International Carry-On Size Restrictions

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Our existing IT roll aboard which is 22 inches high including wheels and handles. Our new handbag and laptop bag which meet the Lufthansa size requirements, including being only 4 inches deep.

We encountered a new wrinkle in carry-on regulations on our last trip to Morocco on Lufthansa Airlines.  As we walked down the jet way in Casablanca, the line stopped.  There were several people with baby strollers and wheel chairs ahead of us, so I just figured we were backed up while these items were gate checked.

When we finally got to the choke point, there were two Lufthansa employees surrounded by a sea of carry-on bags all with checked baggage tags on them.  I walked past with my small roll aboard and overstuffed Rick Steve’s Day bag backpack, but my husband was stopped.  He had our second roll aboard and his Rick Steve’s Day bag.  All of our tickets had the words “One carry-on bag” printed on them.

They told my husband that he had to check his roll aboard bag, and pointed at me and my carry-on and backpack.  My husband said fine, “You can gate check this”, but these were not being gate checked, they were being checked through to the baggage claim.  I reminded him that if he was going to check his roll aboard he needed to remove his laptop.

At this point one of the agents let us go ahead, although the second agent appeared annoyed with this decision.  I was completely confused.  Don’t we get “one carry-on AND one personal item.”  I knew that Lufthansa limits the weight of carry-on luggage, so we had ensured that our roll aboard bags were within the size and weight limits (8 kg (17.6 lbs)).

When I got home I looked up Lufthansa’s website and their carry-on restrictions.  Indeed our roll aboards were within the size and weight limits.  I believe the problem was with our “one personal item”.  According to Lufthansa’s web site:  “Also allowed in the cabin: another item of carry-on baggage (max. 30 x 40 x 10 cm, e.g. handbag, laptop bag), one baby carrier per child or a child’s car seat or a foldable pushchair/buggy (may have to be transported in the cargo hold) and wheelchairs/orthopaedic aids (e.g. walking aids).”  I believe that our Rick Steve’s backpacks exceeded the size limits of 11.8 in x 15.7 in x 3.9 in.  Both of our Rick Steve’s bags fit fine under the seat in front of us in Economy, even though the space was limited by the newly installed electric outlet boxes under the seats.

I had also thought that when you fly internationally the flight with the longest distance takes precedence on luggage limits.  This would have put us under United’s limits.  Turns out that the longest flight only applies to checked baggage, not carry-on.

We will be flying on Lufthansa again in 2016, this time in Business class which Lufthansa allows you two pieces of larger carry-on luggage, plus the small item.  To be on the safe side I have bought myself a new handbag and my husband a new laptop bag that both meet the “Also allowed in cabin” size restrictions.

I think this all has to do with a new fare structure implemented by Lufthansa for flights after October 1, 2015, but I am only guessing at this point.  This new fare structure allows a lower fare for people with little or no baggage. http://www.lufthansa.com/online/portal/lh/us/informationservice/flightinfo?nodeid=1723952809&l=en

Random Thoughts on Carry-Ons

OK I admit I am a total failure at travelling with just a carry-on. I can do it for a weekend, but not for an extended trip. That said I do ALWAYS have a carry-on in tow.

Do You Need a Carry-On in Addition to your Checked Bags?

I recently had a friend tell me that he had been advised that airlines no longer lose luggage, so there was no need for a carry-on in addition to your checked luggage. While airlines may not lose your luggage, it often gets misdirected or way laid.

On our recent trip to Croatia, six people in our group were missing checked luggage when we headed out on our bus. The bags had not made connections en route and took from two to four days to catch up with our moving target.

We just yesterday returned from a trip to Washington, DC. Our flight home to California had one stop in Denver. Our bags were checked through to California. Our flight was delayed in DC by weather and by the time we landed in Denver our ongoing flight had already departed. We were rebooked for a flight the next day. Since our bags were checked through, we could not retrieve them. We spent the night in Denver at a hotel with our carry-on luggage.

