Packing and Backpack Tips

My Favorite brand names for Travel Related Items/ travel related websites, companies etc

Travel related websites: For flights, hotels, and transportation. As a full-time budget leisure traveler, I use these as often as everyday. First flights, for travel within Europe, I most often use Ryanair because it is the cheapest airline and has a decent service level. I sometimes use Flixbus depending on the cost, and including inter-country transfers. Sometimes Ryanair with the cost of the priority carry on luggage can be a bit more than Flixbus so it really depends on the route. Below are some website i use to search flights.

Flixbus – They offer a high service level for bus travel that rivals air travel in my opinion. The interior of the buses is nice and the prices are reasonable. They are very well organized and always seem to be on time. Ive taken the Flixbus from Sofia to Bucharest, and also from Gdansk to Krakow. Here’s a few things i like about taking the Flixbus in Europe: #1. They dont make me place my backpack under the bus where it could be stolen (it is 45 liters). #2. They are always on time. #3. prices are reasonable. #4. The interiors of the bus are nice and safe, clean and new!

Ryanair – So for me, these two companies are just about neck and neck in terms of my travel $ and usefulness. So far I’ve traveled to about 30 countries and 90 cities or so, in 34 months. For air travel in Europe Ryanair just has a lock on budget travel. The reason is that they are 90% of the time the cheapest airline on a route. Occasionally i do see fares from competitors like Wizzair, but for me, when i add the priority bags into the cost, Ryanair always comes out on top. The only exception is when they dont serve a particular airport.

Travel Websites: I like is probably my #1 for flights. Why do I like it? here is why… a user can enter something like fly from Europe to Asia, or Europe to Thailand or Europe to Bangkok. The website kiwi will then decide which airports offer the cheapest prices for the dates that you need. A user can also search by connection, for example limit the @# of connections to 1. I have lately been tooling around for a return trip to Thailand or a related trip to Vietnam, Philippines and so on, just to see what was offered (I am as yet undecided as to whether i will take that segment of the trip). Also included in the ability to search, a user can choose which airlines to limit the search to. Runner-up choice for flights:

Google Flights. Google flights has some of the same functionality as, Second runner-up: This of course searches only Ryanair branded flights. It does have a feature for searching around any place that Ryanair flies to, mostly within continental Europe. This feature suits me because my timeframe as well my locations are flexible while my price is usually towards the bottom end.

Lodging – is number #1. They by far have the best selection of listings for nightly rates in this phase of my travel. Because i have a lot of stays, i get a deep discount compared to other travelers. Sometimes ill check competing sites, apps, Agoda, and Hostelworld and Airbnb to see how they compare but usually comes out on top. Beware, one tip, sometimes if you pay in cash, a hotel or hostel will give you a higher exchange rate, so they end up charging you more than you would otherwise pay online.

Hostelworld – this is a good section option. Sometimes there are places listed here that are not listed on, hostels of course. I also like the option to pay a down payment ahead of time then pay the balance upon arrival. Occasionally i will get a better deal here than i would on

Airbnb is also a good option. I usually use this for long term stays as these offer by far a better value than nightly rates, but here, it really depends on the location and the landlord, sometimes these rates can be hard to come by.

Packing List Update, Eastern Europe backpacking tour, Summer 2022, and

Hi traveling guys and gals, here’s an idea of what I’ll be bringing on my next adventure. In fact here’s a photo of my stuff so far (although some items are not pictured). I decided to keep the 45 liter bag since I’ll be bringing some new camping gear, which ill describe below.

Note a few major changes. The target weight is a base weight of 20 lbs, while wearing about 8 lbs. I’m going to add a lightweight sleeping bag (not yet pictured). I am also taking a light jacket for camping in Sweden during summer, and the winter hat too! One change that I’m making is that I’m going to take 1 less outfit than originally planned to save a little bit of weight.

One other note about the containers, I will be holding a 20 liter stuff sack during my walking that I bought from Decathlon. This bag is very durable and I’m sure it could hold a lot of weight. I’ll probably split it up 5 lbs in the stuff sack and 15 in the backpack.

packing items list for backpacking adventure, eastern europe
45 liter backpack packing items

The backpack is the Pacsafe VentureSafe Exp 45, which I am still satisfied with. Its very durable. The weight is 3.6 lbs. In the photo you can see that I am also carrying a laptop, the Acer Swift 3 that weighs 2.7 lbs, lightweight, but there are also other laptops out there that weigh less. I am satisfied with this one.

