Making Liquids TSA-Friendly

If you’ve flown at all in the past ten years, you’re probably familiar with the rule for liquid carry-ons: you can fill a one-quart or one-liter plastic zip bag with containers no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces (100 mL). With this kind of restriction, is it really possible to take all your toiletries without checking your luggage? I am, and I’ll be gone for three months! Here’s how I’m making it happen:

Toothpaste

3oz toothpaste

A lot of toothpaste tubes are actually perfectly fine to take in your carry-on. Remember that the TSA limit for liquid carry-ons is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters)- that’s a lot bigger than most things labeled as “travel-sized”! If you’re going on a week-long trip, one of the free sample-sized tubes that they give out at the dentist office will work fine. (If you run out of toothpaste early, cut open the tube for about an extra day’s worth of toothpaste.) If you need more toothpaste for longer trips or because you’ll share with others, look among the normal-sized toothpaste instead of the travel section. I found a three-ounce tube, so I’m set!

Soap

dr bronners soap

Many travelers swear by Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap. I do take a small bottle on most of my trips because it the condensed formula lasts a long time, but it’s not exactly my favorite. I don’t use Dr. Bronner’s at home because it’s not as effective as other soaps and tends to leave a residue, especially when being used as a shampoo substitute. Instead, I use my Dr. Bronner’s once every few days and supplement with a solid bar of soap. The kind I use, both at-home and on-the-road, is a natural oil-based soap made by a company that gave me extras since I was the last customer just before it went out of business. So while I unfortunately can’t recommend a specific kind of bar soap (and I’ll sadly have to find another supplier when I run out of my last few bars), there are plenty of bar soaps out there for you to find one that perfectly suits your needs. I bring a family-size bar and cut it into chunks as I go so that only one small piece is wet. As a bonus, soap bars are like an air freshener for your suitcase!

Insect Repellent

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If you like to use the aerosol cans of bug repellent, it could be confiscated, even from checked luggage. I prefer to use DEET-free spray, comes in a spray bottle instead. I wanted to use up my almost-full bottle of spray that I currently had, but when I checked the label, it was marked as four ounces. Yes, I think companies purposefully make four-ounce bottles a better deal so they can charge you extra when you have to go back and buy a 3.4-ounce bottle! Instead of paying for an extra bottle of repellent, I instead decided to pour it into a travel-sized bottle. I do this with other liquids all the time, but this was the first time doing so with a spray bottle. Sure, I could just pour it into an ordinary bottle and rub the repellent on like a lotion, but I’m pretty sure it’s sold as a spray because that’s the way it’s most effective. Fortunately, I had a travel bottle that had the same exact size of opening as the original bottle, so I could just pop the original spray mechanism on the new bottle. Since this bottle was smaller, I had to trim down the hose so that the lid would fit on. Because I was afraid this might leak, I cut a small circle of plastic, poked a hole in the center, and slid it onto the hose before twisting the bottle shut. (You can put a piece of plastic underneath any liquid lid to prevent leaks, but unless it has a hose like it did in this case, you’ll have to remove it before you use it.) I also put a piece of cotton next to the nozzle to absorb any leaks, but so far not a single drop has leaked, and I packed this over a week ago!

Sunscreen

sunscreen

For my eighteenth birthday, a friend gave me a Mary Kay travel kit for my birthday, which included two small empty bottles that I could fill with my own liquids. However, my bottles have outlasted their production, because Mary Kay no longer sells these. (But I recently found another brand of bottle, and I may like it even better. Just keep reading for a few more sentences and you’ll find out what it is!) For the past several years, these bottles have been filled with things like shampoo, conditioner, soap, and even liquid deodorant at one point in time. I think this is my first time packing sunscreen in them, though.

Since I burn easily and will be outside quite a bit, perhaps one small bottle of sunscreen won’t be enough. I recently bought a sunscreen stick to supplement this liquid. I found it at an outdoor supply store in the fisherman’s section. Of course, hats and sleeved shirts help keep the harmful rays away, too!

Shampoo

gotoob shampoo

Many travelers don’t take shampoo at all since it’s provided in just about every single hotel room on the face of the planet. But some people have a specific brand that works best for them. And hostels are usually a toss-up in whether or not they provide shampoo. Plus there are other forms of accommodation, like camping and rentals where you definitely shouldn’t count on this. So while I’ll always jump at the opportunity to use free shampoo and conditioner, I am bringing something for those times when it’s not around.