So my response to the need for carry-on luggage is a resounding YES. I always pack a change of underwear for two days, pajamas, a lightweight down jacket or sweater, my computer, camera, medications and charging wires for my electronics in my carry on.

How Much Does Your Carry-On Weigh?

I have a luggage scale and I always weight my checked bags before we leave for the airport. I take it with me so I can weight my bags on the return trip also. It never occurred to me to weight my carry-on. This proved to be a problem our 3.5 month trip to Australia and New Zealand. Both Air New Zealand and Qantas have a STRICT carry-on limit of 7 kg/15 pounds. They weighed our carry-on bags and forced us to check them if they were overweight. In some cases there was a gate agent prior to security with a scale, in another instance the bags were weighed as we boarded the aircraft. I found that once I put my computer in my carry-on bag it was overweight. Fortunately, I also travel with a Rick Steve’s Day Pack. I began putting my laptop in my day bag until we had boarded the plane and then shifted it back to my carry-on.

So next time you travel, check your airlines baggage restrictions for dimensions AND weight limits for carry-on luggage.

Finding Your Way

I thought for a long time about what I would use to guide our way on our mega 3.5 month trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Generally, I prefer the Google maps on my phone over our Garmin Nuvi GPS for many reasons:
1. Google Maps gives you multiple route options.
2. GPS only gives you one route and often the straightest line which involves small farm roads as opposed to major highways.
3. The GPS only allows an exact search. When I put in Phillips Track, it comes back with no matches because it spells the road “Trak”. So if you mistype one letter it won’t find your address.

Despite all of this, Google Maps requires the internet. This isn’t an issue most times in your home country, but once you take your iPad, iPhone or Android to another country you are “data roaming”. Data roaming can incur HUGE fees, depending on your carrier. We were fortunate that our carrier, T-Mobile, initiated free unlimited international roaming, a few months prior to our departure date.

When we were in Australia and New Zealand, we found that many of our apps on our Android phones did NOT work while we were roaming. This included Google Maps, Gmail app, Playstore and Facebook. I was finally able to solve the problem by downloading the Opera web browser, which has an “off-road” mode that works better with 3G and lower web speeds. I could access my Gmail and Facebook using Opera, where I was unable to access them from their installed apps. I was never successful with accessing Google Maps except when we were stationary and connected via a Wi-Fi connection.

It was a good thing that before we left home we opted to purchase Australia and New Zealand maps ($150 USD) on a micro USB card from Garmin for our Garmin Nuvi GPS. This was our SALVATION. Since Google Maps was simply searching and telling us it was unable to locate us, the GPS was our best friend. In two instances the GPS couldn’t find the places we were staying, but we had the owners send us the GPS location and then we were good to go.

Based on this experience, if you are planning an international road trip, I recommend having a GPS option, this can be your own GPS or rental of one from the rental car company. Since we were going to be in a rental car for over three months, the cost of renting a GPS would have been prohibitive, so buying the maps for our GPS was our best option.

That said, I also suggest paper maps to check the GPS routes. In New Zealand we found Jason’s Maps, which were free at any Visitor Information Center. The Jason’s maps also suggest things to see along the way. On several occasions, we turned off the GPS as it kept sending us down farm roads, instead of the main highway. The paper maps kept us on track.

In New Zealand, there is a rental GPS called Kruse. http://www.krusenz.com/. I have no direct experience but heard very good reviews from a fellow traveler. This is both a GPS and a travel guide, as it will suggest things to do in the area. They will deliver the GPS to your rental car location. Cost is $10 NZD per day. Had we been on a shorter trip, I think this would have been our best option.

