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Tag: Travel hints

Watch your knees

by on Jun.13, 2014, under Traveling

At 6’2″/189cm the leg room offered in economy class is rarely impressive, not even on newer airplanes. Add to this the fact that some of your fellow passengers have a tendency to ignore or not be aware of the basic principle of only reclining their seats after the meal-tray has been removed by the cabin crew. The sudden and severe pain that hits you when the moron in the seat in front of you crushes both your knees usually lasts for days. But now there seems to be a remedy. Enter the original Knee Defender:


This ingenious invention is no bigger than it fits in your pocket and effectively blocks the seat in front of you from reclining. Click on the picture for more info. Buy it at your local travel store while supplies last!

Update: Note that after I wrote this post in June several airlines have prohibited the use of this device. There have also been reports of incidents. Do read this first before your purchase.

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Pack like a pro

by on Jun.22, 2013, under Traveling

A sweet and neat travel hint now when vacation times are approaching is the use of packing cubes. I use several packing cubes when traveling as a smart and efficient way to stay organized. For instance using one cube for each family member, unpacking in the hotel room simply means placing each cube in a hotel room drawer. Fast, convenient and pretty smart. Get yours at your local retailer…

Traveling solo? Use one pack cube for clean clothes and bring one extra cube for your dirty laundry. Or use one for shirts and T-shirts and the other for underwear and socks going out, and one for clean clothes and the other for laundry going home. It’s that smart. It’s that easy.

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Active noise cancellation

by on Oct.29, 2012, under Traveling

A great way to kill time on longhauls is to enjoy a good movie, TV show or by listening to music or an interesting podcast. A decent set of headphones will help you enjoy this and the latest trend here are headphones with noise cancelling technology. This works by having the headphones inverting the incoming sound waves so that they, when combined with the incoming sound waves, are cancelled (or at least reduced). This is explained in more detail here.

Noise cancellation makes the headphones more expensive, about twice as much, but don’t forget that they also can be used to cancel out background noise only. In oher words, they are of great use also when you want to sleep. Airlines have been lending noise cancelling headphones to business and first class passengers for years. Works great on buses and trains too. Time to get yours?

Stuff I look for when shopping for headphones:

  • Decent brand. For instance Sennheiser.
  • No cables, i.e. Bluetooth A2DP.
  • Foldable for easy storage.
  • Hardcase for better protection.
  • Active noise cancellation.
  • Talkthrough functionality.
  • Convenient charging: USB and/or replaceable standard size batteries.
  • Airline and 1/4″ adapters.

If you wear glasses you may want to go for an on-the-ear version rather than an over-the-ear.

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How to avoid roaming

by on Jul.01, 2012, under Traveling

Roaming data traffic with your cellphone or device (tablet/iPad) in another country can be very expensive. Prices of €12 per started Mb are not uncommon. A week’s surfing on a phone or tablet will land somewhere near 100 Mb. You do the math. At the same time, it’s when you are traveling that you need Google Maps and similar apps the most. Plus, in this era most people don’t feel comfortable without access to the internet for longer periods of time.

The key to avoid high roaming costs is to go local. Buy a pre-paid SIM card once onsite and share your temporary local number with friends and family back home by SMS or (even better) e-mail. You’ll find most local operators represented at the airport. Some countries (for instance Spain) require that you identify yourself when buying a pre-paid SIM card while others don’t. Most pre-paid SIM cards have an expiry date, normally a year after activation, so don’t buy more than you plan to use.

Please keep in mind that the phone or device you plan to use during your trip can not be operator locked. If it is, it won’t accept a SIM card from any other operator, foreign or domestic, than the one you use at home. If it is locked or if you are uncertain, check with your operator. They are sometimes willing to unlock phones for a fee.

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The Famous Grouse Index

by on May.29, 2011, under Traveling

The Big Mac index is an index that was published for the first time in the magazine The Economist on September 6th, 1986 and gives an indication of the price level in a country. The index is built around the fact that a McDonald’s Big Mac hamburger is a product that is available all over the world, is globally uniform and at the same time domestically produced. By dividing the cost of a Big Mac in the USA with the cost of a Big Mac in any other country converted to US dollars you get an indication of whether that country’s currency is over or under valued towards the dollar.

In much the same way, the Famous Grouse whiskey is a globally available and uniform product and it’s price converted to cost per liter in Euros gives a (strong) indication of the general price level at the airport tax free store you are currently in. €10 is the index. Above that = expensive. Below that = go ahead!

