Flying isn’t what it used to be. Beverages, snacks, pillows and blankets, all previously expected comforts on even short flights, have become costly luxuries. Leg room has been sacrificed in favor of fitting more seats–and more profits–onto every flight. Ancillary charges for things like checked baggage and pre-boarding privileges have become a frustrating part of the air travel experience. With all the hidden taxes and fees tacked on to our tickets, the original fare becomes the least of our concerns.

Up against huge corporations and a largely unregulated market, it’s easy for consumers to feel powerless. We may feel as though we have few options–besides just driving to our destination, which, depending on the circumstances, is impractical at best. In May of 2013, the Department of Transportation will decide whether or not to require airlines to fully disclose all fees and taxes to outside services (think Orbitz and Expedia) and consumers. Doing so would make it easier for prospective travelers to comparison shop. Sure, that $100 fare from LAX to JFK is a steal, but the odds that you’ll only pay $100 when all is said and done are quite slim indeed.

Until the DOT makes their decision, there are options. For one, travelers can invest in larger, more space-efficient carry-on luggage. The Eagle Creek Travel Gateway 2-Wheeled Upright 22 is a vast improvement over an overstuffed, disorganized duffel that would require divine intervention in order to fit under the seat in front of you. At 22″, it’s the maximum size that most airlines will allow for carry-ons, and it’s loaded with extra features that make it special. Continue Reading »

Why do we travel? To relax, to unwind, to get away. To return home rejuvenated, having rekindled our marriages or our relationships with our children. Some travel to try new food and drink, to see how the locals live, to be immersed. Some of us just want to be elsewhere, anywhere, to break up the monotony of daily life.

But some of us crave seeing the un-see-able. We want to challenge ourselves in the midst of history. We want to have a great story to tell. We want to know that we were there. Luckily for us, there is still some mystery left in the world–and one of the best places to explore it is in North Korea.

It’s formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or the DPRK, and it’s referred to as such within the country without a trace of irony. Though the tiny dictatorship has been cloaked under self-imposed isolation since the Korean war, outsiders know a bit. Defectors have talked of unimaginable human rights violations taking place in its prison camps, of widespread, years-long famine exacerbated by government corruption,  and of systematic, lifelong brainwashing initiated by the late Kim Il-sung. (His son and grandson, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un, have carried on the tradition.)

On a trip like this, your luggage should have the strength to stand up to the unexpected. The Briggs & Riley Baseline 27″ Wide Body Upright is made of 1680 denier ballistic nylon and sized generously to haul your souvenir propaganda posters back home. Ballistic nylon was originally developed to be used in jackets for World War II airmen, but these days it leads a much more low-key existence as material for high-end luggage. If ballistic anything seems like overkill when it comes to luggage, consider that the Korean War isn’t officially over–it’s simply in the midst of the world’s longest ceasefire.

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Winter’s coming, and though the holidays are stressful, the slushy months following them can be downright depressing. Relatives go home, work resumes, and Christmas trees, carefully selected only weeks prior, meet their fate on the curb. A mid-winter tropical getaway may just seem like the stuff of fantasy, but it’s not as difficult as you might think if you head to ultra-accessible Puerto Rico. Though it’s not a full state yet (though that could change soon, based on a Congressional decision), no passport is required, and English is an official language.

Like you, the Kipling Fundamental 25th Anniversary Large Backpack was not made to sit at home, counting the days until summer. With enough room for a guidebook, a water bottle, souvenirs, your wallet, and sunscreen, it’s the perfect companion for a rum-buzzed stroll around Old San Juan. But it shines off the beaten path, too, with plenty of space for a set of dry clothes should you happen upon a secluded waterfall on a hike through the El Yunque Rainforest. The backpack’s crinkle nylon is lightweight and durable, and comes in cheerful, bright colors to match Puerto Rico’s beloved architecture.   Continue Reading »

“I hate flying.”
A growing number of travelers, many of them former frequent fliers, have begun to repeat this mantra with venom.
The frustration is legitimate, and based partially on the airlines’ ever -increasing ways to wrangle additional fees from passengers.  With airports being so frustrating, its nice to be able to take luggage that puts you more at ease like the new Samonite EZ Cart 25″, luggage you can easily push around.
One of the latest was the decision this spring by Allegiant Air to impose a $35.00 fee on carry-on luggage. This action made the airline, headquartered outside Las Vegas, NV a member of a so-far limited fraternity joining it with Spirit Airlines who charges a number of fees regarding carry-on luggage.
Currently, the latter carrier charges a fee of $20.00 at time of booking or before check-in on both domestic and international flights. Wait until airport check-in, at the counter or on-line, and the price rises another $5.00.
The Spirit Airline’s website states those prices will rise another 25 percent to $30.00 on November 6, 2012.
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All aboard, for the most luxurious train trips in Europe.

