Use a Carry-on

Patagonia MLC In Action

Undoubtably, the best tip the frequent traveling is ever going to get is: never check your luggage, always use a carry-on. In the US, you can actually carry-on two bags: one of a purse, laptop bag, or other so-called “personal bag” and a carry-on bag/suit-case that fits the airlines allowed sizes. For most frequent travelers, this means a laptop bag and a piece of small luggage.

There are times, of course, when its not a good idea to use a carry-on like long trips that require more space than a carry-on bag or the fact that some people simply prefer to check luggage.

Carry-on Advantages

Backed-up Luggage

Those exceptions aside, here are the reasons it’s good to avoid checking luggage:

  • Your luggage will never get lost.
  • If you switch flights around, you won’t have to worry about your luggage getting to you later. Switching flights, or traveling on stand-by, means you can change your flight to a sooner one, a less crowded one, or even a different route. Airlines generally let you do this without hassle: once you’re in the airport system, you’ve paid to get from point A to point B. We’ll cover this more in another entry, most people don’t seem to take advantage of it.
  • You don’t have to wait to pick up your bags as baggage claim, which can take a long, long time.
  • You don’t have to wait in line to check your baggage.
  • For many airlines, you can avoid paying the extra “tax” on checking baggage.
  • You’ll be able to change clothes, freshen up with your liquids, or otherwise use the stuff in your bags.
  • Because you’re using a smaller bag, you’ll limit the amount of things you take an travel more lightly.

Problems with Carry-ons

Of course, there are disadvantages, primarily having to lug around an extra bag and find overhead bin space for it.

The overhead bin space problem is taken care of if you have status on the airline and are one of the first ones to get on. Also, most airlines will waive the checked bag fee if you have status. American Airlines, the airline I fly on, applies in both cases.

Shoulder bag or Roller-bag?

Lugging around the extra bag is at the center of one of the classic frequent flyer arguments: do you use a shoulder bag or a suit-case with wheels, roller-bags. It seems like there’s some pragmatic machismo for shoulder bags: they both give you more space and have that “I’m not a lazy roller-bag person” feel to them. As someone who primarily uses a shoulder bag (a Patagonia MLC, thanks to Stephen O’Grady’s recommendation), though, I think roller-bags have their place.

Shoulder bags are more flexible and easy to fling around. And if you’re taking small, 1-2 night trips, you actually will pack less bulky with a shoulder-bag. For longer stays, shoulder bags also encourage you to pack light which most people, myself included, can use all the encouragement I can get: I tend to still always pack one out-fit too many.

On the other hand, if you have to carry a lot of equipment, or extra shoes even (sneakers are bulky), the shoulder bag can get too heavy if you’ll end up having to walk around a lot. I do a fair amount of video for work, so I’m always traveling with a tripod, video camera, microphone, and associated wires. Those ad extra weight that just barely fit in my shoulder bag. Nonetheless, I’m usually only walking to and fro the airport, in the airport, and then from car/cab to hotel room with the bag.

Dolphin Checkin

However, sometimes you have to walk a lot more than that, like, when you go to Las Vegas. Las Vegas, though a concentrated frequent flyer destination (it’s all on the strip) requires a lot of walking around to get from the airport to your hotel room. Once you get out of the cab, you’ll have to hike to the front desk. Then you’ll have to hike through some hallways, through the casino, up the elevator, then around some more hallways to get to your room.

In cases like that, a roller-bag starts to look nice.

Whichever one you use though – shoulder bag or roller-bag – try your best to avoid checking a bag. If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s the kind of thing that’ll pay off all the time without you noticing: your bag will always be there right with you, instead of in Milan, and you’ll save time in lines checking in your bag and getting it at baggage claim. Special: Scotch Tasting

The Scotch Lab

To listen to the episode, subscribe to the podcast feed in iTunes or whatever, download the episode directly, or click play below to listen right here:

Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to drop in on my old friend Zane for a Scotch tasting. We had about 5-6 different types of scotch, and took the 2+ hours of this special episode to review each.

Zane has a pretty nice setup for recording and we’ve recorded this week’s episode in there as well.

Also, in addition to the write-up about Zane’s recording setup, check out the rest of his wiki for all sorts of fun content.

Zane in the Scotch Lab

Hyde Park Ground Sirloin Burger

Click play above to se the video review of the Hyde Park burger, read below, or do both!

Introducing The Burger Beat

Of late, I’ve noticed there’s a rash of fantastic burgers here in Austin. We’ve got all sorts of little places that serve burgers in the style of fast-food restaurants, classic-style (as the Hyde Park burger reviewed here is), and more unique variations. Whatever the style, we’ve definitely built up a culture of burgers here in Austin.

To that end, I thought I’d start reviewing Austin burgers, and call it “The Burger Beat.”

