- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

Packing light is taking on new urgency now that American Airlines has announced it will charge passengers $15 to check any bag on a domestic flight.

“Frankly, I expect absolute chaos at ticket counters across the nation,” business travel consultant Joe Brancatelli said in an e-mail to subscribers to his JoeSentMe Web site, which tracks the travel industry. “Unlike the second-bag fee, which affected a small number of travelers, a huge percentage of travelers check one bag. Moreover, a large number of fliers will try to slim down to carry-on weight.”

He also expects other carriers to follow American’s lead “with lightning speed.” American’s new fee takes effect June 15. Most carriers already charge $25 to check a second bag.

Consequently, packing light should be a traveler’s main goal this summer, says Samantha Brown, host of the Travel Channel’s “Passport to” series.

“The last time I checked a bag was when I was a bridesmaid at a wedding” eight years ago, says Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer travel guides. “My bag got lost, and my bridesmaid dress was in it.”

Packing that one bag certainly can be a challenge, but travel experts have several tips on how to do it effectively.

The most important component of packing is to make a list, Miss Frommer says. “You have got to make a list. Then when you know what you want to pack, cut it in half.”

Most people who don’t make a list are last-minute packers who decide to take things they end up not wearing. The essentials are clothes that hide stains and can be worn day and night. Men are encouraged to pack a sports jacket that can be worn during more formal occasions.

“You don’t need very formal clothes. Who are you trying to impress? You are going to a place where no one is going to know you,” Miss Frommer says.

Select outfits that match the shoes you want to pack, suggests Kathleen Ameche, author of “The Woman Road Warrior: The Expert’s Guide to Domestic and International Business Travel.”

“People always tend to overpack shoes, but you don’t pack as many shoes if you build outfits from the bottom up,” she says. Also, make sure the footwear you pack is comfortable.

A good way to reduce the amount of clothes and shoes is to select a color scheme and stick with it.

Miss Brown suggests incorporating accessories to a color scheme to add a little flair.

“Choose a main color as your base outfit and add things to it. I never travel without some sort of scarf,” she says.

Adding accessories takes up less space in a suitcase and makes an outfit versatile so it’s easier to transition from day to night.

Choosing a color scheme, however, may be a difficult decision. Although most travelers are inclined to pick darker colors, such as black, brighter colors are more in season this time of year.

After deciding on the most important things to pack, squeezing it all into a 22-by-14-inch regulation carry-on bag may be an even harder task.

“Pack in layers,” says Miss Ameche, who layers her pants first and then other clothes and shoes. “I put small items in my shoes, like socks, and put them in the sides of the bag.”

To reduce wrinkles, Miss Ameche suggests rolling shirts and shorts and packing jackets into dry-cleaning bags.

Don’t forget to put all toiletries in a quart-size plastic bag to expedite security clearance. Most important, check the airline carrier’s Web site before departure for updated baggage guidelines so there aren’t any surprises at the airport.

SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

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