Air Boss or Sky Train?

This last weekend we went to visit some family for a long weekend. I took the Air Boss, after a bit of deliberation.

The Air Boss is best suited for trips where you can use the bundle packing method. Folding works only so so, and living out of the bag quickly has it bulging in the middle because when it’s standing up and you’re pulling things out and stuffing them back in things gravitate toward the center. Usually if I’m visiting family it’s a living out of the bag situation, and the Air Boss isn’t the best choice.

But since I’m visiting my father, who has a lot of space and I know I’ll be able to unpack, I decided to take the Air Boss and it worked out fine.

Still love the bag for business travel – It once again proved itself during a speaking gig a few weeks ago. But a recent trip to Las Vegas where I took a different bag (it was two nights, and I had to wear a specific shirt for both days so there was little clothing) and that got me thinking about luggage again. I ended up looking at Tom Bihn’s stuff, and oogled a Western Flyer for a bit, and then I ended up back on Doug’s site and reading about bundle packing again. I’d used one of those packing folders to Vegas, and it was a pain.

Re-reading Doug’s site, I noticed he seemed to be talking about making a bundle tightly around a core, outside the bag, and then putting it inside the bag. When I was packing the Boss I noticed that the compartments are all pretty flat relative to the other dimensions. The bag is 21″ long by 13″, and the outside compartments that I use to hold clothes are only 2″ thick. That makes for a floppy bundle. I’ve never tried to bundle the clothes outside the bag and then fit the bundle inside, but I don’t think it would work very well. I’ve never been able to make a bundle very tight. When I try to pull clothes tightly around it tends to crumple the inner layers. There isn’t much space for a thick core. Regardless it works better than my old rolling bag, but when you’re a bag junkie, well, the pursuit of perfection and this kind of bagsturbation is it’s own reward.

That got me thinking about the Sky Train, which has two compartments instead of three and a different aspect ratio. One of them is 6.5″ thick, and the other 2.5″. The bag is an inch shorter, which doesn’t seem like much on paper but on a travel bag an inch is a lot. This makes the main compartment an obvious choice for a bundle, but now a bundle that could be thicker and more stable. I might not need the whole 6.5″, but things like sweaters or jackets, which are often needed while traveling, could be folded and put on top of the bundle. The other compartment could be used for either a smaller bundle or maybe the briefcase stuff. The thicker compartment might work better for live-out-of-the-bag situations as well.

There are a couple things that make me hesitate though. First, the bag is an inch shorter and the Air Boss is already on the edge of being too small for some shirts – with a 17.5″ neck, the body of the shirt is a bit over 21″ wide and the Sky Train is 20″. Second, the center compartment of the Air Boss is such a perfect place for lots of things that don’t really have another place, like shoes, computer, etc. They’re in the center of the bag so they don’t rub against me while walking. They’re protected. And, if I really need to thin the bag to fit it into an overhead (this happened only once, BTW) I can quickly yank out the computer and voila! The bag is thinner. I have this thing about symmetry as well.

I have a few more trips coming up, and I think I might try putting clothes in the center Air Boss compartment and the computer on the outside, and see how that goes.

Hotels offering luggage service?

With the recent news that Spirit airlines will start charging for carryon bags, it seems clear that the entire charging-for-luggage theme is really just the airline industry trying to make itself profitable again. It was obvious to anyone that charging for carry-ons first would have resulted in no revenue, so they started where the money was – in the bigger bags. Charging for carry-ons is more offensive, but with cheapskates avoiding the checked-bag fees crowding the bins providing a nice scape goat…

The airlines will be happy when the day comes when no one thinks it unusual that you can’t bring your stuff for free. But are airlines really the best custodian’s of our stuff? One has to keep in mind that shipping people and shipping goods are two entirely different businesses.

