Thursday, April 28, 2016

Travels with Charlie...and John...and Tonka...and Yoda

LUCY BURDETTE: John and I have always been a little smug about traveling light. I have to admit that if we travel with another couple, it's possible that we badger them into only bringing carry-on luggage. If I can fit everything into this suitcase (which we call "the mini") and a backpack, I'm especially pleased.

Which is why some of our friends might get a giggle about our trips between Key West and Connecticut. We jam a Subaru wagon plus the pod strapped on top to the absolute brim. I blame the extra baggage on the animals, John is not so sure. He's not animal crazy the way I am, so the idea of schlepping a big Australian Shepherd and a cat 2000 miles each way seems a bit absurd to him. (So as you can tell, he's a very nice man:).)

the boys in the back seat
Yoda rides in a carrier and is an exemplary traveler--not a peep after his first outraged meow as he's zipped into the box. Tonka is a good companion too. Besides them, we also need an enormous sack of their special senior food and medications, and even a bag of ringer IV fluids to treat Yoda's kidney condition. And the litter box… I prefer the Cedarific brand of litter, which is light and smells better. The disadvantage is that he drags it all over whatever room we're staying in. And you can't find it in Florida so we drag giant bags of that around with us too...

Yoda relaxing in the hotel
We stayed in quite a nice hotel in DC this time to visit our son, and of course the first criterion was pet-friendly. (Not that easy with a cat!) As we were leaving, everyone in the lobby exclaimed over the dog. The distracted bellhop was getting ready to sling Yoda's carrier onto the cart.

"Be careful," I said, "there's a cat in there."

"Of course ma'am," he said, and tucked the kennel in gently next to the litter box and the massive sack of pet supplies. 

Then he picked up the cooler. "What's in here, the rabbit?" 

We all burst out laughing.

Are you a light traveler or do you need a lot of extras just in case?


  1. I love that you are able to travel with Tonka and Yoda . . . we could never do that with our dogs [golden retrievers] so they vacationed at the boarding kennel when we flew from California to New Jersey to visit family.

    We definitely try to be light travelers. Waiting for luggage at baggage claim is frustrating [as is having to pay a fee to check a suitcase], so a carry-on bag [with not too many extras] and a backpack work really well . . . .

  2. Light traveler here.... I refuse to pay extra fees!

  3. It's fortunate that your animals are such good travelers. I can't imagine driving 2000 miles with a yowling cat, or a dog with constant motion sickness.. That would zap the fun right out of life.

    In the 70's, before suitcases had wheels, I was a dress buyer for a chain of retail stores in Cincinnati, which meant two to four days of flying to New York City every five or six weeks. My boss, who is close to my age, and I had a competition for the lightest weight bag, which I always won. He took full cans of shave cream, for heaven's sake. Until I introduced him to the concert of sample sizes.

    When we went to Tanzania a few years ago for two weeks I made do with a carry-on and a large tote. I still had to manage my full luggage allotment, though, because my photographer husband needed the rest of my baggage room for his gear.

    My big upcoming challenge is carrying one small, carry-on sized bag, plus a tote, to live out of for three weeks in Italy, Austria, Germany, and the Czeck Republic. We shall see!

  4. Way back when we had cats, our beloved Eloise had a medical condition diagnosed just before we left for a week in New Mexico, so the cat came with us so we could keep an eye on her. She (actually it was a he but we found out to late to get that imprinted on our brains) was a lovely travel companion.

    I travel as light as I possibly can. NEVER check a bag unless they make me do it. But I think you're allowed extra baggage when the trip is going to last 5 months.

    If we're traveling by train and foot, I want just a backpack because even a wheelie bag is a nightmare on cobblestone streets and they're heavy if you have to schlep. I did 2 weeks in Italy with just a backpack with room to stuff in 3 purses for my daughters and me (can't go to Italy and not bring home a purse or two).

  5. I always pack a little too heavy for airplanes, but still in a carry-on bag. My bag coming to DC yesterday was ridiculously heavy because of hundreds of postcards, coaster, and bookmarks to give away at Malice. But then if I don't have a rush at the other end I gate check the bag - it's free and I don't have to lift the darn thing over my head. But I'm exactly like you when I car travel even though I don't bring pets - might as well throw it all in!

