From Iceland to Malta- With Just A Carry On

From Iceland to Malta- With Just A Carry On

Three months. 10 countries. Multiple climates. 1 Carry on.

Europe: Summer 2018. This is my 3rd full summer in a row of traveling, but normally I’m hunkered down in one place for the long haul. Summer 2016, Costa Rica for 6 weeks. Summer 2017, Malaysia for 8 weeks, and then to Greece and Italy for a couple of weeks. Warm weather. Easy, light packing. Washing machine at my disposal. Never one to to be accused of sticking to what works,  I decided that my 2018 Summer trip would be different. Yes, this year I was going to pack a minimum of 10 countries into almost 3 months. Packing 10 countries INTO 11ish weeks should be an interesting challenge, I admit. But packing FOR 10 countries is a much more daunting task indeed, especially when you are starting out in chilly Iceland in early June, and hanging out in sweltering Malta in July. Oh, and did I mention that I only travel with a carry on? I’m not a masochist (well, maybe a bit!). What I am is a cheap ass. That, and my sherpa (Brian) will only be there for about a week of this entire trip. Getting to 10 countries means a lot of inter-European flights on budget airlines that want to charge more than my wardrobe is worth to check a bag. Uh, how do you say “no thank you” in 7 different languages?? And each airline has its own requirements…

AirlineRouteCarry On Limit 
WOWLos Angeles to Reykjavik56x45x25cm 12 kg carry on + 1 personal item 42x32x25cm 10kgMust pay $50 for the carry on.
Easy JetReykjavik to EdinburghCarry on 56x45x25cm no weight limit. Personal item 45cm x 36cm x 20cmCan only take a personal under the seat item if you pay for the upgraded seat.
Ryan AirEdinburgh to Dublin55cm x 40cm x 20cm 10kg that must be checked at gate + 1 personal 35cm x 20cm x 20cmPay for priority to guarantee carry on not placed in hold.
Air LingusDublin to Nice55 x 40 x 24 cm 10 kg carry on + 25 x 33 x 20 cm personal item
Easy JetNice to CataniaCarry on 56x45x25cm no weight limit. Personal item 45cm x 36cm x 20cmCan only take a personal under the seat item if you pay for the upgraded seat.
Ryan AirCatania to Malta55cm x 40cm x 20cm 10kg that must be checked at gate + 1 personal 35cm x 20cm x 20cmPay for priority to guarantee carry on not placed in hold.
Ryan AirMalta to Rome55cm x 40cm x 20cm 10kg that must be checked at gate + 1 personal 35cm x 20cm x 20cmPay for priority to guarantee carry on not placed in hold.
Blue AirRome to Bucharest55cm x 40cm x 20cm 10kg carry on. NO personal item.
Wizz AirBucharest to Basel55 X 40 X 23CM Carryon 10kg- No personalPay for priority to guarantee carry on not placed in hold and add ability to take a personal item
Air EuropaZurich to Madrid55 cm. x 35 cm. x 25 cm 10 kg carry on + 1 personal 35cm x 30cm x 20 cm
Norwegian Madrid to Los Angeles55x40x23 cm carry on + 1 25x33x20cm personal. Combined weight 10kg


I normally travel with two bags- my FABULOUS Ebags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible (55.9 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm)  and my “fish bag”- a really oversized handbag of sorts that my laptop, my day pack,  and a bunch of other junk easily fits into. But my fish bag is way too big for some of these airlines requirements, and some don’t even allow an extra personal bag (wtf???), so I’m leaving the fish bag behind and just taking my day pack as my personal item. I’ll have to cram it into my carry on and hope I don’t go overweight on a couple of these airlines. Oy! And my Ebags back is bigger than what Ryan and Blue Air like… I’m not going to cram it full and it’s soft sided, so I’m just going to hope I can smush it into the measuring box if they ask. I went ahead and paid an extra $9 per flight for priority so I don’t have to check my laptop. Guys and gals, always read the airlines requirements. I learned that after having to pay like $30 at Air Asia in Malaysia for being over weight by just a couple of kg…

