Lisbon: Leave your luggage and go, go, go!

It continues to be an exasperating travel dilemma: where to leave your luggage before check-in or after checking out of your Lisbon accommodation. Fortunately, companies have heard the call from travelers and answered with many convenient solutions.

In Lisbon for example, CityLockers provides users a safe and uncomplicated way to deposit and hold valuables. The lockers are under CCTV monitoring 24/7 (they’re connected to a central alarm system), are economically priced and centrally located at the Rossio Metro station with easy connections to the Lisbon Airport (Green Line – change once at Alameda to the Red Line). The self-service process is pretty straightforward.

To deposit bags:

1. Place bags in any available locker
2. Close door and wait for the light to turn on
3. Pay your fee (cash or credit cards)
4. Obtain and keep safe your access code

To collect bags:

1. Enter the access code
2. Pay any balance due
3. Take luggage and go

Lockers dimensions are as follows:

  • Small lockers: 36x48x60 cm or 14x19x23.6 in.
  • Medium lockers: 36x65x60 cm or 14×25.6×23.6 in.
  • Large lockers: 36x99x60 cm or 14×38.9×23.6 in.

CityLockers is open from 6:30am to 1:00am, 365 days a year. Hourly fees start as low as 1€ and special long-term rates are available. Note: For luggage storage of more than 7 days, advance booking is required. There’s also a new location in Porto (Porto-Trindade Metro Station).

Drop and go. Lisbon is waiting!

Rossio Metro Station
1100-201 Lisbon, Portugal
Hours: 6:30am to 1:00am (365 days a year)

Is it safe to travel to Europe?

I remember one morning back in September of 2001, getting a series of last minute cancellations by phone at our hostel, The Beehive.  Each caller had a different excuse as to why they couldn’t make it, with strange stories about their flights being cancelled that sounded like the equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”.  What did they mean a plane flew into the World Trade Center?  It was crazy.

Then we jumped online to CNN’s webpage and found a static image of the twin towers burning.  For the next 24 hours phones were jammed and news spread slowly.  The internet, which wasn’t particularly fast at the time anyway, was totally blocked.  From then on, life changed for just about everyone.

Since then, working in travel, we’ve experienced many other disasters – some natural and others man made. Even though our experience might not have always been first-hand, the world is all connected and the impact ended up on our doorstep one way or another.  The volcano in Iceland that grounded all flights for a week; the beginning of the Iraq invasion; countless airport and transport strikes throughout Italy and France; and now the attacks in Paris, Istanbul, and Brussels to name a few.  Each time our hearts break, our faith in humanity slumps, and as we brace ourselves for cancellations and losses, we wonder if this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  Even without terrorist attacks people ask us regularly if it’s safe to travel to Europe, so every disaster seems like it could be the beginning of the end of what we do.

Our first, and perhaps knee-jerk reaction to that question is that yes, Europe is safe.  Certainly safer than any major city I’ve visited in the US.  If you really want to get technical, when it comes to malicious, senseless, violent crime, even Paris, Brussels and Istanbul are safer than these places:

That’s some powerful perspective, but despite living on a continent that has very little violent crime, and virtually no mass shootings, we found ourselves this last month on the other end of the debate.

Our family has been planning a trip to Tel Aviv and Istanbul this summer, and after the bombing in Istanbul, our kids were clearly freaked out.  One tried to be the voice of reason, saying “but it’s not like we would be near where that happened, right?”

But no, it was on Istiklal street – a bustling, amazing part of the city.  One of the areas I was most excited about us hanging out at together.  Our young adventurers, who are always eager to travel, were thinking twice.

The reasons for their fear are clear and justifiable – I’m not denying that.  In fact, it’s pretty tough to argue against it.  Fear just doesn’t respond to reason.  You might be able to intellectualize it, but that doesn’t make it go away.

But let’s intellectualize anyway: on the one hand, I ask myself how can I willingly and wilfully put myself and my family at risk by going somewhere where things like this can happen? But where would I draw the line with that kind of thinking? Is traveling risky behavior?  Riskier than driving on the highway, or flying in a big metal bird high in the sky across the world? We can’t put our lives on hold and lock ourselves away from potential danger, especially when the world has so much to offer us that are worth all these risks.

Philosophically, why does it feel different to brave the highways each day, knowing that statistically my chances of dying in a car accident are higher than getting caught in the crossfire of a terrorist act? How many risks do I face each day and where does terrorism, or any kind of unexpected disaster, fit into them?

My answer is that there’s a difference between accepting risks as a cost of life’s necessities, and adding risks onto voluntary and seemingly unnecessary luxuries of life. In other words, we can accept that driving in our cars imposes serious risks, because we feel we have few alternatives – we have to go to work. We have to go get groceries. We have things to do, and getting there is a necessity, so that’s an acceptable level of risk.

But I don’t have to go to Istanbul.  I don’t have to go skydiving.

Travel is optional.  It’s a luxury. And there are many destinations, some that are safer than others.  So choosing one that seems at a higher risk, even if that risk is marginal, is precarious, right?

Perhaps if my only goal was to go on a vacation – unplug from the stresses of life and recharge my batteries, then yes, it might make more sense to choose a beach holiday (although past terrorist attacks in Bali and Tunisia would be a good rebuttal for that option).

But for me, travel is more than vacationing and getting away for a break. European travel especially isn’t so much about getting away from your life, it’s about understanding your life better.  It’s about putting the entire modern, Western world in context.  It’s about experiencing an alternate world – one with different value systems and politics that need to be experienced. It helps us understand ourselves and understand others. It helps us be more tolerant and accepting. It helps in combatting what terrorism is all about.

