Sunday, August 27, 2017

Have CPAP Will Travel

Using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea was a life changer for me. I found I could drive more than 20 minutes at a time! I found I could live life so much more fully, wide awake with a clear head. But lugging that CPAP bag around an airport was a pain. It wasn't so much heavy as awkward; although for little me, it wasn't light, either. Finally, my doctor said, "Take it without the humidifier." That was a help. Still there was that awkward bag, even if it was now a little bit lighter. 

So I started looking for other solutions. As someone who is 5 feet short, and whose family lives all over the country, I kept looking for the perfect solutions to lugging my luggage (is that why they call it that?). 

I finally found it! Well, nothing is perfect, but this is really close (pictured above), and I'm happy! 

What works for me might not work for you, and what has worked for me so far with Delta and Southwest might not work the same for me with another airline. Also, I do not use my CPAP on the plane. For someone who does, it might be a different ball game....or luggage game. (My disclaimers. :) ). 

How it Works

Enter the Core Bag (my name for it). I got an "underseat" carry-on bag, one that's only 14 1/2" X 14" X 9", so it fits under the seat of smaller planes (at least the smaller planes that I have flown so far with Delta and Southwest). I now carry my CPAP machine and CPAP supplies, along with some other essentials, in my "Core Bag", which is the darker blue quilted bag on the right in the picture above. I can wheel it through the airport, and I can carry it for short periods of time, such as through the plane, if the aisle is too small to wheel a bag (which I often find to be the case). It's not light but the "trip" through the plane is not long. 

Inside my Core Bag, I keep my CPAP machine in a small soft padded lunch bag (the supplies...hose, cord, etc. are not in the small lunch bag; only the machine itself is in the little "bag within a bag"...with the humidifier detached and left at home). There is just room in that little lunch bag to add my quart bag with a few toiletries. So, my machine is protected by padding; and, when I go through security, I can just take out that one little lunch bag in order for them to check both my machine and my toiletries. 

For cleanliness, I also wrap the machine in a clear plastic food storage bag...the kind of plastic bag that you can tie with a twist tie, although I just fold it over. I put it in there because I don't want my machine on the conveyor belt, in one of those trays that gets re-used all day long, without at least a tiny bit of protection from germs. If security wants me to take it out of the plastic, I can, or they can, if they wish.

What else do I carry in my Core Bag? A change of socks and such, and also a pair of shorts and a sleeveless shirt...which, in a pinch (if my other bags got separated from me), I could wear to sleep or wear to do laundry. 

In the inside, side pockets, I put my CPAP hoses and cords. I also pack cell phone chargers; a little packet of silverware designed for travel (with no knife); back-up (printed) phone numbers and itinerary; toothbrush, hair brush, and a few other things. Last but not least, I put a small cloth purse, with a few little convenient things in it (nothing valuable or irreplaceable), into my Core Bag. This is my "carry-on bag" and it's smaller than airline allowances for carry-on bags. (I carry my wallet and cell phone on my person.) 

I also carry a small backpack as my "personal bag". It's the Swiss Gear backpack that is pictured on the left in the picture above. Many backpacks would probably be too big to fit the allowance for a personal bag, but this is what I call slimline...which also means that carrying it isn't burdensome for me, even though I'm small. I mostly just put additional clothing in this bag; although I have a small flashlight and a few empty quart size bags in each of the two bags that I carry on. (If I buy a sandwich and can only eat half, I can put the other half in one of the plastic bags to eat later.)

And I know that some passengers don't like people putting a small personal bag in the overhead but hey, I have my carry-on under my seat...and I'm pretty oblivious to people judging me. I know that I'm not putting that up there in addition to a carry-on, but in place of it. 

Checked Bag

I used to use an old 22" carry-on as my checked bag (too large for some airlines now, but of course works as a checked bag). 