New Zealand Travel Tips

Driving:

  • On the left
  • “roundabouts” go in a clockwise direction.
  • Divided freeways are limited to the Auckland area.
  • Highways are two lanes with periodic passing lanes.
  • One way bridges are the norm, so be aware of oncoming traffic.
  • Traffic signals are only in LARGE cities (Auckland mainly)
  • Picnic areas and public toilets are pointed out by blue road signs.
  • Picnic areas outnumber toilets 50 to one.
  • Roads are VERY winding and often precipitous.
    • WARNING: If you suffer from car sickness you may want to reconsider a road trip in New Zealand.
  • Gas (petrol) stations are few and far between on the open road, so keep your tank at least half full.
  • A town name on the road map, doesn’t indicate a town. There may be nothing more than an intersection.
  • Gas costs $2.15 NZD per litre. This equates to $8 NZD per gallon or $7 USD (as of today March 26, 2014).

Rental Car vs RV:

  • Reserve your car in advance. Supplies are limited, especially in smaller areas. You may be told there are none available at the last minute.
  • If you rent a car, be aware that insurance is mandatory and cannot be waived.
  • There is a Excess Insurance amount of $3,000 NZD which is your deductible. It will cost you an extra $35 NZD per day to waive this deductible. If you book through the NZ Auto Club with Thrify, this amount is reduced by $11 NZD per day. Since we don’t normally drive on the left, we opted to pay the extra amount per day.
  • If you are a member of your countries Auto Club, you probably have reciprocity with New Zealand. If so, see my comments below on “Auto Club”.
  • If you opt for an RV be aware of the following:
    • Narrow winding roads are more difficult to maneuver in a wider vehicle.
    • Gas consumption is generally greater than a passenger vehicle.
    • One option for renting an RV, with a smaller frame is to use Jucy Rentals. http://www.jucy.co.nz/vehicles/ These are converted passenger vans.

Auto Club:

  • If you are an auto club member in a country with reciprocity, you need to register with the New Zealand Automobile Association. They will issue you a free New Zealand AA card. You can use this card for fuel and rental car discounts. Thrifty is the NZ AA rental car partner. You can book a Thrifty rental on line with your NZ AA club card, once you have it.

Food Along the Way:

  • There is no proliferation of fast food chains. Don’t expect to find a McDonald’s outside of a major metropolitan area.
  • You will find individual cafe’s along the way. We found these ALWAYS to be clean, friendly and predictable.
  • Food seems expensive, but prices include tax and tips.
  • Food choices will include:
    • Toasted sandwiches
    • Meat pies
    • Sweet bakery items
    • Fish and chips
    • Hamburgers (sometimes). Be aware they include a fried egg.  They also sometimes include beetroot and bacon.

Coffee:

  • We never saw a Starbucks.
  • All of the cafes serve the same coffee menu:
    • Flat white – Double shot of espresso with steamed milk. Similar to a latte but with more coffee.
    • Long Black – A double shot of espresso poured over hot water. This is similar to an Americano.
    • Short Black- basic espresso

Tipping:

  • Not required. We were told by a NZ couple that the staff are paid adequately. You only tip for EXCEPTIONAL service.
  • Accommodation:
  • We opted for hotels and vacation rentals that included kitchen facilities.
  • We found that everywhere we stayed, they gave you a pint of milk upon check in. No non-dairy creamer in this country.

Bags Packed

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Our bags are packed for our Mega Trip to New Zealand and Australia.  I bought new bags, which are purported to be the world’s lightest.  They were the lightest bags I could find. As usual I bought them through http://www.eBags.com.   Search for IT Bags. We each have a 22 inch carry on and a 29 inch checked bag. Image 

We packed using our favorite eBags packing cubes.  The packing cubes now come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns. I use small packing cubes for liquids (zipped into quart size zip lock storage bags) and medications. The medium packing cubes are used for clothing.  I also like the slim packing cubes to fill in the blank spaces in our suitcase. 

