Posts Tagged ‘Luggage’

Where in the World is Shannon Elizabeth?

This is a story all about how
my life got flip-turned upside-down.
Now I’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right there —
I’ll tell you how I became a
victim of a traveling scare.

So, where in the world is Shannon Elizabeth?

Would it be weird if I said I didn’t know the answer to that? Heh. Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I do know where I am. And I most definitely know where I’m not: I’m not in London like I should be. Here are some pictures of the madness that was my day. See if you can put this together and figure out what’s happening in my life.

Fun story: Our flight from Malta to Gatwick was cancelled due to poor weather conditions (read: London’s inability to deal with snow). Quite problematic, mind you, because I had a trip to Edinburgh planned for Sunday and Alex has a trip to California planned for Monday. All flights to Gatwick were cancelled and we were left with two options: fly to Newcastle today or fly to Newcastle or Gatwick on Monday. Unfortunately, Monday won’t work for either of us, thus we were left with one viable option and grabbed the flight to Northern England instead.

Where did we go from there? Well, that was a feat as we navigated the cold wintery weather up North (thank God for iPhones, laptops & Wi-fi). We hadn’t planned to end up in Newcastle and neither of us really had a plan of attack (or proper cold-weather clothing). We were offered a transfer from Newcastle to London via coach, but considering the gross weather and the 25 mile per hour ride involved with taking the coach, that would put us in London at around 3AM after a 7 to 10 hour coach ride. Ten hours on a stinky, stuffy coach is not my idea of fun.

Instead, we decided to take a train from Newcastle to Edinburgh, a much shorter ride than the one that we would have experienced from Newcastle to London. While we were in the train terminal at the Newcastle Airport looking at the train map someone stole my huge bag from literally behind my back! I noticed within 20 seconds that it was gone and Alex and I chased the culprit down and managed to retrieve my bag (thank God)!

After we arrived at Waverly Station in Scotland, we had to scale three sets of  these ridiculous stairs with huge 45 pound bags:

After getting to the top of the stairs we spotted a hotel across the way from the station — perfect price, Wi-fi, showers & warmth! Fortunately, I had over-packed for my Malta trip and have a load of extra clothes to wear in Scotland + my computer + chargers + my books, etc. Now Alex and I are warming our souls with Marks & Spencer salads and music to re-ignite our spirits after this soul-wrenching day. At least our window comes with a pretty gorgeous view:

Love from Scotland,

PS. Thank you to the best family for staying with us at the airport during this whole fiasco! Love you guys! We appreciate all of your support!

PPS. Paul & Charlie – I know you guys read this occasionally, don’t be afraid to comment on my blog; I love blog comments :)

Advertisements

My Guide to EasyJet

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

In the spirit of the holidays, I have decided to gift something travel-related:
My Guide to EasyJet.
Keep in mind, most of this can be found on the EasyJet website , but I find that websites can be cumbersome: everything that is relevant to you is mixed in with superfluous information that’s totally extraneous. So, here are the things that I think are important to know when traveling with Easy Jet. As a preface, I can’t really stress how much I prefer EasyJet to RyanAir. Although RyanAir has some really great deals, I find that their advertised “£5” fares actually end up being £40+ when you add in taxes, fees, etc. With EasyJet, I hop online and the advertised fee is what I actually pay. Additionally, EasyJet flies into major airports. If you take the time to peruse RyanAir’s website, you’ll see that you typically don’t fly into the city. Rather you fly 45 minutes to an hour outside of the city and then you’re bused in (for a fee, of course). All in all, I prefer paying a few extra dollars (or pounds, as it were) for convenience and time-saving. You are on vacation, after all and dealing with the headaches that come with travel are something you can probably do without.

Your Guide to EasyJet

When to Arrive:

This is relatively standard across airlines, but arrive 60 minutes early for domestic flights and 90 – 120 minutes early for international flights.

Where does EasyJet fly out of [from London]?

