For this edition of the Victorinox Travel Gear Jetsetter Series, we sat down with Forbes travel writer Laurie Werner, who has visited more than 50 countries over the course of her career. Her vast travel experience has made for some unbelievable memories and a wealth of knowledge. Read on for Laurie’s anecdotes on a recent five country trip that you won’t find anywhere else.
VTG: How many countries have you visited and can you list them all?
LW: I’ve been to 58 countries, but had to refer to a list to remember them all. The countries I’ve been to multiple times came to me pretty quickly – France, Australia, Greece, China, India, Morocco and the U.K., to name a few.
VTG: Your most recent travels brought you to eight locations – tell us where you visited.
LW: I flew through London to Budapest, got on a river cruise on the Danube for a few days to Vienna, through the Wachau Valley and Linz where I got off and transferred to Salzburg. From Salzburg, I flew to Berlin for a few days, then to London, then up to Copenhagen and back through London to New York.
LW: I kill luggage. For trips like this in which I need nice day/night clothes, clothes for the country and for the city, clothes for hot weather (Budapest and Vienna) and freezing (Copenhagen and London), I’ll take a rolling soft sided case of about 26 inches, which I’ll check and a rolling carry-on for my computer, tablet, plugs, cords, makeup, skin care and other essentials.
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VTG: Tell us a little more about this trip across Europe. How did your luggage hold up throughout the process?
LW: When I checked in at JFK, I made them promise that my bag would make the connection at Heathrow and end up in Budapest, which is a notoriously precarious transfer. At the time, Heathrow was on high alert and I barely made the transfer because the security checkers went through every single item in my carry-on. In the end, the bag and I were reunited at Budapest airport where I rolled it to the van (four wheels are so great) that was transporting passengers to the cruiser on the Danube. Fortunately, a crew member took over and carried it up the plank, but whoever made my reservation neglected to tell the crew on board that I was coming, so the bags and I waited in the lounge for an hour while we all contacted the company’s offices around the world to see who was awake and would confirm that I was, indeed, supposed to be on board. Ultimately, the bags and I were transported to the Royal Suite, which wasn’t all that Royal, but was at least big enough to place the open bag on the floor – and there it remained until I departed five days later.
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I caught a ride in the passenger tour van to Salzburg where I said goodbye to the other passengers (a jovial group of mostly Australians), stashed my bags at the Sacher Hotel, had an apple strudel and ran around the city with a guide. My bags and I then took a taxi to the tiny airport, which the group’s tour guide described as one of the most dangerous in the world (yikes!) and we flew to Berlin. My flight demonstrated the wonders of code shares. I was ticketed on Finnair but it was an Air Berlin flight that was actually operated by FlyNiki (Niki Lauda is the former racing star now immortalized in the new film “Rush”). The FlyNiki flight attendants gave us chocolate hearts as we were leaving—nice touch.
I picked up another taxi at Tegel (the tiny airport that is still functioning as Berlin’s airport as the projected new airport suffers massive construction delay). I love Tegel because your bags come right out where you deplane and it’s just a short walk to the taxis. My driver had a hard time finding my hotel (Das Stue, a new, very chic spot right next to the Berlin Zoo). I spent two days there, running around the city, trying various new restaurants and switching hotels. The next day I moved to the Adlon next to the Brandenburg Gate, which is always impressive no matter how many times you see it. I didn’t do much sightseeing because I’ve been to Berlin a lot, but as always, I enjoyed my time there.
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Two days later, I flew back to Heathrow where I planned to rent a car. I couldn’t find the car rental agency because it had moved away from the lots. Since I was dragging the bags around a lot looking for it, those four wheels really helped. Ultimately, I found it and headed out to Elstree, as I was staying at the Manor by Laura Ashley, a hotel owned and recently renovated by the design company. The property is beautiful but how weird it was to be in the suburbs of London. You can even see London from the garden.
The next day I took the car back to Heathrow. Because of the various gifts I had purchased and information packs I’d picked up along the way, my bag picked up the dreaded “Heavy” tag. Other than that, it and I made it through the airport rather well.
Victorinox Travel Tip: For trips where a carry-on just won’t cut it, bring along the Werks Traveler™ 4.0 WT 24 Dual-Caster Expandable Upright, expanding 2.5 inches for extra packing capacity. Laurie did!
I then flew to Copenhagen where the baggage carousels list how many minutes it will be until your bags arrive. Why doesn’t every airport do that? Denmark is so organized, so friendly, so nice. My bags came out first (very rare) and I took a very expensive taxi (the only bad thing about Denmark—everything is unbelievably expensive, even to a New Yorker) to the D’Angleterre Hotel, a gorgeous 18th Century building in the center of town. I stayed in the Karen Blixen Suite (a beautiful suite, designed in African motif), but was unfortunately only there for one night.
Two days later, after eating my way around Copenhagen and experiencing the somewhat bizarre food now featured there (if I never see a veal or lamb heart again, I’ll be thrilled) I rented a car in town, hauled the bags into it and drove north about an hour to North Sealand, aka the Danish Riviera. I went to the Louisiana Art Museum (currently showing a Yoko Ono exhibit), Frederiksborg Castle and Kronborg Castle (the setting for Hamlet,) and stayed in Kokkedal Castle (a former castle being transformed into a hotel). The next day, I drove back to Copenhagen to fly home. My GPS, of course, died while en route but the Danes, being the Danes, sweetly directed me to the highway and straight to the airport.
I was officially on my way back, by way of Heathrow once again. The bag transferred too, and two weeks and five countries later, we landed safely at JFK and headed home.