Now I can share my latest discovery in the world of traveling with liquids! I recently got a GoToob, and it’s filled with a shampoo and conditioner combo to start out my trip. These are travel bottles made out of silicone, which means more flexibility and less possibility of damage. (But if they are damaged, they’re covered by a lifetime warranty!) While I still love my plastic bottles and will continue to use them for liquids that aren’t silicone-compatible, GoToobs are my new go-to travel bottle, and I don’t see myself pouring shampoo into any other container! Although the bottle size ranges up to 3 fluid ounces, I downsized to just two ounces because that bottle includes a suction cup, perfect for sticking on the wall of a shower that lacks soap dishes! And since GoToobs are food-safe, towards the end of my trip I may wash out the remaining shampoo and fill it with a delicious Greek or Turkish condiment to take home with me! As I travel, I will compare the silicone GoToob to its plastic counterparts and keep you updated on which works better!

Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry powder

When I read about other long-term carry-on-only travelers discussing how they pack sample-sized detergent, I have to laugh. They do know laundry soap comes in powder form too, right?

Even if you’re hand-washing, as long as you use warm water, powder soap will dissolve enough to be just as effective as liquid. The only problem with laundry powder is that it tends to look… well, suspicious! I don’t pack any kind of powder in a plastic baggie, since people automatically think “drugs” when it’s packaged like that. I put it into Snapware containers and make sure it’s clearly labeled. Technically, anything that you repackage needs to be labeled, but at least with most things you can tell what it is by sight and smell. Since powders look suspiciously like something else, it would be suspicious for a TSA agent to get close enough to smell what it is!

By the way, I bring a homemade laundry soap that’s so condensed, only one tablespoon is needed for a full load. You can find recipes like this online, but I’ve made a few tweaks for maximum effectiveness and traveler-friendliness. Would anyone be interested in getting the recipe for this or any of my other homemade travel toiletries?

Other Liquids to Take

tsa quart liquid bag

I got a free sample-sized bottle of mouthwash that I’m taking with me, but if you don’t have room or don’t want to buy a miniature bottle, this certainly isn’t a necessity. I am also bringing along tea tree oil. These typically come in small bottles anyway, so there’s no need to transfer packaging or look for something specifically travel-sized. The most important liquid might be hand sanitizer! I’ve been carrying the same little bottle around for over a year and can easily refill it from larger bottles of hand sanitizer. Hey, with as popular as hand sanitizer is, it can even be refilled for free along the road by using sanitizer stations at schools, hotels, and other public places. All together, all the liquids easily fit into the TSA carry-on-approved one-quart bag!

This post was made possible by HumanGear, the newest sponsor of the Mediterranean European Trek! They provided products to use on my trip, but all opinions are my own. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on different HumanGear products!

What’s Your Go-To Travel Gear?

Do you have any travel gear that you can’t leave home without?

A few weeks ago, I was at the yearly yard sale for a local outdoor store. I was hoping to find some good deals on gear to take with me when I travel. Not only did I find that, I found Lewis N. Clark!

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Lewis N. Clark has just about everything a traveler would need, whether a thru-trail hiker or an urban adventurer. At the sale, I picked up several of their products, including a side release buckle strap (to keep contents of my bag in one place) and a dual converter kit (to safely charge my electronics). Later at home, I went onto the website and found dozens more Lewis N. Clark products that my store didn’t have!

I was excitedly anticipating the day that my box from Lewis N. Clark would arrive. The delivery truck just couldn’t come fast enough! When it finally did come, I tore open the package to find the following:

Lewis N Clark folding brush with mirror

Folding Brush with Mirror– My current hairbrush is almost the size of my entire forearm! There’s no way that would be practical for living three months out of a carry-on bag! I considered taking a flat, wide-tooth comb until I found out that Lewis N. Clark has this folding brush with mirror! The bristles and mirrored-handle fold in, making this easy to fit in your pocket or the palm of your hand. I remember having a travel brush similar to this when I was a kid, but it was a cheap version and every time I folded it, more bristles popped off. The Lewis N. Clark brand is a much better quality made with more durable materials, so I have no worries with this being my only hairbrush for three months!

