Air Canada gets it mostly right

Going into this trip has been a little stressful, what with worrying about the luggage situation the world over, Covid, heatwaves, hardly any car rentals available (+ $$$?!)…

We originally booked awhile ago, prior to the luggage situation, so prepaid for two checked bags with our flights. Once we saw what was happening with the piles & stacks of luggage not getting through, not to mention lost luggage, we decided to try to pack three weeks worth of things into carry-ons instead. We called Air Canada to get a refund on the checked bags ($100) but they wouldn’t do it stating it isn’t their fault the luggage situation is what it is but it’s Heathrow Airport’s… that may be, we said, but we had paid you for a service that now you won’t have to be providing… nope, too bad, they said.

We packed, repacked & weighed our bags about 10 times because not only are we doing England but also 6 days in Portugal. The Air Canada carry-on doesn’t have a weight limit but must fit in the metal rack they have for sizing. Seems easy enough, yeah? Portugal, however, will only allow a 17.5 lb carry-on aboard. Now, our carry-on bags are the lightest we could find at 5 lbs… this means you can only put 12.5 lbs of items in… that’s not very much in the way of clothing & personal items. There’s an allowed personal item as well but that is only 4.5 lbs too so pack carefully…

We arrived at Vancouver International Airport about 1:30 pm for our 8:15 pm flight as we had heard & seen horror stories about lineups through Customs. It was surprising how few people were actually at the airport in general on this lovely Saturday in July.

We decided to try to go through security right away and couldn’t believe that we were really only about 20 minutes, start to finish. It would have been closer to 10 minutes but one of us carries a medication kit that needs to be kept cold & it seemed to draw attention. It was drug tested on the way through, with zero issue & the pleasant staff were efficient.

We wanted to have a bite to eat in case we weren’t happy with the inflight meal, so landed at Lift cafe where we had excellent service & fresh, delicious salads & a tea & coffee. There were only two wait staff but they did an excellent job.

We found a spot at our gate (Gate 55) to relax & charge our phones etc for awhile. We did a lot of stretching & walking about to get ready for the 8-9 hour flight. It’s always interesting to wander around & see any art installations in the airports around the world. YVR had a dress made of paper, a papier-mâché sculpture, wood carvings & some well done paintings. The decor of YVR is beautiful with its Indigenous flavour & natural decor including indoor streams, carvings & aquariums.

We boarded the plane (Boeing 777) with no trouble & were pleased to see we did get plenty of legroom as we’d upgraded slightly in Economy Class. It was the usual tricky situation with trying to fit everyone’s carry-ons in the overhead, eventually but we were off.

Very pleasant air crew, and luckily not one issue with passengers remaining masked for the entire flight. The meal was alright, chicken with gnocchi, celeriac salad, and a bun with a brownie for dessert. Everyone settled in quietly for our overnight flight. Breakfast was a small croissant & yogourt. The seats were pretty squishy as far as width, we noted just how much more room there was in the class ahead of us … wider, further reclining seats with more space between each seat, and a proper foot rest.

Our flight was on time, in fact we had been 6 minutes early, but we had to wait on the tarmac for about 15 or 20 minutes as another plane was in our spot. Once we deplaned, we were relieved at how easy it was to march off, and avoid waiting at the luggage carousels. There was a literal WALL of baggage in the baggage claim area so we were glad to have made the extra effort to avoid checking bags. (A relative of ours just returned from a Scotland/Iceland trip where they had taken strictly carry-ons but had been forced to check their bags due to storage issues… two of the four travellers have still never seen that checked baggage since… they were without it their entire trip & have come back home… it’s been over a month… terrible).

Overall, a satisfactory first leg of our holiday. We’ll chat about our car rental nightmare later…

Travel Problems in the Chaos of Covid & it’s Aftermath…

Follow along with us the next few weeks as we take our first international trip since December 2018.

We’re heading to England via Heathrow Airport then on to Portugal via Faro Airport.

We’ve decided not to take any checked baggage because of the shortage of staff to deal with it at Heathrow… it’s a hard shell carry-on suitcase all the way for us this vacation. Remember your carry-on luggage with say, Air Canada, doesn’t have a weight limit but it MUST fit in the overhead compartment. You may also take one personal item but it MUST fit under your seat. Here are some suitable hand luggage suggestions https://shop.samsonite.com/ Don’t be that person with more than your allowance as it’s not fair to other travellers who have done as asked.

