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Luggage Know-how

Choosing Luggage

Before you pack, check the condition of your luggage. Airlines can refuse to accept fragile or damaged pieces.

If you have to purchase new bags, choose luggage that is lightweight, roomy and easy to carry, yet durable enough to withstand rough treatment. Choose material that will not sag or rip as it moves along the conveyor belt and be sure that each piece has a secure lock. Keep the keys on your person or in your hand luggage.

A suitcase with wheels, or a baggage caddy will also help make trips through the airport, bus terminal or train station easier, especially if porters are not available.

Try to limit your luggage to one suitcase and a carry-on bag. Most of the new carry-on baggage restrictions do not apply to purses, coats, diaper bags, or camera equipment, but they often do apply to briefcases.

Baggage restrictions may vary from flight to flight depending on the design and passenger load of each plane, but a good rule of thumb is two bags per person. The flight attendant has the final say as to whether your bags can be taken on board as carry-on luggage or whether the baggage must be checked as cargo.

Garment Bag or Rollerbag?

Should you let your sex determine this important travel decision or are there other factors to consider? Which is the better way to go? Here's a guide to help you decide.

Physical - How big are your shoulders? Are you in shape?

Let's face it, men usually have broader shoulders than most women -- and in general they are taller. Garment bags hang better on men -- they can manuever with them and walk quickly without tripping. Rollerbags are suited to smaller, petite women. Unless you are a woman built like a fabulous supermodel -- does Cindy Crawford even carry her own luggage? - wheeled luggage is probably best.

Your best choice often depends on your physical condition. Even if you switch shoulders while carrying the bag, over-the-shoulder garment bags put continous, concentrated strain on certain parts of your body. They have been known to cause and aggravate back, neck and shoulder pain. Overloaded garment bags -- are there any other kind? -- are a chiropractor's delight. Rollerbags allow an even weight distribution of your load. It's important, however, when you are rolling -- that you change sides frequently.

Have you ever had back, neck or shoulder problems? Are you feeling any twinges now as you hoist your garment bag? You might want to switch to a wheeled bag.

Psychological - What's your Image?

Let's face it. Many men don't like "the look" of pulling a rollerbag. Businessman often think of themselves as battle-weary travel veterans, fighting for frequent flier miles around the globe. Remember, Tom Clancy books are best sellers at airports.

The tough guy image might seem hard to maintain when you are pulling the luggage equivalent of a little red wagon. One male financial services sales executive says that his manager discourages men in his department from using rollerbags because it diminishes their macho "go-get-'em" image. Many men feel that rollerbags are effeminate, perhaps because because of their popularity as "stewardess luggage". Whatever the reason, it is hard to get a man to switch to wheeled luggage even when he he is crippled by back and shoulder pain.

Many female business travelers feel they look more pulled-together with rollerbags. A female frequent flier with the same financial services company prefers the roller alternative because it makes her look more professional and organized: "No woman wants to be thought of as a bag lady -- and that's what I look like when I'm hefting an over-the-shoulder bag".

Consider what type of bag your boss, clients and colleagues use. If it's important that you fit into the organization, you might want to follow along.

Duffels say "cool" or "just graduated" ; backpacks : "edgy" and "iconoclastic", garment bags "professional male business traveler " and rollerbags "professional female traveler" or "male traveler who is confident in his masculinity." What image do you want to portray?

Packing - How much stuff do you have?

Garment bags also offer the lure of "more space to stuff" things. Rollerbags with their hard edges provide clear limits on the amount you can pack. If you have trouble organizing your items and limiting what you take, you will probably be better off with a garment bag. Just remember, the airlines are cracking down and you can't always board with those stuffed garment bags.

In general, suits travel better in garment bags. Ultimately, when you reach your destination, you don't want your business suit to end up as wrinkled and disheveled as you probably feel. Traveling with a suit and considering a rollerbag?  To pack a suit in duffel or backpack, you have to practice the fine art of rolling your clothes. It is essential to become a packing expert if you want your clothes to arrive with a minimum of wrinkles.

Prepare yourself

Little details, such as where you're going, how long you'll be there and whether your hotel provides shampoo can sure add up. Making a few simple phone calls before you board that plane can save you time and hassle--and help you to pack everything you'll need.

Check the weather before you go

Don't assume you won't need an umbrella in Hawaii. Never think the weather will be the way it usually is in the place you're going. It could change. You may have heard horror stories about people vacationing in Florida--in June--and it's freezing cold and raining. If you haven't heard stories like this, don't risk the chance of becoming one of those story tellers. Play it safe. Take an umbrella wherever you go for a start, unless it has never, ever rained where you're going. Always bring a sweater or sweatshirt, even if you'll be in L.A. Remember when you were at the beach when you were a little kid? Your parents probably packed old sweatshirts for you to throw on after swimming. They had the right idea. Follow in their footsteps.

