Ladies: How to Pack for Two Weeks in Europe

We all face the same dilemma. We want to bring more stuff than we want to carry. Short of a magical bag, we need a plan: How to use a capsule travel wardrobe to pack two weeks of clothes in a carry on.

Photograph, Pglam on iStock Photos.

We all face the same dilemma. We want to bring more stuff than we want to carry. I mean, NO ONE wants to be the idiot schlepping through the airport burdened like a pack mule. It’s not cool. It’s not sexy. Okay, I’m not really going for sexy these days — but I am going for competent.

What we want: a Harry Potter bag that magically holds everything we could possibly want to wear in our wildest fantasies on this upcoming trip.

Well, here’s the reality check: you’re a muggle, and you don’t have that magical bag. Oh, and for you witches and wizards reading this, you may smirk quietly amongst yourselves.

Can You Get  2 – 3 Weeks of Clothes in a Carry-on?

Yes. If you’re willing to do some planning, make your selections and prepare, you most certainly can. You will, of course, be doing laundry. I give the laundry to the hotel, or do it myself when I have an apartment.

Packing List

 Early Fall  Late Fall
  • 4-5 bottoms, either pants, skirts, or capris (wear 1 on plane)
  • 6 tops (wear 1 on plane)
  • 1 dress (optional — if you choose this, eliminate 1 bottom and 1 top from items above)
  • 1 cardigan (wear 1 on plane)
  • 1 vest (optional)
  • 2-3 silk scarves
  • 2-3 pairs of shoes (wear 1 on plane). **** if these are bulky shoes, then 2 pair only.
  • Sleepwear
  • 4-5 bottoms, either pants or skirts (wear 1 on plane)
  • 5 tops (wear 1 on plane)
  • 1-2 pullover sweaters (may need to delete 1 bottom or top)
  • 1 dress (optional — if you choose this, eliminate 1 bottom and 1 top from items above)
  • 1 jacket or coat (wear on plane)
  • 1 vest (optional)
  • 2 scarves (1 light, 1 heavy)
  • 2-3 pairs of shoes (wear 1 on plane). **** if these are bulky shoes, then 2 pair only.
  • Sleepwear
  • 1 swimsuit (optional, depending on trip)
  • 1 extra bra
  • 7 undies
  • makeup, toiletries, medicines
  • brush/comb
  • Bath scrubby (European hotels often do not have wash cloths)
  • jewelry — keep it light
  • soap for clothes, clothesline
  • sanitary products
  • Converter — Bestek, with multiple plug spots
  • Power supplies (laptop, phone, iPad, camera)
  • 1 extra bra
  • 7 undies
  • makeup, toiletries, medicines
  • brush/comb
  • Bath scrubby
  • jewelry — keep it light
  • soap for clothes, clothesline
  • sanitary products
  • Converter
  • Power supplies (laptop, phone, iPad, camera)
Toiletries

  • This can make or break you in weight and bulk. Needs to be all in small bottles, and eliminate anything not absolutely necessary.
Makeup 

  • This is NOT the time to bring your train case. Pare it down! You may want to choose one color palette and stick with it.

A Capsule Wardrobe

I believe in planning, and I’m an advocate of what is called a capsule wardrobe.

The idea is to choose pieces with the maximum ability to coordinate with one another, giving you as many outfits as possible.

  • First Core of Four: Pick one dark neutral (I chose black in the example)
  • Second Core of Four: Pick a lighter neutral (I chose a stone-taupe)
  • Bridge Four: Choose pieces of clothing that work with the two Core sets of clothing. These may be blouses or shirts that have both colors in them, or they may simply be colors that complement both of the core colors well.
  • Accent Four: If you were building a stay-at-home wardrobe, these might be more tops. For travel, I use scarves as accents — they’re light, and they add a pop of color.

For my shoes and handbag, I chose black and a soft blue. I’m sticking with black for shoes because I own these already, but you might want one pair in a neutral taupe if you were buying.

I’ll be gone for nearly three weeks, in New York City, London, Rome, and Florence. London is the coldest, but since I’ll be there at the end of August, I don’t need to worry about a heavy jacket. Have a close look at the time in the fall you are traveling, and look at average temps wherever you plan to be. On my trip, these are the temperature ranges I expect. (Holiday Weather is a handy site for looking up average monthly temperature ranges).