Categories Weight:

The total weight of a few of the categories are as follows; electronics, 5.29 lbs, backpack and containers: 5.34 lbs, this includes the drone case, backpack, 2 toiletry bags and 2 stuff sacks that you see above. Camping weight is 5.28 lbs which include the new sleeping bag; pants and shorts: 2.13 lbs; shirts and tanktops: 1.69 lbs; underwear and socks: .56 lbs, this includes lightweight polyester underwear and cotton socks; the Columbia sportswear jacket that you see above weighs 18 oz. The total base weight should be about 20.37 lbs.

On the link here, you can see the actual but not final list, enjoy: lighterpack.

30 liter personal item-sized backpack versus 45 liter carry on item backpack, planning backpacking trip, 2..

decathlon stuff sack

Hello traveling guys and girls! Its time for me to plan the second part of my trip which is what I will bring. I am considering downsizing my current Pacsafe Exp 45 liter backpack and using instead a 30 liter personal item sized backpack for flights on either RyanAir or Wizzair throughout Europe. Now I haven’t decided which backpack I will take as it involves some changes.

If I do decide to take a personal item sized back on the discount airlines I will not have to pay the Priority Fee per flight which ranges from roughly $17 to $45. However, if I do decide to take the bus or train instead, then I wont have to pay the priority fee for those trips. In my previous blog post, I discussed the size of the bags for each category here

Now on to the good part… In order to take the 30 liter backpack I will first need to downsize the tent from a 2 person to a 1 person. Now there aren’t too many 2 person tents that id be able to take, but I am still looking to see if there is an extremely light 2 person. The easier choice would be to simply purchase the 1 person tent in the range of 1 to 3 lbs in weight versus 3.6 lbs for the 2 person. I currently carry a 2 person Naturehike tent with the VentureSafe Exp 45 liter pack that weighs 3.6 lbs.

Another slight change and here’s the plan for flying… Ill just bring 1 less outfit. Now since I dont have the 30 liter pack yet I honestly am not sure what would fit inside, but here’s the plan. I’ll wear 2 to 3 outfits on the plane, then ill take these off and put them in the second carry bag… this one, the Decathlon 20 liter stuff sack. This will give me a little more space to unwind, a total of 50 liters of space, versus 65 with the 45 liter pack…. this is a great little bag that only costs $12 and its carriable (usually in my left hand). Down below you will see the item plan…

Decathlon Stuff Sack 20 liter, secondary bag

Here is the item list and weights, courtesy of my profile on packing app. This is a useful app that a backpacker can use to estimate pack weight, and wearable weight: Notice that the luggage weight and clothing weight are down some. The base weight decreased to 16.29 lbs whereas I’m wearing 8.33 lbs worth of gear (this is for the flight only). This pack is lighter than my last trip because I’ll be carrying summer clothes, about 2 to 3 outfits total. Here is the break down by category from lighterpack.

Finally, heres the actual list via!

RyanAir priority bag size cost vs Wizzair Priority Backpack size cost vs. Easyjet Trolley bag cost!

Which one is cheaper and how much will it cost to bring my large backpack as a carry on!?!?!?!?! Both Ryanair and Wizzair have very similar bag cost and size requirements! I have taken a flight with both a free personal item sized bag and a priority sized bag on both airlines, and sometimes the extra 45L Pacsafe bag can be a bit of an expense! How much? I’ll get into just that soon! I am also going to add Easyjet because it is a similar airline, although in most cases, more expensive!

Insider Tip: In my experience Ryanair tends to be cheaper for both fares and baggage costs… ill explain more in a bit…

First of all, bag sizes, how big are we talking Mr.?!?! A personal item on both airlines is free of charge, or example this is a 20L to 32L backpack or for example a purse or laptop bag (coats can also be carried). Personal item size on Ryanair is 85 linear CM, and on Wizzair its 90cm or something like 40cm x 30 cm x 20cm. What I’ve noticed is that if you go up in linear size, the volume increases exponentially, and ill show you what I mean at the end of the article!