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CamPack Towel– I have to admit, I have been eyeing those super-absorbent compact travel towels for a long, long time! For the past several years, whenever I needed to take a towel on a trip, I would bring either a hand towel or a turban towel, and just use that after showering. While that took up less space in my suitcase than a normal towel, it took them a long time to dry, and I would sometimes have to transport a partially-moist towel that would end up making everything in my suitcase smell a bit akin to mildew. I’m excited to have the CamPack Towel now because not only are they quick-drying, but they take up only a tiny bit of suitcase space- much less than even a hand towel! In fact, it doesn’t have to take up any suitcase space since it comes with a bag and carabiner that I can clip to the outside of my backpack. I got the blue towel that’s medium-sized, and noticed that, when folded in half diagonally, it makes a decent headband, too!

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Latex Clothesline– In most of my extended travel (meaning about two weeks usually), I would stay with a friend or relative for at least a couple days, and I would just do my laundry using their washer and dryer. With shorter trips, I’ve simply been able to pack enough clothes for the entire trip. I don’t know many people living in Europe, and I certainly can’t take three month’s worth of clean clothes with me! (I don’t even have that many outfits!) I may use a laundromat or a hostel coin-operated machine a time or two on my trip, but those can be expensive and I would much rather spend my money on more adventurous endeavors. To keep clean and save money, I will wash my clothes in the sink or shower using my condensed homemade laundry powder, wring them out, and then hang them on this latex clothesline, which can be strung outside, in the bathroom, or across my bunk. And I don’t have to waste precious suitcase space by bringing clothespins. The braided latex will pinch clothes into place. When combined with my moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing, I won’t have to worry about wet OR smelly clothes!

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No-Jet-Lag– This is not a Lewis N. Clark product, but parent company LCI Brands also distributes No-Jet-Lag. These natural-ingredient pills claim that when taken on flight days, they can remedy one of the biggest problems that can spoil a long-distance trip. I’ve never jumped more than three time zones at a time while traveling, but even a couple hours difference takes some getting adjusted to. With a nine-hour difference on the way there, and a ten-hour difference on the way back, I will really be putting No-Jet-Lag to the test! While I haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure that twenty-five years of positive reviews means that it really works!

Make sure to check back here during my trip so you can see how this travel gear is working for me. But until then, why don’t you try it out for yourself? You have the opportunity to win a Travel Prize Pack containing these four items in this CONTEST! Edit: Congratulations to the winners who were notified 21st of June, 2015! 

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Lewis N. Clark provided No-Jet-Lag, CamPack Towels, Latex Clotheslines, and Folding Brushes with Mirror for the purpose of review and giveaway. All opinions for these and other mentioned items are my own. 

Travel Advice from the Doctor’s Office

Travel Advice from the Doctor's Office- glove with OTC meds

Making an appointment with a medical clinic before going on an extended overseas trip is a very important way to prepare for travel. I checked this off my to-do list yesterday by going in with the explanation that I wanted to do what I could to make sure I was in good health and avoid any illnesses for the next several months. Here is some advice I gleaned while I was there:

  • Get emergency medications NOW. Europe is a good place for Americans to travel to. The water’s drinkable in most places, the food is generally safe, and and pharmacies are abundant and well-stocked. However, my nurse practitioner did mention that it’s difficult when you’re sick overseas to find a pharmacy, describe your symptoms, and make sure you understand how to take the medication- all while you aren’t familiar with the language! Many clinics keep samples of at least some prescriptions stocked. I was fortunate enough that my clinic could give me full-sized samples of ciprofloxacin and azithromycin! Both of these antibiotics can really help with several serious but common illnesses for travelers in most parts of the world. Clinics typically don’t have over-the-counter medication to give out, but they can recommend specific types of meds you can pick up at a grocery store or pharmacy.

Travel Advice from the Doctor's Office: prescriptions

  • Clean ears are flying-friendly. Do your eardrums feel immense pressure whenever you take off or land in an airplane? When I was a kid, earaches and infections were so common that I would have to get my ears checked before every family vacation, and my mom’s carry-on included an arsenal of chewing gum to help ease the pain. My ear problems are hardly noticeable anymore, except when flying or going underwater. The physical part of my appointment included checking my ears. I was told that getting my ear cleaned out could really help me be less affected by cabin pressure when flying. The nurse was able to complete a cleaning quickly and on-the-spot using special irrigation (or as I like to say, EARrigation) tools.
  • The CDC has a TON of health info for travelers. I just went to a small clinic, not a full-fledged medical center. They were limited on the kinds of immunizations they could provide, but told me to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to find out if I should make an appointment for any specific shots, as well as other recommendations for things like food, transportation, and the outdoors. Note that this website is designed for US-native travelers, but may have some useful tips for other travelers. If you are from another country, check to see if your nation has a similar resource.

