Carry-On Bag Mania

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In the run-up to the Thanksgiving airport crush, here is the question for you: can you go three days - even a week - with just carry-on luggage?

The benefits: You save the $25 or thereabouts that most domestic carriers ding passengers for checking a bag - and you also save a good 30 minutes standing around a baggage carousel whistling seasonal carols as you hope that your bag shows up in one piece without having its contents pilfered by sticky fingered airport personnel.

And then there are the hardcore carry-on travelers who insist it is downright easy to travel a week - some insist two or even three weeks - on the contents of a single carry-on which, generally, cannot exceed 22" long x 14" wide x 9" tall.

That is a snug bag.

Making it work starts with doing some serious planning. Know your itinerary, and bring all but only what you need. Forget "what if" clothing. Your schedule is hectic and there's no time for a workout? Then leave the gym clothes out of the bag and, while you are at this, don't pack a formal gown on the grounds that you "might" need it. Packing for contingencies is a fast track to having to check luggage, and, odds are, you won't use the extra stuff anyway.

Now tune into the specifics used by the carry-on brigade.

* Wear the big stuff, said Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano and a self-professed carry-on flyer. Winter jacket, check. Dressy jacket, check. Maybe a sweater, too. Big boots, check. Wear it all. That's half a suitcase on your body and it all comes aboard with you, free of extra charge.

* Skip the toiletries, buy what you need at your destination, said Donna Maurillo, director, communications and tech transfer at the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose. No matter where you are going, you can buy toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and those other niceties that otherwise would consume a corner in your bag.

Bonus: This saves you from having to show your liquids to the TSA.

* "One of my big tricks is to stick with the same color scheme for the whole week -- pack only clothes that go with black shoes, belt, etc.," said Carly Scaduto, a communications manager at Monsanto. Yes, you'll be monochromatic, but you will also find one pair of shoes and one belt will do fine for a week and one dressy jacket probably will also do fine (use different ties or scarves to draw eye attention - people will forget you wore the same dark blue jacket every day).

* Choose items that pack small: "a merino wool sweater packs smaller than a sweatshirt; microfiber slacks pack smaller than jeans; loafers pack smaller than boots" is advice from packing expert Susan Foster.

* "Pack the nooks and crannies* is advice from Gigi Griffis, a world-traveling writer. She elaborated: "Have a pair of shoes or something else with an opening in your luggage? Stuff them with socks, toiletries or other small items. You can fit more into your bag if you fill every small space."

* Roll up everything you can is advice from many frequent travelers. Some use vacuum bags (even WalMart sells them now) - by forcing out all air, the dimensions of garments can be made much thinner - but others think that is getting extreme, and even without compression, a lot of stuff can be shoved into a carry-on.

How much? Personally, I have packed four dress shirts, seven underpants, seven pairs socks, and an extra pair of pants. In there, too, usually are a few undershirts for sleeping, a tie, perhaps a winter scarf, possibly a high-tech heat undershirt for days when I will be outdoors for long periods. In that bag, there's also room for an extra pair of shoes and, personally, I usually bring along a small toiletry kit (razor, hairbrush, toothbrush along with vitamin pills). And I always bring a laundry bag for the stuff that has given its all on a particular voyage.

Image coach Jill Swanson swears this same packing parsimony works for women, too. She itemized what she brings in a carry-on: "Two pair of slacks, two skirts/shorts, two dresses, two dress shirts, two lightweight sweaters, two night gowns, two bras, two swimsuits, two pair of shoes, two scarves, two necklaces/earrings, two flat bags: 1 - toiletries, 1 – electronic."

Get the message? Carry-on is the way to go, especially in the holiday season, and, as for those presents you may be bringing, what do you think your other permitted carry-on ("a purse or briefcase") is for?

--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet

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