Our Favourite Piece of Luggage

At our age, we’ve got a lot of baggage; I mean luggage. Big and small. Two-wheeled and four. Heavy and light. Burgundy and rusty orange. And black, lots of black.

You might be surprised to see what our favourite piece of luggage is now.

A small cooler!

In Coimbra, Portugal, last September, we were looking for a Styrofoam cooler in which to keep yogurt, Gamonede cheese, jamon and other food, and wine. To no avail. But we did find a small cooler, hard plastic in bright blue with a retractable white handle. It’s just the right size, about 38 cm x 27 cm x 30 cm, and sturdy enough to withstand a baggage handler’s heave-ho. It’s lightweight too, less than two kilos. As we recall, the cost was about sixteen euros, which at the time felt like a lot given what we initially had in mind. But in just ten months, it’s paid us (and others) lovely dividends.

After filling it with yogurt, fruit, sausage and stinky cheeses for hiking and milk for lattes while travelling for a month in Spain and Portugal, we packed it for the trip home with wine (it holds six bottles), port, honey and olive oil. You may remember a previous blog, Jubilados’ Luggage, where we talked about our Po’ Boy Wine Carrier, a cheap little suitcase for bringing home wine wrapped in disposable diapers. Seemed like a good idea until a friend told us that if soaked with wine, the diapers could expand so much they might burst the seams of a cheap suitcase.

Returning from Spain in 2013, we packed 6 bottles of wine and some olive oil in a cheap Chinese suitcase, protecting each bottle with pampers. Would the pampers have expanded to burst the suitcase if a bottle had broken?

Our little blue cooler flew to Saskatoon last autumn for my mom’s birthday party, transporting 25 servings of frozen clam chowder, her favorite soup, and an orange-date cheesecake.

In February, it took a trip through the mountains when Magellan drove a 38-foot U-Haul truck with an attached 12-foot trailer to Saskatoon. Our cooler was laden with roast beef sandwiches, oranges and chocolate so we could avoid stopping for lunch and outrun a storm that was trailing us. A few days later, it flew back to Vancouver with us carrying Magellan’s tools for roadside emergencies.

Our cooler’s longest trip, so far, has been to Sicily. Some days it housed books and maps we no longer needed. After our visit to Noto, it carried precious cargo from Café Sicilia: nougat, cookies, honey, and marzipan fruits that we brought home for gifts. On its trip home via Palermo, Munich and Toronto, it could have been labeled “Bottles of Sicily”—four of wine, two of Amora, seven of olive oil and two of honey—along with pistachios and small tins of spices like wild fennel flowers and stevia, a sweet wild mint.

“This feels empty,” said the woman at Air Canada checking us in on our way to New York in May for Myra and Alan’s wedding. (The only thing in the cooler was duct tape for wrapping it up on its way home.) “What a good idea,” she said when we told her how effective we found it for travelling. “I’m off to Thailand next month and I’m going to look around for something like us before I leave.”

Our favourite piece of luggage always travels under Magellan’s name. That’s because having flown more than a million miles with Air Canada, he gets to travel with three pieces of luggage for free. It usually takes a few extra minutes at both ends as the cooler travels as “special baggage,” and needs to dropped off and picked up in a designated place.

As you probably know, the airlines don’t allow ice in a checked cooler; if you need to keep something cold, you have to use a gel pack. We learned that the hard way taking Okanagan cherries and Chinook salmon (in an oversize cooler) to the prairies one summer.

Now all we need to do is give our cooler a name. Any suggestions?


Wild Nature’s 18 litre cooler is distributed by Modelo Continente in Portugal.

10 Responses

  1. One thing I have found with coolers is that color or colour is very important. Dark colours actually absorb heat and actually get hot to the touch, not much sense in trying to keep a hot box cool, takes a lot of ice trying to keep contents cool when the outer cover is defeating the purpose of the product.
    We have several large white “Coleman”coolers that will survive a good week and also a very old small Thermos cooler, called. “SunPacker” the sunpacker (light yellow in color, with a cary/lock handle)holds about 8 beer cans and an ice gel pack, has a carry handle and is just an all around great cooler. You will not find these in a store but maybe a garage sale.

    For ice packs we use various sixes of used plastic milk jugs, clean them well and they will last you many years, best part is when they do melt you have nice cool drinking water. My favourite is the 2 litre size but 4 litres work very well for bigger coolers.
    Going back to colours, try sitting a dark colour cooler out in the sun for about 1/2 to 1 hour and feel the outside of the cooler, you will be very surprised on how hot they get. ???????

    Another cooler trick to try if something goes bad inside the cooler, used news papers crumpled up and left inside the cooler, and no, used tablets and iPads do not work. ????

    Cheers, ???,
    By the way these are tried and true with lots of personal experience to back me up. “Never did try the tablets though”

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