We’ll be arriving for our evening departure at least 5 hours ahead of time to avoid any delays due to traffic or lineups while going through security. Expert Traveller Tips: Have your allowable liquids in ONE separate, clear plastic 1 litre bag ready to place in an examination tray. If you have any over 100 mls or more than the one 1 litre bag, you will be expected to get rid of them. Also, have your medications & their paperwork together in a separate bag so it’s easily checked.

We need to get to our first destination (London, Heathrow) to get our rental car on time (the only vehicle available!). It’s at least 2.5 hours to the City of Bath where we’re headed. There are strikes going on regarding the trains & possibly other transit so it’s imperative that we get this rental.

After our holiday with family in Bath & Bradford on Avon, we head back to London for one day to be ready for the next leg of our trip… Portugal.

We’ve been reading that there are forest fires, a heat wave, the worst Covid Ba.4 & Ba.5 numbers in the world, also pilot & air crew strikes happening right now in Portugal… we’re completely vaccinated & have all of the sanitizers & masks we could possibly need but we have no control over fires & strike action. As professional traveller, travel writer & television personality, Rick Steves wisely always says, be prepared for everything. https://www.ricksteves.com/

Watch for updates here regarding any flight delays, difficult travel issues, : http://www.myreturnticket.ca

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Packing it in…

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I am not being overly dramatic when I say: Packing is critical. If you pack too much, you end up disorganized, lugging around heavy bags, and paying top dollar fees for over-weight baggage and if you pack too little, you’ll be on the hunt down for extra clothing when you’d rather be on an actual adventure.

These are some essential things to keep in mind when it’s time to pack.

1. Get your packing process started at least a week ahead of when you’re leaving… at the very least… make a list! This way you’ll have time to purchase any additional items you might need. Then once you’ve got the perfect list type it out check-list style and print one every time you are going on holiday… you’ll be less likely to forget things. Sometimes we forget the most obvious things… those will be the items you can’t do without! I’ll place my checklist at the end of this post (to save paper you could place this in a plastic sleeve & use a dry erase pen to mark it).

2. Go online and find out about what you can take as luggage, while most airlines allow travellers to check at least one bag at no extra charge on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights.

3. Along with your one piece of carry on luggage, you are usually able to bring one other personal item. It is subject to specific size requirements but something like a purse, laptop bag, or backpack is generally acceptable. I would suggest taking one, you’ll want to have at least one change of clothes in here in case your main luggage gets lost. The personal item you bring can contain your e-reader, itinerary, magazines, travel toothbrush & paste.. you get the idea. My husband and I each take a small tote style bag to place under the seat ahead of us and that way we don’t need to get up again once seated to get our books etc. Our carry on suitcases go in the overhead storage until we arrive at our destination.

4. Rolling is much better than folding.; tightly rolled clothes take up way less space than folded ones. And they are less wrinkled when you arrive at your destination, believe it or not. Also once rolled, smaller items can go inside your shoes for more space.

5. Any type of liquids should really be in plastic resealable bags. They WILL leak… it happens. Why even worry? Just pack them that way to begin with and save yourself the headache of hair gel soaked clothing, or shaving creamed shoes… My all-time favourite packing tip: you know how you get those little shower caps in hotel rooms or dollar stores? They make really good shoe covers for keeping the soles of your shoes from getting your clothes dirty! And all sizes of food storage bags (also from the dollar store) can hold all of your other like items together – hair products in one bag, lingerie in another, etc. They’re reusable & don’t take up any extra space. I even keep some in my carry on for mints, identification, earphones & medications.

6. If you’re travelling for longer than a week, you may want to wash some clothes in the hotel’s bathroom sink and hang them to dry. I always make sure to pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent to clean my clothes on the road… there’s a method to this madness… I’ll pack less BUT have room for any new purchases I buy on our travels! I also take a small drawstring bag to use for soiled laundry, to keep it separate from the clean stuff.

7. See if you can find pants that turn into shorts or a jacket that turns into a vest, that’s another space-saving technique right there!

8. My best advise: Wear layers. Your actual travel outfit should be in plenty of layers, which will help you travel multiple climates in style and comfort. Also it gives you many more options of what to wear during your entire trip.

9. It’s really important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked baggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you… which leads me to >>>

10. Print triplicates of your travel info – you’ll be so glad to have done this… I make 3 copies of our itinerary (including hotels, flights etc); my husband gets one to keep with him, I get one to keep with me and I leave the last one with my mom. You never know what can happen. It’s a good plan to have another person, that’s not travelling with you, know where you’ll be and the times you’ll be gone/home.

 

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