Cities Temperatures
London, late August  57 – 70° F (14-21° C)
Rome, September  61-81° F (16-27°  C)
Florence, September  61-81° F (16-27°  C)

Black and Taupe Capsule Travel Wardrobe

Two week Europe packing list
A travel capsule wardrobe in black and taupe. By being disciplined in selecting pieces in two neutrals, one dark and one lighter, it’s easy to get multiple outfits out of a few pieces.

Different outfit ideas from the capsule wardrobe:

Capsule wardrobe for travel in black and taupe
Here are just a selection of combinations possible with this capsule wardrobe.

So — there are SO many ways to go at the capsule wardrobe work, and it can be a lot of fun. On my last two cruises, my core colors were navy and white.

Best Bags for a Trip to Europe

Well, the answer to that question is different for each of us, isn’t it? I am often living out of a suitcase for three to four weeks these days, so here is my solution to the problem.

How we pack, the luggage we pick, and what we decide to bring are all highly personal choices. I do not suggest this is the answer for everyone out there, but it works for me — and I think travelers learn something from looking at one another’s packing systems.

The packing list above WILL fit into a 21″ roll-aboard, as long as you aren’t crazy with toiletries, makeup, and medicine. What I find, though, is that it’s tight, and my preference follows.

Picking the best bag for Europe travel. Spinner and tote.
My new luggage duo: a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21″ Expandable Spinner, and a Briggs & Riley Transcend Clamshell Cabin Bag. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I take two bags for clothes and toiletries. One is almost empty when I go:

When I am in transit, my purse is packed because I carry my camera bag instead. This way I’m only handling three objects.

I keep my passport, money, and credit cards in a wristlet in my camera bag or tote, which is easy for me to take to the restroom on a plane or a train for safekeeping.

I am just not a backpack kind of woman, so the Rick Steves “put it all in one backpack” system is not my thing. I easily navigate the airport and the train stations with my luggage, but I always take either a taxi or a car to the hotel. I’m not ever going to take the subway, metro rail, or buses to move my luggage around — and I won’t be rolling any distance on sidewalks.

That said, I can always pick up and carry my own luggage when it’s necessary. It’s the reason I won’t take a larger suitcase.

Luggage ad
Can you imagine? A luggage ad for trunks and train cases.

Why not just carry one big suitcase?

I carry the spinner with the tote because it’s much easier for me to get those two lighter pieces of luggage on and off of trains, or up staircases than it is for me to carry a large pullman case.

I have just replaced my wheeled carry-on suitcase.

I went from a Hartmann roll-aboard with two wheels — that always tumped forward if I’d packed it fully with it fully extended (– what a pain in the ass!) to a Travelpro 21″ Spinner.  [Please note, the case itself is 21″ — but total length with wheels is H: 23.75in W: 14.75in D: 9.5in — ALWAYS note the difference. I always check these bags, because my camera bag is what I choose to take onboard — but if you plan to take the suitcase with you on the plane, you MUST know the total dimensions with the wheels to be sure the case will fit.]

Also, as most of you are aware, the carry-on size restrictions in Europe are often smaller that they are in the United States. Since I check my suitcase, this isn’t a concern for me; if you are planning to carry yours on, go for an “international” carry-on size.

The Amazon Carry On Guide is a handy page where you select the airline you’re going to fly with, and then Amazon gives you a list of carry-ons from various companies that will fit those overhead bins.

There is definitely a debate among travelers as to whether it’s better to have a roll-aboard with two wheels, or a spinner suitcase with four wheels.

This is a personal choice. The benefit to the two-wheeled varieties is that they generally have more interior packing space, although this is not always true.

If you are going to be dragging your suitcase over cobble stone streets from the train station to the hotel, the two-wheeled versions work better; the spinner wheels catch in indentations more. I would continue to choose a two-wheeled roll-aboard over a spinner if I weren’t having problems with my elbow.

Which bag for travel would you choose? Spinner and roll aboard side by side.
Here is my new spinner on the left, and my roll-aboard on the right. The spinner is definitely smaller — not by much, but when you’re packing, you feel the difference. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Make a decision based on how you travel and what you plan to do with the case. When you are choosing a new suitcase, make notes on both the interior and exterior dimensions, and look for a interior capacity measurement, as you compare possible candidates.

I am changing from a roll-aboard to the spinner because in 2005, I was in a motorcycle accident, and I have some arthritis in my right elbow. Spinners work better for me because they don’t put weight on that elbow the way two wheeled cases do.

