Photo Of The Day: What’s In Your Bag?

photo of the day - inside an artist's bag

Feeling nosy? Then you might enjoy today’s Photo of the Day. Flickr user and designer Lacko Illustration provided an extremely detailed look inside his bag. There’s even a legend on the bottom to accompany the objects in case you can’t tell from the photo. Judging from the razor blades and Glock drives, he probably doesn’t take this on planes, but it’s still fun to look inside someone else’s bag, especially an artist. There are some fun details to find, like some “zombie bait” and Lacko’s own “Chewie is my Co-Pilot” sticker.

Want to show us what you’re packing? Add your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool to be chosen for the Photo of the Day feature.

Gadling Gear Review: Incase EO Travel Roller

The Incase EO Travel RollerChoosing the proper luggage for travel can be a very personal experience. After all, with any luck you are selecting a travel companion that will be with you for many years to come and will accompany you on everything from weekend escapes to longer excursions abroad. A good set of luggage can be quite an investment too, which is why it needs to be stylish, versatile and durable. The new EO Travel collection from Incase has been designed from the ground up to meet that criteria and so much more. I recently had the good fortune to test their EO Travel Roller and found it to be a fantastic option for modern travelers looking for a great bag for both business and pleasure.

The first thing that caught my eye about the Roller was the clean, classic looking exterior design. Unlike many other bags, the Roller isn’t cluttered with numerous zippers and pockets that are tacked on without thought for form or function. In fact, with just one exterior pocket, I wondered if this bag would have enough storage options to keep everything well organized while on the road. Turns out I needn’t have worried, but more on that later.

In addition to the clean look of the EO Travel Roller, I was also immediately struck by the high quality handle and wheels, both of which have a very solid and rugged feel. The handle easily slides out at the touch of a button, extending to the perfect length for rolling it through the airport, which is made all the easier thanks to the smooth and steady wheels. Two additional non-telescoping soft handles on the top and side make it a simple affair to grab the bag from either side when it needs to be hefted into or out of a vehicle, or retrieved from the baggage claim.The Incase EO Travel RollerThe exterior of the Travel Roller doesn’t give much of an indication of what to expect from the inside, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it up. As I mentioned above, the lack of exterior pockets was a concern at first glance, but opening the bag put those fears to rest quickly. Incase has put a great deal of thought into the layout of the interior of the Roller and it shows. In addition to a standard large main compartment, they’ve also included a second storage area that has multiple integrated organizational pockets that are perfect for the modern traveler who never leaves home without his or her gadgets. This area of the bag features a laptop sleeve capable of holding a 17″ laptop, several pockets for cables and chargers, and even a compartment specifically designed for an iPad or other tablet. The entire section is lined with thick padding that keeps our favorite tech toys safe and sound, even while they are jostled about in transit.

The bag is designed to be used as a carry-on and complies with the size restrictions for most airlines. But for those times when you need just a little extra storage, the entire Roller expands by an additional 35% with just the simple slide of a zipper. This comes in particularly handy on those trips when you’re returning home with newfound treasure and could use the extra room to safely carry those items. It also adds a nice level of versatility to the bag, which can pull double duty as a carry-on or something larger as needed.

As someone who typically travels out of a backpack, the Travel Roller came as quite a breath of fresh air. Classy and refined, this is a piece of luggage that is prefect for the business traveler who is regularly on the road or someone who likes to travel as light as possible while still enjoying a real piece of luggage. I was impressed with how much the Roller can carry and the fact that it has room for a laptop and other tech gear means that it is possible you could travel with just one bag, leaving the laptop case behind.

I was also impressed with how durable this bag is. Its exterior features a weather resistant front panel that helps repel rain and snow, while the rest of the body is made of rugged materials that won’t scuff, tear or rip easily. That helps deliver a certain piece of mind that this is a bag that you’ll still be using years down the line.

The EO Travel Roller comes with a $249 price tag, which puts it out of the budget of most casual travelers. But for those of us who spend a great deal of time on the road, its impressive design, high quality construction and extra features make it well worth the money. Its integrated laptop sleeve and other organizational pockets help to make this bag stand out from the crowd and make it a fantastic choice for anyone who hits the road with plenty of tech gear in tow. For the modern day road warrior, I can’t think of a better option.

Budget Justice: How To Survive On Spirit Airlines

Like many others, I operate on a shoestring budget, more often than not, out of stubbornness. I prefer to call it budget justice, a principle of savings that guides people like me to needlessly circle the block for a free parking space only to miss the event that got me into my car in the first place, or, worse yet, to time and time again book flights on Spirit Airlines, the ultra low-cost carrier known for luring in customers with absurdly low air fare and then assaulting them with excessive fees, uncomfortable cabins and culturally offensive advertising.