As I’ve stated in prior posts, I take three clothing cubes full of clothes. One cube goes in my husband’s checked bag, one in my own checked bag and one in my carry on, and vice versa.  For this trip I added a cube full of extra layers, since we will be crossing from fall in the southern hemisphere to winter in the tropics.Packing Cubes 
For this trip I used an REI compression sack, which is sold with backpacking equipment to compress my down coat. See the blue bag that looks like a sleeping bag in the photos.

 The last step is to put our itinerary on top of the packing cubes. We always do this in case our bags decide to take an unscheduled trip to China or some other exotic place without us. This will help reunite us with our bags. I also have tags on our bags from Okoban at My Stuff Lost and Found. These tags will assist the airlines with reuniting us with our bags. http://mystufflostandfound.com/Luggage with It

Mega Trip Part 3 – Where to Stay

Limosa Rise
Photo of Limosa Rise, Wilson’s Promontory, Australia

Once I had the flights booked, I then had to accommodate my plan to the flight schedule. I also kept trying to search for available timeshares. In the end I was able to score a week of timeshare on the North Island of New Zealand and one in Australia near Melbourne.

As I have said in prior blog posts I prefer to rent vacation rentals and not hotel rooms.
https://travelbug1950.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/vacation-rentals-vs-hotel-rooms/

This was particularly critical on this trip in order to hold down the cost of food, laundry and internet access. I have a new “Best Friend” for searching out vacation rentals. I began using Trip Advisor to find vacation rentals and to see reviews. This part of the process is the most time consuming, but I find it to be lots of fun. Once I find a possible choice, I go directly to their web site, if they have one. I like to deal directly with the owner whenever possible. In one case I wasn’t happy with the bathroom configuration of a property and the owner gave me contact information for a similar property nearby.

I found that in both New Zealand and Australia, farms/ranches have purpose built vacation rentals on their property. These units are modern and have all the amenities that I prefer. These owners are also full of helpful tips about where to shop and the must do things in their areas.

Below are some links to places I have rented for the trip.

The Orchard Homestay, Coromanel Peninsula, New Zealand Farm Stay:
http://theorchardhomestay.co.nz/

Johanna Seaside Cottages, Great Ocean Road, Australia Farm Stay:
http://www.johannaseaside.com.au/cottages/glen-tara/

Awatea Cottage, Abel Tasman, Vacation Rental:
Awatea Cottage
http://awatea.com/boutique-accommodation-cottage.html

Art on Hart, Bermaqui, Australia South Coast New South Wales
Art on Hart
http://www.artonhart.com.au/accommodation.html

Limosa Rise, Wilson’s Promontory, Australia
http://limosarise.com.au/luxury-accommodation-yanakie/
We leave in a few days and will post updates on our adventure.

Mega Trip – Part 2 Booking flights with miles – Book EARLY

I had enough miles for two people to fly round trip in business class from San Francisco to Australia using the United Saver Award (270,000 miles). I did not have enough miles for United Standard Award (600,000 miles).
The United (other airlines have similar products) search engine gives you a highlighted calendar that indicates the days that have saver/standard/business/economy flights. You can scroll forward and backward on the calendar and you can clearly see which dates have business saver dates available. Then scroll down and see the specific flights that are available.
United Flight Calendar
I could see several dates available, but we were leaving for a two week trip to Colorado, so I decided to wait until we got home. BIG MISTAKE. When we got home there were NO business class flights available, and very few economy saver dates. I ended up having to book a date almost two weeks sooner than the date I wanted, in order to book an economy flight with miles. I was able to pay for an upgrade to Economy Plus, which gives you four more inches of leg room.
For the return flight I set an alarm on my calendar to remind me to book as soon as the flights were available. Our last destination in Australia will be in Cairns on the north coast. I could book us on business class from Cairns, but we had at least two plane changes en route. Instead I opted to look at the options if I flew home from Sydney. It turned out that I could book us to fly direct from Sydney to San Francisco in business class with a saver ticket, so I booked that flight.
The lesson is to book early and when you see something that works for you, don’t wait, BOOK IT.
Also, be flexible, about what airports you fly in and out of.