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…

The Right Suitcase

baggage

A good suitcase should last about 10 years, and should have a guarantee for parts such as zippers, wheels and handles. Remember, you get what you pay for! When luggage is more expensive they should be well designed and have quality components.

It all starts with size… save up… buy the set, you’ll never be sorry. Each trip is different and may require a bigger(or smaller) suitcase than the last… now you’ll have that choice. Be sure to grab the carry on duffle or bag that matches too as you can easily keep everything for the actual flight right under the seat ahead of you and not have to get out of your seat to take down the carry on suitcase from the overhead. On a long trip you’ll easily find your luggage because it all matches. I would definitely suggest buying an expanding suitcase. And a luggage strap. That’s a smart idea too, in case the zipper ever breaks.

I’ve been thinking that my next purchase of luggage will probably include spinning wheels as I have wrist issues so I think this will help me with maneuvering a large, heavy bag. Was it not for that, the stationary wheels on my current cases work just fine.

As far as handles go, just check out the stitching to be sure they look sturdy, and get the telescoping handle type.. that is a lifesaver when you also have a carry on bag. My favourite feature of my carry on is that there is a strap with velcro on the side that slips over the extended handle of the bigger case so I don’t need to worry about it falling off the suitcase while I am racing down the airport… which even the most organized traveller may have to do when your flight is changed at the last minute!

The one item I haven’t settled on yet… soft or hard sided? Mine are soft sided but have been ripped from the first trip they’ve been on. Very frustrating. My husband has a really nice (not so cheap) suitcase by Jeep that had one of the front pockets ripped right open between the time we checked it in and when it arrived at our destination. One note, I hear that hard sided cases can add up to 10 lbs in weight so that would be a problem.

I swear the most popular colour of suitcases is black. There are hundreds of them coming down the carousel at one time and people are scrambling like mad to see if it’s theirs. If you insist on having black luggage then a coloured luggage strap or piece of ribbon tied to the handle will make it easier to identify.

On one of our trips I saw something I am happy to save up for… luggage protectors or covers. There are a couple of kinds that I have seen so far. The first are clear plastic-type ones that zip up or velcro under the wheels once slipped over your case. If you happen to like the style of your suitcase then you can still see it through the cover. Or I found brightly coloured/patterned stretchy, fabric ones that velcro underneath, again, once slipped over your packed suitcase. These are smart because you can get a plain black suitcase and have any style protector you wish. These covers would also eliminate the need for a luggage strap.

The luggage lock is a bit of a debate. Some airlines don’t want you to use them now due to security inspections, and to know which airports allow them or not… well, that’s really just one more thing to have to check before leaving on a holiday. I would go to the dollar store, buy a roll of brightly coloured ribbon, and tie your zippers together. It’s secure enough to hold but easy enough to snip off when you arrive at your destination or at the security check. Don’t forget to tuck a bit of the ribbon in your suitcase to use on the way home.

Lastly, always keep a second luggage tag inside your checked suitcase, in case the one you’ve placed outside on the handle gets ripped off. Have your flight details and destination on there as well. It’s quite easy to make extra cards to switch out for each trip. Then if lost, it can be identified by airport staff or you can replace it once you’ve retrieved your baggage.