Now for priority bag size, which is the size you need for a train-sized suitcase or in my case my 45L Pacsafe backpack, the limit is this… 55cm x 40cm x 20cm or 115cm total for Ryanair, and for Wizzair its 50cm x 40cm x 23cm or total 113cm so roughly the same. Now to get priority you will need to pay the fare plus in my experience between $15 and $50 extra dollars. Here’s an insider tip, you may be able to get away with NOT paying priority and taking a 45L backpack anyway. I did this once, and another time i was made to pay an additional $50 fee at the gate, almost made it, but i advise you pay up front just to avoid confusion or having to check your backpack in the hold.

Here is an example of fares plus priority on randomly selected routes of both RyanAir, Wizzair and the other airline, Easyjet from their chosen hubs… summertime as of 06/05/2022, within the next 45 days:

Here i looked at some randomly selected routes and chose the cheapest days within the next two months. These are mostly intracontinental European routes between countries, with air miles about equal between the 3 airlines. Easyjet was significantly more expensive than the other two even with my cherry picking the cheapest days. In these cases Wizzair was a bit cheaper than Ryanair but generally Ryanair tends to be cheaper than Wizzair, and also notice that Ryanair was the cheapest on all but 2 of 9 routes selected according to Also note that Wizzair has hubs in eastern Europe whereas Ryanair focuses more on western Europe with its major hub in Dublin. For the summer of 2022 both airlines seemed to have hiked fares versus the spring time, and for some routes, quite a bit.

Conclusion: Note that the average of adding a full size backpack or trolley bag to all of these fares is $25.07, whereas the base fare is $32.99, that is a 75% increase in the fare. With the supercheap flights that I have personally chosen, the increase in terms of percents is significantly more! Which leads me to consider downsizing from a 45L bag to a 30L bag. We will see in time! ok see you later travelers, thanks for reading!

Ways to Save Money on Travel part #2!

Hello traveling guys and girls! Ready to hear some more tips to save cash on your backpacking trip ahead of time?!?! Sometimes when I travel, its a constant push and pull with money. The locals know you have at least enough to take an international flight to their country and take a tour, if you aren’t working while they are, right? So sometimes they just want your money. Over in Morocco, even though its a cheap place, there were many beggars and salesman in the street who really wanted my cash. I can understand this to some extent because its a very poor country. Sorry Morocco, I’m going to give us travelers a few tips to extend our little journey, with all due respect your country’s poverty. We are a bit stingy here at SoloVagabond.

Tip #1 – take local buses in countries like Albania and the Balkans! This can be an experience. Over in Morrocco, they also have two classes of busses, one for local people which are much cheaper and ones that are considered to be tourist class buses. I’m going to separate this out into local CITY buses and local inter-city buses! two types of trips. Yesterday, i just popped over to what is called the North South bus station, over here, they have busses headed upto Shkoder, near the lake and the border with Montenegro. I wanted to make an inquiry as to the price of a bus ticket to Shkoder to see the lake. It was 400 lek, which is toughly $3.70 not much cash at all, thank you! The driver and the passengers could barely speak English! Now they also have some fancier busses around town with Wifi aboard and AC but im just fine riding with the locals. One of these would cost between $8 and $15. As long as the country isnt too dangerous im fine with riding local.

Tip #2, avoid scams! Get recommendations! If you are visiting Thailand there’s some scams over there. Although it is a beautiful country, and i witnessed this once or twice. Make sure to read reviews and recommendations for whatever tour, service, product, boat ride, elephant photos, jet ski ride, and so on! One scam that local young Thai guys pull over in Pattaya is the jet ski scam. A young guys comes up with a jet ski, i actually saw one of them riding around the bay, they then ask tourists to rent the jet ski, after the ride is over, they accuse the customer of causing damage to the ski, its usually already broken. Thats when about 10 or 20 other Thais show up in attempts to intimidate the tourists. Sometimes the police will intervene and sometimes not! Me? I road a jetski that belonged to some Irishman who i met on the beach, so lucky there! i am brought my own inflatable boat to avoid the scam! Yes so in Thailand just watch out and hopefully you’ll be fine. One of my strategies, might be a bit isolating, but if you dont want to be ripped off dont employ anyone! just enjoy a day at the beach free, tan or swim!