  6. Yes Joan and Susan, waiting for the luggage (to come or not come) and paying extra fees to check is maddening! They really ought to charge to carry on a bag--I have seen passengers almost come to fisticuffs over the overhead bin space.

  7. Karen, you and Hallie win prizes for lightest travelers. Hallie, you went to Australia with only a backpack too, if I remember right?

    Edith, the challenge with small people is whether we'll be able to hoist our bags overhead. Often folks will help, but I figure I can't count on it. You're already in DC--have a wonderful weekend! and good luck with the Agathas!

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  9. Wow, a cat in a hotel. I didn't know you could do that!

    ANd as for luggage--I only do carry on. What fits in my suitcase, goes. What doesn't, stays home. Headed for Malice in an hour or two with my one roller bag and a tote bag. (I put my purse in the tote bag so it's consolidated into one bag.) ANd yes, I do sometimes rely on the kindness of strangers to get the thing in the overhead. SO far, so good!

    Wow, again. A cat in a hotel. Mine would never have stood for it. :-) She would have hidden under the bed and never ever come out.

  10. Karen, "concert" put a wonderful picture in my mind ... standing in front of the shelves of travel sizes and conducting them into the bag! :-) Thank you.

  11. We've only started traveling with our Shih Tzu, Louis; he's the first small-and-portable dog we've ever had. I just couldn't face journeying with our former giant economy sized dogs!

    You're specialty equipment made me laugh, Lucy. Before I posted this comment, I walked Louis, fed cat #1 her special easy-to-digest food, fed cat #2 her special allergy food, and then dosed her with antibiotics. It's not really that much different than when I had babies, which is why I'm refusing to get any more pets until one or two of the kids move out for good!

  12. Oh, and Edith, my trick for conferences is to mail all my postcards/arcs/newsletters etc. to my hotel. I send them out about a week in advance via media mail - it's cheaper and easier than toting them myself if I'm flying!

  13. Loved reading this. We need to compare notes over this subject while in KW this fall. I travel by car from PA to KW with my two Belgian Tervurens Rose and Breezy. They sit strapped into the back seat like your guy Tonka. Mine sit atop folded quits and towels that serve another purpose in my cottage down south. And I feed my girls an all raw diet and since the cost to do so is much higher at the end of the line in KW, I bring two large coolers packed with frozen chicken and beef. It sits in the foot wells between the front and back seats. That will get me a month or so through my stay before I have to replenish my supply. I also must bring my own pillow, my magnifying lit make up mirror, food processor for what else? Making dog food. But now that I will be an official homeowner in KW, time will tell what other items fill the places in the car that used to be held by things I can now simply leave in KW.

  14. Safe travels Hank! Yoda is an unusual cat--he thinks any room he's in is HIS room. But many hotels won't take a cat because of allergies? furniture scratching? marking territory?

    Julia, Tonka has special digestion needs and Yoda has kidney problems. They are on more meds than we are!!

    Anna, the cooler full of frozen meat may take the prize...

  15. I'm curious for particulars...What size is that carry on suitcase? How big are these backpacks you are all referring to?

  16. The rabbit - now that's funny.

    I tend to travel as light as possible. I am also a backpack person, although after last weekend, I think I may have to upgrade to either a larger backpack or another type of bag.

    I usually fly Southwest, which doesn't charge for luggage. So when the only flight available for to Raleigh for Bouchercon last fall was American, I sucked it up and paid the $25 checked luggage fee. Given the hassle they put me through on the way home you think they'd have waived the fee or something for the inconvenience. Oh no.

    So on my list of "things to buy before my next flight" is a wheelie bag that fits in the overhead compartment. And yes, I've seen people get into rather heated discussions when it comes to using those compartments. Sheesh. Just use the one over your seat and be quiet!

  17. I'm a more-or-less light packer, meaning while I've rid myself of my former tendency to take two of everything (what if I spill something on that white top?) there's still room for improvement.

    Hallie, I am loving the boy cat named Eloise. A trans kitty of sorts.

    Good luck to all the Agatha nominees at Malice. I wish I could be there this year to applaud all of you!

