem like the departures hall upstairs, but it should be.

The departures hall (which will be deserted) has several staffed currency exchange booths and not a single person using them. Walk up, exchange enough money to get yourself where you’re staying, plus some extra. The exchange rate at the airport is often the same, if not better than most of the hotels in town (the primary place to exchange money in Havana) so it’s not a bad idea to convert larger amounts.

cuba old car taxi

Once you’ve converted your money, you can go back down to arrivals. Just past the massive line full of tourists waiting to get CUC will be a taxi that can take you into town. Now you’ve got an extra hour to explore Cuba, which might not be what you think it is.

Small Tips Often Pay Big

Because Havana airport only has a relatively small number of flights, arrivals and departures don’t overlap significantly which is why one is usually empty when the other is not. Keep this in mind when departing Jose Marti International Airport, currency exchange in arrivals is likely to be much less busy.

Many travel tips are as simple as this but go a long way in saving you money, time, or enhancing an experience. For instance, you should do this before visiting the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, find this restaurant in Kosovo, and can save a lot on trains in Japan before ever leaving home.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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