Time to Start Packing! The checked bag pt. 1...

21 days left! 

Our 'room sale' (our Seattle winter version of a Yard Sale) has been going well; we are down to about half the amount of stuff we started the sale with!

Now it's time to start packing away the items we can live without for the next few weeks.  This post is going to be done in several parts, most likely organized by which suitcase is being filled. Expect to get an overview of the suitcase we will be using, the items going into the suitcase (possibly even HOW they are being packed, depending on the function of the suitcase and the item), and why we chose that suitcase and those items. I will cover some of those packing basics (maximizing wardrobe without sacrificing space), some packing theories, and my own approach to packing based on my experiences traveling.

A word for the absolute Beginner (or for those of you who have noticed that you could use a little help in the packing department) I HIGHLY recommend that you consider purchasing The Packing Book. Most of my personal preferences regarding packing are a combination of the theories in this book and what I've learned (in the past 20 years) that works best for me. Absolutely wonderful book, well worth the mere $10.17, as it not only will give an overview of how to pack for multiple types of luggage, but also comes with several pre-made general packing lists and the author's recommended space-saver travel accessories.

I've decided to start with the items we (ideally) shouldn't need until we get to Germany - these items are going into the large SwissGear rolling upright suitcase (28") that we plan to check. The main idea is that whatever is put in this suitcase we should be able to live without until we get to Germany; ideally we should be able to live without these items for up to a week. (Have you ever had an airline lose your checked luggage?) Our carry-ons will hold the essentials to get us through at least a week.

Here is my general (moving overseas) packing  list:



Underwear (10)

Belt (2)

Bras (5)

Flip-Flops/shower shoes

Socks (10)

Warm Gloves

Warm Tights (2)

Warm Scarf

Nylons (4; various colors)

Light Scarf






Daily purse


Earrings (4 pair)

Tank Tops
(4; good for layering, dark & neutral colors)

Comfortable shoes
Dress shoes

T-Shirts (3)


Long sleeved Shirts (3)

 Necklaces (2)

Dress Shirts (2)

Rings (2)

Light Sweaters (2-3)

Additional Items


 Collapsible Drawers 
(2 small, 2 large)

Pants (4)

 Light fleece blanket

Skirts (2-3; varying lengths)

 Collapsible bag

Seem like a lot? Don't forget that most of those item values will be doubled because Lex's stuff will go in here too. You might be wondering why the 'additional items' category. I have found that having a few items from my old home that take up very little space in my luggage and have practical applications in my new residence can make transitioning into a new place easier. These items are so friendly on space that I can get all 6 of them into the mere 1/4" deep mesh pocket on the inside of the top flap of the checked bag.

Check back soon for "The checked bag pt. 2..."! I will actually take pictures of the packing process and discuss the ins and outs of choosing which clothes should be packed and which should be left home.

Preparing for the Long Weekend 12/25-26/2010

Since this posting is coming out on Christmas weekend, I was hoping to find some information about any December celebrations of the Aboriginal Tribes in Australia. So far, I can’t find anything. :o(  No matter, this search can go on my list of things to find out while I’m living there! However, what to do for a post topic?  I’ve settled on some of the documented differences of how mainstream Australian culture celebrates the Christmas holiday, instead.

Australia’s seasons mirror North America’s, which means that Christmas arrives in the middle of summer (just 4 days after their summer solstice, in fact). This in itself means that many of the quintessential Christmas/holiday activities (for me) are not possible or don’t exist at all. For instance, plants traditionally purchased or grown in the northern half of the planet (like the pine trees used for our Christmas trees or the poisonous poinsettias that adorn our coffee tables), which thrive in colder weather, are nowhere to be found in Australian holiday decorations. 

Instead, check out the traditional Australian flora one might encounter at a holiday party (photo credit: http://www.anbg.gov.au/christmas/)

 Christmas Tree - Western Australia

New South Whales - Christmas Bells

Victoria - Christmas Bush

South Australia & Tasmania


 Interesting that these plants don’t exhibit any of the colors those of us from the north associate with Christmas. A little more research leads me to believe that, even though the more traditional Red/Green/Silver/Gold color scheme is not prominent in the landscape during the holiday season in Australia, these colors are still used for marketing Christmas and the New Year. I suppose this is mainly due to the fact that these colors were already accepted Christmas colors before the Christmas holiday came to Australia. They probably continued the use of them for marketing purposes, however.

