Sunday, September 6, 2015

TU-MI or not TU-MI...That Is the Carry-On Question

I left today for a three and a half week trip to Italy, all on my own, that covers five different Italian cities and a whole lot of train rides. Needless to say, I am crazy excited right now. I fly into Rome and will use the rail to take me around, which then made me wonder amidst my planning, what I was going to do for luggage. Since I'm going solo, I will be the one lugging the case on and off the trains, which then made using my big hard case not a viable option (I think I could easily fit an actual person in there if I tried, that's how big it is).

When I was researching travelling through Italy, I have to say that Rick Steves, travel guru extraordinaire, was a life-saver. That guy is just awesome--he's so nice and friendly looking AND he knows his stuff thanks to all the travelling he has done (he also replies to Tweets). All his little tips and tricks to help you have the best vacation ever are so useful and practical and his website contains all his shows and talks. I downloaded his books on Rome, Florence and Tuscany, and Venice through iBooks, which then goes on to both my iPad and my iPhone. The iPad is for the planning, and the iPhone is out in the field with me. The cool thing is you can look at his books that have walking tours, maps and pretty much any other information you need to know, all off-line on your iPhone--it's absolutely fabulous!

One of the things I learned from him as a solo traveller is to watch your stuff when you are travelling through Italy, especially on the trains. If you can keep your bag small and light, you will just simply travel better overall, but you will also be able to put your bag in the overhead bins above your seat on the train. You then can keep an eye on it and it doesn't have to go into the communal luggage rack at the end of each car.

Perfect--I like that. Here's the thing: How light can one woman pack for a 25 day vacation? Can it all be stuffed into a carry-on size piece of luggage--that just seemed insane to me. First things first, I wanted to know what the acceptable size limit for carry-on was for British Airways (all the airlines are slightly different--BA is 22" x 18" x 10"). Then I started to research on the net because whatever I bought, I would also need it to eventually expand--there was no question about that. What I discovered in the end is that I really actually prefer to check my luggage so I don't have to babysit it before I get on the plane, so worrying about BA's size limit was a waste of time for me. I did still want a carry-on though for the sake of the train's overhead bin.

With internet research done, I had decided to go to the new outlet mall at YVR (Vancouver International Airport) to pick up my Samsonite Fiero Hardcase 20" Carry-On Spinner in a lovely rose colour (which incidentally meets BA's size requirements). I mentioned this to one of my friends who has a strong dislike for the outlet mall (I won't say why), and she suggested the Tumi store in Pacific Centre. It made sense because even though I pass by the airport every day, the outlet mall is new, and is infamous for its traffic issues, whereas I have always found it easy to make my way into Pacific Centre's parkade.

And so one day after work, I decided to do just that. I had never heard of Tumi before so I had to hunt down where the store was in the mall. When I found it, it was gleaming and bright--a shiny new store that just screamed beautiful luggage. It was so shiny that I almost walked right through the mirrors they had at the back--or I just wasn't watching where I was going--one of the two. Since I came from work, I was dressed in business attire, and as I walked into the store, I got a once over from the female sales associate. Excuse me? How odd. That's happened before to me in Louis Vuitton where I've just dropped in wearing Lululemon, but even they were more welcoming, and they sell clothing! This is a LUGGAGE store lady, so step off. She then did the "Can I help you?" in the driest voice possible while still eyeing up my wardrobe--she may or may not have rolled her eyes too. I explained what I was looking for and she pointed me directly to possibly the most beautiful piece of luggage I have ever seen, if luggage can be beautiful, that is. It was perfect--great size, nice streamlined look, expandable--awesome, I may have found my luggage! Until I asked the price.

Now keep in mind that this piece of luggage is CARRY-ON size. Yes, it's made out of some ridiculously durable material that has been trampled on by a heard of elephants or something and still survived, blah, blah, blah... Ok folks, it was $800. Yes, you read it right, $800. God only knows how much the full size ones were! She sees the look of horror on my face and with a very serious tone and without skipping a beat says, "It's an investment". I almost burst out laughing, but controlled the urge. I did let her know I was a Financial Planner and that I'm more into appreciating assets AND I could take a whole other trip somewhere for that price. I promptly called my supposed helpful friend as I turned and walked out of the shiny luggage store (almost falling because it was just that shiny) to thank her for the great suggestion.

I did eventually make it to the Samsonite shop at the outlet mall, picked up my lovely pink bag amid all the frantic luggage shoppers, for less than a quarter of the price of the shiny bag. When heading back to the car, low and behold, I see a guy with a Tumi bag and my curiosity gets the better of me. How much is the Tumi bag at the outlet? After all, they are just so beautiful, then I thought, why not, let's have a look see.

I walk into the Tumi outlet shop, with my pink bag in tow and immediately get a look of disgust shot at me for bringing in a substandard piece of luggage into their store. I take a look at the price for the same bag (an earlier model of course) and we're now down to only $565--I don't think so. The sales lady comes over before I can walk away and says, "You know, it's an investment". Right, ok, well we're done here--have heard that one before (they really need to change their sales pitch).

And off I go into the sunset (literally) with my very suitable and very durable carry-on that is gorgeous and pink and semi-shiny. It fits ALL of my fabulous wardrobe for my amazing Italian adventure that I am now about to embark on.

Ciao ciao!

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