Travel Advice from the Doctor's Office: stethoscope

  • Have a mini-physical done. Get your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, ears, and throat checked. If you are feeling any symptoms, have those checked out too. You may not have anything serious, but even if you have even something a little bit wrong with your health, it’s best to have it taken care of in your hometown at your convenience (and with your normal insurance).
  • Remember that doctors are travelers, too! Okay, they may not have the same travel style or travel budget as you, but they may still have some general travel tips, encouragement, or inspiration for you. My nurse said she also thinks traveling alone is the best way to go (although we both face some criticism due to this belief). And the nurse practitioner told me she is going to walk El Camino… right around the same time I’m in Spain! I don’t plan to spend much time in that area, but somehow it’s still nice to know that I’ll know someone nearby!

Tea: A Drink With Jam and Bread… and Everything Else!

I only drink soda on rare special occasions, and I can’t stand the taste of coffee. And even though I live in and I’m going to land that is famous for its vineyards, I’ve never tried wine. Most of the time I drink water. It’s a healthy habit that has allowed me to save up money for travel, but I do enjoy drinking other beverages too, especially if they also have health benefits. I don’t typically drink tea because even the decaf kind has enough caffeine to affect me. But I absolutely LOVE the naturally caffeine-free goodness of herbal tea. There are a few brands of herbals that I’m partial to, including Celestial Seasonings, whose factory I toured last September. But on this upcoming trip, I’m dedicating all my tea drinking to Traditional Medicinals!

Traditional Medicinals shipment box

Traditional Medicinals is a brand that I know I can truly stand behind due to several of its ethical practices. Many of their products are organic, GMO-free, fair trade, and/or kosher. They practice environmental policies such as using recycled cardboard for their boxes, utilizing renewable energy in manufacturing, and providing compostable bags. But best of all, each flavor of herbal tea is made not only to be delicious, but to promote a particular health aspect as well!

box of Traditional Medicinals herbal tea

Bringing medication along with you is important on any trip you take, since you’ll be exposed to a new environment, new altitude, new foods, and new water treatment. Medication is especially important when going overseas since things can be dramatically different and you may not be able to get the same sort of medical care internationally. I already have ibuprofen, diphenhydramine, and vitamins packed up to go, but I also figured I would need to get some more medications for things like stomach upset, nervousness, and immunity. Now don’t get me wrong, I will take medications when I need to, but I don’t really have any idea of what exactly goes into a pill. So if there is a natural substitute that does something similar, I’d much rather take that! With Traditional Medicinals, I was able to shrink down my medicine bag, and bring yummy tea instead!

Ginger Aid Traditional Medicinals

The herbal tea I wanted most was Ginger Aid. Ginger Aid obviously tastes like ginger, which has qualities that can help ease digestive pains. I need to focus on promoting good digestion even at home since I seem to be more sensitive than most. When going to new countries, eating and drinking new things, and having new experiences, I am more likely to get stomach upset or nausea. So it’s great that I’m bringing two boxes worth of Ginger Aid. It has been of benefit for me in the past, so it’s now an invaluable part of my health and travel arsenals!

Traditional Medicinals herbal tea- ginger aid, echinacea plus, chamomile with lavender

Another helpful tea for travel is Echinacea Plus. Echinacea is a type of flower with qualities that promote immune system health. Whenever I feel a cold or other common illness coming on, I grab the Echinacea Plus right away. I used to get several colds a year. This past winter, I didn’t get a single one! (And with the few I had the year before, I immediately went to the Gypsy Cold Care!) Echinacea can’t prevent the common cold (nothing really can), but supporting your immune system means that your body could be stronger in fighting off illnesses. I’m taking sixteen tea bags of this along with me to help my body with whatever it may come up against.