Let’s start with the cold weather. I live in Los Angeles. The land of perpetual 78 and sunny. The running joke here at the house is that if it’s 65 degrees, it is 5 degrees below zero. Because 70 is my zero. Anything below that, I’m bundled up in several layers. I’m not kidding. So Iceland is definitely an interesting choice for me. But I got a cushy housesit for 12 days, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! And then Brian and I decided to meet for our mid-trip reunion in Malta. Weather report for Iceland? Rainy/cloudy with highs near 20 below zero (50 F for you laymen). Wind chill? 30 below zero (40 F)!! Weather report for Malta? 88 F- my kinda forecast!! All these different destinations and climates, and crazy baggage limits…This is going to require some thought, ingenuity, and maybe a Pack charm (that’s a Harry Potter reference- not J.K.’s most original moniker…).

The first hurdle is actually having warm clothes that are light weight. I’ve done France twice in December, so I have winter clothes, but they’re all really bulky and heavy- not appropriate for this trip. I’ll traipse all over the world without a care. It takes an act of god to get me off of my couch and into a mall though, so I turned to my two favorite sources for travel clothes: Sierra Trading Post and Amazon. On Sierra, I got myself 2 fleece lined, antimicrobial (meaning you can wear them for a few days without getting stinky. Don’t judge.) thermal underlayer tops for $16 each, and a really awesome Craghopper’s Compresslite Travel Jacket– insulated, wind proof, water resistant, space saving for packing- for only $22. Score! Also got a pair of fleece lined leggings. From Amazon, I snagged a really soft and warm beanie/scarf set for $14, a waterproof walking/hiking shoe for $40, some really cool (I’m not a fashionista) water/wind proof fleece lined ski pants that don’t really look like ski pants, with big pockets to carry things in (I am practical). And a pair of gloves for $13. It’s always hard for me to decide on gloves, because inevitably 3 days in I will only have one glove… I already had a fairly lightweight warm dress, another thermal baselayer top, a pair of long underwear, another pair of fleece lined leggings, my Columbia rainjacket that goes everywhere, but has hardly ever left my suitcase, and my “go everywhere” convertible pants. This would be my Iceland/Scotland/Ireland/mountains of Romania and Switzerland wardrobe. Those ski pants are going to get a LOT of wear!!

For summer, I didn’t have to buy anything new. 3 of my lightweight, quick dry travel dresses that go everywhere with me, 3 shirts, one pair of shorts, my (now discontinued, of course) Merrell All Out Bold walking shoes that I LIVE in at home and away, my Exofficio panties and bras that I don’t get on a plane without, and that’s it. That would be my French Riviera, Malta, Italy, Spain, and any warm parts of Romania and Switzerland wardrobe.

My Ebags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible bag that I LOVE LOVE LOVE weighed 13 lbs with all of that. Not too bad. I’m proud to say that I got on to even the most size/weight restrictive budget airlines with NO issues! We will not mention the fact that sometimes I was wearing ski pants under dresses to board the plane and stripping them off in my seat to make weight but hey…pack light, or stay home, I say! 🙂

Travel Insurance 2017: Decisions, Decisions…

Travel Insurance 2017: Decisions, Decisions…

Travel insurance. Ugh. I used to have an attitude of “bad things happen to other people”, “I’m too smart to get hurt”, and “I’m too cheap to spend a dime on something I’ll never use”. That attitude somehow served me well as I made not one, but two trips to Belize- exploring some of the most remote jungles, caves, ruins, waterfalls, and swimming holes imaginable. Many times alone. Sometimes making pretty risky decisions. And I managed to survive! Then I started frequenting travel boards, and I heard stories. Stories of bad things happening to people just like me. Stories of smart people slipping, falling, and/or getting sick. Stories of people spending tens of thousands of dollars to deal with medical problems while traveling. So as I began planning my Costa Rica/Cuba trip for the summer of 2016, I decided that in a 2 month time span something bad could happen to me, being smart doesn’t prevent accidents/illnesses, and a couple hundred dollars could prevent the dreaded, and potentially deadly, penny-wise-pound-foolish-itis!