If Tim Minchin’s song “White Win in the Sun" is any indication (not to mention all the photos of windsurfing and reef swimming that popped up on Google when I searched for "Australia + Christmas) Australian's tend to prefer water sports to the more traditional snow play of the Northerners. Honestly, I wouldn't have had a clue it was holiday time, were it not for the Santa hats... :o)

Heathrow gets snowed

Response to msnbc.com’s article “Travel chaos eases, but not Heathrow criticism

Poor Heathrow, BAA just can’t seem to get it right. I have experienced LHR on five separate occasions in the past three years (along with many other airports) and I think the only airport I would take LHR over is O’Hare… However, at least O’Hare was able to “prepare [adequately] for the onset of winter”.

Preparing for the Long Weekend 12/18-19/2010

It is (at least to me) a little known fact that one of Australia's nicknames is the Land of the Long Weekend (though this seems to be more related to student culture, with no classes on Fridays, than to any other demographic). Therefore, in honor of my impending trip Down Under, I would like you to join me here Friday evenings for a new post about preparing to move to Australia!

Posting topics will vary but may include: the student/worker/dependent visa process (after all, the fiance may be going with me), packing for an extended 'trip', local attractions, vaccinations, books, etc.

This week I will be sharing my 'to read' list. My goal is to have all 13 books read before I touch down in SYD (Sydney's international airport). I have roughly 32 weeks to accomplish this, so it shouldn't be a problem, right?

1)The Fatal Shore. Robert Hughes - historical non-fiction novel about exiling prisoners to Australia from which stemmed colonization.

2) Australia, A Traveler's Literary Companion. Robert Ross  - overview of Australia’s culture, geography, people and outlook.

3) In a Sunburned Country. Bill Bryson - comical recount of Bryson's encounters with Australians while living Down Under.

4 (Travelers’ Tales Guides.) Australia: true stories of life down under. Habegger - Thirty-nine travel tales about varying experiences vacationing and traveling in Australia.

5) Prehistory of Australia. John Mulvaney & Johan Kamminga - An overview of Aboriginal history, culture and art.

6) Rabbit-Proof Fence: The True Story of One of the Greatest Escapes of All Time. Doris Pilkington - True story about the Stolen Generation (Aboriginal children who were taken away from their parents and placed in white Australian families in an effort to assimilate them into 'mainstream' culture and society).

7) The Explorers. Tim F. Flannery - 67 personal accounts of the development of Australia.

8) A Photographic Guide to Mammals of Australia. Ronald Strahan - pocket-sized photographic guide to all the mammals the average Joe would want to see in Australia.

9) A Natural History of Australia. Tim Berra -an illustrated and detailed introduction to the natural history of Australia.

10) A Town Like Alice. Neville Shute - Classic tale of post WWII recovery in Australia. Most modern-day Australians are said to identify in some way.

11) True History of the Kelly Gang. Peter Carey - Booker Prize winner.

12) We of the Never-Never. Mrs Aeneus Gunn - An Australian version of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, this story is about life on a 1920's outback station focusing mainly on the social and cultural life of the Aboriginal workers.

13) Cultural Atlas of Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific. Richard Nile & Christian Clerk - Short essays accompanied by maps and copious illustrations of the arts and cultures of the South Pacific.

Wish me luck!

How do you troubleshoot your itinerary on the ground?

While enjoying my coffee this morning I ran across an interview with Guardian Budget Traveler journalist Benji Lanyado on the future of budget travel with the advent of social media. (For the full interview pop on over to Gadling.com.)

Lanyado recommends using Twitter for help finding those local hidden treasures that travelers love so much. In fact, Lanyado's confidence in using Twitter to troubleshoot his travel plans is so compelling that The Guardian now runs a front page live stream, which Lanyado has dubbed TwiTrip, when he is on the road. He also goes so far as to say that travel guidebooks are facing extinction in his October 3, 2010 article about the evolution of travel resources.

In a way, Lanyado's new coping mechanism for travel makes sense.  Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter operate in real time (whereas books are out of date as soon as they are printed) and are accessed by locals (guidebooks were historically written by travel writers and foreign correspondents).  Not to mention the enormous number of users on these sites. Therefore, there certainly is great potential to gain highly specialized and up-to-dated information AND how many people recommend. However, if you don't have a smart phone/iPad/Nook/etc, using social media platforms such as Twitter when on the go is not be possible.

What do you think?
 This move to Germany will be my first chance to experience travel with a means to access such media as Twitter and Foursquare. Up until now I've been a die hard fan of the Guide Book.

What form of 'guide' do you like to use when you travel?

Want to read more by Benji Lanyado? Check out his website or find him on Twitter (@benjilanyado)

Ten (under $10!) Stocking Stuffers for your beloved traveler.

This year, in light of our pending travels, I decided to create a list of 10 stocking stuffers (all under $10!) I would recommend for the savvy traveler.

