Tag Archive | travel

Air Crates For Birds: Specifications

Many of you know I am relocating to the United Kingdom so I can do the work of historian-researcher better and offer you the best information possible in the Legendary Women of World History and Legendary Women of World History Dramas. This means flying international with my two precious cockatiels whom I absolutely ADORE.

Arwen-4 2017 17 February

Arwen is ready to fly!

But getting a bird from the USA to UK is an annoying challenge — and it has nothing to do with UK immigration law nor with the USDA’s rules for taking a bird out of the USA.  Rather, the annoyance of this process comes from the circular information you receive when trying to answer that straight forward question:  what kind of cargo crate do I need and how do I get one that will be accepted at both JFK (the main airport birds fly to Europe from) and LHR?

The last several months I’ve been driven crazy in circles.  I consult one website which directs me to another page and another and another and not ONE BIT is about flying WITH BIRDS. Even the pages that say they are giving you information about flying with birds inevitably re-direct you back to something that only applies to cats and dogs. (Example pg 1 to pg 2. Note how general this gets (at best) for animals other than dogs/cats).  Messaging on social media doesn’t help either, nor does email or even phone calls.  No one seems to know anything and what they do know is to refer you back to the same pages you’ve read several times before that only talk about cats and dogs. It’s the customer service runaround that drives everyone crazy when planning a big trip.

Finally today I heard from IAG Cargo which handles air cargo for British Airways and is ultimately the company that off-loads animals from BA planes and brings them to Heathrow’s animal terminal for customs clearances.  What they gave me was a pdf of the following three pages from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which sets all the standards for all crates for all animals traveling internationally.

IATA container info pg 1IATA container info pg 2IATA container info pg 3

Does that look overwhelmingly complicate to you?  It sure does to me.  Which brings us to what it all really means:

When travelling with birds a custom crate needs to be made that meets IATA rules for your bird species. While you can do this yourself, the best way to make sure the crate conforms to that maze of rules is to buy one from a professional.

The first company I priced was Pet Relocation, a big company based in Austin, Texas.  However a better deal is to be had by shopping around. West coast based O’Brien Animal Transportation Services offers custom crates for birds and help with pet moves (avian, canine, feline) with personalized and personable customer service that far surpasses what I’ve experienced with Pet Relocation. A sweet lady at O’Brien referred me to Sally at Newark/New York City based Airborne Animals which offers exceptional customer service for pet moves beginning on the East Coast.  What I love about Airborne Animals: they are very upfront about what goes into moving costs actually TELLING YOU what the average fees are for each part of their service.  That’s something the competition DOESN’T do and why I’ll be flying with Airborne Animals’ help.

 

Review: TravelPro Maxlite 4 tote & spinner

If you follow this blog you know I move around a lot and I travel as often as I can to visit historical sites and sample delicious food I don’t get to eat regularly.  I travel by primarily by train and plane for most trips over 10 miles from home and use public transit for shorter distant trips.  I also use my luggage for shopping via public transit, a trick I learned after canned foods spilled out of my shopping wagon while crossing a busy Brooklyn street several years ago.  So I need something lightweight, durable, and flexible, bags that can handle grocery trips to Walmart as easily as a cross country or international flight as easily as a move to a new home.

American tourister carry on bag

Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

After twenty six years of use and abuse with all of the above I have FINALLY retired my American Tourister shoulder bag carry on I’ve used for every move, every flight, every Amtrak trip I’ve ever taken.  Indeed, it’s still a great bag — if you don’t need something with wheels on it.  That’s why it will still be used for moving, for packing day one items, but for regular travel it’s been retired.

Why the sudden change?  Simple!  I found something better than my shoulder bag and much better than the Skyway brand bags I’ve used for nearly 20 years, bags which rarely come off the baggage claim carousel without some sort of damage.

When shopping for luggage this summer (partially to take advantage of summer sales) I fully expected to buy another American Tourister, a Samsonite, or other major brand bag.  Fortunately for me I consulted Consumer Reports first and discovered that in 2016 the big name brands have performed much worse than lesser known brands in their tests. So it was time to expand my search and find something affordable that also scored well with Consumer Reports.