I’ll admit, I didn’t do a ton of research. It’s far more exciting to research traveling topics like where to go, what to see, where to stay, and what to eat! I begrudgingly compared two sites World Nomads, which I had heard a lot about on different travel blogs, and Trip Insurance Store, which I had read some great reviews about on the Trip Advisor forums. I didn’t save my research, but I ended up going with the Trip Insurance Store because they offered a policy that would cover Cuba. I was alone on the 7 week Costa Rican portion of the trip, and then Brian and I met in Panama and flew to Cuba together for 10 days. The policy was flexible enough to include both of us, and for what I thought was a very reasonable price of $185. You can view the coverage amounts and invoice here. Of course, it came with a terms and conditions attachment that would have made Tolstoy blush. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit here, but I will admit that I did not read the 31 pages of whatever. I just bought the policy and hoped that a) I’d never need it and b) If I did have some serious situation, I’d be covered. Because let’s be honest, there were reviews of lodging to read and lists of “must sees” to make!

For my month long European trip in December of 2016, I decided to not get insurance. I guess I just feel (possibly naively), that the French wouldn’t let me die bleeding on the steps of the hospital if I managed to wheeze out “I don’t have insurance” like my American brethren would. I mean, I’m a French History teacher! Doesn’t that somehow grandfather me in to their health care?! 😉

That brings me to the summer of 2017. Another epic trip. This time, all the way around the world! Malaysia– from the big city of Kuala Lumpur where I could potentially get run down by a motorbike, to the jungles of Borneo, where malaria could be injected into my bloodstream at any moment. Singapore– where I could be blinded by the sun gleaming off the cleanliness. Greece– where I could pass out from the view from my airbnb and get a concussion. Italy– where Mt. Vesuvius could decide to cover me in ash in Pompeii, I could choke from gobbling down pizza in Naples, be thrown to the lions at the Coliseum in Rome, or have the Leaning Tower of Pisa finally fall right when I was standing under it. Sweden– where it could snow. Seriously, if you know me, you’d know that out of all these major catastrophes I’ve listed, snow is the most feared! Ah, the world! Where potential death, doom, and destruction (and snow!) is lurking around every corner! Yeah, not so much. But again, my fear of contracting penny-wise-pound-foolish-itis caused me to delve back into the dark corners of the internet to seek out travel insurance.

Look, I have no doubt you could go to some other blog and find a doctoral thesis style explanation of what to get and why. I don’t have that much interest in insurance. I’ll give you the bare bones. I’m looking for a few things:

  • Good reviews on customer service
  • Low price
  • Decent medical coverage

I will research lodging options for HOURS- pouring over every detail, every review, every amenity. I am not going to do that for insurance. So began research with the two I researched last year, Trip Insurance Store and World Nomads, and a new one I found by searching the Worldschoolers facebook group- IMG Global. For a trip lasting from June 7-August 17, here’s what I found:

CoveragesTrip Insurance StoreWorld NomadsIMG Global: Patriot Travel Medical Insurance $2,500 deductible
Emergency Medical$100,000$100,0002,000,000
Emergency Transportation, Evacuation$1,000,000$500,00500,000
Baggage Loss$1,000$1,000$50
Baggage Delay$300 after 12 hours$750x
Trip Delay$1,000 after 6 hours, $200 per day$1,500$5000
Trip Cancellation$4000$10,000x

IMG Global was the winner. Hands down. They offered a lot of different options (Trip Insurance Store offered about 8 options, World Nomads offered 2). I could get a massive amount of coverage ($2,000,000) for not a lot of money with a $2,500 deductible. Of course, they had $0 deductible options as well. Here is the chart of options I was presented with, detailing out deductibles vs. coverage and how much each costs.

So now I’m free to go out into the world without fear!! Well, except for snow…but hopefully the month of August is the only insurance I need against that in Sweden!