Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: March 2016

Packing lists

Having forgotten to pack everything from razors to wristwatches over the years I had relied solely on my memory when it came time to pack for a big international trip until more recently when I was gifted a packing check list and it has been a useful aid so thought I’d highlight it and a few other resources available to travellers.

While wardrobe will vary by depending upon a few factors such as destination climate or whether it’s a work or pleasure trip I pack much the same essentials each time and take a moment to walk through the
pre-printed Pack This! check list.


The pad of 60 is only $6.99 and may be ordered online but I’ve spotted them in local luggage retailers. Alternatively Rick Steves has a free printable packing checklist here.

While I prefer the hardcopy checklist there are several interactive websites which allow you to enter your criteria and create a personalized packing list such as the The Universal Packing List, the Travelers’ Checklist or the Independent Traveler.

The value of a checklist is magnified for those like me who travel with only a carry-on so for the record here is my packing list:


Innate Lavartio ModularToiletries Kit
Folding travel toothbrush
Small travel size toothpaste
Shampoo bar from LUSH
Schick Hydro 5 razor
Body Shop Maca Root Shave Cream in a small 5 gram empty clear plastic jar
Hair brush
Hair spray in small pump bottle
Cologne in a tester size
Sunscreen (some destinations)
AfterBurn aloe vera sunburn aid (some destinations)
Emery board
Band-Aid bandages
Facial cream
Prescription allergy nasal inhaler
Small packet facial tissues
Woolite travel laundry soap packets
Travel size emergency sewing kit & thread
Nytol sleeping aid


Two pairs khaki slacks
Two T-shirts, no logo
One pair walking shorts (some destinations)
Long sleeve polo shirt
Short sleeve polo shirt
Cotton short sleeve casual shirt
Three pair socks
Three pair underwear
Pajama bottoms
Lightweight jacket
Toque & gloves (some destinations)
Swim trunks
ECCO walking shoes
Sport sandals (some destinations)

Identification/Credit cards:

Passport + photocopy stored separately
Drivers licence
One MasterCard, one Visa credit card
Credit card company emergency contact information
ATM card
Small bills in local currency + small U.S. bills
Copy of airline e-ticket and itinerary
Hotel confirmations/vouchers
Hotel or airline loyalty program card(s)
Business cards


Cell phone (for photos)
Canon Rebel T3 DSLR
Camera shoulder bag
Camera battery charger
Kobo e-reader (some destinations)
Sleep mask
Travel pillow
Guidebook & destination map
Phrasebook (some destinations)
LL Bean Travel alarm clock
Reading material (paperback)
Digital watch


Home & car keys
Ziploc extra large freezer bags; used as space-saving bags to hold shirts, undies and socks with air forced out to save space, doubling as sealable laundry bag or for wet swimwear/clothes
Small leather pocket hotel or metro card holder
Eagle Creek Hidden Pocket; far more useful and unobtrusive than neck pouches that chafe in warmer climates
Spare prescription glasses
Sunglasses and holder
Hat or baseball cap (some destinations)
Small nylon drawstring day bag; good for pools or day trips without the bulky camera bag
Vapur water bottle
Small Canadian maple leaf flag lapel pins; good for small souvenirs from a proud Canadian

With some careful packing all the items fit inside the two Briggs & Riley bags I wouldn’t leave home without: the Expandable Cabin Bag and the slightly larger two-wheeled roll-aboard called the Domestic Carry-on Expandable Upright:






And yes, my luggage really is black but travelling with a carry-on means I’m able to bypass the baggage carousel with its sea of travellers searching a sea of black bags for theirs and make a quick getaway.

A look at how to pack instead of what to pack

Having travelled with only a carry-on for years I enjoy tinkering with different packing aids, space savers and gadgets but regardless of what I’m putting in my suitcase how I pack it inevitably it boils down to one of two packing techniques: flat and rolled packing. The

Read any one of a number of online sources and you’ll find a plethora of rolling proponents and while I’ve tried this technique out of sheer curiosity found it lacking so went back to my preferred method of flat packing using large Ziploc bags with the air pushed out to save space or volume if not weight. Thinking I was in the minority I was happy to read this article recently which in a wholly unscientific experiment found flat packing the victor.