Pack that leisure wear

You may argue that the entire trip is work-related, you'll have no time to yourself, so why bother packing leisure wear? But you never know when you'll find a spare hour or two--even if it's after dinner. Pack sweatpants or sweatshirts that can double as both recreational gear and sleepwear.

What if there's a hot tub/pool/exercise room in the hotel? Pack a bathing suit and lightweight exercise gear and you'll be able to indulge. Hanging out in a Jacuzzi can be more relaxing than watching TV on a fuzzy screen.

Another consideration you might have is whether you'll be in town over the weekend. If you've got conferences from Wednesday to Friday, you might want to stick around until Sunday night, and you probably won't want to wear a suit that entire time. Think ahead and you'll be able to relax when you've got the time.

Make an itinerary of everything you'll be doing

It's important to know exactly what your schedule is and anticipate the type of atmosphere you'll be in. If you'll be wandering around beaches looking at beach houses, you might want to avoid wearing a three piece suit and polished shoes, so don't pack them. If you'll be meeting extremely important people in extremely important places, it might be essential to pack that suit.

Call about the hotel goodies

Some hotels provide electric razors, hairdryers, laundering services, moisturizer and shampoo, not to mention saunas, hot tubs or exercise rooms. Knowing what will be there for you will help you decide what you can leave back home, and what you should add to your checklist.

Make life easy for yourself. Spend a few minutes thinking about all the things you need on a daily basis. Then think about what you could need if something went wrong.

Raid the medicine cabinet

Are you a stickler for a specific type of shampoo? Put it on your list.

Go into your bathroom and write down every toiletry item you use on a daily basis. The items that aren't provided by your hotel can go straight on that list.

Raid the closet

An easy way to coordinate outfits, save space with accessories and shoes, and generally save hassle, is to color coordinate your clothing. Choose suits or outfits that can be used with one pair of shoes and one belt. You may also consider the one suit, many different shirts and ties (or different jewelry) approach. This works well as a space saver, but is somewhat more difficult for women than men. Women may consider choosing one skirt (black has the most options) and several different-colored blazers. Choose exactly what you'd like to wear each day and write it down.

Pay attention to the details and prioritize:

Here's a sample list of items you may like to include on a trip.

Clothing essentials:

  • White shirt(s)
  • Tie (for men)
  • Dress shoes
  • Dress socks/ nylons--pack lots of extra pairs!
  • Underwear
  • Suit, all pieces, or alternate business wear, or "smart casual" wear depending on your situation

Clothing optionals:

  • Pajamas
  • Casual clothes/workout gear
  • Sneakers

Accessory and toiletry essentials--You'll kick yourself if you forget these.

(Consider taking all, or at least some, of these items on the plane in your carry-on bag. Checked luggage could get lost, and you'd probably be very unhappy without your toothbrush.)

  • Flight tickets
  • Credit cards, including frequent flyer cards, identification.
  • Passport (if needed)
  • Money
  • Pen
  • Watch
  • Umbrella
  • Small mirror
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Medication

    Toiletry items you might want:

  • Nail clippers/files
  • Needle, thread, safety pins--don't say it won't happen to you, it could.
  • Shoe polish and cloth, try to find a miniature size.
  • Makeup
  • Hair accessories, solvents
  • Jewelry
  • Ear plugs
  • Feminine protection
  • Nailpolish (to fix running hoisery)

Computer accessories:

  • The computer
  • A bag or case for the computer
  • Plug, and adapters if needed
  • Modem
  • Other computer essentials, such as a zip drive, disks, or CD-ROMs

Other accessories:

A steamer. It's more compact and certainly lighter in weight than an iron, but it does the job! Consider whether you even need one in the first place--you can hang your clothes up in a steamy bathroom and your wrinkles will fold out.

Lets Get Rolling!

Before you actually pack the bag, you should take precautions to ensure your toiletries won't leak everywhere, and that your clothes will come out wrinkle-free.

Put anything leakable into plastic baggies or in waterproof carrier bags. This includes any and all makeup, shampoos, shaving cream and moisturizers. Set this items apart from other items, as you'll want to carry these on board with you.

Pack shoes in an old pair of socks to prevent shoe polish from rubbing off on clothing or your suitcase.

Roll 'em up!

Linen aside, most fabrics can escape from a luggage bag without wrinkles. It's all in how they were placed in the bag.

First: Make sure the clothes aren't wrinkled to begin with. It doesn't matter if you're an expert at rolling--if the clothes aren't smooth at the start, they won't miraculously uncrease themselves in a garment bag.

For shirts and dress shirts, fold the arms in, into the back of the shirt, at the crease. Take the bottom of the shirt and tightly roll up the entire shirt, making sure the arms are tight against the back and are rolled as well. Leave the collar at the top and place in the bag. White dress shirts should not go on the bottom of your bag, where they could be crushed.

Skirts are very simple to roll up, just lay the skirt flat out on a bed or table, smooth the fabric with your hands and roll up.

