Daily Archives: February 7, 2014

My packed carry on rolling backpack is 22X14X9 and my small backpack that I carry as a personal item is 15X10X6.


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Countdown to Africa: Packing Tips

Some of my friends have suggested I blog travel tips in addition to a travelogue so if this is boring stuff to you, just skip it.

We leave for South Africa in 3 days.  Those of you who know me well know I’m already packed and ready to go.  In fact, I started packing when I got home from the last trip.  The guest room is now called the packing room and I spend as much time packing as planning-which is a lot.  My husband Jim, on the other hand, packs at the last minute.

To me, packing is a science and a challenge.  We travel with only carry on bags.  Yes, you read that right.  We carry on.   Consequently, we’ve never lost our bags and we’re more mobile without all that luggage.  This space limitation requires thoughtful consideration of each item before it goes into the bag.  And in spite of careful consideration, I still come home with clothes never worn on the trip so I’m still taking too much.  And yes, I do change my clothes!

A couple rules apply:

1. Pick a color scheme and stick with it.  Usually I go for black but a safari requires khaki.  All items of clothing go together so with a small number of pieces you can combine in more ways than you have days.  This allows you to take fewer shoes, too.  My rule is one dress shoe, one casual shoe, and one other (running or hiking, whatever.)

2. Pack lighter weight clothing and wear your heaviest, bulkiest items including shoes. Other countries have weight restrictions in addition to size limits for carry on bags so lighter is better.  I’m always on the lookout for the lightest carry on and currently I’m using a rolling backpack.

Along with your carry on, you can take one personal item such as a purse or computer bag that fits under the seat.  We each take a small backpack as our personal item and put our electronics, toiletries, small purse(for me) and snacks in it.  If you’re on a small plane (like we take out of Des Moines,) they will take your carry on at the jetway because it’s too big for the overhead compartment.  Make sure any items of value are in your personal item.

Here’s a tip:  Be considerate of other passengers and don’t put your personal item in the overhead bin until everyone else has stowed their carry ons.  I’ve seen men fold and lay their sport coat in the overhead bin alongside their carry on and expect the rest of us to honor that.  Come on, guys.  That’s just unrealistic on a full flight.

Some of you may be thinking you can’t possibly carry on because you can’t get all the liquids and gels you need in 3 ounce sizes to fit in a quart baggie.  Well, take along the things you can’t purchase away from home and buy the mouthwash, sunscreen, etc. when you get there.  Actually, you’ll be surprised at how much will fit in a baggie if you buy little containers and put in just the amount you need for the trip.

If you have tips to share, please post them in comments.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how we picked this trip and how we planned the itinerary.

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Countdown to Africa- How This Trip Found Me

Now that we’re retired I really want to go somewhere warm for the entire winter.  My husband, Jim, however, isn’t keen on the idea of being gone for an extended period.  We’ve compromised by taking several shorter trips to warm spots over the cold months.

About the time we decided a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands would cost more than we wanted to spend, I received an email from Jetsetter.com offering a special deal on a trip to Vuyani Safari Lodge in South Africa.  I told Jim it would cost less to go there for 7 days than a cruise of Hawaii and he said, “Let’s go.”   Check it out at www.vuyanilodge.com to see where we’re going.

After booking the trip, I watched airfare prices for a while and finally booked a Delta flight from Des Moines to Atlanta, then Atlanta directly to Johannesburg, but the ATL to JNB leg is nearly 16 hours!  More on that later.

Tips for booking airfare:  I use a number of sites like kayak.com, farespotter.net, and airfarewatchdog.com.  Each one allows you to set alerts to send you a daily or weekly email with the current price at various airlines and online booking agents for your desired route.  Kayak also has a tool that shows the airfare trend that tells you whether to buy or wait.  When you’ve watched prices long enough to know a good deal when you see one, jump on it before it’s gone.  Then stop looking. If the price goes down, you’ll just feel bad and who needs that? Incidentally, you can also sign up at Airfarewatchdog for their newsletter sent to your email each day showing the best airfares from your selected home airport to all kinds of destinations.  If you just want an inexpensive flight and don’t have a destination in mind, this is a great tool.  That’s how we ended up going to Boston.

We have 2 days in Johannesburg before Vuyani Lodge picks us up and drives us 5 hours northeast to the lodge located just outside Kruger National Park.  We usually like to go off on our own to explore but I’ve read conflicting reports about crime in JoBurg so we’ve selected the safest options for touring the city.  The first day we will do the City Sightseeing JoBurg Hop On Hop Off Red Bus and day 2 we’ll have a tour guide from Themba Day Tours and Safaris show us Soweto.  I checked each of these organizations through Tripadvisor and both show very positive reviews.

Another tip:  I always try to check hotels, restaurants, and sights on Tripadvisor.com.  The reviews are submitted by users like me and are very helpful in planning our trips.

If you have favorite tips to share, please post a comment.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some unusual preparations for this journey.

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