The Cross Body Bag for Travel: Yea or Nay?

 

IMG_2043It’s getting to be that time of year when we start poring over travel magazines and planning summer excursions.  By nature, I’m slightly neurotic and I like to research where I’ll be and what’s my best plan of attack…in fashion. Handbags are a huge concern.

It seems as if there are two definitive camps in the cross body debate.  Yes, your hands are free, but your boobs are segregated in that oh-so-unflattering-way.  On the one hand, you’re more protected from a pickpocket, but when you wear a cross body bag, in Europe especially, it screams, “Tourist with a passport!” You’d do well to just write that on your forehead.  It’s the same result.

The local women, especially in Paris and Rome, (where they frighten you with stories of gypsies and vagabond rouges,) leave their tote bags carelessly hanging open as they stand near the Metro.  I’ve seen it.  You know that pinched up face people get when they’re changing a poopy diaper?  That’s the look a lot of us Americans have when we’re forced into a closed quarters situation with “Them.”  We hang on tightly to our stuff and hope that we’re giving off a “va via” (go away) vibe.

While I’m all for safety and being responsible, I think that when we’re already out of our comfort zone, the worst thing to do is compound that by going out of our comfort zone with our belongings.  If you’re normally not a cross body kind of gal, you probably have a reason for it.  Personally, I find that they’re too small.  When I’m in the store stuffing the paper wrappings into other bags to see the inside, (yes, that’s me,) it always seems big enough. (I hate that look of a warped overstuffed purse banging against my hip.)    Yet, when I get home and add a wallet, sunglasses and a ridiculous stuffed dog I bring on vacation, it’s not as roomy.

I think the lure of the cross body is not in the bag, but in the strap…the strap that comes with most purses.  Huh.  While you should clean your bag out of extraneous items before you leave, you are probably better off using the one you carry every day.  I’m assuming to some degree that you’re not toting a giant bag with all the hardware; that can be heavy. You have to be reasonable in what you’re willing to carry through the course of a day. A bulky bag may be a deterrent in cafes if they have to perch on your lap.  Most of us girls manage with a medium-sized bag so it’s not a problem.

A thing you must consider, in some attractions like historical buildings and museums, if your bag is too large, you may have to check it.  Nothing renders me “deer in the headlights” like leaving my bag in a foreign closet check.  You don’t want to black out in the Sistine Chapel because you’re obsessing about your abandoned purse back in the lobby.  You never want to be separated from your gear.  You want your possessions easily accessible to you, but safe from everyone else.

What do you carry every day?  It’s funny how we think about travel bags as something we only use on a trip.  As a veteran purse carrier, you already know the drill; keep your bag zipped and your hand on the handles.  Enough said.

 

 

 

Tips for American Tourists

Planning a vacation can be part of the fun.  While there is a fine balance between having no plan at all and having every minute of the day assigned with an activity, it’s important to be informed before you leave on your trip.

Leaving the United States is a big deal.  Whether you know it or not, there certain unalienable rights that we as American citizens enjoy.  When you leave American soil, you’re at their house.  While it’s important to know their local customs, it’s also important to protect yourself.

Traveling with a passport means your activity can be logged.  When you register and check into a European hotel, they will ask for your passport.  Don’t panic, as this is customary.  They will make copies of it and keep it on file during your trip.  You are a foreigner.  It’s worth your while to find the American embassy in whatever city you are in and let them know you are there.

Follow the directions in your passport.  They put them there for a reason.  What are they, you ask?  Well, make two copies of your passport.  Leave one at home with somebody you trust.  Bring the second copy with you and DO NOT KEEP IT WITH THE ORIGINAL.  If, God forbid, your passport is stolen, you have some proof to bring with you to said embassy.  Also, if you are traveling with others, don’t keep all of the passports on one person.  Split them up.

I’ve said before, and it’s worth restating.  I love the United States.  I am so proud to be an American.  Yet, out there my little grasshoppers, are people that do not like us.  Unfair.  Illogical.  Whatevs.  They do.  These are some tips to keep you from sticking out and making yourself an easy target.

  • Do not fiddle with your map in the middle of the street.  Even in a town heavily visited by tourists, you don’t need to advertise that you’re entirely lost.  Take ten minutes and sit down somewhere, or better yet, map yourself out at the hotel.  If you look like a wounded antelope, well….
  • Respect the local dress code.  I know you like to wear what you like to wear.  Get over it.  Take the time to learn the customs.  Europeans do not take shoes off when they enter someone’s home.  They’ll think you’re rude for pulling those smelly shoes off your barking dogs.  I know we think we’re being polite by not tracking in dirt, but they perceive it as too familiar.  Did you know that pants were illegal in France for women until….like last Thursday?  I’m kidding.  No, I’m not.
  • Do not, under any circumstances wear a mesh fanny pack.  The circling thieves won’t be able to get near you because I’ll be in the way slapping you upside the head.  There are so many options that are classic and practical.  Do yourself a favor and find one.
  • Contact your credit card companies and let them know you’ll be traveling.  They will red flag your card if you suddenly start showing purchases on the other side of the globe.
  • Don’t go into a trance at the ATM machines.  Seriously.  People do this.  Be aware of your surroundings.

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