Suppose that hotels offered a luggage service. It would look like this:

  • You book a room, and the hotel asks where to pick up your bags.
  • They pick up your bags the day before you leave – maybe just the morning of that day. They drop off a complimentary ‘personal items’ bag, with some coupons in it for your destination (ad space the hotel sold, by the way) and room for personal items.
  • You fly to your destination, maybe multiple hops, but “you don’t care because your bags will be there”.
  • You get to your room and your bags are waiting when you get there.
  • You enjoy your stay, having lived in fresh clothes sans washing miracle fabrics in the bathroom sink, or laundry charges that would buy a German luxury car.
  • When your trip is over either the next hotel is coming to get it, or it will be shipped back home.

They have a lot of incentive to get it right because your stay with them depends on your luggage being there. You will pay for this because of this, and because hotels, unlike airlines, have not established themselves as professional losers of luggage.

I don’t think it will happen because hotels have refused any responsibility for their customer’s belongings for too long to be able to see the opportunity. They also make a lot of money on laundry, I’m guessing.

If someone created the business that did the picking up & shipping, and provided the inter-hotel transportation (we do travel on multi-hop trips after all) they could make this happen.

The advantages for the customer:

  • No more hauling heavy bags – no more need to live in a carry-on world either.
  • No airline fees.
  • Less hassle with security.
  • You could have a separate bag for each hop, providing more flexibility and choice.
  • Now when you check out in the morning, you not only don’t have to take your bag with you on your site-seeing, you don’t have to come back for it either.
  • If your travel plans are disrupted, you can change flights without fear of losing your bags.
  • For an extra fee you buy insurance in the form of a pre-paid credit card, which gets dropped off with your bags, to be remotely activated in the event your luggage is lost or delayed.

Yes, it would be a tough business to implement, but far from impossible.

A better luggage tag

Over at One Bag One World there’s a mention of a novel luggage tag idea. Red Oxx announced something similar, but I got one from them as a comp (they forgot to send me a plastic one I ordered) some time ago. It’s your basic dog tag with a nice threaded cable loop for attaching it to your luggage.

It’s a little annoying because it jingles a bit when I walk so I replaced with a non-metalic tag on my Air Boss carry-on, but I got what I thought was a clever idea when I got the tag.

Jim Markel asked me what I wanted engraved on my tag. My first choice was:

DO NOT MOVE BAG
DHS TEST LUGGAGE
CONTACT LOCAL
AUTHORITIES
AFTER 48 HOURS

But I figured with civil rights being what they were under the Bush administration it was a bad idea.

Instead I opted for my name, my email address, cell #, my website URL, and a password. My thinking was that if I end up on the kind of long trip where it’s good for the luggage finder to have my itinerary, I could just put a password protected page on my site, with a notice that anyone finding my bag could log in with the password to see my itinerary or leave me a message.

My travel died down, and I never implemented the idea, but I think it’s a good one.

I would also mention that the metal tag is a good idea because a) it’s hard to read from far away (think nosy stranger) but easy to read when it’s in your hand and b) the writing ain’t coming off and neither is the tag. If I check a bag, I’m using it.

Looking for travel size stuff?

Have you ever wondered where you could buy those single-dose packets of medicines, or those single-serving sized packages of cookies or condiments? Check out www.minimus.biz. Their prices aren’t exactly rock bottom, but given that you can order single packets it’s pretty nice and they offer just about any travel or single use sized product you’ve ever seen, including things like laundry detergent.

I’ve long used www.mfasco.com to order medicines in single use packets – they offer generics at pretty good prices – because the packets are easier to open and easier to carry. It’s also a bit safer for the kids because we might leave a single packet laying around, but the box stays on a high shelf. MFASCO really works best for things like ibuprofen that we know we’ll use in large quantities because their main market is companies refilling first aid kits and they sell mainly in bulk quantities. I don’t need 25 doses of, say, Dramamine, but it’s nice to have a few in the first aid kit just in case, and that’s where Minimus works well. I could pick up a few doses of several medicines I don’t need often but desperately need once in a while on the road.