luggage

Packing for a trip? Do you fold or roll?

Blackpool Suitcase

When it’s time to hit the road, do you fold, roll, layer or squish? Do you make a packing list or just wing it?

Those are just a few of the questions Cheapflights.com recently asked travelers in a quick on-line survey.

Here’s what they found:

Just over 56 percent of Americans make packing lists and 77 percent plan or lay out outfits.

Forty-two percent of us start packing two to three days before leaving home and an another 30 percent start packing a week ahead of a trip.

26 percent admitted waiting until the night before a trip to start packing while just over 2 percent said they lived on the edge and and didn’t pack anything until a hour or less before leaving.

No doubt, those are people you see looking for a place to buy underwear at the airport.

Fold or roll?

70 percent of survey respondents said they folded clothes in their suitcases, while 30 percent said rolling was their method of choice.

And maybe it doesn’t really matter what you pack or how: only 45 percent of Americans reported that they ended up wearing everything they packed.

Upcycled carry-on bags from United banners

united recycled bags

The airline industry uses a lot of ‘stuff’ and some of that stuff gets recycled and re-used and made into new things that you may want to buy.

The newest “upcycled” aviation items are a set of 100 carry-on bags made from 20 United Airlines “Fly the Friendly Skies” banners.

The airline worked with the Columbia College Chicago Department of Fashion Studies and the Re:new Project and asked them to come up with a carry-on bag that would look good and be durable, be economical to make and fit under an airplane seat.

The results look appealing and are available for purchase at the United Shop .

Even better: the proceeds from sales of the upcycled banners will benefit Re:new and the Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project in Northern Peru.

Cool travel gear at the International Travel Goods Show

The latest in luggage, travel gear and gadgets-for-those-on-the-go was on display this week at the 2015 International Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas.

Here are just a few of my favorite items that were out on the floor.

1_Playluggage Blocks_courtesy Playluggae

The designers at Estonia-based Playluggage want their luggage to be a “dependable and trustworthy partner for the craziest adventures.” They’re on the right track with suitcases that have surfaces that double as game boards for backgammon, Chinese checkers, chess, poker and Parcheesi, a model that comes with erasable markers and a covering you can draw on and this new design, which has a surface compatible with Lego-style blocks.

5_ShelfPack2

Hotel butlers unpack and repack luggage for well-to-do guests. The rest of us must do all that ourselves. The Shelfpack (MSRP: $349) from McKaba Luggage may be a good in-between option.

The idea: organize you outfits on the collapsible shelves built inside the suitcase, push the shelves into the suitcase and then pop them back up on arrival to form an instant dresser.

For more fun stuff from the 2015 International Travel Goods Show, see my slide-show on CNBC

Tune-up tips for travelers

TRAVEL SUITCASES

Even the savviest traveler can use a few new tricks each year, whether on the road for business or leisure.

So here are some of the expert tips I gathered for a recent CNBC Road Warrior piece.

Fly Frugally

Before the end of the year, take inventory of your frequent flier miles. Claim credit for any missing miles and decide if you can top off—with an extra flight, hotel stay or mile-generating purchase—accounts where you are close to getting elite status perks for the following year.

When shopping for new flight reservations, sign up for fare alerts, enlist helpers such as Kayak’s price forecasting tool and remember the “24-hour reservation requirement” put into effect in January 2012 by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The rule requires carriers to hold a flight reservation for 24 hours without payment, or allow a reservation to be canceled within 24 hours without penalty if the reservation is made one week or more ahead of the flight’s departure date.

“If you see an airfare you’re comfortable with, book it,” said Kayak spokeswoman Maria Katime. You can continue your research and, if you find something better, go back and cancel.

Reasonable rental cars

When it comes to cars, reserve once you know your dates and have done some shopping, but recheck prices closer to the time of travel. “Prices can drop last-minute, depending on the actual availability of cars versus what the companies anticipate,” said travel expert Carol Pucci, who saved more than $100 with this method on the Big Island of Hawaii. “It was easy to do because I hadn’t prepaid, which is hardly ever a good idea given the chances of prices falling,” said Pucci.

To make sure a rental car company doesn’t charge you for scrapes, scratches or dings already on the car you’re issued, “take pictures of the car before you drive it away and when you return it,” said Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the business travel website Joe Sent Me.

“Rental firms are getting extremely aggressive about these charges and since the cars in the fleet are older these days than they used to be, there’s more of a chance you’ll be given a car with a ding and/or scratches,” he said.