  18. YES! Use the overhead bin that's over your seat. How hard is that? Grr…xoxoo

  19. Thank you, Brenda! Wish you were going…love love love

  20. Sigh. I do check a bag, even if I can manage to fit all my stuff into a rollaboard. I HATE having to shove things into the overhead. The only time I pay fees is when I'm not flying American, so that's not the big issue.

    And I am not a good packer. Maybe this is a genetic thing...

    I'm laughing about the dog and cat diets, too. Both our dogs (who are only two and three!) have special--and different--diets. We haven't traveled with these dogs, although we did with our late two shepherds and they were great in the car. We need to plan a trip--if I am ever not behind on a book...

  21. I love that you travel with your pets, Lucy. My dog and cat are on special diets too (raw food)--it's probably good that I don't travel long distances with them in the car. Hard to keep that stuff frozen for days. :-) (yick)

    I'm not a light traveler. Weekends trips that aren't about book things, okay, sure, I can do a carry-on. However, seems like a lot of my long weekends away about about writing events, in which I, of course, need to bring extra copies, swag, more and better clothes than I'd usually bring, my laptop because I might hopefully get work done, novel notebooks, etcetera ... I'm not the only one like this, am I?

    Being a writer has made me a heavier packer!

  22. I travel lighter than my husband. He has to bring all his electronics, many changes of clothes, you name it. I use a carryon and a tote of some sort. Although we always check our bags since it's free. Next month, if nothing dire happens, we will drive to N.E. Ohio for a graduation. Our 13 year old dog is not in good health so we plan to bring him with us. Which means bed, dog food, treats, meds. Sigh.

  23. I am such awe of you light packers who travel only with a carry-on or a backpack. My daughter is such a traveler, too, and spent six weeks in Europe with a backpack. She even has those special underwear that you can wash out and they dry especially quickly. I tend to way overthink what I might need and end up with a bag to check that pushes the weight limit. I try to fly Southwest most of the time due to their free bag service. Of course, if I go to a book event, there is no hope for me. I'm really going to work on cutting down on the number of books I take to Bouchercon this year. The return trip is a breeze with the shipping service there, and so there are some books I'm waiting to purchase a hard copy for until I visit the book room. This year I think I'm driving, so that should make life, or packing, easier.

    Oh, a traveling with a pet story. Before we had children, we had a Cocker Spaniel named Barry. When we went to visit my parents at Christmas, we loaded all the presents for nieces and nephews into our small car with the regular suitcases. We were so full that I held a cake I had made on my lap and had Barry in between my legs on the floorboard. It was a four-hour trip, and we didn't get there a minute too soon.

  24. Oh Kathy, you do win the prize for best pet travel story. If that had been Tonka, I would have been sitting in a river of drool.

    Pat, good luck traveling with the old guy. Maybe you all will have such a great experience that you will take him everywhere LOL!

    Mary and Hank, yes! What's wrong with the space above your seat? We had a terrible time on one trip with a man who wouldn't give up space because of his hat. The pilot finally had to come down the aisle and negotiate between the passengers.

    Debs, John was the only one on this trip not on a special diet LOL! When I was learning to drive, we take our two German Shepherd's out with us. The smoothness of my stops was judged on how many fell to the floor. A "no dog stop" was what we were shooting for.

  25. The maximum carry-on size for most airlines is 22" X 14" X 9". I searched and searched for one that had the closest possible dimensions, since that gave me the maximum interior space. The one I found (Target, if you're wondering) does not have the spinner wheels, but my world traveler daughter says they are nice in scary places because you can push them in front of you, and keep your eyes on your bag.

    I also bought a fabulous tote from Target that has an outside pocket that unzips on the bottom. This lets you slip the former pocket over your suitcase handles. I also stuff my handbag in the tote, Hank, as my "one personal item".

    When I did consumer shows that were too far to drive to, I always shipped my books and other products ahead to the hotel, too. If you do this, you should call the hotel a couple weeks ahead and ask for the exact wording to put in the address, to make sure they know what to do with it. Just shipping it there without the right information could end up disastrously.

  26. Time was when I could go away for a month with a carry on. Somehow I lost the gene. Now, just going away for the weekend takes more than I think I will ever wear. My husband is WORSE. How he was ever in the military, I'll never know. Or maybe that explains it.

    I need to find a good wheelie bag that can be easily stowed in the overhead. Or, I need to be taller. Nah.