What goes in the spinner, and what do I put in the tote? My 21 inch spinner gets EVERYTHING except: One TSA sized liquids bag with: deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, essential makeup, makeup wipes. Hairbrush. Small cube with clean undies, one top, and a sleep shirt. Cardigan. Converter, chargers, power supplies. Travel documents. Medicine. Jewelry. Spiral notebook. This way, if the airline loses the spinner for a day, I can manage.

Blow by blow series of photographs on packing below. Click to enlarge to read captions that explain how I pack.

If you looked at the blow-by-blow above, you’ll see the capsule wardrobe easily fit in the Travelpro 21″ Spinner — and I didn’t even put anything in the top part of the suitcase at all. And — it can still expand in width another two inches if I need it.

So is my Briggs and Riley tote full? Of course not! No, it’s very light. And it should be starting out . . . on most trips you return with more than you brought. In fact, I say, if you plan to do a little clothes shopping, whack that packing list up there down by at least one top and one bottom!

Briggs and Riley Transcend clamshell tote
I chose the Briggs and Riley Clamshell style tote because I like the fact it lays completely flat when unzipped. It makes packing so much easier.

*** For those of you wanting to know about specific products, the clothing is from Chico’s, the scarves are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Hermès — a design called Bateau Fleuri, ballet flats and booties are Sam Edelman, and the driving shoes are from Cole Haan.


Fossil Maya Small Hobo, Steel Blue


Safe and happy travels!

 

Downton Abbey car packed with suitcases
Ah, well. Where’s Carson when you need him?

Hippo Highways: Day 2 of our Walking Safari

After a light breakfast and some coffee, we left for our second day of walking. Why do three women from Texas love Hippo Highways? Because in Africa, even flat isn’t flat!

Hippo in the Luangwa River Yawns
In the late afternoons, hippos yawn A LOT. After spending most of the day in the water, they’re having an oxygen deprivation issue. Photograph, Cat Gassiot.
Sausage tree on the banks of a lagoon in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia
A sausage tree on the banks of a lagoon. It won’t be long before this lagoon dries out. Photograph, Ann Fisher

The first night in Luangwa Bush Camp (LBC), a camp that moves location each evening, our tents had been on the banks of the Luangwa river.

After a light breakfast and some coffee, we left for our second day of walking. Before long, we were skirting a lagoon. In South Luangwa, these come and go with the rainy season — and this lagoon was ribboning down to a slender line of green.

By the time August comes around, it will be completely gone until the rains return. At this point though, we still needed the makeshift log bridge Braston had laid across at the beginning of the season.

Log bridge across a lagoon, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Our guide, Braston, gives Carolyn a hand across the makeshift bridge. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Hippo Highways

All animals make tracks, and many create trails. On our three days of walking safari in the Luangwa Bush Camp with Robin Pope Safaris, we developed a special appreciation for hippos.

When you’re the third largest land mammal in the world, you don’t make trails. Trails are for sissies, um . . . antelope. Hippos — hippos make HIGHWAYS.

Why do three women from Texas love Hippo Highways? Because in Africa, even flat isn’t flat!

Uneven ground in Luangwa National Park caused by elephant tracks
The terrain can be challenging. Even “flat” ground is often heavily pockmarked with deep animal tracks, and you find yourself carefully picking your way through. Good hiking boots with ankle support are a MUST! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

We were not in a mountainous or even hilly part of the continent, but to assume that a flat savannah is indeed flat is to grossly underestimate what a herd of elephant or buffalo can do to a swathe of mud.

Once the rains finish for the season, the mud hardens into fields of deeply pockmarked concrete. Walking across these spaces requires constant concentration and balance.

But when you find a hippo highway through a field like the one above, they have pounded all that stuff flat. Yes, a living, breathing bulldozer of an animal weighing 3,000 to 9,000 pounds (1,360 – 4,082 kilograms) can pretty much flatten anything!

Hippo in a lagoon in South Luangwa National Park.
I may look funny, but I’m BIG, I’m BAD, and I’m just sayin’ — don’t be messing with hippos! Photograph, Cat Gassiot.
Show Us Some Respect! A Few Hippo Facts
Length: 10.8 to 16.5 feet (3.3 to 5 m)

Height: up to 5.2 feet (1.6 m) tall, from hooves to shoulders

Average female weighs 3,000 lbs (1,400 kg)

Males weigh 3,500 to 9,920 lbs. (1600-4,500 kg)

Lifespan: 40 to 50 years

They can remain underwater for up to 6 minutes at a time.