Honing in on hotel deals

Sign up for the frequent stay program of any hotel you visit to take advantage of free perks that can include complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi and welcome amenities such as cheese plates and bottles of wine for even the first-time guest.

Research room rates and hotel property reviews online, but as a final step, call the hotel you’ve chosen. “Once I narrow down my hotel choice, I call the hotel to see if they have any better offers then what I see online,” said Rob Connors, assistant vice-president of marketing for National Car Rental. “Your membership in a club or association might get you an added discount, and many times hotels offer special rates for suppliers calling on nearby companies.”

It’s also a good idea to check city tourism sites for short-run, special promotions.

Some cities have destination marketing funds and packages designed to generate room sales during off-seasons. The inaugural Hotel Week LA runs from Nov. 29 to Dec. 14, and in 2015, more than 30 Manhattan properties are participating in the fourth New York Hotel Week from Jan. 3 to 18. The programs offer significant discounts rate for some of each city’s top, usually very pricey, properties.

Vancouver’s “Be Vancouver” promotion gives guests $125 American Express prepaid gift cards for bookings made by Nov. 16 for stays through Feb. 28, bringing rates in some upscale hotels down to less than $60.

“The offers coming from that program are the best we have on offer,” said Jim Mockford, general manager of the Listel Hotel. “They’re highly targeted in regards to time frame, so you have to be quick and flexible. So it’s always a good idea to put your name on the mailing list of your favorite hotels. You’ll hear about some great deals that you’ll never see anywhere else.”

Choosing travel gear

To get the best bang for your buck when shopping for travel gear “make a list of three to five ‘musts’ for your new bag and prioritize these as you do research,” said Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association.

“The manufacturer’s warranty policy can be an indicator of durability, but be sure to check the dimensions of new carry-on bags to avoid getting dinged by extra charges when flying,” she said.

When to use a travel agent

Modern online booking tools and mobile apps make it easy to research and reserve much of your own travel. But the customer services of a travel advisor who can quickly reroute and rebook you when there’s a travel snafu can come in handy.

“When it’s a trip that matters—family vacations, celebration travel, a destination you want to experience rather than ‘see’—that’s when you most need a travel advisor,” said Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies. “Not only will they save you precious time, they can save you money with negotiated hotel benefits and extensive firsthand knowledge to ensure that you get exactly what you expect from the trip.”

Boarding the bus

“Bus travelers typically save 50 to 55 percent versus the train and 55 to 73 percent versus flying,” said Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago and author of the Traveler’s Tradeoff study comparing intercity bus, plane and train fares across the United States.

“The ‘sweet spot’ for bus travel involves trips between 125 and 300 miles. Driving can be tedious, but air travel is often not cost effective,” he said.

When to book the bus?

“As early as possible,” said Megabus spokesman Mike Alvich. “Generally customers booking 30 to 45 days in advance will see the greatest savings, but even last-minute trip tickets are still very affordable in comparison to last-minute airline travel or even the cost of filling the gas tank of your personal vehicle.”

Smarter destination choices

You may not have much choice where business trips take you, but you can save money on leisure trips and avoid crowds by heading for South Africa, Shanghai, Uruguay, Portugal or some of the other “best-value” destinations on Lonely Planet’s Best Travel 2015 list.

Choosing “almost-as-good” alternatives to classic experiences in more expensive cities can also save cash.

“European cities are stuffed full of amazing historic buildings and churches that can be seen and explored for free without the crowds of big-name things,” said Lonely Planet’s editorial director, Tom Hall. “Gorilla trekking might be an unforgettable experience in East Africa, but looking out for chimpanzees and smaller primates can be much more fun and is certainly easier on the wallet.”

Book a room, get a free suitcase

GLobe Trotter bespoke luggage

This unusual offer that certainly trumps chocolates at turndown was included in the slideshow about new luggage I put together last week for CNBC Road Warrior.

This holiday season (Dec. 15 through Jan. 5, 2015), guests who book a special suite package at the 5-star Brown’s Hotel in London will receive a custom-made 21-inch Globe-Trotter suitcase, made at the company’s flagship store located next door to the hotel.

Planning ahead is required, because three weeks before arrival, a guest will be asked to choose the colors for the outside of their suitcase, the lining, the clasps and the preferred monogramming. The bespoke suitcase (along with a fine bottle of Champagne) will then be waiting in the suite at check-in.

Rates start at £2,000, or about $3,200 per night.