Tip #3, use local city buses for long trips in the city! Over in Madrid, I landed at the airport, then i went into the underground where all the subways and buses lead you into town. I asked a local Spanish guy which bus i should be taking, he directed me to 1 bus, then a subway (as we call them in NYC), then a regional rail line, a lot of transfers, oops! Now the city bus lines are way slower but they are also WAY cheaper. It was around 1.5 euros. Now what happened on my after dark ride down south to my hostel? I had to backtrack on the regional rail and that cost me a few extra euro. I actually ended up spending about 10 to 12 euro on transportation to get to my hostel, but thats ok, live and learn. The next day I took a local red line bus from my hostel about 1/2 mile near the center of town for only 1.5 euro. Now the Spanish guy probably didnt know that i was a backpacker with a really low budget, he was just trying to help, but in this case from the airport in madrid i could have taken 2 local buses 1 to city center, and one south to my hostel for 3 euro, i just happened to be at the wrong terminal to catch the red line local bus.

Google maps is a godsend in identifying which single line busses that you can take within Madrid and other Spanish cities, as well as our good friend, London’s double decker buses, now over in London you do get 1 transfer free for the same price as 1 ride on a red line Madrid bus (no free transfer there). Now one tip about the London busses, if you are getting off at Gatwick or any of the other airports, make sure to pick up an Oyster card for 5 GBP. you may get your deposit back before returning to the airport. For the transfers you must swipe into the second bus 1 hour or less time after you swipe the first. Now London red double deckers can get stuck in traffic sometimes, but its definitely a way cheaper option of transport as compared to the tube, and car services like the black car.

Tip #4 Can you ride a bicycle? This is something that might apply to a long term backpacker like me but i thought i would include it anyway. If you have a bike, you wont have to pay the above mentioned bus fare at all, right? and your leg power is free, right?

Travel Socks? Wool, Polyester, or cotton, which should I choose for my travel backpack/feet?

Hey traveling guys and gals! I have just returned back to Tirana, Albania this week and one of the calls to action before I leave again is to sort out which types of socks I want to travel with on my next backpacking adventure! I currently have a selection of both wool (which is an animal based fiber), polyester (a synthetic fiber), and cotton, (a plant based fiber). All 3 have their advantages but all 3 have disadvantages to use.

Polyester Socks – my experience. Most recently, my polyester socks have developed holes in the heels after only 1 month of usage, walking in boots. Now these are cheapie socks TBH! I bought these for only 10 dirham ($1) in Morocco, actually 6 pairs total. I had the same problem with two pairs of polyester socks that I bought in Tirana Albania 6 months ago, unfortunately! These I bought for a price of $3 if I’m not mistaken, also cheap. So I think its probably necessary to switch. The advantage of polyester as a fabric is that the fabric acts as a good insulator and also is quick drying! however I guess my hiking as well as my feet are just too tough for these socks! Next! Weight 2.5 oz per pair! Price $1 to $3 per pair!

Wool Socks – my experience. Now wool is a really tough indestructible material, and I do love these for my feet! But I am now going to discuss some of the disadvantages of this material. Over in Spain I tossed two pairs of wool socks because of the stink! oops yes a little bit embarrassing, but at the time I had no way to clean or disinfect the socks because I was on the road. All 3 types suffer from this problem so this may be a different issue, related to my usage or cleanliness as opposed to the material.

Now on to the advantages of wool, it is a really good insulator if you are hiking in winter! Very good, I will be taking my wool hat to Sweden. its also good at wicking away moisture as opposed to cotton. Now for the disadvantages. Its heavy heavy! You may have seen my lighterpack blog post related to attempting to DECREASE the weight of my backpack, not increase obviously! Wool socks come in at about 5 oz per pair as opposed to 2.5 oz for polyester. Here’s another problem with wool socks, they are really expensive!!! Not good for a lowly budget backpacker like me who sleeps in a tent! Cost is between $5 and $25 a pair. Weight 5oz per pair! Cost $5 to $25 per pair!