1. No-Leak Toiletry Kit - Having your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash explode inside your toiletry bag due to cabin pressure changes can be very frustrating! Especially, if you were planing to live off those toiletries rather than buy large bottles on-site. Luckily, the company know world-wide for their No-Leak water bottles also makes TSA standard size bottles and containers for your toiletry needs! 3-1-1 Nalgene Travel Bottle Kit ($9.99)

2. Soap Sheets - If you are the type that would prefer to avoid carrying liquids through security (or if your TSA approved zip baggie is already full of other items you've deemed more important to your in-flight comfort) then Travelon soap sheets might be more your style. Thinly pressed sheets of Hand Soap, Shampoo, Body Wash, laundry soap, and even shaving soap come in compact, flip-top containers about the size of a pack of gum. Just add water and lather up! 50 sheets per package. ($2.75 - $7.99)
(These little packets are also great for  your day-pack; getting caught in the loo without soap is no fun!) 

3. Travel Toilet Paper - Getting caught in a public toilet without toilet paper can be one way of turning your excursions sour! Avoid getting caught in this less-than-ideal (ok, I'll take the pun - crappy) situation with a traveler-friendly toilet paper. ($0.99)  Pair it with a traveler-friendly pack of toilet seat covers, and keep your public toilet adventure clean and sanitary! ($3.50)

4. Outlet Adapter - I always pack at least one universal outlet adapter in my pack when I travel outside the USA. Universal adapters (adapters which can be used on varying outlet forms) can be more expensive than dedicated adapters (adapters which only work with a USA-standard pin design and one outlet form, like Australia), but most often never more than a few dollars. From my own experiences traveling to multiple countries that utilize different outlet designs (and even the the UK, where there are 2 forms used throughout the country!), those few dollars spent once saved me at least $100 in adapters on my last trip through Europe. The Universal World Wide Travel Charger Adapter Plug by Eforcity will allow you to 'plug in' to EU/UK/AU outlets and can receive pin designs from the same countries. Plus, it accepts plugs with grounding prongs, making this adapter good for both small and large electronics! ($3.59)

5.  Travel Security Pouch - Easily hidden pouches for emergency cash and paperwork (like a copy of your passport and credit card) are indispensable for any traveler. The come in several styles and can be worn in various location, hidden, on the body. For those who like wearing fanny-packs (sometimes called belly-bags) I would recommend the Travel Security Waist Pouch. This item can also be tied to a belt loop and worn lengthwise down the inside of a pant leg. ($8.44) For the ladies, Austin House has a security pouch which is cut to be worn inside the bra. ($6.94)

6. Laundry Kit: Washing - Laundry facilities can be expensive when traveling. If I can save a few dollars (and burn a few extra calories!) by washing my lighter/smaller clothes, such as underwear and socks, I'll happily do that to pay for a trip up the Eiffel Tower! This Lewis N. Clark Laundry Kit with Woolite comes with 8 cold wash soap packets and one large drain stopper (great for most hostel sinks or tubs!). ($10.00)

7. Laundry Kit: Drying - Dryers, particularly in Europe, can be very expensive to use. Rick Steves Travel Clothesline, weighing in at 2.2oz, stretching to 6ft,  and triple braided to negate the need for clothespins, this is the most space efficient dryer any traveler could ask for. ($9.00)

8. Travel Towel - You're probably wondering how you can get a towel into a stocking, along with all those other travel goodies. Lightload Towels travel towels are vacuum packed (and weight only .3oz!) into roughly 2in. diameter discs. Just add water and the towel will open to it's full size. These towels have been tested and reviewed in such travel and outdoor magazines as Climbing and Sailing. These towels come in many sizes including Hand Towels, Beach Towels, and Minis. Made of cellulose (not oil, like in microfiber), the Green traveler can feel good about this product, too! ($2.75 - $18.00)

9. Compression Packing Bags - These come in two forms; Vacuum and manual. I prefer manual compression bags because you can't guarantee an available vacuum in a hostel or budget hotel, but both are great investments for any traveler (and they are reusable!). I definitely recommend these for those traveling during a season change (i.e. Winter/Spring) as they will make packing your heavier clothing, like a parka, more efficient. ($7.99 - $9.86)

10. Travel Journal - Every traveler needs a way to keep a record of their experiences - my first travel journal was a Moleskine (pronounced Mol-a-skeen-a) and I can't recommend a better choice for the on-the-go traveler. These light weight, compact journals have been used by such internationally recognized artists as Ernest Hemingway, Andre Breton, and Vincent van Gogh. You can't find a better journal suited to travel! ($9.98)

If you find this useful, let me know! I might start doing these lists more often!