Chamomile with Lavender Traditional Medicinal herbal tea

The last kind of herbal tea I’m packing is one that I had never tried before, so I decided to make a cup of it to enjoy as I sat down and wrote this post. It’s called Chamomile with Lavender. Both of these floral ingredients are known for their calming qualities. They’re also good for digestion and aromatherapy. As I tore open the tea bag, I could tell right away that this smelled really good, and I couldn’t wait to sip it! But Traditional Medicinals prints the proper instructions of how to make the perfect cup of tea on each box. That includes covering the cup to let it steep for ten minutes before squeezing the tea bags out and enjoying the drink. Wow, that was delicious, and I already feel a bit calmer!

one quart bag of herbal tea

Herbal tea, particularly Traditional Medicinals, has so many benefits, but I have noticed one problem. The cardboard boxes that the tea bags come in may be environmentally-friendly, but they aren’t packing friendly! To remedy this, I transferred the tea bags into a not-so-eco-conscious plastic baggie to prevent liquid damage and keep everything compact and organized in my suitcase. When packed like this, they don’t take up much space at all.

herbal tea in a mug

Tea is one of the easiest things to make while on the road. If you get tea in packets like these, you don’t need any special equipment. You can choose to bring your own travel mug, or you can probably borrow a mug from any type of lodging you stay at. Most lodging includes a coffee maker, microwave, or teapot to make hot water with. I’ve even filled my mug up with free hot water at places like convenience stores and bus stations. Tea goes great at any meal and just about any food, and that echos throughout the world! In Canada, I remember sipping tea around a breakfast table with Europeans and Asians. In Peru, tea was commonly served with dinner and dessert with the idea that the hot water and herbal qualities could aid digestion. With it being so easy to make tea just about anywhere in the world, the only difficulty will be choosing just one of the many flavors!

Overall, I think herbal tea is a near-necessary item to take on extended trips. I’m so glad that I have Traditional Medicinals to sustain me through my travels!

I am happy to include Traditional Medicinals as the newest sponsor of my European excursion! Traditional Medicinals provided the mentioned tea for the purpose of reviewing. All opinions are my own and no additional compensation was made. 

Tales of a Tall Traveler

I’m six foot one. And I’m a traveler. These two things don’t typically work hand-in-hand.

Towering over the children and staff at the Posada de Amor orphanage in Peru so much that not even my entire face fits into the picture!
Towering over the children and staff at the Posada de Amor orphanage in Peru so much that not even my entire face fits into the picture! (And I was only sixteen here!)

Wouldn’t it be great if tall people could travel without running into any height-related problems. Wouldn’t it be great if travel-related companies could expand their reach by better catering to the tall population? If so, take note! Here are six things I can’t stand as a tall traveler, as well as ways I try to deal and simple ways the travel industry could help.

HI-Chicago dorms featured the best of both worlds: partial walls around the beds for more privacy, but tall bunks, high ceilings, and an extra foot of room between the bed and wall to accommodate tall people.
HI-Chicago dorms featured the best of both worlds: partial walls around the beds for more privacy, but tall bunks, high ceilings, and an extra foot of room between the bed and wall to accommodate tall people.

I Can’t Fit in Twin Bunks! Actually, the only beds that are truly long enough for me are XL twins and California kings. Since I have never owned either of these types of mattresses, I have gotten used to curling up in order to sleep. But there are definitely times when I toss and turn and just want to stretch out in bed. There are two things that REALLY help in this case. One, having plenty of space above me. It seems like when I’m on a bottom bunk, the top bunk is only two feet above my head. If I’m put in a top bunk, the ceiling is only two feet above my head. I really appreciate dorm rooms that take things like sitting up in bed into account by ensuring that the ceiling is high enough and using beds with ample headroom. The other thing that really helps is not having any sort of blockade at the end of the bed. If I need to stretch out my legs, I’m okay with my feet hanging off the edge. What I’m NOT okay with is if there is a wall on both sides of the bed. I slept in an RV for a month where the length of my bedroom was exactly one inch shorter than I was. Even though I still had a twin bed when moving into my next place, the freedom to hang my ankles over the end of the bed made all the difference. If hostels offered XL twin mattresses, I would be willing to pay a little extra for that luxury.

Having to share your bus seat with your carry-on items can make a cramped ride feel even more squished.
Having to share your bus seat with your carry-on items can make a cramped ride feel even more squished.