Cotton Socks – my experience. Now cotton is kind of an in between choice. Its cheap enough to be easy to replace often, also it doesnt wear out like the polyester socks that I have been having trouble with. Cotton isnt really super expensive like wool, perhaps $3 a pair for boot socks. They are not as good an insulator as wool, but a few advantages are that they are tougher than polyester. In the past ive had a few pairs of cotton socks that have lasted more or less foreever, even with tons of constant walking and usage. The weight is more or less in between wool and polyester. Weight: 3.0 oz per pair, Price $3 per pair!

Conclusion, for my choice id like to get some socks that last me awhile, so ill definitely be looking to replace my polyester socks with Wool or cotton. I may take some of both on my next trip. Stay tuned!!!

How to save money while traveling

how to save money on travel

Hey traveling guys and girls! Looking for a few tips by a professional traveler on how to save money while traveling? You have come to the right travel blog! I’ve been traveling the world for 2.6 years, so I have quite a few tips. I am an American, who has traveled to about 15 countries. This blog is mostly focused on international travel for Americans. The good news here is that MOST countries that dont start with a U and end with an A are cheaper to visit and live inside of. For example, I was pleasantly surprised that England was not really very expensive and the same with Spain, and ill tell you why.

#1 Travel in a country that is technically a 3rd world country – my first tip! One of the first places that I visited was Thailand. First because its very popular and I saw some videos on Youtube about the super cheap cost of living, and this is definitely true! So avoid the developed world, because that is where people have high salaries and make a lot of money and therefore the rent and food prices are more. Even though special Thailand is a popular tourist destination, it is still firmly in the developing world, so prices are cheaper, there’s some poverty, and trash around, and the currency is still low compared to the almighty US Dollar.

There’s good things and bad here, but with regards to money its all good. You can find an apartment for $150 to $300 USD, and you can find a meal for less than $2. Over in Pattaya, Thailand i used to frequent a Thai ladies food cart that was so tasty, a full meal with rice and chicken for 40 baht which is roughly $1.20. Over in southeast Asia, most of the countries are around this price level, for example Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, with the last 3 being a bit cheaper than our friend Thailand.

Plan out your expenses, plan ahead! Tip #2.

The biggest expense for travel is going to be your housing of course, and the second might be your transportation and flight costs as well as food. One of the best ways to save on housing is to get started on looking at housing on the major travel sites like before you leave, of course. What I have noticed is that sometimes the cheapest or the best valued places get booked a few weeks in advance. If you are waiting until the last minute to book you may not be able to get the best, more affordable valued place in a particular city.

Staying in a hotel?

In my experience, hotels can be some of the worst rip-offs in terms of travel expenses. These are ok if you are looking for a quick vacation with some nice luxuries, but did I mention that I had been traveling for over 2.6 years as a backpacker? Hotels are not usually super economical, but if we go back to our southeast Asia example, sometimes I can find a hotel over in southeast Asia for a few $100 a month, an sometimes if you ask, the hotel may offer you a monthly stay for as much as 50% off the nightly rate!

More tips on housing as a long term traveler: I usually research all of the major ways of sleeping and lodging in a country, hotels, youth hostels like those listed on, airbnb, which is a major long term apartment rental site that has been just great, couch surfing,, and, and even for apartments listings. So for prices over in western Europe and the UK, you may be looking at 2 to 3 times the prices of a place in southeast Asia. Youth hostels are a good answer to this even though some of them can still be expensive.

Camping to save money… Tip #3. Don’t want to pay anything for housing?!?!?! Free housing? Yes I bought a tent and I decided to camp as a way to save money. I didn’t pay anything for 1 month straight of camping over on the Canary Islands. You can see details of what I did as a backpacker here in this blog post. if you are comfortable with sleeping outside or even in a van, you may want to consider this option instead of paying for accommodation.

Food costs. Tip #4. Find out where the locals shop for food! In each country, saving on food can be a bit different. Definitely dont go for the areas that cater strictly to tourists. After a few days inside a place I’m usually shoulder to shoulder with the locals buying my stuff at their price, to avoid what is called “the tourist price.”

Over here in Albania, there are a good selection of chain grocery stores that have sale prices like Spar and Big Market. Albania also many outdoor local food markets. Yesterday i bought potatoes and onions for only 30 cents and this is enough to create a filling meal. Over in Montenegro and Serbia you can find local fast food restaurants that sell burgers for $2, still pretty cheap as compared to the USA, and in Spain I found another local cafe that sold a burger meal for $3.5, not too bad as compared to the USAs $8.

