I want to vanish.

th4 150x150 I want to vanish.I sort of already have: DF dropped me at the Anchorage airport at 10 p.m. Tuesday and I hit Tarpon Springs, Fla., at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. For the next five days I’ll be visiting my dad and my sister.

Timing-wise, not great: When I made the reservation a couple of months ago I’d planned it as a barely-any-work vacation. But recently an unexpected magazine assignment came in and an established deadline got moved up a week.

So the time I thought I’d spend hanging with family, doing a bit of sightseeing, and taking long walks and longer baths has turned into a “how to balance interviews with vacation.”


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th3 150x150 How much does your suitcase weigh?I sure learned some interesting things about luggage while researching my latest piece for Retail Me Not. My favorite factoid was how light the bags are getting. Modern bags can weigh as little as 3.3 pounds – much easier on the arms, and also providing more wiggle room as regards an airline’s 50-pound luggage limit.

Randy MacKenzie of Edwards Luggage, a family-owned store since 1946, does monthly “how to pack” seminars in the family’s four San Francisco-area stores. Packed for two weeks of travel, today’s lightweight carry-ons can weigh in at 21 pounds. (Hint: That gives you room for 29 pounds’ worth of souvenirs before you start to pay extra.)

A few of her favorite manufacturers:

  • Rimowa: Lightweight and incredibly durable, this manufacturer offers colors that won’t embarrass the business traveler – “an absolutely gorgeous chocolate brown, a beautiful navy blue, a very dark purple.”
  • TUMI: Lightweight with “some really spectacular colors.”
  • IT Luggage: These semi-deconstructed, very basic bags weigh as little as 3 pounds and come “in all the colors of the rainbow.”
  • Swiss Army: These “youthful-looking” bags are less expensive but still wear well.

I love my own Delsey case, but if and when it ever gives up the ghost I’ll be looking for lighter luggage — from Delsey or someone else.

Just FYI: Large bags are still available if you’re heading for a cruise that requires formal wear or some other special garb. (Fun fact: Cruises exist for fans of nudism, Elvis, Shakespeare and “Star Trek.”) But a carefully packed medium-sized bag will generally do just as well, according to MacKenzie.


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th9 Traveling for spring break? You need this bag. This winter has been a real bear for much of the Lower 48. If you’re lucky enough to have the time and the money to plan a little break, it will feel soooo nice.

Except maybe when it comes time to pack. More of us are choosing to go carry-on vs. paying to check a bag — but that means you can’t take your giant economy-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, or the big tube of toothpaste you got on sale.

This is one time when frugality is frustrating. Why pay big bucks for teeny toiletries?

Win this bag instead and you’ll have that much more to spend on wherever your spring break takes you.


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th2 In which I am flagged as a potential terrorist.I’m writing this from Sky Harbor in Phoenix, which touts itself as the “friendliest” airport. Certainly this is true of its TSA agents, one of whom got to second base with me without even buying me dinner.

Of course, she was just doing her job. An alarm sounded when I went through security. A quick glance at the monitor showed the word “explosives.”

A couple of agents moved in with a gait that was both casual and swift, if that makes any sense. It was a “hey, everything’s fine” crossed with “holy crap, that woman might be packing.”

Hint: I wasn’t.

But rules are rules, so I had to go through several levels of safety checks.


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th 1 Got a credit card? Get another one.In the past month or so I’ve had four credit cards compromised. Notice of the latest breach came via e-mail this morning: Some thieving bastard(s) purchased hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff from Walmart.com and then tried to spend hundreds more at a different online company.

The other three credit cards weren’t part of the latest Target breach, in which as many as 40 million people had their data stolen. But that theft should help convince people to come around to my way of thinking: that you need at least two credit cards. Suppose you were on vacation or traveling on business and found your plastic didn’t work?

Which is exactly what happened to me: I’m currently in Phoenix, about to celebrate Christmas with my daughter and son-in-law. The card that got hacked is now kaput. What if I wanted to go shopping, or needed to pay for a van ride back to the airport?


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