Speed: up to 19 mph (32 kph), on land

Razor sharp tusks

3rd largest mammal on the planet (Elephants & White Rhino are larger)

They live in social groups called “pods” or “bloats,” — average size of 15 hippos, with one dominant male.

In dry periods, pods may be forced to live right next to one another, in groups of up to 40 — causing a lot of fights between males.

They’re aggressive, considered to be the most dangerous animal in Africa. Hippos kill app. 2,900 humans each year.

Hippo highway from the Luangwa river up and over the steep bank.
Hippo highway from the Luangwa river up and over the steep bank. Hippo highways are perfect human trails for traversing steep banks of rivers and oxbow lakes. Photograph, Carolyn Fisher.

Hippos leave the rivers and lagoons each evening, traveling as far as five miles, and spend four to five hours grazing. As they do so, they forge massive trails to get over river banks.

They consume around 80 lbs. of vegetation overnight, which is not much, considering their body mass. Since they live sedentary lives, spending more than 16 hours each day standing in the water and sleeping on river banks, they can get by with this modest quantity.

Often they are far from the river, and because they hold their heads down when they walk, “seeing” their way home doesn’t really work. They mark their trails with droppings — and as an unusual hippo hallmark, they spread their poo out, making a strong scent signal that helps them find their way back to their lagoon or river quickly.

Nile Cabbage in South Luangwa National Park.
Braston shows us some Nile cabbage and other aquatic plants the hippos drag with them. One of the great parts of being on a walking safari is getting to touch and hold things like this. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

As they leave the lagoons, hippos often drag great clumps of Nile cabbages out, trailing their long roots along with them. We watched baboons, puku, and impala enjoying these leave-behinds several times.

Our Day

The early morning was sunny with a cloudless sky, and after leaving the lagoon and following a hippo highway across a field of elephant tracks, we found a troop of baboons underneath ebony trees, playing and feeding.

In the near distance, a small herd of elephants grazed on trees and shrubs. We stood and watched for some time. Two juvenile elephants were near the baboons, much closer to us than the family.

The baboons were occupied with baboon things — grooming, the young playing, the males staying alert for signs of predators. We were content to stay and watch for as long as we could — for as long as we remained downwind of the elephants. Sure enough, when the breeze shifted, and the adult females smelled us, one crossed the small field quickly, concerned for the youngsters. It was time for us to walk on.

Elephants and baboons South Luangwa National Park Zambia.
We stood and watched the baboons and the young elephants until the wind shifted — and the protective mother hurried to find out about the human smell. Photographs, Cat Gassiot
Luangwa Bush Camp Robin Pope Safaris
Our second location for our bush camp was in a grove of large mahogany trees. Here you’re looking toward the dining table and full bar in the background. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

By the time we arrived at our second camp in a grove of mahogany trees, the morning breeze had gone still, and it was warm — we’d had a sweaty end to the walk.

We tossed our day packs around the campaign table and had a look about the new camp.

I dug into the bar’s ice chest and came up with the perfect antidote to hot and sweaty: a Windhoek Lager beer. Cat and Carolyn settled in to visit and review the pictures, then Braston rejoined us after checking that everything was ship-shape with the new camp site.

It wasn’t long before Boniface was ready to serve lunch, which was outstanding as usual.

Windhoek Lager beer from Namibia
Windhoek beer from Namibia. Very good! Photograph, Carolyn Fisher.

After lunch comes siesta time, and my sister, my daughter and I quickly found that this was the best time of day for a shower. What does a shower look like on a walking safari with Robin Pope? Better than anything I’ve had camping!

The shower screen was sturdy and private, and on the ground was a raised platform covered with a bamboo mat so that you weren’t standing in mud. The shower came from an Igloo container attached to a rope and slung over a sturdy branch. The camp team brought heated water and filled the Igloo for each of us, and a great rain water shower head rigged under the Igloo let you control water. I’m SO spoiled now that I may never go back to camping on my own!

I took a long nap after my shower, and woke for afternoon tea ready for the second walk. Clouds had rolled in while we were sleeping, and the afternoon was breezy and cooler.

The afternoon walk took us first along an oxbow lake that was once the main channel of the Luangwa river. We found groups of bachelor hippos in the pockets of water that hadn’t yet disappeared. Our presence startled one of them, and he came charging up the bank and trotted swiftly away. It is startling to see how fast this guy moved!