From London, you can fly out of Gatwick, Luton or Stansted airports. Just some info on the locations of these (since I had no idea where they were in relation to one another):

Gatwick is about 28 miles south of London; if you’re GPSing it, use postcodes RH6 0NP (South Terminal) or RH6 0PJ (North Terminal)
–  Luton is about 32 miles from London (North, I think!); if you’re using GPS for this one, use the code LU2 9QT
Stansted is in Essex about 36 miles Northeast-ish from Central London; use postcode CM24 1RW

I would recommend flying out of Gatwick unless it’s significantly cheaper to leave from the other two.

What’s the best way to get to the airport?

You can, of course, get to the airport via taxi, car, bus or train, but let’s look at the most efficient and cost-effective ways to get there: EasyBus or the Express. EasyBus leaves from Central London and goes to Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton airports so regardless of where you’re flying out of, you’re well covered. Prices vary, but you’re looking at between £2 and £9 each way.

– If you’re flying out of Gatwick, the EasyBus pick up is at Fulham Broadway, which can be reached by tube.
– If you’re flying out of Stansted, the pick-up points are Victoria, near stop 6 or at Gloucester Place, near the Baker Street tube
– If you’re flying out of Luton, there are multiple pick-up points:  Brent Cross, Finchley Road Underground, Marble Arch (near the tube), Victoria or Gloucester Place

{The tube works great for getting around within London to find your EasyBus pick-up point if you don’t live close to one!}

The Gatwick Express is also an option, albeit a more expensive one. It leaves from Victoria station and it takes roughly 30 minutes to get to the airport; if it’s like the Heathrow Express, it’s comfortable and convenient. Count on your wallet being about £14 – £16 lighter.

What kind of luggage am I allowed?

Not much, I’m afraid. You’re allowed one piece of hand luggage (a carry-on) that can measure no more than 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm. On the bright side, there is no weight maximum, so you can load that bad boy up! Keep in mind, this is not British Airways: you don’t get a carry-on plus a personal item. You get one item. If you’re taking a real carry-on, your purse, briefcase or laptop case has to stay at home or it must fit inside of your luggage. The only additional things you can carry-on are:

a) one of the following: an umbrella, an overcoat or a shawl and
b) one standard size bag of goods purchased at the airport

If you need more than one carry-on (like in the case of my Maltese excursion), you can opt to pay a fee and take some extras with you. It’ll run you £18 for a checked bag which has a maximum weight of 20 kg (44 or so pounds). Do not go overweight on this! Every 3 kg of ‘extra weight’ (on top of the 20 kg that you’re allowed) will run you £42. I’m not kidding. Best plan of attack: put your heavy stuff in your carry-on and the bulky stuff in your checked baggage. I have yet to find size restrictions on checked luggage, but I’m taking a pretty large, full-sized suitcase! I’ll let you guys know if I have issues; I’ve never checked baggage before with EasyJet!

How do I change a flight, a passenger name or cancel a flight?

You can cancel a flight within 24 hours of making the original booking for a refund (excluding transaction/administrative fees). You have to call in to cancel (0871 244 2366; costs 10p per minute). After the 24 hour period, your flight fees won’t be refunded. You can purchase insurance for £25.

If you’re looking at changing a name (essentially signing your flight over to another passenger), there’s a £25 fee, but it can be done online. You can also call in and handle the name change, but either way it has to be done at least two hours prior to the flight.

Things to keep in mind when flying:

* Don’t forget the liquid rule! No more than 3 oz (100 ml) allowed in carry-ons. Believe me, it sucks having your brand new lotions/shampoos, etc confiscated. Double-check to make sure your stuff fits the requirement and that it’s in a plastic bag! If you forget the plastic bag, they’re pretty good about supplying them at the airport.

* Don’t forget your passport! That could possibly be the worst situation ever and it’s one that’s easily avoidable. Make sure you have your passport easily accessible but safely stored. I usually keep mine in my laptop case or purse in a zipper pocket. Losing your passport is more awful than forgetting it!

* Try to have some relevant currency. Luckily it’s 2009 and major cards are widely accepted, but it’s always nice to have some cash available just in case! I like to keep a mini stash of euros at home because it’s such a useful currency. I like to have 30 – 50 euros with me just in case we need a cab, bus ticket or in the off-chance that an ATM isn’t functioning. I find that being prepared reduces the headaches. Lots of banks will hook you up with a bit of relevant travel money if you pop in before your trip.

Hope that guide helps someone out there somewhere! That’s most of the information that I’ve ever found myself needing! If I think of anything else that is potentially useful, I’ll add it to the list.

Happy travels,

Off to Munich!

Oktoberfest

I have just finished packing 4 days of necessities into a 21″ carry-on. I’m really crossing my fingers that my luggage fits into EasyJet’s 50cm x 40 cm x 20 cm restriction… After being here for about a week, I’ve deciding that I suck at converting metrics. (Side note: When the man at the gym was asking my height and weight, he looked at me quizzically when I gave him my response in inches and pounds versus centimeters and “stones”… I was going to do him the favor of converting it, but I don’t even know what a ‘stone’ is. Probably something I should learn at some point.) In any case, I have managed to pack four tops, two extra pairs of pants, a pair of heels, a jacket, pajamas, an umbrella, toiletries, a couple of books and all of my necessary electronics (camera, phone, etc.) and paperwork (passport, bus information, etc.) into this bad boy.

I’m relying on the fact that a Deutsche Bank exists inside of the Munich airport, otherwise I will be Euroless until further notice. Additionally, the transportation from the airport to the actual hostel is another feat we can deal with upon arrival. I feel as though the lack of planning (read: spontaneity) adds to the adventure. If I find that the so-called “spontaneity” is actually a shitfest, I will do better to plan such mundane logistics beforehand.

That being said, I’m off to Oktoberfest tomorrow! I am incredibly excited and will undoubtedly be returning with a load of incredible pictures. I will also not have access to internet/phone service/general technology, so updating my blog and Skyping with the fam is a no-go for nearly four whole days!

I’ll see you guys back here on Sunday!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Friday Already?!

MACEyeshadows

I absolutely cannot believe that it’s Friday already. Last time I checked it was Monday, but somehow that really long day morphed into Friday which will, in turn, morph into a much-needed three-day weekend packed with working out, tanning, relaxation and packing. Although the week has flown by, on the whole it has been rather productive. My suitcases had found a home deep in the corner of a room where the sight of them constantly haunted me — “start packing your bags, Shannon… only 14 days left.” It’s true. As of today, there are only 13 days left until I’m on a plane to begin my year overseas. Considering how fast time has flown in the past few months, I thought it best to get a move on on the packing front. I managed to pack almost one full suitcase with loads of goodies (a surprising amount) and still have one and a quarter suitcases + a carry-on to fill with pieces of my life. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, I managed to fit a peacoat, a trench coat, a few smaller jackets, fifteen or so sweaters, some tops, leggings, five scarves, a few dresses, some hats, my make-up, a pair of shoes, and some other items into 3/4 of a bag using the highly-respected rolling method. It’s pretty exciting to see how small an otherwise large item can become once it’s rolled tightly into a neat wad. The packing has been very encouraging thus far, but I will keep you posted on the happiness/packing factor come next week.

Also, whilst packing I made a list of all of the makeup that I have, in addition to the items that I need to stock up on prior to the move. After filling three-plus pages with fancy names for eyeshadows, lipglosses, lipsticks and pigments, I have come to realize that I have purchased way too many of MAC‘s coveted beauty bits over the years. On the bright side, the only things I needed (I use that term very loosely in this context) to purchase were a new mascara (for back up), a backup of my most favorite lipstick (Creme d’Nude — best lipstick on the market), a backup eye kohl and a couple new shadows, of which the lipstick and eyeshadow were free courtesy of the Back to MAC program.

Also, since the MAC store abuts the Aldo store, you know I had to pop in to see if they had cute/comfy, walking boots. I should have never had a doubt that my favorite shoe store in the world would come through for me!

IllsleyAldoI adore these boots because they’re versatile, canvas-y and the buckle details are darling! To boot (no pun intended), they have a built in 3″ wedge to give me the lift I’m looking for without the standard stiletto heel. I am in loovvvve with them and so far (for the ten minutes I’ve worn them), they are comfortable.

Hope everyone else is having a productive week! Have an amazing three-day weekend!

THIRTEEN DAYS LEFT!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

‘Site’ Seeing!

Throughout this whole period of preparation during the past few months, I managed to tackle some issues that I was eager to address before September. I made a mental list around mid-April with certain information I wanted to find prior to the move. I am the ultimate planner and I have this relentless need to organize my life — I feel infinitely more comfortable going into a situation that I feel semi-educated about. Plus, since this is a school-less summer, I had ever more time to prepare! Below are some tidbits of information that I am finding invaluable, so I thought I’d share:

1. What supporting documents do I need for my Student Visa application?

The UK Visa site proved to be useful in providing a list of necessary items for my visa application, and Appendix 8 (which has to be submitted along with the visa application) did well to outline what pieces of supporting documentation are necessary. Here’s what my packet includes:

– My visa application (printed from online)
– My passport (the original, not a copy!)
– My Visa letter provided by LSE
– My proof of funding (either in the form of a receipt from the institution, bank statements that are signed off or, as in my case, loan guarantee forms provided by the lender)
– My transcript/degree from your undergraduate institution
– Passport photo (this needs to be affixed, not paper clipped)
Appendix 8 (the self-assessment form for Tier 4 applicants)

2. How am I going to get from the the airport (LHR) to my housing?

I looked through a bazillion chauffeur-type services to get me from the airport to my new housing at High Holborn and the average (whether a taxi or a pre-arranged service) was around £40 – £45. I entertained the ridiculous idea of trying to use the tube, but two huge bags, a carry-on and a personal item don’t travel well from tube to tube. So, per some new friends that I encountered at the LSE Bon Voyage party, I found a site called Dot2Dot. It’s an amazingly affordable service and you can book it before arrival! My trip, from LHR to my postcode (WC1V) costs £23.50!

3. What are the limitations on luggage?

I happen to be flying United, but most airlines have similar luggage limitations. For international travel, I am allowed two checked bags, plus one carry-on and a personal item for free. In terms of weight, there is a 50 lb. limit (get lightweight luggage!), and in terms of size, the luggage cannot be greater than 62 linear inches (length + width + height measurements cannot total more than 62 inches). From what I’ve found, a 28 – 29″ bag hits the limit.

STA also provides a list of some airlines and their pricing and policies for domestic flights. Although charges can be incurred on domestic flights for standard baggage handling, you should get your two checked bags free of charge for an international flight!

4. Where can I get (relatively) inexpensive luggage?

I scoured stores for cute and inexpensive luggage only to learn that luggage is costly! I hadn’t realized how much it can cost for a good quality bag, but I decided that spending $350 on a 29″ bag was not in the cards. Whilst in the Nordstrom Rack in Seattle, I found amazing luggage for half price. I’m not entirely sure that all the Rack stores carry the same inventory, but it’s worth a shot.

I also found a veritable slew of amazingly cute and affordable luggage at TJ Maxx and at Marshall’s. TJ Maxx definitely tops the list with their quality, their selection and their prices. I was amazed! Most of the 28-29″ bags there were in the $50 – $75 range(marked down from $200 – $300 at MSRP). Side note: they also have a bunch of darling handbags!

6. How much is it going to cost me to ship the items I can’t take with me?

More so than weight issues, I think I’m running into space issues with packing. Shoes, jackets, etc. can be awkward and take up a great deal of baggage space. That being said, I have looked into a number of shipping services so I can ship some shoesies overseas and have them meet me in the UK.
{See my previous post on packing & shipping overseas!}

1) USPS was by FAR the cheapest option. For a 65 lb. box, it costs around $208.
2) White Glove Express is about 50% more, but I’ve actually had personal communication/interaction with the people at White Glove & their customer service is definitely selling me!
3) UPS quoted me around $389.09 for the same 65 lb. box, and
4) FedEx was ridiculously high priced — $482.31

7. What are the best websites for information on the city (events, sightseeing, etc.)?

I would re-type this, but there’s no point: see my previous post on the coolest (read: my favorite!) London-focused sites on the web.

8. What are my best options for Euro travel?

I suppose travel can be divided into a few categories: by plane, by train or by bus. For airfare, I’ve found the best deals on Ryan Air and on EasyJet. After talking with one of my friends who backpacked across Europe, I learned that although RyanAir’s prices are pretty unbeatable (£1 and £5 deals pop up frequently), they tend to fly into places that aren’t central to the city; they tend to be in the outskirts which spawns other transportation questions/issues. From what I’ve seen of EasyJet, the flights are a little more standard — normal, central airports at a great price. Also, I don’t think anyone should underestimate the power of Expedia (the UK version). I searched for random flight deals on their site (to Portugal, Greece, Egypt, etc.) and they had some unbeatable deals!

For trains, the only site that I really ever peruse is National Express, primarily because I found some pretty good deals on tickets while I was in Europe earlier this year. From what I’ve seen, trains can be worth it for medium-length trips if you get a good deal, but all in all, there are some amazing flight deals to be had which semi-nullify the idea of trains in my mind. Also, the Virgin Train site is worth a look-see as is the First Great Western site. They post some serious deals occasionally. 

As for buses, I’m not a fan and I haven’t looked into pricing. I know they’re sort of a necessary evil, but they tend to evoke images of psychotic drug users for me. Perhaps I will get used to them next year, at which point I will update this with relevant information, but for now I shall steer clear.

9. Where do I buy my stuff? I can’t possibly cart my shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. overseas!

There are a few staple stores with average deals and locations scattered all throughout the country:

1) Sainsbury: There’s a location that’s going to be super close to me and they have bits of everything: food, drinks, sporting goods, home and garden and random necessities.

2) Tesco: Groceries, wine, electronics… their website isn’t all that pretty, but they’re pretty averagely priced.

3) Marks & Spencer: Food, wine, skincare, hair products, accessories… posh Target, anyone?

4) Lidl: So, this kind of reminds me of the Grocery Outlet of the UK. Awesome prices, off-brand stuff; probably a good place for students to shop. Downside: I don’t think there’s a store near me. Boo.

10. Where can I snag a not-so-expensive hair cut &/or color?

The thought of going months without a root touch-up or a trim is a little foreign and would probably be very frightening… and not just for me. Unfortunately, hair cuts, color and highlights got really expensive at some point! On the bright side, I did find a Toni & Guy at 75 New Oxford Street that serves as a training academy and has pretty sweet deals (£5 haircuts?!). Of course, these deals involve student cosmetologists but they do have a licensed professional overseeing everything. The reviews that I have read are mixed, but tend to lean towards the positive end of the spectrum. Perhaps worth the risk?

11. What phone plan is going to work best?

There’s O2, 3, Vodafone, T-mobile… so many to choose from. After checking out pricing & weighing my options, I decided that the O2 SIM Simplicity plan was best for me! I purchased my phone on eBay: an unlocked, jailbroken iPhone. With the Simplicity plan, I can purchase just the SIM card on a 12-month contract for 19.88 GBP per month. It includes 800 minutes, 1600 texts & a bolt-on of your choice (I’m choosing unlimited web!). The plan definitely works for me and fits into my budget perfectly. O2 also has an iPhone plan that’s 44 GBP per month (18 month contract) wherein they give you the phone in the package plus loads of minutes, texts & unlimited web. Lots of deals to be had! Click here for more of the lowdown on my decision.

12. What bank account should I opt for?

After scouring the internet for different bank accounts, I opted for HSBC’s passport account. Firstly, HSBC has a branch that’s two minutes away from my new housing. Secondly, I was able to actually submit the application online! I had it approved within two weeks and now I just need to pop into a location with my CA Driver’s license & my passport to officially open shop! Check out my previous post on different banks & their fees. FYI, they ALL charge fees. Lame, but true.

13. Are there any relevant London-focused apps for my sweet new iPhone?

Oooooh, hellllllls yeah, my friends. There are a load to download from the App Store, but there are three that I found that are actually semi-awesome. If you are a fellow iPhone user/Mac convert, check these out:

1) TubeMap: It’s just that — a tube map, but tads cooler. Here’s why: you get to input your information, including your “home” tube station and it allows you to check the tube station status, map from point A to point B and so much more. It’s seriously awesome. And it’s free! FYI, all my apps are free. I don’t believe in paying for such things.

2) London Highlights {Way2GoGuides}: A sweet little app with audio “tours.” There’s information on location highlights: The British Museum, Kew Gardens, The London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the like!

3) What’s On (London): This app basically uses Time Out London as it’s basis for information. It’s a cool way to navigate and find events you’re interested in. You can view events by category: pubs/bars, opera, theater, art, around town, etc. and see what the haps is in your area.

 There are so many other cool sites I’ve found that are so awesome and so relevant, but I don’t want to overload!

Much love,
Signature Stamp - Shannon

Bundling vs. Rolling: Which Method Reigns Supreme?

I will be putting both the rolling and the bundling methods to the test in September. Whether you’re packing for a weekend getaway or for a move, packing efficiently is key. With so many restrictions on luggage size and weight, we all want to cram as much as possible into a relatively small space. I have been a practitioner of the rolling method for quite some time per my mom’s suggestion. The so-called “rolling method” involves (no surprise here!) rolling your clothing (shirts, cardigans, pants, dresses) to effectively fit as many items as possible into one piece of luggage. Additionally, packing lore would have us believe that this helps reduce the effects of wrinkling upon reaching your ultimate destination. I find rolling to take up less space, true, but I do still find occasional wrinkles (although less than standard folding and stacking). Now, I ran across the “bundling method” on a few savvy travelers’ websites. The bundling method essentially involves laying clothes on top of (and across) one another to eventually fold them all into one large bundle to make packing easier. It works like this:

BundleWrapping

The theory behind said “bundling method” is that ultimately, the bundle that is created is tighter (and more space-efficient) and causes less wrinkling than even the rolling method. The idea in this though is that you start with heavier items (jackets, jeans, etc.) as the outer layer of your bundle, with an item in the center to act as your ‘core’ (the item that the bundle is created around (think a small make-up bag, a case, etc.). Pieces that wrinkle less easily should be placed closer to the core. Per onebag.com, a good order for packing may be as follows:

1. Jacket
2. Skirts, Dresses
3. Long-sleeved Shirts
4. Short-sleeved Shirts
5. Trousers, Slacks
6. Sweaters, Knits
7. Shorts

I am going to try my hardest to not over pack. My intention is to pack as many versatile items as possible. I tend to opt for nice, solid colors (which comprise the majority of my wardrobe) and pants & jeans that are easily interchangeable. I will probably only get away with 5 or so pairs of shoes (I will have to ship a few pairs…), but shoes can really dress up (or dress down) an outfit, depending on the outing. Also, as it tends to get chilly in England — an understatement, I’m sure — I will be bringing along a few scarves, some solids and some fun-colored to jazz up my monochrome outfits. Also, since accessories (jewelry, headbands, etc.) take up virtually no room and weigh next-to-nothing, I will be loading up on accessories to make my outfits work! I will definitely post pictures of my trial packing endeavor to give you guys some insight into packing for a year away from home!

Anyone have any tried and true packing methods?
Any opinions on the bundling versus the rolling methods?

Signature Stamp - Shannon