Have you noticed it's getting harder to pack it all in?
I'm not talking about the itinerary where you keep track of where you are by the day of the week. I'm talking about your suitcase.
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Ever since the airlines began charging fees for checked luggage, passengers have been trying to pack more into their carry-on and it's causing many passengers to "carry on" in an entirely different way.
Recently, while passing through security in San Francisco, I watched a passenger try to stuff his suitcase into a kiosk half its size. Clearly the bag didn't want to go. But the man was determined and put all his brute force into the project. And then he lost it. Literally.
The hinges gave way and all his careful packing exploded into the aisle. The poor guy began kicking his loose belongs toward security and muttering to himself. Hard to tell who was more unhinged, the man or his suitcase. Apparently, a security agent decided it was the passenger and escorted him away. We never did see what happened to all his belongings or to him.
The problem is twofold. Most airlines allow only two carry-on bags -- your wheelies and one personal bag. The suitcase must fit in the kiosk or the airline checks it. But it's open season on what you pack into your second carry-on.
I watched one woman stuff an entire chicken dinner, her camera, a change of clothes, reading material, a makeup kit, a coat and a pillow into her extra tote. She had two pairs of running shoes tied to the handle. And that's only what I could see. Her wheelies were regulation. But apparently there are no regulations on the one 'small' second bag.
And then there's the problem of the one-quart plastic bag carrying the four-ounce bottles of products you can't live without.
"I love my shampoo and cream rinse," said frequent traveler Carol Cross. "Hotel brands leave me frizzy and insecure. But I also like my own tooth paste. The government won't let me travel with both. It's either my teeth or my hair."
Another frequent traveler told me he's addicted to his own brand of mouthwash. Four ounces won't get him through a week of meetings. So a year ago he tried slipping a large container of it into his pocket and walking through security with it. He has never been stopped. And his breath is minty fresh.
But there are other ways to have your proverbial cake and eat it, too:
• Check the airport's website. Many airports offer boutique shopping after security. Your favorite products may be available near your gate and can legally travel with you.
• Consider shipping. If you know where you will be staying after you deplane, send a care package ahead and pick it up when you check into your hotel.
• Buy it after you land. Stores at your destination probably carry your product. Check their website and find a store after you land.
And finally, don't overpack your wheelies. If you find you brought too little, go shopping. It's a lot less stressful, both for you and your suitcase.
• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.