Catherine got a still sequence of the hippo running, but I’ve chosen instead to show you a video from Johan Vermeulen of a hippo chase he caught a few years ago in South Luangwa National Park that gives you a better idea of how swift and dangerous a motivated hippo can be!

Leaving the oxbow behind, we turned and wove our way in and out of thickets along the high bank of the Luangwa river. We would disappear into trees and dense growth, only to pop out again in a clearing on the riverbank — like windows looking out onto the great river.

We met Isaac and the Range Rover a little way down the Luangwa for sundowners. The clouds had broken up a bit, enough to give us some sunset color reflected on the water . . . a lovely end to our day with cocktails and wine, the sounds of hippos calling, and the gradual fading of light. Braston regaled us with one of his many tales, which proved to rival Kipling’s Just So Stories.

The sun sets on our second evening in Luangwa Bush Camp with Robin Pope Safaris.
The sun sets on our second evening in Luangwa Bush Camp with Robin Pope Safaris. Photograph, Ann Fisher

Braston’s Story of How the Hippo Came to Live in the River

Once upon a time, hippos were covered in long fur and lived on the savannahs of Africa eating grass.

One day, there was a terrible fire. The hippos ran like the wind to escape, but they were caught. Before they could get away, the fire burned away all of their beautiful fur. They ran to the great river and were saved, but without their fur, their skin was delicate, and the fierce African sun scorched them painfully. They decided they would live in the river.

The crocodiles were displeased, and came to hippos saying, “Look, good animals, this will not work. We are happy that you were saved, but there are FAR to many of you, and you are very large. The food on the river — well, there just isn’t enough. We cannot have you eating our meat . . . we will ALL starve!”

And the hippos said, “No, crocodiles you are wrong. You see, we are vegetarians, and we only eat grass and plants. We can make this work — at night we will go ashore and feed, while the sun is down and our skins will not burn.”

The crocodiles eyed the hippos warily, not trusting that they wouldn’t eat all of their food. So the hippos said, “We have an idea, so that you will know we are telling the truth — whenever we go ashore, we will spread out our poo, and that way you can see that all we are eating is plants.”

And to this day, all hippos go ashore to graze, and they spread their poo along their hippo highways.

Hippo mother and child napping next to the Luangwa River.
Hippo mother and child napping next to the Luangwa River. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Elephant in South Luangwa National Park
In her hills and hollows, in her wrinkles, perhaps . . . there is the topography of the whole earth. African Elephant. Photograph, Ann Fisher

If you enjoyed this, head over to
Walking Safari, Day One:

We walked single-file out of the Camp Tena Tena just after dawn on a Sunday morning. There were six of us. In the lead, Chris carried the rifle, followed by Braston our guide. I came next, then my daughter, Catherine, my sister Carolyn, and finally Bishod, guide in training.

To walk the savannah, down, up and over empty oxbow lakes, and then step into the cool shade of a grove of ebony — it’s like that. You feel Africa close. [excerpt]


 

Review: Flying Emirates Business Class through Dubai to Africa

Traveling from Houston, Texas, to Lusaka, Zambia, was the longest trip my family had ever taken. We review our Emirates Business Class flight from Houston through Dubai to Lusaka, Zambia.

Arab Emirates plane
We flew Emirates Business Class through Dubai, on the way to our safari in Zambia. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Traveling from Houston, Texas, to Lusaka, Zambia, was the longest trip my family had ever taken.

Regardless of which route we might choose, we would be in transit for around 36 – 40 hours, with the flight and layover times combined. My sister and I looked at flights and carriers for weeks before choosing our Emirates flight through Dubai to Lusaka. We had friends who had raved about their experience flying Emirates to Rome the previous year.

There was no way I was going regular economy on these long flights. Our initial plan was to purchase Premium Economy seats — probably either through British Airways or KLM, but we watched ticket prices, and continued to look at all flight classes.

We were lucky; after watching fares for about three weeks on all airlines, we saw the Emirates business class on this flight fall by $1K per ticket (fall 2016), and we went for it. It was an airfare sale just after Thanksgiving. At that point, it was about $1.2K more per ticket than Premium Economy on the other airlines we were considering, so right at $4K per ticket. Yes, it was still expensive. Business class is.

One way to look at this. If we’re flying for 36 hours, the additional cost per hour to have business class seats on Emirates was $33 per hour, per person, for the trip.

