The Mindful Traveler

Clockwise from top: Garment folder, Cargo Hauler duffel, self-stowing Matador backpack and stacked packing cubes. Photos by Mark Gallo

I've got a theory about how we pack for travel. What we pack and how much we pack are often a result of one's travel experience and age.

As a twenty-something on my first trip to Europe in 1981, I packed everything I thought I needed for five weeks in Greece and Turkey into a carry-on-size soft piece of luggage with grab handles and a shoulder strap but no wheels.

I had several shirts, a pair of shorts, underwear, socks, a hat, a wind shell and a razor with shaving...


Wherever I travel, regardless of transportation mode, I try to pack light. I loathe lifting and wheeling heavy bags over and over… in and out of car trunks, up curbs and down train stairs, along rough sidewalks, etc. And I prefer not to have to paw through a lot of garments to get to what I want in my luggage.

Many seasoned travelers agree that traveling light is the only way to go. Here are my suggestions for making that possible.

Choosing luggage


Save your places of interest with the star button.

After my 2-part article "They're Called Smartphones for Good Reason" ran in the February and March 2018 issues, a number of readers wrote with suggestions and comments about using smartphones for saving critical itinerary information and navigating with maps, especially while offline.

The following are the most helpful tips, along with my own comments. All my comments pertain to using an iPhone with iOS version 11.4.1 and the latest update of Google Maps as of 8/8/18....


The title of this month’s column is oxymoronic. It would be more appropriate to call it “Trying to be less miserable in coach” (that is, in an airline’s economy-class seat).

If you’re like me, you’ve become inured to the increasingly class-based system of paying for passenger preferences. It’s like background noise: after a while, we don’t really notice it until something new jumps out or we jump back in after a long absence. We go after...


Smartphones have a number of functions that travelers find most useful, and I began describing a few of them last month, including the camera, the Geotagging feature and Google Maps. I’ve been referencing the iPhone 6’s functionality, since that’s what I use, but Android phones are similarly capable, if not more so. 


Like millions of other people, I’ve become a big fan of Uber, the phone app where you tap a button and get a ride that’s...


They’re called smartphones for good reason

(First of two parts)

I prefer to use my bike to get around my hometown of Santa Barbara, so I see firsthand the number-one distraction of modern life: the smartphone. And it’s not just drivers who are distracted; cyclists and pedestrians are guilty of it too. 

On the other hand, the device has been positively life-transforming. For travelers, the smartphone is like a digital Swiss Army knife — capable of...

An RFID-blocking wallet can prevent data thieves from remotely scanning RFID chips, such as those in passports and some driver’s licenses. Photo by Mark Gallo

There is a lot of confusion and fear among consumers when it comes to protecting their personal information on credit cards containing computer chips and on US passports with RFID chips buried inside. Also, some states issue so-called “enhanced driver’s licenses” with RFID chips. 

Here’s a simple explanation of this technology and how you can guard against data theft.

Credit cards with chips

As a means to combat counterfeiting of credit...

In some places — like this bamboo grove in the Arashiyama district west of Kyoto, Japan — travelers need to be aware that mosquitoes may be present. Photo by Mark Gallo

Understandably, the Zika virus is getting plenty of attention right now for travelers considering visiting Brazil or the Caribbean; however, mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever, malaria and chikungunya are much more widespread.

Dengue is considered a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), with an estimated 400 million people infected yearly. It occurs in more urban areas than does malaria and is...