- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The woes of travelers boarding airplanes these days are legion. Pity the poor Olympic skater headed for Salt Lake City recently who wasn't allowed to take his prized skates in a carry-on bag. Such incidents are commonplace in the new age of travel.
Nor do high heels with metal spikes make the cut. The New York-style maven who came to the airport in such "edgy" creations found herself barefoot at the boarding gate.
Both items were considered dangerous possessions capable of being used as weapons in flight.
Lessons one and two: Carry or wear as little metal on your person as possible when traveling (even underwire bras can set off metal detectors) and choose comfortable shoes, preferably those that slip on and off easily, since you may be asked to remove them for inspection by security personnel.
The question of luggage is paramount what to pack and what kind of bag to use since increased inspection of carry-on bags is routine. Much depends, of course, on the length of a trip and each airline's particular rules.
The Federal Aviation Administration issues general guidelines, but a spokesman for that agency reminds travelers that the airline is ultimately responsible for passenger safety. Each carrier may have requirements above and beyond the FAA rules.
The wise person calls ahead to find out limitations on the size and number of bags allowed by his particular flight.
The travel goods industry has been quick to respond to changing times with new designs and marketing strategies. Travel Goods Association, a New Jersey-based trade group, represents 40,000 products from wallets to trunks, "everything anybody uses to travel," says association spokeswoman Michele Pittenger, who predicts that great changes are in store, akin to the mid-1990s when carry-on wheels were being mass-produced.
"The wheeling concept made travel easy. Now people are spoiled," she says. "They want it all to be easy. They want things that are ergonomically correct and healthy, and they want to be comfortable. Right now is a revolutionary period with everyone focused on the security angle. There is a lot of innovation in packing systems."
Specialty catalogs and mail-order companies such as TravelSmith, which sells clothing and travel gear, now use the pitch that what they offer is as useful for a trip to Europe as for a last-minute trip to the grocery store, says Scott Sklar, co-president of TravelSmith. The company's spring catalog advertises a "breakthrough pack-it system" with inside layers of mesh for easy see-through inspection. (Zip-loc plastic bags from the grocery store are a cheap substitute, but they can only hold so much.)
Likewise, Eagle Creek Travel Gear boasts of pioneering "lightweight structures and ultra-organizational components" among its many packing goods available by catalog and on the Web. These include a duffel trunk with wheels.
"You used to throw it all in a bag," says Eagle Creek's Dave Claflin, who is in charge of creative services and marketing. "Now they wonder if they can take any of it on board."
Nearly all major manufacturers are making carry-on luggage containing separate pockets for laptop computers, leaving hands free for a second, personal article such as a purse or briefcase allowed by most airlines. (According to TravelSmith's Web site, www.travelsmith.com, American Airlines allows first class passengers to bring a maximum three pieces aboard. ) To help in the comfort area, Samsonite has come up with a carry-on suitcase complete with a padded seat on the upright end.
"Flexibility is the thing we are most interested in," says Jeff Bertelsen, the head of design for Tumi luggage manufacturers in discussing the influence of September 11 on his work. "We aren't changing exterior materials of products, having earlier introduced a new nylon material called FusionZ for abrasion resistance and strength. We have more flexible wheeled products that can either be for business or an overnight bag. Many pieces look like briefcases or totes and in most cases accommodate computers and a reasonably sized briefcase. If you fly out on one airline allowing two pieces and board another allowing only one, you can sequester one piece in another.
"We're also adding an increased number of zip sliders so that every pocket can be locked for checked bags. People know the risk that a carry-on might be taken away at the door."
Stephen Zimmerman, president of Howard Luggage in Pikesville, outside Baltimore, a family-owned store for nearly 90 years, has become an expert packer since the airlines started cracking down on luggage size and number of pieces. The normal limit for a carry-on piece, he says, is 22 by 14 by 10 inches, but one airline has allowed a 24-inch wide bag.
"We're selling more carry-ons and expandable cases for people who don't want the bother of checking bags," Mr. Zimmerman says, offering as an example the time not long ago when he and his wife flew to Los Angeles and San Francisco with only one carry-on bag for both of them for a three-day stay.
"That makes it easier to get in and out of airports and, with boarding passes in hand and saves us the need to wait in line at the ticket counter," he says. "We can go early to the security line and go directly to the gate."
In addition, he had a rolling Tumi business case to hold papers he wanted to bring home. On the way out, the case held shirts and underwear.
"I'm amazed we could do that," Mr. Zimmerman says.
One of their packing tricks is fitting his wife's tennis shoes inside his larger everyday shoes. Both wore a pair of dress shoes for the trip. The carry-on held a dress, sweater, skirt and blouse, as well as two pairs of slacks for him, two dress shirts and two ties in addition to a men's utility bag and a cosmetic case.
Mr. Zimmerman says the trick to packing either a suitcase or a carry-on and avoiding wrinkling is in alternating folds of garments in layers so they act as a form of insulation.
"I haven't used a garment bag in 15 years," he boasts.
As for travel clothing: the looser the better. Conveniently enough, spring fashion modes dictate casual and scruffy as the "in" thing this year. The kind of fabric is critical. Quality microfiber, for instance, is wrinkle-resistant, lightweight and weather-friendly. The oft-maligned polyester can be treated with a finish that wicks moisture away. A parka or raincoat with lots of pockets is a convenient way to store those extras that don't fit into a carry-on.


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