Monday, November 10, 2014

Unclaimed Luggage Bargains

If you are searching for good deals on items ranging from clothing to fine jewelry or electronics, the Unclaimed Baggage store ( in Alabama may have what you are seeking. Everything in the store is recycled from luggage passengers fail to claim from airlines or other modes of transportation.

Most of the bags we check or carry on planes are eventually reunited with their owners, but about half of one per cent are never picked up. These are the ones that after several months will make their way to the store, the only one of its kind in the United States.

Not everything gets sold--some items are in too poor condition and so are donated or put in the trash. Electronic goods are wiped of identifying data before being sold, and jewelry is appraised.

The store is a popular destination for bargain-hunters. It covers more than a square block and welcomes more than one million visitors a year. Clothing for men, women and children makes up the bulk of the merchandise.

I don't know whether the deals are good enough to warrant a special trip, but if you happen to be in northern Alabama or Atlanta, it certainly sounds interesting and worth a visit.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Self-Promotion for Housesitters

I have never either been a housesitter or used a housesitter, but I suspect the supply of willing housesitters often far exceeds the demand, somewhat like the case with travel writers. One way to make yourself stand out as a housesitter is through online self-promotion, such as the Website owned by an American couple.

The site tells of their various house- and pet-sitting adventures, and quite a lot about their background in the management levels of corporate America. This same couple has another site,, about their travels and retirement planning. My only quarrel with this site is the title, since I thought from the use of the word "rollie" that they were British.

In any case, their site would certainly make me more likely to contact them if I needed someone to take care of a house or animals. Like many people I guess, I would be reluctant to have strangers stay in my place while I was away. I wouldn't mind staying in someone else's place, though.

 With more and more stuff moving online, you seem to need a Website for just about any business or personal venture. One of my long-time friends met her husband online, and another friend has also spent a lot of time (and money) in an effort to connect with guys online.

But for travel, it cannot hurt to have a significant online presence whether you want to Couchsurf, use Airbnb, housesit or exchange houses with others. Of course, your online presence should not include pictures at drunken revels, nude shots or other questionable material.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cheapo Japan

If you are interested in visiting Japan on a budget, check out the Website of Cheapo Japan ( This very useful source contains information on inexpensive places to stay, how to get around, where to eat and even a survival guide to the Japanese language.

Japan is on a lot of traveller's wish lists, but has the reputation of being expensive and hard to navigate. With the information on Cheapo Japan, getting around should be a lot easier. There are several unusual options for places to stay besides the common hotels and hostels. For example, you could consider bedding down at an Internet cafe for as little as about $7 a night. Or stay at a hot spring.

 Capsule hotels, where you sleep in a coffin-like room that contains a TV, light, clock and radio, are another possibility, though they are not for the claustrophobic or for very tall people. Love hotels are also less costly than normal hotels. Probably none of these options would suit older travellers, but they could work for the young and adventurous.

People who can stay in one Japanese city for a month or longer might consider renting a room in a guesthouse at reasonable cost. Cheapo Japan lists a number of these places in the major cities. There are lots of ways to save on travel in Japan, and the country's record of cleanliness and personal safety certainly makes it attractive.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Low-Cost Choices in Mexico City

Mexico City is a fascinating place, and it is one of the most affordable very large cities in the world. A story in The Guardian lists the author's choice of the 10 best budget hotels in Mexico City, many of which have central locations.

One that did not make the list was one of my favourites, the Majestic Hotel overlooking the zocalo and stunning cathedral right in the historic centre. According to, rates start at $82 per night. It is an older place built in colonial style, with a very attractive roof terrace. One reason I chose it was that it features in a book by an author I enjoy, Len Deighton, who had his British spies stay at that hotel.

Another good choice, this one in the Zona Rosa, is the Hotel de Geneve, where prices are a little higher. For rock-bottom rates and a chance to interact with people from all over, the Casa de Amigos run by the Society of Friends is a very affordable option.

Mexico has lots of interesting sights including the zocalo, cathedral and the Aztec temple on whose site the church was built. Another must see is the National Museum of Anthropology near Chapultepec Park at the top of the Reforma. The park itself is also well worth a visit. I don't know if the food is as good as it was last time I was there, but a restaurant I really liked for its decor is Sanborn's House of Tiles in the historic centre.

I have visited Mexico City four or five times, but the first visit was the best. I was in college and my dad had a business convention there. When we arrived there were actually photographers to greet us, and we stayed in a large hotel suite overlooking the golden angel monument on the Reforma. It was  a magical visit, particularly since it was my first trip outside the United States.

To read the entire Guardian article, the link is