I’m sure to some how to pack a bag may seem a trivial matter but as one who travels with a carry-on bag a few inches or ounces can make a difference.

Do you have a packing preference? Please leave a comment explaining your methods or techniques.





KLM Behind the scenes: Baggage

For those who’ve wondered what happens to their checked luggage when it disappears down the conveyor belt and out of sight here’s a look behind the scenes at KLM’s facilities in their main global hub, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

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KLM Behind the scenes: Baggage by iflymagazine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

World’s best and worst passports revealed

Passport Index
When crossing international frontiers one travel document opens more doors than any other and it isn’t a Canadian passport.

According to the 2016 Visa Restrictions Index published by Henley & Partners and released recently German passport holders may enter visa free entry 177 out of 218 countries and territories while Canada ranked sixth with our passport opening 172 doors, two more countries than last year’s index but also two places lower in the overall ranking which is compiled in conjunction with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Top Ten

  1. Germany
  2. Sweden
  3. Finland, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom
  4. Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, United States
  5. Austria, Japan, Singapore
  6. Canada, Ireland (Republic), Korea (Republic of, South), Norway, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland
  7. Greece, New Zealand
  8. Australia
  9. Malta
  10. Iceland, Hungary, Czech Republic

Countries are ranked according to the total number of other countries which they can access visa-free.

Could I get worked up about how my home and native land failed to place higher on this index? Perhaps but not needing a visa to visit 79% of all the nations on this little planet isn’t to bad either and having renewed my passport recently for one of the ten-year versions I look forward to wearing it out entering visa-free as many of the 172 nations on the list as possible.

CAD passport
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canadian passport by hobvias sudoneighm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.

Make the big detour to visit these smaller museums

In any big metropolis worthy of being called a world capital a landmark museum or two is almost a prerequisite and while these institutions are definitely worth exploring for their priceless art or cultural treasures their sheer size and popularity can make shorter visits challenging so I’ll offer a shortlist of museums I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring in my travels and which while smaller in size offer intrepid visitors a more human scale and immersive historical experience.

The Cloisters is a branch of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art  and is located at Manhattan’s northern tip in Washington Heights Fort Tryon Park. Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the land in 1917 and had it landscaped by the firm headed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., son of the designer of Central Park, before donating it to New York City in 1935. During this time remaining stones from five abbeys in France and Spain were purchased and shipped over stone-by-stone to be reconstructed and used with new buildings in medieval-style cloisters. The hilltop buildings are prominent in Winter from the Hudson River.

The Cloisters from Hudson River Photo by author

The Pontaut Chapter House was my favorite space with it’s graceful arches and intimate size. Monks would gather daily for meetings in a chapter house and this 12th century example is from Pontaut in Aquitaine, France and when purchased in the 1930’s was being used to house farm animals.

The Cloisters Pontaut Chapter House Photo by author

The Saint-Guilhem Cloister is the smallest cloister and incorporates many 12th and 13th century capitals from the abbey near Montpellier, France which was a stop on the pilgrims trail to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Note the incorporation of the historic stones with new ones in the arches and cloister walls quarried in New York State.

The Cloisters Saint-Guilhem Cloister Photo by author

The Fuentiduena Chapel features more than 3,000 stones that make up the 12th century half-dome apse from the church of San Martin in Fuentiduena, Spain. Also in the chapel are a painted Spanish medieval crucifix and 11th century Tuscan doorway on the right of the photo.

IMG_0065_2 Photo by author

Note that admission to The Cloisters includes same-day entry to the Metropolitan Museum of Art meaning if you were so inclined a morning visit to The Cloisters could be followed with an afternoon wandering through “The Met” until closing time. There is a good Cloisters museum map to give an overview of the site.

The Churchill War Rooms is one of five branches of Britain’s Imperial War Museums and is tucked away below street level in the middle of the central London in the Westminster neighborhood of Whitehall.

Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms began in earnest in 1938 with war clouds gathering and was completed weeks before the outbreak of hostilities in August 1938 and were in use throughout the war sheltering Winston Churchill and his war cabinet from the German bombs and rockets that rained down on the city. After the surrender of Japan to close World War II the historical value of the facility was realised and it was preserved intact for decades before being opened to the public in early 1984. The entrance was redesigned and modernized in 2012 but this is how it was when I visited in 1997.

Churchill war rooms

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Churchill Warrooms by IxK85 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The tangible link to such momentous moments in history is visible to the visitor often is small ways such as the scratches in the arm of Churchill’s wooden chair where nervous energy and a ring left telling marks as to the strain he must have felt in the darkest hours of the Blitzkrieg.

war rooms 1

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Churchill War Rooms in London by Heather Cowper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The bed Churchill frequently occupied along with his desk from which he broadcast many stirring speeches are preserved just as he left them.

war room bed

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This work by Ealasaid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Musée national du Moyen Âge – Thermes et hôtel de Cluny (National Museum of the Middle Ages – Cluny thermal baths and mansion) is nestled in a quiet corner of Paris’ Latin Quarter just off Boulevard Saint-Germain and is quite literally history built upon history with the 12th century townhouse or hôtel of the abbots of  Cluny built on the 3rd century Gallo-Roman baths, known as the Thermes de Cluny.  

IMG_3112photo by author

The museum itself is divided into two halves: the Gallo-Roman thermal baths and the medieval mansion, the Hôtel de Cluny.

IMG_3108photo by author

The baths were an important part of the Roman city of Lutetia and include the frigidarium which is as the Latin name suggests is a cool space that isn’t hard to image being used as a 3rd century spa.

The riches of the Roman ruins are matched however by the other half of the museum as the Hôtel de Cluny houses the 15th century tapestry collection known as “The Lady and the Unicorn“.

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Lady and the Unicorn by Atlant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic License.

The Musée de Cluny- National Museum of the Middle Ages is easy to combine with nearby sights such as the Pantheon, Luxembourg Palace and Luxembourg Gardens or the great Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame which is only a few hundred metres away.

Glasgow has preserved a unique part of its history as the Tenement House affords visitors a look at what life was like for the first half of the 20th century for one family. Agnes Toward moved into this 19th century tenement building as a child in 1911 and lived in it until her passing in 1975 and it was only then that the potential historical importance of the flat was realised as Toward had kept everything virtually unchanged as it had been in the first part of the 20th century.

While technically not a museum the tenement is administered by the National Trust for Scotland as a preserved slice of one Glaswegian’s life from a bygone era.

Tenement House Glasgow 1 Tenement House Glasgow 2

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Tenement House, 145 Buccleuch Street, Glasgow, Scotland by Glen Bowman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Along the same lines is the Tenement Museum on New York’s Lower East Side but instead of telling the story of one occupant and their family it follows the life stories of several different families from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Amsterdam’s Het Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House) is where this Dutch master lived and worked for 20 years in the early 17th century on some of his most famous painting including the famous ‘Night Watch’ now on display a short walk away in the Rijksmuseum. Visitors are able to walk through the house and get a sense of how Rembrandt lived and worked and see a number of his etchings.


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Rembrandthuis by Michiel1972 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Despite being a well established artist by 1656 Rembrandt was unable to pay his debts and so was forced to declare bankruptcy but his misfortune would help later generations as a detailed inventory of furnishings and possessions was taken in preparation for the property’s sale and it was this list which helped in restoring the interior when the building was opened as a museum in 1911.

Rembrandt House Amsterdam interior

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Rembrandt House by Ana Paula Hirama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Unported License.

Another excellent small Amsterdam museum within blocks of the Rembrandt House is the Jewish Historical Museum so seeing both in a leisurely morning is possible and highly recommended.

Some of the smaller museums on my list are included in the city sightseeing cards such as the Churchill War Rooms with the  London Pass or Rembrandt House as part of the I Amsterdam City Card  further adding to their value for travellers who hold these passes but all are great choices for visitors with limited time or for those who have already visited the large institutions.

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