December, 2012

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 »