What do you eat? Tip #5. What are you eating? Since potatoes are a cheapie food, i like to cook them about once or twice a week. Some other cheap foods are things like beans, which you can find over in the UK for about 30 to 40 pence a can. I was quite surprised to see that food is cheap compared to the USAs prices where you may find a can of whatever for 99 cents instead of 40. Another good one is pasta. Over here, i bought a big package of pasta for about 70 Lek which is a total of 60 us cents. This pasta lasted me a few nights, i put some spices on top and it was fine as a meal for one or two nights, and one night i added some cheese, although this was a bit more expensive. Find out what foods are cheapest in the country that you are visiting. Good luck.

Free tours Tip #6. What is free in your chosen city? In many cities they have what is called a free tour where you are expected to make a donation, but of course you dont have to make one. I usually make a small one of $1 or $2. Some of these tours are helpful and some are not, it really depends on the talent of the guide. Over in Belgrade i went on a cool tour with this guy who seemed to know every bit of rich history of the Belgrade, and all the wars too. Just enjoy and walk away. These tend to be much cheaper than guided tours that you pay for ahead of time. Self guided tours are also helpful if you can look on Google to find these. Happy travel. Good luck saving money while traveling!

Sleeping at the airport to save money… my experience!

sleeping at tirana airport

Hey traveling guys and girls! If you are like me and you are a backpacker looking to cut corners and save money on your long term trip, i can give you some advice on my experience sleeping at the airport so you dont need to pay for a hotel room for the night. Now, it may not be the most comfortable place to sleep, but its free.

A little more about my present situation, over here in Tirana, Albania, I am renting a temporary apartment/studio from this local Albanian man who doesn’t mind to deal with tourists, students, and other people like myself who are travelers – my second time staying here. Unfortunately he already rented my room for two nights to a group of soccer fans over in Tirana for some European finals matches. I arrived here 5 days ago. So because of this i had to vacate my room to allow them to stay for two nights…then come back later – i thought my traveling fun was over….

Camping vs. Hostel vs Airport sleeping?!?!??!?! Which should I choose? Now for me its nice to take a comfy break inside a regular apartment with my own bed, kitchen and bathroom alone for a budget price, so i was happy to be back after 5 months on the road! For these two nights i had been looking for a spot to camp, and i was originally not impressed by the selection… heres a spot i droned in, but i felt it was a bit too dirty to camp near… plus some not so nice looking characters hanging around.

So off we go to the airport! Well not quite, the first night away from my room I chose to stay at a hostel, the Albania Hostel, it was a discount price, and honestly its a pretty decent place for hosteling. I asked them if i could pitch my tent on the roof but they declined! Lucky for me Tirana Airport is open 24 hours a day and another minor stroke of luck, the shuttle to and from Tirana is now free in celebration of the soccer match. It normally costs 400 lek or about 3.5 USD! Now this night wasn’t the typical night for Tirana, there are tons of soccer fans hanging around here and at the airport, but from my experience they were pretty well behaved most of them.

Sleeping at the airport – my little lie about FLYING! When I arrived at the airport I grabbed some snacks from the 24 hour CONAD grocery shop. I had my large backpack as well as my stuff sack with me as luggage (as if i was taking a flight). Of course i had checked the flight schedule and the desk agent asked as i was sleeping which plane i was getting onto. I told them London Luton at 6AM with Wizzair! Haha, the one i just got off of, it actually landed at 2:30AM 5 nights ago, and that was my first night sleeping at this very same airport.

Where to sleep? If you dont want too much attention, choose some place in a corner and perhaps face the wall. I personally dont mind being near other people so i just sat on some of the chairs the ones with the backs. They also have a clothe covered bench here at Tirana Airport. I leaned back and dozed off about 1030PM and there weren’t too many people around. For security I’ve got my Pacsafe backpack with the security zip, as well as the chain attached to my belt. I keep my wallet and cell inside the bag. You can read more about this bag and its security features here.