A year or so ago, because of a family emergency and a flight delay, I hit the ground running. To get to the rental cars, I had to run down a stair case (I was not going to wait for an elevator). This was before the "perfect solution", so I was carrying my machine in an oversized lunch bag strapped over my shoulder, wearing my Swiss Gear backpack, and I had been wheeling my 22" bag. When I picked up that 22" bag to carry it in addition to everything else, it took all I had to get down the stairs (probably clinging to the hand rail to keep my balance). 

Later, we took a train trip with the same luggage, and I had to carry all of it from one moving train car to another on a crowded  train, lurching through the aisles. This was not fun! 

Not too long ago, I again went off with this suitcase, stacking my new Core Bag on top of it. That worked fine except that the two together weighed ridiculously too much for me, in my opinion. Even wheels can only do so much. My husband took over for a while, but I need to be able to travel alone sometimes. So, I was on a quest again for the perfect bag, and it occurred to me that I needed the stacked luggage to be shorter (like me, right? ;) ). 

So I searched boarding bags and laptop bags, but I wasn't finding just what I wanted. Finally, I found the answer: another "underseat" carry-on bag, only I wouldn't carry it on; I would check it. This one is 17 1/4" X 14 3/4" X 8". It makes for a small suitcase, but I've always liked to travel light. It's the medium-blue one in the center in the picture at the top. I use it mostly for more clothing, if I'm going to be gone more than two nights. It has wheels but it also stacks neatly on top of my Core Bag (with a sleeve in the back to attach it). 

Best of all, my Core Bag and my checked bag are easy to roll together. My checked bag also comes with a shoulder strap, which I think will help if I ever need to take it on stairs along with my other bags. So far, I've been pretty comfortable taking my wheeled Core Bag on an escalator with the other bag strapped on top of it. If you knew me, you would know that "pretty comfortable" on an escalator is saying a lot! But it's small enough at the base to balance. So I can more easily manage getting all my luggage to a car rental counter or a shuttle. 


Below is a picture of one of my previous CPAP oversized lunch bag or cooler. 

Later, I got a smaller, easier to carry L. L. Bean lunch bag, pictured below with my Swiss Gear backpack. One of the problems with that set-up was that my machine was in one bag (the lunch bag) and my supplies (hose, cords) were in the other (the Swiss Gear bag). If for any reason I can ever carry on only one bag, I want that bag to have all my CPAP items together!

So, as much as I loved both of those items, I prefer my new plan, which entails carrying on a heavier bag (and using up some of my leg room), but enables me to carry a little more along with me, and includes wheels to transport much of it through the airport. I have spent a lot of time in airports and the less I have to carry, the better. 

I hope something here might have given you an idea for your own needs, whether it's an underseat bag like I use now, or a lunchbag, or whether something here may have just triggered an idea of your own...whether you use a CPAP machine or whether you just want to tweak your luggage for your own travel needs. 

Thank you for reading, and happy travels! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Renting a Car with a Debit Card when Flying to Another City

If you have a usable credit card but hope not to pay with it, the simplest way would be to ask them if you can put the car rental on the credit card upon taking out the car, but pay using your debit card upon returning the car. If you don't have a usable credit card, read on.

(I don't rent cars this fancy, but I wanted a nice car picture. I found this in one of my favorite grocery store parking lots.)

If you do not have a usable credit card, but have a major debit card associated with a bank account, some combination of the following should help, depending on the individual rental agencies and locations. You can check ahead of time, online or by phone, for their specific requirements.

1) Put enough money in the bank account associated with your debit card to cover the total estimated amount and/or a large deposit, knowing this is money that will not be available for other expenses during your trip. You can call the car rental site where you plan to pick up the car if you want to get an idea how much that needs to be.  Be sure you have let your bank know prior to the trip that you are going, so they won't put a hold on your account because of unusual activity. (You can either call the number on the back of the card or, for some banks, you can notify them online when you are signed into your web banking.)

2) Be prepared to show documentation of flight reservations for the return trip (flight or train or long-distance bus reservations, whatever will assure them you have a plan for going home).