When faced with the choice of true comfort or the perceived value from Spirit, I will always choose Spirit. Fortunately, my experience has prepared me with some survival techniques for the ultimate budget justice. Here’s my advice.

Book without bait

Spirit is almost always running a promotion to get you to the site in hopes that as you book you’ll concede to one of their many aggressive offers before checkout. When enticed with low fares, it always helps to first double check for promo codes on Retail Me Not. If I missed a promo by a few days, I zoom over to Orbitz, where the deal might still be alive; there, I’ll have a higher chance of finding the best fare.

While booking, read each page carefully, and just say no! Decline to choose your seat, decline to check your bag, decline to carry on, decline to rent a car, a hotel, just about everything. You’ll be glad you didn’t take the bait to extend your relationship with Spirit any further than you had to.Perfect the personal item
A shoestring traveler already knows that to avoid fees, checked luggage is off limits. But Spirit often surprises passengers by charging for carry-on bags as well. A non-member can pay online in advance $35 each way for their carry-on bag, or get gouged at the airport kiosk and pay $50. Worse yet, if you bypass pre-paying for your carry-on luggage, you can be stopped at the boarding gate and charged a $100 fee. Suddenly, that $99 round-trip flight is starting to look more like a $300 nightmare.

To fight for your budget justice, perfect the personal item – a purse, briefcase or backpack that you can carry on and stow under the seat for free. A backpack meeting the required dimensions of 16 x 14 x 12 inches is much larger than you think. I often load up my personal item with a MacBook, and four days of clothes. I’ve even traveled with friends who have gone as far as to wear a comical amount of layers in order to skirt the charges.

Side-step the seat selection
When flying budget airlines, sometimes the only comfort you can count on is traveling with a partner, but let’s be realistic – just how memorable is your flight together? I’d wager about as memorable as sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. You’ll get where you’re going regardless of where you are seated, and the worst-case scenario is you are separated from your party for a few terrible hours.
Still, there are ways to increase your chances of sitting together without paying, and it’s based on a system of trusting that everyone else is just as stubborn as you are.

When Spirit asks you to choose your seat ahead of time ($12-$199 each way), simply decline. Each time I purchased two seats on the same transaction, I was able to sit with my partner for free. I simply checked in online early, selected that I would like a random seating arrangement, and the computer put us together.

Recently, when traveling with a group of friends on Spirit, we had all purchased tickets separately and were still able to sit together without paying the price (though we accrued some small fees). Instead of checking in online, we arrived early at the check-in counter ($1 per customer, $5 per boarding pass printout). Even though we had separate confirmation numbers, we approached the counter together and the attendant kindly seated us together as one party. Granted, you may be at the mercy of an airline employee’s mood; it’s still worth a shot.

Fight for free “water”

On a recent flight I sat near an elderly veteran. When the Spirit flight attendant passed by to collect credit cards for pricey drink and snack orders, the gentleman kindly asked, “Do you have free ice water?” With a big smile simulating the pleasant demeanor reserved for a 4 year old, the attendant responded, “I can give you ice. That turns into water.” The veteran accepted his cups of free ice and waited patiently for them to melt. I couldn’t help but admire him for many reasons, not excluding his tenacity for a deal!

[Photo credit: Flickr user theskinnyailurophile]

A TSA Agent Answers Questions From The Community

tsa agent security checkpointIf you are flying this week, you are probably anticipating long security lines, many tiny bottles of liquids, and a lot of time shuffling through a metal detector in your socks. Last night on Reddit, a TSA agent participated in a Q & A (known as an “I Am A…” or “Ask Me Anything” on the site), and the community asked some great questions on security, stereotypes and weird encounters. See below for some of his answers.

On speeding through security checkpoints:

Be nice to officers. Don’t lay it on thick, but being rude or confrontational will get you nowhere. The most often used tactic for officers looking to “win” or “beat” passengers is to slow down.

Pay attention. Especially at bigger checkpoints, look around. Many times there are lanes that have few or no passengers in them, and will not get a lot of business because people assume they are closed. Watch passengers that look like they know what they’re doing and emulate them. We have officers whose job it is to stand around and advise passengers on what they need to do to get through the checkpoint quickly. Pay attention to what they’re saying, they really are just there to help you.

On securing your checked bags:

They’re rollerbags with a hardcase and a lock built in to the side. That is hands down your best option. Anyone with a ballpoint pen can get into a locked piece of luggage and zip it up again without you ever knowing. YouTube it and you’ll see. But still, I’d put a lock on any checked bag. People besides TSA officers handle your luggage, people far less scrupulous than us, and I mean … you don’t want to just invite them to go through your stuff.

On TSA officers stealing:

Officers do steal stuff. Officers are, unfortunately, people, too. Not every person in the world is honest and scrupulous. I know of half a dozen officers who were caught stealing, and it’s usually stupid because it’s a fire-able offense. You get caught and they pull your badge on the spot.