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Puddle jumping

by on Mar.08, 2011, under Traveling

The art of properly managing a short trip lies in packing. Packing smart is everything. Lasting only one or two days, the shorthaul is when you try to avoid checking your luggage. Think carry-on. Airline allowances for domestic US flights are two carry-ons per person while in EU it’s only one (and yes, your briefcase counts as one). As if this injustice is not enough, the maximum weight and dimensions of a US carry-on are bigger. But then again. in America everything is bigger…

To leverage this injustice, why not buy a US sized carry-on the next time you are in the US and use it in the EU? Chances are it will pass as a legitimate carry-on most of the time. Look for one that you like but that also comes with wheels (turns out pulling something on wheels is much easier than carrying the same amount of weight) and that expands – i.e. there is a zipper around the bag that if used expands the height of the bag with 5-10cm. This allows you to use the bag as carry-on in one direction and as checked luggage in the other. Black may be as boring as it is common and it does require that extra attention at baggage claim, but black is also discreet and does not draw much attention. Just what you need.

Puddle jumping is nice as the distances are shorter and therefore more convenient, but you have to plan your packing even harder. Essentially every item you bring has to be used at least once, or you should seriously consider not bringing it. The exception to this rule (there are always exceptions) is an umbrella. You should always bring an umbrella, especially if your journey takes you anywhere near Britain, but you of course hope you won’t have to use it.

Things of multiple use come in handy here, such as a reversible belt. Brown on one side, black on the other and with two buckles. Very neat. Saves space. Travel size toiletry bag, travel size contact lens liquid bottle, travel size toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, travel size everything. Can’t find the stuff you need in travel sizes? Make your own. I usually bring hair wax in an empty contact lens case, cut in half. Be creative! Don’t be afraid of buying the things you need either at the airport or at the destination. Why pack a deodorant if you plan to buy one soon anyway? Buy it at the airport instead. After security.

Being the prick that keeps the flight from departing on time is just not cool anymore. It probably never was. Be reasonably on time. Not too early but not late either. Use the airlines’ smartphone apps – they’ll keep you posted on any delays or gate changes that concern you.

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by on Feb.03, 2011, under Traveling

A longhaul flight is when you travel across continents, which at least in the normal case means that you are gone for 4-5 days or more. While there are still people to be found who will consider packing for such a trip in a carry-on, most people realize that the implications of that (such as wearing the same clothes several days in a row) are not that attractive. So think suitcase. Or suitcases. This is when you really take advantage of airline baggage allowances and significant commodity price differences between origin and destination. Buy stuff abroad? This is the time. Traveling from Sweden to the USA, your baggage going THERE should contain nothing but your passport, toothbrush, toothpaste and a credit card while going HOME is a completely different story.

There are longhauls and then there are longhauls. There is a difference between a morning flight from EU to the US and an evening flight from Hong Kong to EU. Why? Because in the first scenario you will more or less start your day fresh on an airplane full with people you don’t know, hopefully with access to a power outlet and wifi but stripped of possibilities to use your phone or be disturbed by your colleagues. I.e. chances are very high that this can make your top ten list of most productive days at work. Ever. And fresh coffee is served just a button press away… But an evening flight out of Chek Lap Kok bound for EU is more about trying to catch as many hours of sleep as possible. Especially if your employer insists on hauling you around in coach. So plan your journey accordingly.

Direction matters! Flying longer distances west is more merciful on your beauty sleep than flying east. You will find that an eastbound longhaul will more often give you jetlag as you skip hours by setting your clock forward while your body remains on CET, and that the effect of a westbound longhaul is more like staying up later than usual on a Saturday night. If you expect to function as a civilized human being you obviously need to adapt to your new time zone immediately. In order to achieve that you may need to consume excessive amounts of coffee and stay up just a little bit longer, even if your body cries Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! Plan this ahead to avoid surprises.

So what this boils down to in terms of traveling is that how and what you pack depends on what kind of longhaul you are in for. Westbound daytrip? Expect to stay awake most of the flight time and plan/pack to get some work done and to manage time difference as part of the post-flight procedures. Eastbound nighttrip? This is when toothbrush and toothpaste appear far more relevant than your laptop.

Stuff you check in:

  • iPhone/iPad charger
  • Toiletry bag (consider all the liquids you can bring!)
  • Pocket knife
  • Clothes for the full length of the stay
  • Dress shoes (as you of course travel in sneakers)
  • Gym clothes

Stuff you don’t check in:

  • Your passport and tickets
  • Your electronics essentials: iPhone, iPad, laptop
  • Your Ray Bans
  • Your noise cancelling headphones
  • Your toiletry travel kit (nighttrips only)
  • A bottle of water (buy after security)

The toiletry travel kit you bring onboard contains toothpaste, deodorant, a sample size EdT and contact lens liquid (all in an airline approved one liter sealable transparent plastic bag and all in travel sizes) along with toothbrush, contact lens case, earplugs, shades, an inflatable neck cushin and your prescription eyeglasses.

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