That is how I discovered the TravelPro brand, a $$ priced brand that is durable, flexible, and easy to use. Among their many collections, the MaxLite 4 bags caught my eye for being reasonably priced and having the features I want most in both carry on and checked bags. An added plus:  it comes in blue, black, and a very eye catching and fashionable purple.

maxlite 4 tote frontmaxlite 4 tote open

After looking at nearly 100 different bags marked “under seat” on ebags.com I decided upon the MaxLite 4 tote which (minus the wheels) is 15.5″ x 13″ x 8.5″.  Ebags sells it for $85 which is also the price on Amazon.com.  But ebags is deceptive:  they claim the MSRP for the bag is $200 — making you think you are getting a sale price and an incredible deal when in fact every competing website offering this bag sells it in the $82-$89 range.

As you can see, this is a very simple, flexible carry on.  It has a front pocket for your travel documents and an open interior space with a mesh pocket on the lid.  Unique to this bag are the velcro fastened side gussets which enable you to access the bag contents without opening it all the way (and having your belongings spill out onto the floor). The bag rolls very smoothly and the handle is the perfect length for easy navigation around an airport or on a train. Best of all:  it holds a LOT of stuff while still fitting neatly under the front seat on most air craft.

travelpro maxlite 4 29 spinnerI love this bag so much I just had to get a matching checked bag. I chose the 29″ spinner (which technically is slightly oversized because the wheels are not part of the listed 29″ x 20.25″ x 12″ dimensions; with the wheels it’s 30 7/8″ x 20.25″ x 13″) and I am so glad I did.  I am also very glad that I bought mine on Amazon.com where it sells for $153 compared to ebags $167.  As with the tote, Ebags deceives you into thinking their higher price is a great deal by claiming the MSRP is $360.

The interior on this bag is very basic and therefore very flexible with two straps for securing your belongings, a small mesh pocket, and a full size lid pocket.  Unlike most bags I’ve owned, the lid pocket zips around three sides, allowing you to lay flat choice clothing items.  The exterior has a single, full size lid pocket.  The handle is short — it’s designed to be used on all four wheels instead of tilted and rolling on two wheels.  The handle makes navigating airports easy, but it is about four inches too short for stacking the matching tote onto it which is really my only criticism of it.

After taking a test run to Walmart I must say I am extremely happy with my spinner, so happy that I would very much like to get the 26″ bag to complete the set.

No matter how you travel or where you are going to, you cannot go wrong with the TravelPro MaxLite 4 series.  I hope you will check out the entire collection because this is a very durable, easy to use, and flexible collection, especially for someone like me who prefers to organize with my packing cubes instead of a bag forcing me to organize a certain way.  It is hands down the best bags I’ve ever owned.  Just be certain to shop around for the best price because deals are to be had if you do.

 

History Profile: King William II (Rufus)

270px-William_II_of_EnglandDate of Birth: circa 1056

Place of Birth: Normandy

Date of death:  2 August 1100

Spouse: none

Issue: none

Successor:  Henry I

Openly homosexual and sceptical of the church in a time where questioning Church doctrine was almost unheard of, King William II was the favourite son of his father, William I (the Conqueror).  In 1087 William inherited the throne of England from his father; his elder brother Robert received Normandy while his younger brother Henry received money. A warrior like his father who stammered when he spoke, William worked to extend his father’s conquest of England into Wales and Scotland.  He forced King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland (of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” fame for his death at MacBeth’s hands) to swear fealty to him and acknowledge him as overlord.  In Gwynedd Wales he retained King Harold Godwinson’s puppet King Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, using him to displace King Gruffydd ap Cynan and force him into exile in Ireland.  In 1093 in Deheubarth, William II’s knights killed King Rhys ap Tewdur at the Battle of Brycheiniog, forcing his four sons into exile, including Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys (the future husband to King Gruffydd ap Cynan’s daughter, Princess Gwenllian).

William Rufus ordered the construction of some of the most famous and infamous castles in all of Wales including Chepstow Castle (1087, the year of his coronation) in Carmarthanshire and Pembroke Castle (birth place to Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys and Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd’s descendent, King Henry VII) in Pembrokeshire in 1093.