3) For Enterprise, according to one website, you should be sure your debit card is signed (the same as the signature on your driver's license). This may be true for others as well. I just happened to see it somewhere as an Enterprise requirement.

4) If you own a car, or are listed as a driver on a family member's auto insurance, carry verification of your auto insurance from home, in case the rental car agency asks for it.

You also may want - not in place of the above insurance but in addition to it - to take out the CDW, 'collision damage waiver', offered by the rental car agency, or get that coverage set up before your trip from a trip insurance plan (carry documentation). I do this even when using a credit card so, if I should ding the car, I can walk away without liability for that. (For a more complicated issue, I would call the auto insurance company I use at home for my personal car.)

Enterprise, Alamo, and Budget appear to be more workable for someone who does not have a credit card.  The best way to know what an individual rental car agency requires is to call the specific location, as it apparently varies from one region or state or individual location to another.

From what I could find in my personal research, Hertz, Avis, and Thrifty may do a credit check if you present a debit card so, if I had questionable credit or didn't have a credit history, I would probably steer clear of these, unless checking first to find out the current policy at the intended location. Also, according to something I read at a Thrifty website, they may want another form of picture ID, in addition to your driver's license, such as a bank card with a picture, military ID, or even a picture ID from Costco or Sam's club.

In closing, I want to mention that there is a difference between picking up the car and the actual payment. Some companies will let you pay with a debit card, or even cash, when you return the car, or let someone accompanying you pay at return; but they all want both identification and assurance of responsibility from the actual driver for taking the car from the lot. It just varies as to what they require for that assurance. 

If one of your concerns is not covered here, for example, you do not own a car and are not covered on a family car, or you are renting where you would not have a round trip or return ticket, don't assume you cannot rent. Just ask the car rental sites, in the area where you would be renting, what you will need to rent a car from them, using a debit card. It varies widely, so be ready to look around to find what works best for your needs at a given time. 

Happy and Safe Travels!
Margaret Mary

This blog post was based on personal past experience from a time when I did not have a usable credit card, as well as more recent research for someone else who currently does not. Here are two of the various websites I checked recently.

The following article is from approximately a year ago (which is pretty young in web history, right?). This is where I got some of the above items about specific rental car agencies, although I did also visit some of the agencies' websites, too. 

The following article explains the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) better than I could. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

An Easy Clothing "Save"

I enjoyed this shirt a lot...even though, for some reason, I'm not smiling in the picture. Maybe I just wanted a solemn picture that day. 

But alas, the elbows wore out. So, I cut off the sleeves, leaving just a little extra fabric beyond the seam. I folded that little bit of fabric under and used a whipstitch to sew it to the inside, making a neat finished edge. 

Now I wear the shirt - which now has cap sleeves - unbuttoned, over a dark blue sleeveless knit shirt, which helps with the sleeve openings being rather large, as well as allowing me to leave it unbuttoned, like a vest.  

It's a different look, maybe not as much on the "neat" side as the previous look; but I'm enjoying it this way too, maybe even a bit more (especially since it's summer now). 

I'm sharing this because it took so little sewing to reuse this shirt in a different way, instead of discarding it. Do you have anything you re-use in a slightly different way without too much work?  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lentil Goulash in a Simple Rice Cooker

First, cook the lentils separately. Then put the following in a 6-cup or larger rice cooker:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 ½ cups cooked lentils, drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
½ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen chopped or sliced onions and peppers
OR 1 cup fresh chopped bell peppers and onions
(If using fresh bell peppers and onions,
increase water to ¾ cup instead of ½ cup

Put all ingredients in the rice cooker. Stir. Put on the lid. Push down the lever for Cook. When it is done, it will switch to Keep Warm setting. Check after 15 minutes. If the macaroni is not tender but the water is dry, add a couple tablespoons of water and push down the lever for Cook again.

Optional: Serve sour cream on the side, so those who would like may add a dollop of sour cream on top of their serving.