I Can’t Fit in Coach Seats! I’m not sure how I’ve made it through every flight I’ve ever been on. I guess that’s why I only fly when it’s the only reasonable option. I got a tip from another tall person before to request an aisle seat so that you can stretch out your legs in the center aisle of the plane. I do this whenever I’m going somewhere without a view (otherwise being cramped in a window seat might be worth it), but there is the drawback of people walking down the aisle who step on your feet and flight attendants ramming into your legs with the beverage cart. When boarding buses, I hope and pray that it will be empty enough that I can get two seats to myself, and therefore sit kind of sideways. I’ve never had a plane ticket where I was able to choose the economy plus seats with extra leg room (or even an emergency exit row), but if buses offered the option of paying extra for more leg room, I would definitely take that into account. Trains of course are a problem as well, but on one leg of an Amtrak ride, the woman sitting next to me got us switched from seats in the middle of the car to seats in the front of the car. Not having a seat in front of me did provide a little extra leg room, and there was even a bar sticking out of the ground so we could still put our feet up. However, the train probably bothers me the least since you can always go to the observation or dining cars.

Gorge View Hostel made an excellent use of space in a small bathroom. The shower had a tub basin and a curtain instead of a door for ample movement, there was nothing in the way of the toilet's leg room,  the towel rack is placed in reach but not in the way, and as for the sink- just look at that wonderful mirror!
Gorge View Hostel made an excellent use of space in a small bathroom. The shower had a tub basin and a curtain instead of a door for ample movement, there was nothing in the way of the toilet’s leg room, the towel rack is placed in reach but not in the way, and as for the sink- just look at that wonderful mirror!

I Can’t Wash My Hair! I can only think of one time in my travels that I thought the shower heads were at the perfect height so I would have no problem washing my hair. Oddly enough, that was in Peru, when I was at least a foot taller than most of the locals. Most of the time, the stream from the shower head doesn’t even get on my face. In the tub showers, I can usually back up and then bow my head so my hair will get wet. But this seems to be more of a luxury, as many showers in hostels and camps are boxed stalls where there’s hardly enough room to turn around, let alone squat low enough to get water on my head. This isn’t as big of an issue in my own home if my shower head is too low since I install one of those shower heads on a hose. That usually adds enough height, and if for some reason it doesn’t, I can take the shower head off the wall and adjust it to where it needs to be. I’m guessing accommodations wouldn’t want me to do even basic plumbing on their bathrooms though, but if lodging owners added these shower heads themselves, it would be a small one-time expense to pay for years of happiness from their tall customers. When designing or renovating accommodations, staff should also keep in mind that no one, regardless of height, wants to feel crammed in a bathroom. Allowing more room to move in the shower, by the sink (make sure the mirrors are set high enough!), and around the toilet (so legs don’t run into the wall or toilet paper holder) is a subtle yet effective way to make guests’ stays much more comfortable.

Me with my now-retired carry-on. I'm slightly hunched-down in this picture, and it's not because my backpack's heavy.
Me with my now-retired carry-on. I’m slightly hunched-down in this picture, and it’s not because my backpack’s heavy.

I Can’t Reach All Rolling Suitcase Handles! For years, I used the same little black carry-on rolling suitcase. I usually didn’t have to walk it more than around an airport, so I barely noticed that the extent of the handle was just a bit too short for my arm’s reach. When I started doing more backpack-style trips, this became more noticeable. Last year when I arrived in Niagara Falls, I had to walk just a little over a mile to get from the bus’ drop-off point to my hostel. About halfway there, my back felt so out of whack that I decided it was easier to carry it by hand for the rest of the way. I decided there was no way I was walking it across the border to Canada (I crammed everything I would need for those days in my backpack and begged the hostel owner to store my suitcase until I came back to America). I also decided I should probably buy a new carry-on before going on any more backpacker trips. Last fall, as I was researching suitcases online, I noticed that almost none of them had the specifications for how long the handle extended. I even asked that question on a few of the Amazon purchasing pages. None of the manufacturing companies even bothered to answer that question, and the community answers just said things that were of no help. Seriously, I got a response to the degree of “It’s pretty long. I’m 5’7″ and don’t have to hunch over or anything.” Without exact measurements, it was impossible to tell if someone six inches taller would still consider it “pretty long”. Having important stats like this could really help online luggage sales.