In England William Rufus was a passionate hunter who continued his father’s cruel Forest Laws (of Robin Hood fame) and extended them.  It was his love of hunting that opened the door for his younger brother Henry.  On 2 August 1100 under mysterious circumstances King William was struck in the lung by an arrow.  Walter Tirel is given the blame for firing the deadly arrow; many believe it was done on Prince Henry’s orders as a way of getting rid of a violent, impious, and almost universally hated king.

 

Though most people consider Henry I’s descendent King John the most hated king in medieval history, the prize rightfully belongs to King William Rufus whose wars and violent nature not only made him the bane of most English women and men but set the stage for the challenges still experienced forging a united kingdom out of England, Scotland, Wales, and northern Ireland.

I love Ebags Packing Cubes

I move around a lot.  I also enjoy travelling (as long as my birds are well looked after).  I’m an old-school historian who prefers to physically be where history happened before I write about it.  This means I’ve packed a lot and have learned what works really well.

ebags packing cubesBar none, the best tool for moving or traveling are Ebags brand packing cubes available (no surprise) exclusively from ebags.com.  These cubes have been out for a while — I bought my first packing cubes circa 2002.  Though the buying options have expanded and there are some new sizes available today that were not available when I first purchased them, the quality has remained consistent and they’ve handled the abuse I’ve put them through over several moves since really well.

The classic packing cube (there are now ultralights which have slightly different features) come in slim, small, medium, and large sizes.  These can be purchased as a single four piece set (see left) or in sets of three of the same size.  There’s also a new slim set of slim cubes in three different widths (14″, 10″, and 6.5″). Since my wardrobe is primarily skirts and dresses, I do not find the slim set all that useful.  Most of what I wear fits into the medium and large bag sizes with the slim and small sizes working best for socks, underwear (bras fit very nicely in the standard 14″ wide slim cubes), and accessories. Since they come in several colours, you really can colour code for each family member, making it easy to organize and locate every thing for every one.

ebags shoe boxFor those situations where I’m actually packing shoes, there’s a nice shoe bag that holds a lot!  Depending on how you pack and the type of footwear, you can actually often put two pairs in the same bag and keep everything else nice and clean.

These essentials (standard slim, small, medium, and large cubes, plus the shoe bag) are the core of the product line and bags I’ve had for nearly ten years.  The classics are the best!

But there is a new member to this classic line that does really get me excited as a traveller: the pack it flat toiletry kit.  It’s the essential I didn’t know I needed.  After all, I’ve been very successful in keeping my toiletries in the slim cubes.

This toiletry kit is not bulky.  I use a designer brand toiletry kit for my cosmetics at home.  You know the type:  it’s basically a slightly elongated cube that is as high as it is wide and a little longer on one side.  I never take it with me on trips because it is so difficult to cram into my checked bag — and why would I when I have my slim cubes for the purpose?  This new toiletry kit lets me save my slim cubes for other things.  It’s very organized with a plastic lined left compartment and a slim compartment on the right.  In the middle is an expandable compartment perfect for putting my non liquid cosmetics and of course the main centre compartment that has two zippered compartments and plenty of storage for almost anything you can think of (see photo above). There’s a hook in the top for hanging on a towel bar which I don’t use; I prefer to lay everything flat.

Once closed, this kit lays VERY FLAT. It’s designed to cram into that tiny space we all struggle to find and it works really well.  I don’t have a trip coming yet that I know of and yet just a few hours after receiving my toiletry kit in the mail I feel compelled to fill it up and get it ready for the next trip — grab and go with only a few small additions needed — like medicines where it’s important to pay attention to use by dates.  I am really surprised how much it will hold.  I haven’t figured out the best place for my toothbrush yet — maybe you have some ideas for me?  If you do, just comment below!

As much as I love these for travel, I really love them for moving.  The cubes are DURABLE and you can put so much more than clothing in them though I don’t suggest abusing them; they are still made of fabric and their are limits to what they can do. But for organizing the small “day one” essentials (I pack these in my luggage sets so I can find them among all the boxes) they are fantastic. Cutlery, can openers, and basic utensils fit in the slim cubes with ease so you can find them immediately. Slim cubes are also great for tea cups and most coffee mugs. Layer a couple plates between clothing items in the medium and large cubes.  And of course pack these breakables with small clothing items and kitchen linens.  The same skills that make you a world class traveller make you a world class re-locator.