Emirates Business Class Houston to Dubai
On Emirates, both food and service in business class were outstanding. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

While the total travel time was similar to the other carriers we looked at (Delta, British Airways, KLM, Air France, to name a few), it was the only airline that would get us there is one stop, rather than two. We would fly to Dubai, have an overnight layover, and get on a plane for our six hour flight to Lusaka at 9:30 the next morning.

One of the airlines I looked at had a total trip time that was shorter, but we would arrive in Lusaka at 1:35 a.m.! Who wants to arrive at a strange airport in Africa in the middle of the night, I ask you?

Business class is always such a treat! Photograph, Carolyn Fisher.

I’ve flown business class on Delta, British Airways, and KLM to Europe in the last few years. Emirates is in a class by itself. Included in our Emirates Business Class fare: Roundtrip limo service from my home to the Houston airport, hotel rooms at Le Meridien at the Dubai Airport — plus dinner and breakfast, and car service.

While we all know that the price of these services comes nowhere near the difference between a Premium Economy and Business Class ticket, it’s not chump change either. Roundtrip car service in Houston: $250, with tips. Overnight at Le Meridien is not expensive, $110 per room. Fine dinner and breakfast, $70 per person. I’d say one person could expect the value to be in the neighborhood of $400-$500 if you were traveling alone.

On our flights between Houston and Dubai, our Boeing 777-300ER did have the new lay-flat seats. Between Dubai and Lusaka, they were angled.

Add lay-flat beds on the fifteen hour flight – Houston to Dubai (17 hours on the return flight), then pitched-angle beds from Dubai to Lusaka, and only one airport stop instead of two, and we were pretty gosh-darned happy.

Note for those considering Emirates Business class: All Emirates Airbus A380 flights have lay flat seats in Business Class. Their Boeing 777-300ER have mixed equipment. Additionally, Emirates Boeing 777-300ER Business Class cabins are in a 2-3-2 configuration, which means there are three seats in the center. This is very poor design. I had the center seat, but since I knew my seat mates, it wasn’t so problematic to get out. Otherwise, I’d avoid that seat at all costs.

I dislike angled seats; I find them impossible to sleep in — so this is something to investigate if you have a flight leg on one of their Boeing 777-300ER planes. Check the flight equipment and call Emirates to be sure what to expect.

Emirates Business Class Food
Appetizer: Mezze — small plate of differently flavored hummus. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

The quality of service from every part of our experience with Emirates was outstanding. On the plane, business class service was comparable to my experience with British Airways and KLM, and a step up from my experience with Delta. It is in other ways that Emirates exceeds expectations: the limo service, hotel service, and small things like — rather than loading business and first class passengers first, they want you to relax in the lounge for as long as possible putting you onboard. There was still time for a glass of champagne!

Meal service on Emirates was very good. Better than business class on British Airways, KLM, or Delta? Um. I didn’t think so. About the same really.

The lamb dish I had on one of the dinners was particularly good — probably the best meal I’ve ever had in the air, otherwise, I thought the food was comparable. The soups were great, and my daughter was a big advocate of their desserts. The wines available were outstanding. Presentation of the food: appetizers, cheese plates, and desserts — outstanding. Entree presentation — not as appealing.

The I.C.E. entertainment system on Emirates was the most extensive I’ve ever seen. There were more than 2,500 movies and televisions shows to choose from, as well as a huge selection of games.

Emirates Business Class Bulgari Amenity package
The Emirates Business Class amenity package from Bulgari. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Amenities package, you ask? Bulgari, thank you very much; one of the nicest I’ve seen. The sleeping mask and socks came in a separate package, so the cosmetic bag was full of Bulgari lotion, perfume, tissues, a nice makeup compact, full-size toothbrush with holder, and a comb-brush. None of this is that important to me — I do use the mask, socks, and toothbrush, but don’t care much about the other things — but I know for some people this is a meaningful perk. Sorry guys. I didn’t  get a look at the male version of amenities :-).

Overall, we were very pleased with our decision to fly with Emirates, and I would certainly do it again. I fly a combination of classes, from regular economy to first class, and I make the choice depending on length of flight and ticket costs. The way I look at super-long flights is this: I consider what I’d spend on a nice hotel, drinks, a good dinner and wine, lunches, breakfasts, and then I look at the cost of the base ticket, premium economy, and business class. And then I make decisions. On our trip to Africa, the 36 hour transit time could have been awful — and instead, my daughter, my sister, and I had fun — we didn’t dread the trip coming home.

