For many, choosing your next vacation destination is the easy part. Finding your perfect carry on suitcase or luggage? And what to pack? Well, that’s as difficult as avoiding any social media/real life conversation about Game of Thrones.
Your travel bags are a special kind of accessory – they stay with us through thick and thin, though flight delays and lost in transit moments, through big city streets and far flung destinations; vacations and staycations.
With a couple of decades of traveling under my belt and many, many hits and misses, I now have my packing and carry-on routine down pat.
My essentials are:
- Headphones – sometimes you just want to be alone. Sometimes…or maybe most of the time.
- A change of clothes – this is if I have another bag in the hold or I am on a dreaded long haul. Essential for long flights or delays especially if you don’t want to smell like you slept in a dumpster.. Otherwise, I can fit a week’s worth of clothes in my bag!
- Moisturizer – my current favorite is Bliss Body Butter
- Lip balm – to keep those smackers supple and battle the dry air in planes
- A scarf or a wrap – planes and airports are notoriously Baltic. On a recent flight I had to double up with my wrap and the provided blanket. I was a shivering mess. My current favorite is a neutral one I picked up on ASOS for a song.
- A sheet mask – OK so you look like a creature from the Black Lagoon and yes you may get looks of pity/horror/hysteria from fellow fliers, but on a long haul flight this stops me from looking even more hideous on landing.
- Tablet or book – Usually crime or about food. Or both. I’m a creature of habit. If I take my tablet I also load up with magazines.
- Notebook – deep down I’m still an analogue gal
- Multi purpose chargers, cables and adaptor– never enough of these to go around in my life. I have been toting an adaptor I picked up from Qatar Duty Free years ago and it still serves me well. You can find a similar one here.
But what about something to hold it all in? To schlepp it from A to B? On a couple of recent trips I chose to stow my carry-on and just take a handbag. While this is great in theory, it limited my options (turns out you CAN’T fit PJs, two books, a laptop and slippers in a tote – who knew?) and well, I felt naked!
I have some pretty strict criteria when it comes to choosing a suitcase:
Size and weight: Airlines are putting the squeeze on passengers more than ever and that includes hand luggage. It should be light and easy to pick up and stow away if it’s a carry on or sturdy and built for battle if it’s a bigger piece.
Mobility: Yep, for me those spinning wheels are essential. There is nothing worse than your wheels jacking up half way to the gate. It’s happened to me before. Those around me at the time are still in counselling.
Color: Let me tell you a story why this is about more than aesthetics. A few years back I caught a domestic flight from Melbourne to Sydney and had to check my bag. My Dad was meeting me and didn’t want to park, so gave me elaborate instructions to loading area. He’s not a patient man. I called when I landed and sped to the luggage carousel and picked up what I THOUGHT was my bag. Now also on this flight was a VERY famous Australian rocker. When I got to the curb, I realised this was not in fact my bag. The tag identified it as belonging to said VERY famous Australian rocker. I broke the speed of sound to return to the belt and casually sling his his luggage back on and retrieve mine. with my father shouting at me from the car and the family dog salivating out of the back window. I’m sure it’s all on video somewhere. The lesson? Always go with the striking color for two reasons – one is that it’s easy to identify (and avoid the wrath of famous rockers). Second? It’s pretty.
Sturdy Construction: This goes without saying for carry on luggage – it should be durable, flexible and tough as nails. Until recently I had always plumped for fabric carry-ons, because I felt they gave me more space.
But while visiting Blue Salon recently on the hunt for a new suitcase for the upcoming Eid holidays and beyond, I came across two bags that made me change my mind about that edict.
The Hartmann 7R Master 55/20 ticks all the boxes for me. Its distinctive and sexy aluminium case makes it structurally sound and its retro/Deco throw back design is seriously stylish and fits in anywhere as you can see from our recent visit to Westin Doha. Plus…it’s rose gold! ROSE GOLD. Inside it has leather dividers to keep your bigs and smalls separate and double spinner wheels and weighs less than 2kgs.
Let’s put the aesthetics aside for a moment – I found the case to be roomy enough for a long weekend away or a even week long trip. The dividers are especially useful for separating clothing and the leather handle was a nice, luxe touch. I was worried that dents and usage may show on the beautiful exterior, but apparently like good quality leather it gets its own “patina” looking even better after some time.
When fully loaded, it rolled perfectly. That rose gold flash you may see zooming past the big yellow teddy sometime next week? That’s me with this beaut in tow.
For something a little less showy but far more geeky and even more loaded with features is the Blue Smart which is available at Blue Salon in cabin size. This bag will literally do everything but make you breakfast…then again…it may be able to do that too. Take a seat – the list of features may take some time:
- An app-controlled digital lock to keep your belongings safe
- Two USB ports for charging up multiple gadgets (yaaaassss)
- GPS tracking – no more lost luggage!
- Proximity alerts to notify you if you leave your bag behind (handy for those vague “Lost in Airport” moments aka in Duty Free)
- A built-in scale (your luggage will never be overweight again!) which is linked to their app.
Slightly smaller than the Hartmann, it will fit easily into most overhead bins (although I am speaking from a Middle East travel perspective here, rather than US so it’s worth checking) and is also a lot lighter. There is a dedicated laptop storage pocket in the front with a magnetic flap so you can easily access it while in security lines (yes, you WILL be the smug one in the line with this). The chargers can power up iPhones up to six times which is as impressive as it is useful.
While not as deep as the Hartmann and is heavier at nearly 3kgs but I found a place for everything I needed for but, I wasn’t packing big, bulky items. The individual zippered compartments are a great idea – it means you can keep valuables and other items separate and safe. Rather – this is great for a two to three day quick business trip or an Eid Getaway or staycation.
I’m going to be honest, I still haven’t settled on the final destination for my upcoming Eid break – too many great destinations (yep, still trawling the Qatar Airways website) and variables at the moment. But I do know what luggage I will be taking.
Hartmann luggage is available at the Hartmann Boutique at the Mall of Qatar and Blue Salon. They stock cabin as well as full size luggage. The Blue Smart cabin size bag is available at Mosafer stores in Qatar and Blue Salon.
We shot our photos at the super stylish Westin Doha which with a lush pool area and some of the best restaurants in town, is the perfect location for an Eid getaway. For their special Eid family packages prices start from QR750 (including a second room for 50 percent off). Their famous Bubbalicous Eid Brunch is on Friday 1 September from QR320 per person (kids under three are free and under 12’s are half price).