By the time you read this, our brand new Eagle Creek 22-inch Latitude carry-on bag will be in the midst of its international test, around Italy and Britain. We chose it after studying Consumer Reports tests, comparison shopping at retail and luggage stores, combing various travel accessory catalogs, and querying many fellow travelers.
In the end, it was the one bag that just felt and looked right for our particular life and travel style. It is a casual but smart, sporty, modern, and presentable carry-on when it's necessary (22 inches is the maximum allowable length), yet rugged enough to withstand several years of rough riding and intemperate weather.
Additionally, Eagle Creek has an excellent reputation for strong, durable, and well-designed travel equipment, and we already have a couple of their indispensable hanging toiletry bags.
Our Latitude will certainly be put to the test on this trip. We'll be running it around airport carousels. Packing it into aircraft holds. Throwing it into the backs of cars. Hefting it onto overhead railway racks. And running it over smooth airport concourses and cobbled streets alike.
We'll be checking out its carrying capacity and expansion potential. Tugging at the zippers. Packing the extra pouches. Filling up every nook and cranny. And in our minds, comparing it with the old shoulder-strap faithful left behind at home for the first time in 15 years.
Sad, really, but we're hoping that the wear and tear of carrying 20-plus pounds over the shoulder will be seriously reduced by the built-in wheels and pull-out handle.
We'll also be carrying a photo of this new piece of luggage to facilitate retrieval in case it gets onto the wrong plane.
In the current atmosphere, we'll also be traveling as inconspicuously as possible. No U.S.-style sweatshirts or T-shirts emblazoned with national brand logos or university mascots. We'll be in full blend-in mode - something we do automatically anyway these days.
Passports and items of value will be stashed away in hidden pockets or hotel safes or simply tucked away somewhere in the rooms of hotels we know and trust. All our credentials and documents - passports, credit cards, driving licenses, airline tickets, and such will have been photocopied twice. One set of copies kept apart from the originals. Another at home with someone we can contact in an emergency.
Our carry-on day packs will be filled with camera and film (the higher dosage of radiation used on checked bags can now apparently damage film), guide books and note books, and paperbacks. There'll be a small CD player to while away the time on planes and trains. And toiletries without anything pointy or cutting-edge.
And those shampoos and tooth pastes will all be downsized, sample-sized, or repackaged into small plastic containers, with room for expansion. Medications will be in their original containers.
Clothes will be “smart casual” (as the Brits call it) and loose-fitting. The shoes will have no metal tips that might set off the scanners. And socks will be checked for holes - to avoid embarrassment if asked to take our shoes off!
To keep in touch with the news of the world at this critical period and to pass the time on sleepless nights, we'll be taking along, as always, an AM/FM/short wave Sony radio (the size and weight of a paperback). And wherever we go, we'll buy local and/or English-language newspapers to keep current.
And as an added assist, we're taking a cell phone bought in Europe on a previous trip and leaving the number with friends and family at home and abroad so they can get in touch in cases of emergency or emotion.
As this is February, with temperatures ranging from the 30s in the UK to the 50s in Italy, layering will be all-important -lots of lightweight turtlenecks and such, a fleece for extra warmth, and a waterproof jacket with zip-out lining and good storage pockets.
As the drumbeats of war grow louder, we'll be a bit apprehensive, of course, and constantly vigilant. But we refuse to be kept home by threats of terrorism or war. And short of State Department advisories or other specific warnings, we plan to keep traveling - because we want to. It's what we do.