Interior of Dubai Airport
The airport in Dubai is modern and well-organized, — very easy for Americans, Canadians, and Europeans to navigate. However, and this is a big problem: the airport has a poor track record of adequate helped for the disabled. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Who Should Avoid Transit Through Dubai?

Many flights load from stairs on the tarmac at the Dubai airport.

People with mobility problems.

While many aspects of transit through Dubai were very easy, and I would certainly fly through this airport again, I wanted to note what I see as a big problem.

At the airport in Dubai, there is wheelchair service, but many flights load directly on the tarmac with steps. Our flights to and from Lusaka were like this. We saw one woman who’d had a wheelchair in the airport, go by foot on the bus out to the plane, and then climb the steps to board. I am not sure what they do for passengers who are not able to make this climb.

After doing further reading, it would seem that the airport in Dubai has a poor track record of working with passengers with disabilities, that there are often not enough wheelchairs for people who need them. Investigate further if this is a concern, either you, or someone in your party.

Dubai Airport exterior
Dubai Airport. Photograph, Shutterstock.

Walking Safari: Day One

We walked single-file out of the Camp Tena Tena just after dawn on a Sunday morning. There were six of us. In the lead, Chris carried the rifle, followed by Braston our guide. I came next, then my daughter, Catherine, my sister Carolyn, and finally Bishod, guide in training. To walk the savannah, down, up and over empty oxbow lakes, and then step into the cool shade of a grove of ebony — it’s like that. You feel Africa close.

Elephant in South Luangwa National Park
In her hills and hollows, in her wrinkles, perhaps . . . there is the topography of the whole earth. African Elephant. Photograph, Ann Fisher

We walked single-file out of the Camp Tena Tena just after dawn on a Sunday morning. There were six of us. In the lead, Chris carried the rifle, followed by Braston our guide. I came next, then my daughter, Catherine, my sister Carolyn, and finally Bishod, guide in training.

Imagine stretching out your hands and running them over the face of the elephant there, just there in the picture, above.

Feel the smooth tusks, and let your fingers run up across the wide variety of skin, craggy with wrinkles. Hear her breath, and let her ruffle your hair with her trunk. Smell the grassiness of the twigs and leaves she chews.

To walk the savannah, down, up and over empty oxbow lakes, and then step into the cool shade of a grove of ebony — it’s like that. You feel Africa close.

The word safari means an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat. “Safari” entered the English language in 1869, from Swahili,  but was originally from the Arabic term safara, meaning to travel. To walk in the bush, to be with the animals on foot is the truest experience of the phrase, “to be on safari.”

We walked from 6:30 until about 10:45 in the morning, when we walked into Luangwa Bush Camp. This temporary, true camp rotates between four camp sites.

Luangwa Bush Camp walking safari Robin Pope Safaris
We stopped for a tea break each morning, and Bishod would prepare tea or coffee for all of us. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

We met our guide Braston at breakfast that morning, and he covered the basics: we walk single file, always single file, with Chris on the lead with the rifle. If there is anything, we hold still, maintain the line.

Was I afraid? That first morning, I admit that I was uncomfortable. I’d just met Braston, Chris, and Bishod, and here we were walking into the bush with them. The night before we’d seen a pride of lions.

We’d barely been walking twenty minutes when we surprised a hippo who then went crashing through the thicket, right past us, to get away. We all froze, just as instructed.

It was wonderful.

Hyena South Luangwa National Park Zambia
The hyena waits, listening, sifting the air for smells, for clues there may be a kill to find, to steal. Photograph, Ann Fisher
Crocodile feeds on hippo carcass
The day before we started our walking safari, I was looking at the geese with my camera when suddenly a crocodile lunged out of the water to feed on the hippo.

We walked around one of the many lagoons, this one where we’d seen  a croc feeding on a dead hippo the day before. The smell of decay was strong and sweet, the body still almost completely intact.

The hippo was too far out in the water for the lion and hyena to get to, and the crocs would not really be able to break into the carcass until decay advances further, softening the tissue.

Rounding the side of another lagoon, we spotted a hyena, walked along near the den — she trotted off, but stayed close. Hyena in different parts of Africa behave differently. In some places, hyenas hunt like other predators.

Hyena Poop
No, they aren’t ping pong balls — it’s hyena poop, white as snow from all the bones they eat. Photograph, Carolyn Fisher.

In South Luangwa, food is plentiful, and the hyena act as scavengers — and rarely take a kill themselves.

