Hi Frugalistas! Regular readers will know I’m always looking for new gear to make my travel life easier. This trip, I went for what is really the “big three” of packing – with a new case (a rolling backpack), new handbag and new toilet bag.
The rolling backpack
The rolling backpack was smaller than my old carry on bag, but I knew that when I bought it. It would be unlikely that I would ever use it as a backpack, but I bought it because it was the lightest bag I could find in my price range. I still managed to fit my normal packing list safely into the bag with room to spare. The pockets on the front were a handy size (the top zip on the front of bag actually opened into a sleeve that ran the full length of the bag). Like most small carry on bags I found that it over balanced if I put too much into the pockets or the lid. I’ve never found a bag that doesn’t do that, so I don’t mark it down for that.
When I put it into use I loved this bag. Packed and ready to leave home it weighed just 10kg (22lb) with my iPad included – exactly what I was looking to achieve. It was great to wheel and the handle was comfy in my hand and sturdy to use. It retracted easily. With the handle on the top, handle on the side and the base stand it was simple to lift up into the plane overhead locker and onto train luggage racks. It was the perfect size for Italian train luggage racks, and when on the busy commuter train on the French Riviera, I was able to just sit it on my lap. The mesh bottle holder on the side was elasticated, and was a perfect size for a 600ml bottle of water to fit into snuggly without wriggling out as I walked along.
Going to the Cinque Terre with its steps and steep hills I thought that if ever I was going to use the backpack function it would be there. This little bag was so light and so easy to maneouvre that I just didn’t need to. It was easy to lift off the multiple steps on the train, and easy to carry up and down steps. I did set the backpack function up (the straps are hidden in a pocket at the back and clip onto side clips very easily) and did put it on my back just to try. It felt comfy and the wheels were wide enough apart to be well clear of my hips, and my clothes (so they wouldn’t leave dirty track marks!)
I did have a couple of minor quibbles with this bag – but they are minor. The side handle was on the wrong size of the bag in my opinion. Taking it out of the overhead lockers to get something out of the bag en route meant that the zip was on the wrong side of the case, so I had to turn the bag around to access anything. Similarly, the strap on the top for extra bags (that I always use to carry my coat if I don’t need it) had to be looped through the top handle. That made it a bit more awkward to carry the bag from the top with my coat strapped to the bag.
After 15years of traveling (I actually bought it on a trip!) I’ve finally retired my red leather tote in favour of a light nylon cross body bag. This bag was an absolute winner, with an adjustable shoulder strap, so it could be worn as either a cross body, a shoulder bag or even as a clutch in a pinch. It was as light as a feather and fitted so much into it. Although it looked quite small I managed to fit a folding umbrella, wallet, notebook, pens, tissues and London guidebook all with room to spare. The zippered pocket inside was a great size for my passport (keeping it a bit more secure) and the two smaller pockets were the perfect size for train tickets and hotel door smart keys.
This particular bag wasn’t a travel specific one with any special security features but I was delighted with it and it will serve me well as my perfect travel bag for many trips to come.
I wasn’t unhappy with the toilet bag I had been using for a number years. It was a great light travel one, but with luggage restrictions for liquids and only ever taking carry on luggage I just found it was too big for me. So, a smaller, more stripped down model was in order. This one was a fraction of the size, but still fitted all my dry make up, spare tissues, full size hairbrush and comb, as well as my first aid supplies with plenty of room to spare. The hanger could be easily hidden out of the way with a velcro closure (which was something my older one didn’t have and which was a constant source of irritation). Being small it fitted easily in my bag and genuinely took up far less luggage space. I left it hung in my hotel bathroom and it worked perfectly. It also had handy sleeve behind the top mesh compartment. Even the heaviest of packers, or industrial make up users could get pretty much everything into this bag. My advice on toilet bags now? Get the smallest one you can that meets this specification that your hairbrush will fit into, and you’ll be happy.
The brands of the products are trialled this trip are irrelevant. What is important is the specifications I’ve spoken about. Looking for a carry on bag with a side handle that means I can open the bag without turning it around is now a must have for my next bag. If you are looking for a handbag for travel, look at the internal compartments and how you might use them. Trial them in the shop to see how much you really can fit in. And a basic camping style toilet bag with a hanger that fits your hairbrush will probably do the job.
What new travel gear have you tried recently that you love? I’d love to hear about what made your choices great!