How was sleeping at Tirana airport? Well for this evening, I got away with it! I wasn’t told to leave. The security bothered me once as I mentioned about which flight I was taking, but otherwise there was no problem from them. About 2AM there were tons of people who showed up at Tirana airport for the next days flights. One German man woke me up by having a loud conversation on his cell right next to me. Around 5am, i woke up and instead of checking in for the fictitious flight to Luton I used the bathroom then switched to a seat near the airport exit. About 20 mins later i was on the bus back to the center of Tirana, and then in Grand Tirana park awaiting the return to my room.

sleeping at tirana airport
this guy doesnt look like hes having fun at Tirana Airport

Taking a bicycle on a plane traveling? tips…

Hello traveling guys and girls! Thinking of taking your beloved bicycle on a plane? I can give you some advice on this subject. I decided to take my set of wheels to Thailand from New York City. it can be a bit unwieldly and expensive but i did get it done and it can be exhilarating if you enjoy cycling the streets in a new city or while you are on a beach vacation on your home set of wheels! Whether you are going for a week or like me going for 3 months. I’m a daily cyclist so for me it may be worth the stretch of moving it around. Here my bicycle sits with me in Albania and 30 months on the road!

A few tips, first of all, you will need to dissemble your bicycle if its NOT a foldable bicycle. Granted lets first get into the foldable types. These are those types with small little wheels that have foldable frames as well. These you can put into a regular sized case that looks similar to a full size airline suitcase, so 62 linear inches or less. You do not even need to inform the airline that you are bringing the bicycle as it will be just inside its own piece of luggage, so much easier. However if you are like me and you are a relatively serious cyclist, you want a pure real bicycle, then you need to keep reading!

A regular bicycle is too big to be taken as a normal piece of luggage especially if its fully assembled so be prepared to these following things… take off the front wheel. On my Trek FK 2 this is simple, just unclamp the front skewer and pull it out. in order to make it smaller you will also need to take off the rear wheel, chain, pedals, seat, seat post, handlebars and the front fork, a little of work ehh??!! Yes it is a bit of work. Now we need to discuss the case or the piece of luggage that you are going to put the bicycle inside of…

For me this was kinda hard to figure out, as I didn’t want to spent the money to pay for the expensive hard bicycle case that would surely be counted as an oversized luggage item. I bought a soft large storage bag for the bicycle, the kind that might only last a few trips, more on this in a bit. So the bag was about 50 inches wide, by 12 inches deep by 30 inches top to bottom that gives you an idea its a pretty big bag!

A budget carry case for a full sized bicycle looks something like this:

budget bicycle travel bag

On the outside of the bag, I attached 2 compression straps that brought down the size of the bag a bit. Here’s the good news about using a collapsible bag to move your bicycle in – the airline didn’t charge me an oversized luggage fee. Sometimes the airlines will charge you for sporting equipment, but some will charge you for having an extra piece of luggage as well as for the oversized fee. So this total for an intercontinental flight might be $200 for the extra bag and $200 for the oversized bag; in the next paragraph we can check EVAs prices. This is what a more expensive wheeled bicycle case might look like, for example EVOC:

Airline fees, bicycle as luggage: Fees vary, but for me as an international traveler, I was looking first at intercontinental fees on airlines like Singapore Airlines and EVA, as I was first going to be flying from NYC to southeast Asia. These vary from reasonable $100 to $200 to really ridiculous (check some of the Mideast airlines). Regarding EVA air, the airline divides the world up into different zones and because i personally flew from zone 6 to zone 2 (NYC to southeast Asia) this is a charge of $260 for the bicycle, which is not unreasonable, as I already had two pieces of hard-sided jumbo luggage. EVA offers a passenger 2 pieces of 50 lb luggage plus a carry on of 15 lb for free. Unfortunately it looks like EVA air is increasing prices this fall. Take a look at baggage charges here on EVAs site..

EVA Air Zones

How early should I arrive before my flight?!? Plus my flight day schedule for your perusal.

Hey traveling guys and girls! Ever wonder how soon to arrive before a flight to the airport? I can give you my first hand experience. I personally have never missed a flight because I usually like to leave WAY ahead of schedule and just relax on the way there or at the airport, and i’ll tell you why. For international flights, make sure to leave a much longer timeframe because you may need to pass through all 3 of these – immigration, security, and airport check-in.