Part of a walking safari is tracking — learning about animals and spoor — and quite surprisingly for us, hyena poop is white! They consume so much calcium as they eat bone that the stuff stands out like it’s lit from within, it’s so bright.

Baby Giraffe South Luangwa National Park Zambia
When we first came upon the tower of giraffes, this baby sprinted towards the safety of its mom. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
a Tower of Giraffes
We settled in for tea, and the giraffes returned their focus to breakfasting on leaves. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

We spent thirty minutes or so watching a tower of giraffes — yes, learning the British collective words for animals, great fun! Braston suggested it was time to take a break and have some tea, and we found a spot very close to our long-necked friends. Morning tea and giraffes — what could be better?

Chris walked around several of the bushes in our immediate vicinity, checking to be sure everything was safe, and Braston designated one for our latrine needs. Yes, if you’re going to walk in the bush on a remote African safari, you’re going to poop in the bush, just like the hyena :-).

Crocodile tracks South Luangwa National Park Zambia
The arrows point out the drag line of the crocodile’s tail, the sweeping scratch marks of its claws, and the close-up shows the scale pattern in the tracks. Fascinating stuff!

Following tea, we spent close to another two hours walking, stopping to examine lion tracks, crocodile tracks — which consist of a tail dragging line and scaly foot prints, and porcupine tracks. Braston broke open aardvark dung to show the ant remains speckled inside of it. Our favorite animal path? The hippo highways — trails the hippos make in their nocturnal grazing forays into the bush, as they string necklaces of Nile cabbage out behind them.

Luangwa Bush Camp Tent, Robin Pope Safaris walking safari
Our first tent at Luangwa Bush Camp. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Around 10:30, we paused to watch a “business” of mongoose cross our trail before walking into our camp. After four hours out in the bush, it was lovely to walk to Luangwa Bush Camp (LBC) with everything set up and waiting for us. Braston showed us the layout — our tents, two pit latrines with comfy toilet seats, a bucket shower rig, and a full bar. All just for us. LBC maximum capacity is three tents, a total of six guests, but we had it all to ourselves.

Luangwa Bush Camp Robin Pope Safaris Walking Safari
Catherine reviews photographs — our view at this location? A large pod of hippos on the great Luangwa River. Alternate collective word for hippos: a “bloat” :-). Photographs, Ann Fisher.

Our wonderful young camp cook, Boniface, served lunch at 11:30 on a table looking out on the hippos, and afterwards it was time for siesta.

Catherine sacked out in our tent, finding the beds very comfy — mattresses on the floor of the tent, made up with soft cotton sheets and coverlet. I settled in one of the camp chairs to write and watch the hippo family, who had decided that the morning standing in the river had quite exhausted all of them. It was time for a pod-wide afternoon sunbath-nap combo.

I was working on an account of the day in my journal, when I was surprised to hear an extraordinarily loud snoring. I looked at the hippos, but then realized it was coming from behind me. It was Catherine!

Hippos nap on the river beach of the Luangwa
Siesta for all! The hippos snooze away the warm middle of the day. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Following our afternoon tea we walked back out of camp to explore further. Just before sunset, Isaac met us with the Range Rover at the agreed location near the lagoon. We watched the sun go down, and the lovely fingernail moon begin to show itself, and enjoyed our world of bird song and frogs, and the whooshing blow of a hippo surfacing. It was a good time to be quiet, enjoy our wine, and watch the evening come.

Sunset on a lagoon in South Luangwa National Park
Sunset on the lagoon – magical time. Photograph, Ann Fisher
Female Leopard Luangwa National Park Zambia
Beautiful female leopard on the hunt. Photograph, Cat Gassiot.

When we finally clambered up into the Rover, it was time for a bit of night game-driving. I remember saying to Carolyn, “the day has been perfect. It doesn’t make any difference to me if we see nothing at all.”

The day had one more gift for us, a female leopard on the hunt. We stayed with her only briefly.

We were tired and it was time for everyone to go their own way.

Our first day of the walking safari had been perfect, and we arrived back in camp to find it full of warm kerosene light, and Boniface with dinner nearly ready.

Dinner in Luangwa Bush Camp
Cat, Carolyn, and Braston talk about the day while we wait for dinner. Photograph, Ann Fisher

This is the second in a series of posts reviewing our safari in Zambia. We spent 12 days with Robin Pope Safaris: 8 days on game drives at Tena Tena, Nsefu, and Luangwa River camp.

Read the first installment of safari series here, Our African Safari in Zambia: