- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The trauma of travel in modern times has raised the bar for people hoping to pass trouble-free through security lines in crowded transportation terminals.

Whether on routine business trips or vacation forays, passengers receive little sympathy boarding planes — and sometimes buses and trains — when bags are inches or pounds over the size and weight limits set by individual carriers.

Packing well is the best — and perhaps only — revenge.

The challenge is finding hassle-free ways to manage without undue strain or frustration. To this end, even experienced travelers stay on the lookout for new and better methods and products to make the packing and traveling process easier.

Two days before District resident Susan Clampitt set off on a recent 11-day trip to visit friends in Italy, she was browsing in a museum gift shop and found and bought a long-handled black bag made of a soft, expandable fabric. The bag has wheels that fold up on the bottom, so it can function as a shoulder bag or a rolling carry-on. Her only other bag on the trip was an apple-green leather purse.

Like most travel-wise people, she kept money tucked out of view in a pack on an elastic band around her waist.

Best of all, her rolling carry-on case weighed just 24 pounds when full — well under her airline’s 40-pound limit — and she managed to fit everything she needed into it. The Samsonite model was designed to double as a backpack and includes a padded outside space for a laptop computer.

She took only black and white clothing so she could mix and match. Her chief accessories were silver jewelry and two print wraps — each large enough to double as a dress — plus a black-and-white striped sweater she took with her on the plane to stay warm.

She wore loose black culottes with a black stretch sleeveless top and chose sandals for convenience when going through security. In the carry-on, she packed a pair of silver loafers and a pair of athletic shoes stuffed with undergarments. The rest of her wardrobe consisted of a total of four neatly folded cotton trousers and skirts and “a little black dress” made of wrinkle-free fabric and with a built-in bra. She stored medicines and cosmetics separately by function in heavy sandwich baggies.

In cold weather, she rolls, rather than folds, sweaters in plastic bags, available from many manufacturers, that use a vacuum to compress fabric and save space. The vacuum effect also helps prevent wrinkling.

When traveling abroad, she buys plugs and adapters ahead of time to be sure her appliances and electronic devices will function. On long trips, she also makes sure to put copies of important documents in different pockets of the bag and leave copies at home as an extra measure of security.

Carry-on bags eliminate the need for a lock, or at least those locks approved by the Transportation Security Administration to enable officials to open checked baggage. Those are sold widely in stores and on online Web sites. They allow the TSA to open a bag without hampering the owner’s own secure access.

Men have no problem with color choices when they stick to basic brown, black, blue or khaki. Ties are best handled by wrapping them around a pair of socks. A man and woman traveling together with one suitcase can save space by putting the woman’s smaller shoes inside those of the man.

Travel bags are available for sale for every purpose — laundry, shoes, underwear, outerwear, etc. (see www.flight001.com) — and there are enough gadgets to defy description. An “overwhelming” 40,000 products are included in the Travel Goods Association’s annual show, says association President Michele Marini Pittenger, who notes that “luggage is a very small part of it.” Luggage of various kinds and colors is more popular than ever, she adds, because “customers say they are tired of black” but also to make it easier to identify bags in a crowd.

Ms. Pittenger thought she would be different and opted for espresso brown, but she has found that even that bag color is becoming common. “Now if you want polka dots, you have them,” she says. Her travel wardrobe is black and tan — “to go with my complexion” — and her carry-on bag no longer than 18 inches.

Wendy Sokolov, a product developer for TravelSmith, which specializes in apparel for men and women, packs clothes on hangers inside dry-cleaning bags to hinder wrinkling but recommends compression bags to help organize the contents of a bag’s interior. She carries one bag that fits under an airplane seat and another that goes into the overhead compartment.

Chris Luce, a buyer for the Container Store, based in Dallas, finds he gets through security more quickly with a roll-on duffel bag in which he carefully organizes belongings in mesh bags to allow easy viewing by TSA inspectors. He also believes in using only leak-proof travel bottles and in making lists of what he needs ahead of time.

“I pack less that way,” he says.

Nancy Dunnan, publisher of TravelSmart newsletter out of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., wears her walking shoes and packs a pair of dress shoes. Taking along old clothes that are disposable allows for lighter luggage on return and creates room for purchases made en route, she finds. A collapsible hat, as well as colorful accessories, “changes a whole outfit and makes you stand out.”

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