Burger #1 – Hyde Park Bar and Grill

Hyde Park Bar & Grill Burger

Kim and I went to Hyde Park Bar and Grill recently. It’s pretty much my default choice when I can’t think of somewhere else to eat, but I’d never really had their burger.

They offer three burgers: a regular, a half pound ground sirloin, and a kobe burger. The kobe burger came on a focaccia bun, which seems like a bad omen. So, I chose the sirloin, medium-rare.

As I recount in the video above, it was actually an extremely well made burger, if a little salty. You could taste the tender meat and the grill. That said, nothing really stood out about it: the bun wasn’t fantastic, it was dripping with flavor, there was no special sauce…it was just made perfectly.

Hyde Park’s french fries, of course, are legendary around Austin. They’re lightly breaded and come with a nice mayonnaise-based sauce. They’re worth ordering as an appetizer no matter what you’re getting – you’ll probably want the half order.

What’s the man, exactly? Well, you won’t be displeased, for sure, but it won’t be the most memorable burger you’ve ever had. Get it if you’re there and you want a burger.

Your Little Bag

Part of traveling now is the liquid bag. While you can take as much liquid as want if you put it in a check bag, if you’re not checking a bag (which I recommend for all business travel, if not all travel of a short enough duration), and bringing all your stuff through security, you have to follow get yourself that little liquid bag. The TSA has all the details on the regulations up, even a little wallet card for the wallet-stuffers out there

Sure, we all know these rules are absurd and there’s a whole cottage industry in the press when it comes to making fun of the TSA. For the rest of us who just want to get home sooner and fight The Man from the comfort of our home-ground, here are some tips.

The Bag

Little Liquids

You want a sturdy bag that’s not going to rip up easy and that opens and closes quickly and easily. If you’re traveling as frequently as I do, you’re going to go through a lot of these bags, esp. if they’re flimsy. Also, when you’re unpacking or packing up your stuff early in the morning, the last thing you want to do is fuss with those annoying plastic zippers on the tops of cheap zip-lock bags.

Instead, I use bags like the one pictured above: a quart-sized “freezer” bag with the little plastic zip-helper do-dad.

There’s no one brand that I’ve found better than another. I’ve bought over-priced Whole Foods bags, Hefty ones, and all the rest. They’re all the same, the price is just different.

Now, you’re still going to go through about 2-3 of these a year, maybe 1 a quarter if you over-pack the bag and have container corners puncturing the plastic. Also, if your dogs get ahold of them, you’ll get some holes in them ;>

As bonus, these bags are also good for packing other things you bring, esp. stuff with cords that might unravel like travel headsets.

Packing the Bag

While you can buy all sorts of “travel” sized (3 ounces or less) toiletries, you should really get your hands on little travel containers. You’ll save money and be able to take whatever stuff you want. This doesn’t apply across the board: toothpaste and shaving cream are esp. hard to re-container.

I have 3 such custom containers in my little bag: my conditioner, my face soap, and my hair-gel (I don’t use shampoo, see here). For the conditioner, I use a squeeze bottle, and for the face soap I use a little squat container with a screw top.

The hair-gel is a recent addition. I used to just carry the whole pomade container, and while TSA people never harassed me about it, I noticed that is over 3 ounces. The pomade I use is expensive, about $13-16 a puck, and I damn sure didn’t want to toss it in the name of absurdity. Also, the container was way too big for the little bag. So, I got Kim to give me one of her little make-up discs, which I scoop about 3-5 days worth of pomade into. It’s worked well:

Little Liquids

After slimming down the container, I have plenty of room in my little bag and I think it’ll rip less often.

As you can see, I also put toothpaste in there (a tube I picked up at a hotel, though you can get plenty of good travel sized tubes anywhere) and my shaving cream (a little travel size Barbersol: cheap and effective).

I also put my razor in the bag, just to have it all in one place and keep it from banging around in my bag. Toothbrushes are usually way too big to fit in the bag. I ended up getting an ultra-violet light bacteria killing toothbrush holder gee-gaw for Christmas (the Violight iZap UV Toothbrush Sanitizer to be exact), so I’ve been using that to carry the toothbrush.

Working with your little bag

Finally, for the frequent traveler, it’s worth considering where and how you pack your little bag. It’s one of the key items you have to fuss with when you go through the security gate (others being your shoes, laptop, coat, watches, phones, and other metal stuff). I always pack mine at the top of my shoulder bag, on one of the corners.

This way, I can unzip one of the shoulder bag’s corners, pull out my little bag and quickly put it in the bin for scanning. I leave the corner unzipped on it’s journey through the x-ray machine, and then when shoulder bag and little bag come through the other side, you can quickly stuff the little bag back into it’s special spot.