This might be optional, but it shouldn’t be. What is more dangerous is viewing the world as “us versus them”, dividing people and cultures and always seeing the world from the center of your own value system. People who don’t have their mind opened by travel are more of a hazard to the world in general because closed mindedness is what fuels the kind of hatred behind terrorism and makes the world unsafe.

When I weigh the pros and cons, the pros far outweigh the risks. I think the result of never traveling, or delaying until the world is “safe” enough, is risky.

Travel is optional, and the risks may seem unnecessary, but when we have that feeling of the world as a dangerous place, and our faith in humanity is at its lowest, travel is the best, if not only, cure.

For more interesting reading on this topic, check out this article on Isis’ strategy, and in particular why France is important to them.

This article with some tips from the NY Times

This inspiring post by our friend Jodi of Legal Nomads

And Wendy Perrin’s views on why not to cancel a trip to Europe


Luggage Storage: 3 Places to Leave Your Bags in Barcelona

So, you’ve rented a great vacation property in Barcelona, but you’re arriving before the apartment’s check-in time or check-out is at 11:00am and you still have lots of sightseeing to do before departing the city.  We’ve discovered 3 great options in Barcelona’s city center where you can leave your luggage safely and affordably.

#1: Locker Barcelona

Near Placa de Catalunya (next to a main transportation hub with service to the train station and the airport), Locker Barcelona offers 3 locker sizes to hold bags measuring up to 50cm x 90cm x 90cm bags. Oversize items are also accepted and prices are quite reasonable, plus you can access your locker anytime you want during the day, at no extra charge. Other services include Wi-Fi access, boarding pass printing, luggage weighing, and use of their changing rooms. Perfect for large groups, too.

Locker Barcelona, C/ Estruc 36
(+34) 933.028.796
Hours: 8:30am to 9:00pm (winter hours: 8:30am to 8pm).

#2: Bag Drop Service

Bag Drop Service not only conveniently stores your dropped-off luggage, but you can save tons of time by arranging your luggage to be picked up from your rental property and delivered straight to your point of departure (train station, airport or cruise terminal). They have 3 locations in the city center that are all in close proximity to public transportation connections.

Bag Drop Service
Bag Drop Service: Ciutat Vella. c/ Jerusalem, 11
Bag Drop Service: Pl. Espanya. c/ Mèxic, 15
Bag Drop Service: Sants. c/ Joan Güell, 54
(+34) 603 823 099
Hours: 9am to 9pm (year round)

#3: Easyin City

Our last recommendation, Easyin City, not only provides a place to store luggage, they add a really cool twist…with every locker rental you get a free bike loaner. Brilliant!

Easyin City, Carrer de Bertrellans, 4,08002
(+34) 932 80 96 91
Hours: 9:00 am to 9:00pm

Where to store bags in Venice before or after check in/out?

by Toni DeBella

There are many upsides to booking a vacation rental property in Venice.  Some of these include budget-friendliness, convenience, room to spread out, and kitchens to prepare some of your own meals.

But what if you arrive in town way ahead of your check-in time (generally around 3pm) and/or there’s a space between the 11am check-out and your train or flight departure? With 3 hours to kill, what ever will you do with your bags?

Although a handful of properties may have reception areas or offices that will hold your bags, most are privately owned and don’t offer this service. You don’t really want to be sipping your Bellini in St. Mark’s Square – having to keep one eye on the beautiful architecture and the other on your Samsonite, do you?  It’s a myth that rolling bags are prohibited in Venice, however, dragging them up and down tiny footbridges all morning may not be your idea of fun.

Your worries are over…

Located in the historic center of Venice, a 4-minute stroll from both Piazza San Marco and the famed Rialto Bridge, Venice Luggage Deposit provides a solution to one of the most common travel dilemmas.

Called a deposito bagagli in Italian, Venice Luggage Deposit offers reasonably priced, per-day holding of your luggage, with discounts for multiple bags.  Special delivery service is available and they also accept oversize or unconventional items (i.e., surfboards) – but that costs a little bit more.  If you prefer, you can also make arrangements beforehand online, although no appointment is necessary – just drop ‘em and go!

You’re now ready to roam the winding streets and canals of Venice, hands free.

Venice Luggage Deposit
Castello 5496, Calle de la Malvasia
(+39) 041 476 4907; Cell (+39) 320 294 05 00
Hours: 9:30am to 5:30pm (holidays included)


When NOT to Visit Barcelona

by Amy Knauff

I’ve written before about why I love Barcelona in the off-season, but over the years I’ve become adamant that Barcelona should really be avoided during the major events and conferences that are held there annually. This is not a matter of your classic peak season crowds and prices: this is when accommodation owners raise their rates by, like, a zillion euros.

These events sometimes take place during classic “low-season” periods (so really, Barcelona, is hopping throughout the year), but not to worry – they don’t last more than a few days each.

Unfortunately, the price-raising frenzy doesn’t just go for hotels but also for B&Bs and private apartments with normally very reasonable prices – including the ones on Cross-pollinate. Much love to Barcelona, one of my absolute favorite cities, but do yourself a favor and avoid coming during these events if you can:

Formula Uno (F1) – The Formula One Spanish Grand Prix held close to Barcelona each May.

Primavera Sound Festival – A huge rock festival that usually takes place in the early summer.

Sonar Festival – A world-famous electronic music festival in mid/late June.

Mobile World Congress (3GSM) –A conference and the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, held in February.

There are plenty of other events and local festivals that take place in Barcelona, but these are the biggies. Pick another city if you’ll be traveling during these dates – we have plenty to choose from!