Sophisticated travel calls for superbly styled luggage. Briggs & Riley Baseline 24″ Expandable Upright Spinner with its ability to increase in space over 15 percent, making it simple to pack a week’s worth of dress to impress outfits.

The four-day Polish Express, with the Danube Express, begins in Budapest as passengers first gather at a reception in the Royal waiting room of the city’s Nyugati station. Leaving Hungary’s capital the train follows the immortal river towards Bratislava, 124 miles northeast.

Windows filled with views of old castles and vineyards set in the excitement for arrival into the capital of Slovakia by early afternoon. Tour Old Town and its ancient castle located high above the city.

As the train speeds into the Moravian night a delight of locally produced ingredients create an unforgettable dinner accompanied by fine Hungarian wines. Continue Reading »

Summer is here – time for thousands of tourists to hit Washington, DC. in the muggy heat. How bad is the humidity? In the days before air conditioning, ambassadors, assigned to the nation’s capital, received hardship pay.

With the lightweight Eagle Creek Cloudstream 28″ Upright, getting into DC is no sweat. Slightly more than nine pounds, it is a breeze to wheel around National or Dulles Airports or Union Station.

As a former licensed DC tour guide, here are some must-do tips:

1. Keep hydrated.

Standing in lengthy lines is a common sight at many DC monuments, memorials, and museums as are the great number of tourists who drop in a dead faint due to dehydration.

2. The walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building is much farther than it looks on the map.

Gasping for breath while holding their sides, family members or passing members of Congress, many a tourist looked at the tour guide map and thought ‘that’s not too far’. It is close to three miles and the final mile or so is uphill. No, it is not like climbing the Alps, but in high humidity and weighted down by souvenirs, brochures and water bottles it can take a toll on some. Continue Reading »

Last week we journeyed the northern part of the American Whiskey Trail from New York City, western Pennsylvania and down to the Virginia estate of George Washington. Come along this week to Kentucky and Tennessee where the history of whiskey is alive and well at a handful of renowned distilleries.

The Swiss Army Luggage Wenger Neo Lite 21″ Pilot Carry-on Spinner provides the best in luggage for packing a precious bottle or two with internal compression straps and zippered mesh pocket.

Unlike Scottish, Irish and other whiskeys, whiskey, known as bourbon, must has specific rules. It must be American made, contain at least 51 percent corn and be aged in new charred oak barrels Continue Reading »

Some think Scotland is the only country to have a whisky trail. Throw in the “e” and take off for a spirited journey along American Whiskey Trail also known as the AWT.

The Eagle Creek Crossroads Roll-Away 30″ rolls from airplane to car and along city streets to country roads where the AWT is found from in this week’s article from New York to Virginia. Next week’s article will journey along the rest of the AWT into Kentucky and Tennessee.

Whisky has always been part of the American landscape. It began in colonial times when colonists gathered corn from Native Americans. They mixed it with rye or barley and water and following fermentation drank it as they gathered at inns to hatch a revolution or while Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence by the light of a tavern’s candles. The Whiskey Rebellion was one of the first tests of federal power in the new republic. By the early 20th century, the prohibition of whiskey and other alcoholic beverages forever stamped an era of speakeasies and gangsters into the history books. Continue Reading »

Home to tundra flora, fauna, and polar bears Churchill, Manitoba, on the shore of Hudson Bay, is a destination outdoor enthusiasts journey to for almost every season.

Pack everything from parkas to binoculars in your Samsonite xSpace 3 piece set required for making a unique Canadian travel connection. Due to Churchill’s remote location – no roads exist – the best way to get there is with Via Rail from Winnipeg. Continue Reading »

Casablanca, for many classic movie devotees the name immediately conjures up memories of the famous 1942 love story that starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

“Casa” as it is called by modern residents and visitors still weaves the magic to many who choose to come to this Moroccan city in North Africa. Although Rabat serves as the Kingdom of Morocco’s capital city, Casa remains its leading metropolis due, in part, to its location on the Atlantic Ocean and as one of the world’s largest artificial ports. Continue Reading »