That's three pieces of clothing- count them!- just to avoid baring it all. (And I still couldn't put my arms above my head without having a top malfunction.)
That’s three pieces of clothing- count them!- just to avoid baring it all. (And I still couldn’t put my arms above my head without having a top malfunction.)

I Can’t Fit Into Traveler Clothing! This might be more of a “I can’t fit into ANY clothing” complaint, but at least with my day-to-day street clothing, there are enough stores and brands so I can shop around until I find the right fit. With fewer companies specializing in women’s travel clothes, I haven’t found any article that fits and flatters me just right. Many outdoor stores only carry up to women’s size 10 (US) in shoes and sandals, leaving me with the option to either risk ordering online or instead going with the clunky men’s shoes. I’ve had to go to plenty of water-based events where one-piece swimsuits were required. Since I have never found a one-piece that would fit me, this means I bulk up my bag with at least three different pieces of swimwear so that I would be modest enough. (My tummy shows even with tankinis.) Pants are too short, long enough shirts are too baggy… you get the picture. It can take hours of determined shopping to find even one piece that will sort-of work. I know there are high-fashion clothing lines designed for tall women, and all styles of clothing for tall men. I wish someone in the clothing industry would figure out that tall women like to travel, too.

The good news is Voodoo Doughnuts has some pretty cool chandeliers to look at that are far enough out of reach to avoid damaging them (and people's heads)! The bad news: you'll have to look at them and the other tall-people-friendly decorations for a long time since the line is always long!
The good news is Voodoo Doughnuts has some pretty cool chandeliers to look at that are far enough out of reach to avoid damaging them (and people’s heads)! The bad news: you’ll have to look at them and the other tall-people-friendly decorations for a long time since the line is always long!

I Can’t Avoid Hitting My Head on Things Suspended from the Ceiling! Yes, the dining room looks beautifully decorated with a glass chandelier. But it’s bad room feng shui to place it high enough to be out of my line of vision, but not so high that I won’t run into it with my forehead. And the antique doorway that hasn’t changed in 200 years? You must realize that the average person was much, much shorter back then. I don’t even know where to start when it comes to those tiny prop planes. Decorators and designers need to keep in mind that they are probably not the tallest people that will be in that area. For things that can’t be moved or removed, a warning, both in the planning guide and in person, would be appropriate. Someone yelling “Be careful! Watch out!” right before the incident (or worse yet, right after) is not responsible. I’m actually surprised I have never heard about a lawsuit over something like this. For now, I guess the best solution is to make sure I get plenty of calcium so that my cranium is strong enough to protect my brain from all these impacts.

The travel industry has found ways to better serve overweight people, short people, and handicapped people. Isn’t it about time that travel becomes inclusive to tall people, too?

My New “Old-School” Cell Phone: The Search for Affordable International Communication

I got my first cell phone as a fourteen-year-old. Back then, cell phones had not quite hit the equivalent of a vital body part as it is today, but most people I knew had one. That old Nokia could do just about anything a cell phone could do: display a tiny color screen, make calls, receive text messages, play games, loudly announce awesome ringtones, keep charged for days on end, and be virtually indestructible.

Ten years and countless cell phones later, times have changed. My current Android is nothing like my very first phone, and it’s pretty outdated by today’s standards, but with its WiFi and data capabilities, it is more advanced than the technology used to power the moon landing. However, I recently got a new phone. And it has more in common with my Nokia than my Android.

Why?

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When American Phones Go Abroad

I don’t entirely understand the technology of what goes on inside cellular devices. All I know is that technology that is used in cell phones within the US is different from the cell phone technology in other countries. Basically, my phone won’t work in Europe.

Many people pay to have their phones unlocked, but not all cell phones have the capabilities to be unlocked. Either way, obtaining an unlocked phone can be an expensive endeavor.

Considering the Alternatives

Unless your goal is to completely cut off everyone you’ve ever known or want to know while traveling, it’s important to consider the communication options of your destination. Even the iconic British phone booths don’t contain telephones anymore, so definitely don’t expect pay phones to be available, especially if you want to make an international call.

I first considered downloading an app on my current phone so that I could use WiFi to make and receive phone calls. This would be a good idea, but there are a few downsides. For one, these apps do not come free. Even if you find one that doesn’t have a downloading cost, they do charge by the minute. That wouldn’t be so bad, if it was not for the second downside: you need to be on the internet! WiFi seems like it’s everywhere, except those places where you need it most. I looked into getting a mobile WiFi hotspot, but whether I rented or purchased one, it would be expensive. Plus, if anything went wrong or it didn’t work, I don’t think any warranty would cover shipping to Europe.