Where ever you are travelling to this year, I hope ebags packing cubes are part of your travel organization strategy.  Bon voyage!

 

 

 

Bed bugs and bed foundations: protecting your home

beauty sleep set

A typical American bed: mattress over a foundation.

 

Bed bugs are everywhere.  Live for any length of time in an apartment building of any size (such as my sky rise where I’m on the 15th floor) and sooner or later you will encounter these vermin whose bites are extremely itchy and painful.

For those blessed to have not encountered them yet bed bugs are tiny (less than 5mm) insects resembling ticks when they’ve gorged on your blood. Their bites look like red pin pricks and are usually in groups of two or three in a row spaced  3mm to 13 mm apart.  Bed bug saliva is extremely irritating — worse than even mosquitos — and just as painful.

If you are bitten the first thing to do is thoroughly wash the bites with soap and water before treating with ice for any welts that may form in response to them.  Once the saliva is washed out of the wound, I’ve found that aloe vera with lidocaine (typically used for sunburns) helps with the initial pain and discomfort.  Follow this up with calamine solution (drug store brands work great) to speed healing.

I know all of this of course because over the holidays bed bugs found their way into my home and my life.  Contrary to popular belief, cleanliness does not protect you from bed bugs.  They can attack any home or business at any time and are extremely good at hitching rides in purses, luggage, tote bags, etc. and latching themselves onto your clothes (just as ticks will).  So expect bed bugs to come into your life at some point.  Don’t play denial and think it cannot or will not happen.  It will — but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Sealy bed foundation

A typical bed foundation sold with mattresses in furniture and bedding stores.

Let’s begin with the bed you purchase.  When the exterminator came to my apartment recently for the first treatment (there will be three and yes, you absolutely need a professional to get rid of them) one of the first things he did was tear away the bottom fabric to my “box spring” (now called “foundations” by bedding stores) so he could treat the insides and spray, revealing something startling to me about my bed:  though we usually call it a “box spring” there are no springs in it — even in name brands like my Sealy set that cost me over $600 for the twin size.

Instead the “box spring” foundation in my bed is a wooden frame made of roughly 1/2″ thick and 4″ wide boards and slates.  Over this is a thin sheet of plywood and covered with a nice fabric. The entire foundation is made of WOOD and if you stepped on it it would quickly fall apart.

The whole thing makes a very appealing environment for all sorts of vermin, even sitting upon the thin metal rails Americans call “frames” which lift bed foundations off the floor.

Cadiz_Metal_Bed_Frame_2

This metal bed from the UK is bed bug resistant while providing excellent mattress support and comfort.

And sadly the metal frame/foundation box/mattress system is typical for beds sold in the United States, even though most furniture stores sell proper beds which support mattresses without needing to use a foundation.

As I’ve found recently, this is not the case elsewhere.

Browsing around a popular UK furniture store online I found that no where on that massive site with its hundreds of mattresses and hundreds of beds was a single foundation available.  Instead, the only choices were proper beds that support mattresses — like the one right here to the left that I personally like that is all metal.

 

All metal is bed bug resistant, especially in this open frame style where the only place to breed in and hide is your mattress itself.

Which brings us to the other critically important preventative that EVERYONE should be doing before the store sets up any new mattress onto your bed:  ENCASEMENTS.

bed bug encasement

Encasements cover all six walls and guard against infestations.  Use one for your mattress and a second one for your foundation if you have one.

Most people know about protective mattress pads designed to keep beds clean from stains and liquid seepage into the bed.  These typically cover five walls — top and the four sides — just like your sheet does.  But vermin love the undersides of furniture, especially beds and these are not kept out by the typical mattress protector.

Encasements are different:  they completely encase the mattress around all six walls to keep insects out.  The better encasements have special features around the zippers and seams to provide additional protection, features absolutely worth the extra money.  Putting an encasement around an infested mattress or foundation traps the insects inside so they cannot reach you on the surface to feed — which is why they are critical to any bed bug treatment plan. But the best time to put one of these encasements onto your mattress (and foundation if you have one) is immediately upon delivery of your bedding pieces.