Back when I was employed at a corporate job I took this flight out of JFK airport, oops it was out of La Gaurdia, thats right i went to the wrong airport! There was a bit of confusion with my current managers travel plan. The good news here is that i jumped in a cab dropping someone else off at JFK and was at LGA in New York City within 30 minutes so about 3.5 hours before the flight instead of 4. I usually like to arrive at the airport about 3 to 4 hours prior to departure for a domestic flight, not including travel time to the airport and 5 to 7 hours for an international flight.

Here’s another example, When i started this global adventure i took a flight out of JFK airport that took off at 12:20 AM. Boarding time was about 11:40PM aboard a huge Boeing 777-300ER airplane from EVA Airlines out of Taiwan. I arrived at the airport around 6:30 PM. I was coming from Bay Ridge Brooklyn, and this trip was a bit more complex because of my luggage – hard to move without a taxi driver helping me. I left about 1 hour for the livery car out of Bay Ridge to take me to the airport, in fact I think i have a pic of the Toyota Camry that drove me there…let me see. So most check in desks wont allow you to check in sooner than 3 to 4 hours before the flight because they dont want too many people sitting in the terminal. So for JFK, the EVA air desk was not open upon arrival so i just sat nearby for an hour or so along with a few other early bird Asian travelers.

On to security, I would leave 30 minutes to 1 hour for the typical wait time; granted if you check in, they are probably not going to leave you behind, unless there is some serious problem with either TSA security or immigration. The reason for the lead time is that you may spend about 30 minutes waiting in line to check in with the airline.

Passing TSA security… a little advice on passing through security. Stuff you cant bring… sharp objects, scissors, bigger knives, anything with sharp objects, anything like a long blunt object like a golf club cannot be brought into the cabin. Water or other liquids are also banned, and course obvious things like weapons and things like aerosol sprays and gasoline. Over in Cambodia i had a wrench confiscated, it was for use on my bicycle, oops! For me personally, i usually have a lot of stuff, like hats, electronics, phones, coins, belts, clothing, gadgets, so it a bit longer for me to get through the line.

Heres my routine for passing security… after checking with the airline, walk near the wall, #1 remove watch, put inside of my carry on bag #2, remove wallet from my pocket as well as keys, put these in my carry on, so they wont be stolen by another passenger. I also do the same with my cell phone, and the coins in my pocket, i usually take both my belt off and my shoes and walk through the metal detector in my socks. I also usually have an overcoat or over-shirt on, as well as eyeglasses and a hat, these i put inside one of the bins, with the glasses going into a plastic case to avoid ruining them. Sometimes the security personnel will search me, and sometimes not. This really depends on if i trigger the metal detector.

You may spend 10 to 45 minutes in a line through security. After passing through the line, I put everything back on on one of the tables they have set up after entry past security.

Passing immigration, border of the USA. For an American citizen exiting the country at JFK, the immigration officer scanned my passport, there was no physical stamp inside the book. They asked no questions about my exit. This desk was just past the TSA security check point. This wait took about 5 minutes, but of course if there is a delay it would be 20 to 30 minutes. So you can see the time really adds up.

Additional Checks and searches… Over in Morocco, there was an additional search by security personnel before boarding a flight form Marrakesh to London, England. I was told that this was a random search based on the number of people in line. Here, i was skipped. Our boarding area for British Airways was roped off and separated from other airlines boarding areas. I was quite surprised, so i guess each country has different protocols.

Boarding the airliner… Now we get onto actually getting inside the airliner. You can see that flying can really take up a bit of time. For this section, ill use a different example. Two days ago i boarded a flight from London to Tirana, Albania. It was delayed at Luton for about 30 minutes. Over at Luton all of the passengers sit in a big area in the terminal facing a mall and restaurants. On the screen it shows which flights are boarding. Once ours popped up about 10pm, everyone in my group went to the indicated gate Wizzair gate 32. Luton only has one terminal, JFK has 8, so you may want to just double check which terminal you are leaving from. Over at the gate which was about a 10 minute walk from the lounge area, everyone lined up, not surprisingly i was the first person in the priority boarding line, with the exception of a lady with two strollers and two babies who was allowed to cut. It took another 10 minutes or so, then we all walked out the door onto the tarmac and walked up the stairs (non-American airports tend not to have jetways leading to aircraft doors, but this varies. About 10 minutes later we were airborne for the red eye flight to Tirana.