Yes, the best option seemed to be getting an unlocked cell phone. Most unlocked phones I found cost dozens to hundreds of dollars more than their locked counterparts. Couldn’t there just be some cheap phone out there that happened to also be unlocked? Through my online research, I found out that in order for an unlocked cell phone to work in Europe, I would need a SIM card specified for Europe. Most of the travel experts said to pick up one of these at the destination airport. While that made sense, I was concerned about it. What if I couldn’t find one at the airport? What if the unlocked phone I bought ended up not being compatible with them? What if I wanted to comfort my family by calling them as soon as I landed? Isn’t everything at the airport overpriced anyway?

Finding a Plan… and My Old-School Cell Phone

I thought that I must be able to find a European SIM card in some online store. Surely someone on eBay or Amazon wanted to make a few extra bucks from it. Instead, I found something much, much better.

I found Telestial!

Telestial is the perfect online shop for people who want to plan ahead with their overseas communication. They sell all kinds of unlocked cell phones, from top-of-the-line smart phones to ones that resemble my very first phone. If you already have an unlocked cell phone but just need that tiny, but necessary chip, they sell all kinds of SIM cards to cover just about any destination. All of the SIM cards are prepaid, which means no surprise bills to ruin your trip.

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So Why Did I Pick This One?

When I first began looking through the cell phones that Telestial offers, I knew that I wanted something basic. I ended up with the JT Travel Buddy. Right now, I can hear the cellie-obsessed around the world gasp. It’s almost as if I just announced I am willingly amputating my perfectly good arm in exchange for a immobile plastic prosthetic. If you can’t live without a phone that’s smarter than you, then no worries. Telestial has over a dozen options for smart phones- and even tablets! But here are my reasons for choosing this phone:

  • It’s Smaller! Taking up less space means I’ll have more room in my bag for other essentials (or souvenirs). This is especially important for those doing extended trips carry-on only.
  • It’s Harder to Damage! People still joke about how the Nokia phones akin to the one I had ten years ago were virtually indestructible. If I hadn’t donated mine, I’m sure it would still be running! These sorts of screens are more durable than touch screens. Plus, if a touch screen gets damaged, it could mean the whole phone stops working. I once had a touch screen phone where the screen sensors started to go crazy. That meant I couldn’t send outgoing calls or messages, and it was really hard to receive them! It will take some getting used to returning to button numbers, but they seem to be more reliable.
  • It Holds Its Charge! Let’s face it: part of your bedtime routine includes plugging your phone into your charger, right? When staying in hostels or other budget accommodation, nightly charging isn’t always practical. Without data and programs constantly sucking up energy, this phone will keep working, even after being unplugged for days. I guess that makes this a more environmentally-friendly option too, right?
  • It’s Theft-Resistant! Okay, so there isn’t any sort of special guard on this phone, but think about it: what would YOU rather steal: this, or an iPhone?
  • It’s Temporary! This will be my phone for three months, not my whole life. When I return, it will go into storage until the next time I take an international trip. All I’ll have to do is get a new SIM card. And if for whatever reason I lose it on my trip, it won’t be a big deal.
  • I Can Still Get WiFi and Apps! Not having internet access or the ability to get into my travel apps did cross my mind when I was considering phones. But the good news is, I can still access WiFi… as long as I bring my Android, that is! A WiFi-enabled device can still surf the web overseas. This new device is specifically for phone calls and text messages.

And like all the products from Telestial, if in the rare chance you experience any problems, their customer service can help you, even while you’re abroad!

This is my story so far in the search for affordable international communication. It began to help provide some peace of mind for those concerned about my trip, but honestly, I also think that having a working phone with me will give me a greater sense of confidence as I conquer the world. I can’t wait to tell you about my experiences with the JT Travel Buddy and European SIM card once I begin to use them, and I’d love to hear your stories of how you stayed in contact while traveling as well!

This post was made possible by Telestial, which provided me with the mentioned unlocked phone and SIM card for review purposes. I was planning to purchase these items from them before this negotiation, and my stated opinions have not been swayed.