Do not delay this.  Do not play with this.  Do not convince yourself that you cannot afford the encasements. Exterminating a bed bug problem is more expensive.  Replacing all your bed pieces is more expensive.  Replacing your bed linens, blankets, and pillows is more expensive.  And remember:  you can pick up bed bugs anywhere — including hotel rooms when you travel, your work place, even public places where you usually feel safe from insects.  They can travel through walls and come over from your neighbours.  Absolutely no one is immune, no matter how clean you are or how careful you are.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Save yourself the agony I’m going through and protective yourself right now — before bed bugs take up home where you sleep.

British Holiday: Counting Down to Take-Off

After two months of planning the time is very near.  I’m leaving North America for the first time and yes, I’m so excited my skin is breaking out!

Over these two months I’ve read countless blogs, countless travel sites, visited United.com more times than I want to know, and created a decent sized pinterest board relating to travel.  I’ve shopped.  I’ve packed.  I’ve re-packed.  I’ve rechecked the location of my passport weekly — just

My initials in nail polish makes my checked bag stand out.

My initials in nail polish makes my checked bag stand out.

in case I’ve misplaced it.  And through it all I’ve learned a few things worth considering.

  1. Follow your own travel habits.  Every other blog or pinterest pin talks about traveling internationally with just a carry on.  Guess what?  That’s not me.  I’ve flown for twenty years checking a regular bag and using my carry on for just what I need at the airport and on the plane.  In all this time I’ve never lost a bag.  And since I put my initials in nail polish all over this bag, I’m pretty sure that no one else has a bag looking like mine.
  2. Packing cubes equal more space.  I’ve found I couldn’t put everything into packing cubes, but they’ve done wonders for my organization, especially the narrow 4x8x2″ ones which now I wish I had more of.  Everything is categorical thanks to the cubes.  I even have one just for toiletries, allowing me to keep those together.
  3. If you are checking your bag, don’t stuff the carry on with clothing.  Influenced by those websites I became convinced I needed a big packing cube in my carry on.  There’s
    Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on  bag has been with me on every flight I've ever taken.  It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

    Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

    two problems to this.  One:  space.  In a soft side carry on, just one packing cube will take up half of the space, space I need for my netbook, my snacks, my medicine, and other things I really will use in flight. Two:  weight.  Soft sided carry ons are shoulder bags — no wheels.  Burdening yourself down as you board and leave planes and navigate the airport is not only no fun, but makes that walking more difficult.  I use a white cane to walk.  Believe me, that cane is useless if I’m encumbered; I just don’t have the range of motion with my arms that I need.  When I stopped following the fancy travel blog advice and repacked all but a pair of flat shoes and whatever socks/underwear I could stuff into my shoes back to the checked bag I found, to my delight, that my carry on now weighs HALF of what it did before.

  4. Drawstring purses for electronics chargers.  Years ago I picked up a couple cute silk drawstring purses — the kind that is nice for when you are out on the town and only need your id, some cash, credit cards, and your payment cards for public transit.  As it happens, those are PERFECT for my cell phone chargers (one phone for US, one for UK) and my netbook power cable, keeping everything neat and compressed and recognizable in my carry on.
  5. Limit computer accessories.  Unless you are giving a business presentation at your destination, you really DON’T need more than your power cable for your computer.  Leave home your nice case and slip the computer directly into your carry on.  After all, TSA makes you remove the computer from its case to scan it.  Why add to your weight and space with more than you need?
  6. Keep a folder for all your paperwork.  Creating a folder for the document part of my bag makes it easy to find my itinerary, photocopy of my passport id page, and other important papers.  Keep everything together.
  7. Photocopy all cards and identification and email to friends/family. Anything can happen when you travel.  Making scan copies of your passport id page, official government identification, and front/back of every payment card you are bringing with you makes replacing those documents easier in case of an emergency.  Once scanned, print out a copy of your passport identification page and a page with your home address and your destination address and put that in a visible place inside your bag. Email yourself and trusted friends/family copies of your documents and financial documents.
  8. Don’t over think the trip.  People will give you great advice.  They will give you poor advice.  They will unnerve you with horror stories meant to help you.  At the end of the day though you need to follow your own instincts.  The more relaxed you are, the better you can solve problems should any come up.  Think but don’t over think your trip.  Plan but don’t over plan.  Stay grounded and have a good time.

Travel is an adventure.  Embrace it and enjoy what comes your way!