So personally, I don’t get it. Even part timers are making like 400 a paycheck…you try to grab an ipod, or even 40 bucks out of someone’s bin…one paycheck later you’re out way more money than you would have gotten from it. Morality aside…it’s just bad math.

On behind-the-scenes “shenanigans”:

I wouldn’t say there’s really a ‘behind the scenes’ on a passenger checkpoint, but a lot of officers screw around right under passengers noses, and whether or not we get away with it, we believe we do. The sad truth is that in order to maintain staffing to be responsive to rushes there are often times when too many of us around with nothing to do.

We know people say TSA stands for Thousands Standing Around.

At one of my…less professional moments, it was slow and I took a pair of rubber gloves, rolled them into a tight ball and was playing catch with another officer across two lanes. I threw him the ball, and he missed the catch, it bounced off his fingertips and hit an old lady in the head. No one got caught, but that’s what I’m talking about.

Something about Idleness and the devil…

On the stereotypes that agents are useless or have no other career options:

Honestly 99.9% (or more) of the people we interact with on any given day don’t mind or understand that we’re a ‘necessary evil.’ Regular business travelers tolerate us and appreciate when we’re not jerkbags. If you go online and read the complaints about TSA, understand that they really are a vocal minority.
I don’t mind. In fact I went to school for Civil Engineering but once I got into the real world I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Rather than going back to school (and spending a lot more money) I did this. The fact is the pay really is good (I make about 40k a year), with good benefits, and requires little previous experience.

On missing weapons or dangerous items in security checks:

Take a razorblade. Or a long, thin sawblade like what got through security in that Mythbusters. Turn it on end so you’re looking down at the edger of the blade.

Not a lot there to look at.

I hope that helps you imagine how such a thing could be missed..in fact we often catch small pocket knives and the passenger tells us that it has been through half a dozen or more airports without being caught.

On the weirdest items he’s confiscated:

I was around for the liquid scare in 2006. That was pretty crazy. We had these huge garbage bins out by the queues before you even got to the checkpoint, and officers up on the mezzanine with bullhorns just repeating the same things over and over again.

Those bins got filled and emptied countless times during the day…EVERY liquid was thrown in them: expensive perfumes, eye contacts in their little foil packs, baby food. The passengers did it willingly before we even looked in their bags. And very few people complained. Everyone was scared…the threat was real and close.

Other than that…I dunno, there are a ton of things. Some old guy, probably in his 80s, had a sword cane. Said he had it for years, never realized there was a sword in it. He was shocked.

On celebrity pat-downs:

So I don’t get to pat down attractive women. I’ve never woken up in the morning hoping I get to pat down some Abercrombie model. However from a technical standpoint, it is easier to pat down someone who is physically fit rather than someone who is overweight or obese.

On my third day of work, I was brand new, wide eyed stupid, I had to pat down Will Ferrell. It was weird for me…he didn’t seem to mind. I’ve also had to pat down a number of NFL players, because of their size they often wear baggy clothing.

Generally celebrities do their best to remain inconspicuous and when I recognize a passenger as a celebrity, I do my best to remain professional treat them the same as everyone else. In the situation I believe that’s what they prefer.

I did meet Alan Tudyk…and I’m a huge fan. I told him so.

Read the full Q&A here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user TSA Public Affairs]

Lost Luggage Has A Season And It Is Here Now

lost luggage

Lost luggage was once a major problem for airlines but they have been doing better lately. Perhaps with the introduction of fees for checked bags, airlines are paying more attention to what happens to luggage. Maybe it’s those fees that are driving airline passengers to pack less, carry on more and give airlines less to lose. Whatever the reason, lost luggage is less of an issue than it once was for air travelers – for the most part. Still, there are some airlines that do a better job than others and, apparently, a time of the year when lost luggage reports peak.

A recent study by NerdWallet notes, “regional airlines mishandle luggage at significantly higher rates than average.” Those regional airlines include carriers like like ExpressJet, Mesa, and SkyWest. Better known airlines line American, Delta, US Airways and others, have a better report card.

The problem is that those smaller, regional airlines often operate flights for larger carriers, which equals more lost luggage. Also a problem: the holiday travel period between now and January.According to the NerdWallet survey, reports of lost, mishandled, damaged, delayed or stolen luggage spikes during this time as more travelers take to the air.

Looking to minimize the chances of a bad luggage experience? NerdTraveler suggests when traveling with someone else, split valuables into multiple carry-on bags to reduce the odds of losing important papers, documents and other items. Booking direct flights to minimize the airline handling of your luggage can help too.

Another good idea is to take smartphone photos of your luggage and its contents. That goes a long way towards a happy claim when luggage is lost or damaged. Finally, know the airline’s policy on reimbursement. Airlines commonly exclude personal items like electronics, photography equipment, things made of glass and more.



[Photo Credit: Flickr user puregin]