Fold jeans and pants at the crotch, lengthwise. Make sure both legs are symmetrical, and carefully roll them up together, cuffs first.

Rolled clothes should stay in place if placed tightly against more clothing or other items in your bag. Now you're ready to start loading up that bag!


Take a look at your rolled-up clothes and bagged-up toiletries and ask yourself: What size bag do I need? You may be able to put everything into one large carry-on bag, or use a hanging garment bag. Check with the airline about the size and weight allowance for carry-on bags.

The advantage of a single carry-on bag is that you won't have to check your bag or worry about it getting lost or redirected. And you don't have to wait for it to come down the conveyer belt. The drawback is you'll have to take less.

If you decide you'll need two bags after all--one to check and one to carry on the plane, place your toiletries, passport, money, credit cards and itinerary information either inside the carry-on bag or on your person.

Be aware that toiletries are the items most likely left behind--precisely because they're used the morning of the flight and never packed. Consider buying little versions of everything--shaving cream, toothpaste, hair brushes--so you can go ahead and pack your toiletries the night before your flight. You won't have to worry about rescuing anything from the bathroom on your way out the door in the morning.

If you opt not to buy travel versions of toiletries, mark the toiletry items on your list with a red pen or marker. Hang the list on the bathroom mirror or another place where it'll be easily seen the night before. The next morning you'll be greeted with the list and you'll have less chance of forgetting those essentials in the shower stall.

Pack it!

Packing suitcases or any bag besides a hanging garment bag:

Place belts around the walls of your bag, instead of rolling them up, to save space and save the material of your belt.

Many people say shoes should go first, but shoes might be crushed if you're placing many clothes on top of them. See if there is a side compartment of your bag and stick the shoes in these upright holes.

Stick appliances and any electrical things you may have at the bottom.

Next, place a layer of clothes that don't matter as much if they are wrinkly, such as bathing suits, underwear, socks and woolly sweaters and pajamas. If you only have one bag, you may want to place your zip lock bags of toiletries in between this layer of clothes, or at the bottom of the bag with the appliances, but make sure that nothing can poke a hole through the bag. Otherwise, stick your toiletry items in side compartments.

Next is the layer of work-related gear. Carefully place previously rolled work gear on top of the recreational clothes. Cover with an old dry-cleaning bag, if you have one, to seal them into place.

Packing a hanging garment bag:

Hanging garment bags are great because you can hang up some of your clothes, they have lots of little organizational pockets, and some of them are allowed as carry-ons.

Keep outfits together, on one metal hanger. Use metal hangers because they take up less room than any other type of hanger. Suits should be kept in dry cleaning bags (if you don't have a dry cleaning bag, use a trash bag--clean, of course) to keep anything from rubbing against your suit. Insert rolled clothes and hanging clothes first.

Next, start stuffing the side pockets and organizational pockets. If this is your carry-on, you'll want to make sure your toiletries are in an easily accessed compartment (perhaps a compartment outside of the bag). Place shoes in a separate section of the bag, and make sure that the items that are directly across from them are lightweight. Otherwise, you'll be unpacking smushed shoes.

When taking a carry-on, make sure that everything is in tight containers and that the zippers or locks of the bag are secure. Think of how embarrassing everything pouring out of the bag into the plane aisle would be. Keeping items inside your bags is important, but most important is making sure you keep those bags--and the items within them!

Secure yourself

When taking a laptop, consider putting it inside a backpack or another unassuming bag. Use a sturdy bag that isn't see-through.

As a business person you're a prime target for criminals, so don't spotlight yourself any more than necessary.

If you're traveling straight to your hotel room after the flight, consider wearing casual clothing during the flight, such as jeans and a sweater instead of business wear. However, if you packed your suit inside a checked bag, you may want to wear another suit anyway. Not having a suit to wear to a business meeting could be disastrous.

Never pack your wallet in your bag. Keep it in an easily reachable place, like the front pocket of your pants or the side pocket of your purse.

Write up identification tags and put them everywhere--inside and outside your luggage. Include your e-mail address on your luggage tags. Make sure your tags show your final destination. And don't forget to remove all old tags.

Leave a day-by-day itinerary with friends and neighbors, and don't forget to check up with people once you arrive at your hotel.

Don't leave the actual packing for the morning of your flight. Pack the night before so you'll know whether everything fits in the bag. You should lift your bag or bags to determine if they're light enough for you to carry. If they aren't, you'll probably want to unload some things. Life will be easier when you can pick up your bags and walk out and hail a cab (or bus or whatever transportation you choose) without any assistance. If you're expected to immediately meet with a client or go to a meeting, you'll find it especially helpful to have an unobtrusive, lightweight bag that you can shove easily into a corner.

Janna's Cruise And Travel
4410 N. Midkiff, Suite D206 at The Courtyard
Midland, TX 79705

Phone:  432-689-2758
Toll Free:  866-689-2787

Copyright 2005 Janna's Cruise And Travel all rights reserved. 
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