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Flying to a Winter Getaway? Pack Right, Pack Light

The Smith family paid $250 round trip to check their bags for a flight. The Browns, by contrast, made their entire trip with carry-ons, while the Millers flew out with carry-ons, back with checked luggage.  How did they do it?

Each airline has its own baggage allowance based on complex rules involving weight and measurements. Rules may also depend on whether the flight is domestic or international and whether you belong to one of the airline’s special programs.

The first step is to understand your carrier’s policies, then take every centimetre and every kilogram you’re allowed. Today’s luggage helps you do that. You need bags that are lean and ‘green’, easy to handle on the type of trip you are taking, an excellent value over the long-term and family-friendly.

Here’s what’s new:

Every member of the family has a baggage allowance, so don’t waste yours on cute kiddy bags. Take a full-size bag for each child.

Look into alternatives. Bags are shipped door to door, worldwide, by companies such as Luggage Free, luggagefree.com, and Luggage Forward, luggageforward.com. Compare prices and the hassle factor.

Most large cruise ships offer formal wear and other rentals on board. Why pack your own? If you order in advance, many cruise ships will have disposable diapers and other bulky baby needs on board, at a nominal price, when you arrive.

If you’ll be shopping at your destination, look for expandable bags that grow two or three inches thicker for the return trip. For serious shopping, buy nesting bags that fit inside each other. Fill them all for the return trip.

Before buying a new roll-aboard, look inside for new types of wheel chassis. The new frames take less room, leaving more room for packing. New materials are tough yet lighter.

Bags that are weatherproof are a plus for car-topping and also for travel in areas where baggage handlers (bus, taxis, airports) leave bags out in the rain. For car travel, it’s a plus to have a lockable, weatherproof, aerodynamic “pod” to attach to the roof rack.

Backpacks can be fit to every member of the family, allowing even small fry to carry snacks, a binkie and a teddy bear. Shop for other new backpack features, such as a secure compartment for travel documents, a pouch that holds diapers and a changing pad, small compartments for cell phones and MP3 players, slash-proof straps and a tamper-proof zipper.

New bags and backpacks have computer sleeves, a must for easy passage through Security.

T-shirts take up little space and can fit more than one family member. Oversize tees make comfortable sleepwear, lounge wear and swim cover-ups.

Be aware that your bags will weigh more when returning from a humid locale even if contents are exactly the same.
Today’s eco-friendly bags are made of recycled, non-toxic materials. Whether you’re traveling by air or in the family car, lighter weight always means fuel savings.

Look for sturdy, tip-proof construction for safety’s sake. Keep kids under tight control around baggage, carousels and luggage carts. A child riding on an airport luggage cart was killed a few years ago.

Specialty stores carry backpacks with built-in speakers. In children’s stores, look for travel bags that incorporate a cuddly toy, pillow and blanket. Multi-use blankets serve as a blanket, pillow, changing pad and cover-up for nursing mothers.

Space-saver bags help organize clothing while allowing you to pack more in each suitcase. Choose the type that does not require a vacuum cleaner. Just zip shut and roll tightly to force air out.

Trunki brand bags are suitcases that children can sit on, ride or tow.

Luggage sets in the same color help identify family bags and keep them together.

Insulated, soft-sided bags are as useful as ice chests and can also be used as baggage or even a pillow.

Shop at children’s stores for the newest multi-use baby stroller/car seats in all sizes.

Where luggage doubles as your traveling dresser drawer, rigid pieces are best. If you’ll be unpacking at a destination where space is tight, such as a condo or cruise ship, duffles take up no space after they are unpacked.

If you don’t travel often, look for luggage that can be used year-round. Roll-ons make good under-bed storage.

Insulated bags are a must for picnics.

Duffle bags make good stuff bags for sleeping bags or spare blankets, and sturdy trunks are good for storing off-season clothing in the garage or attic.

Some new luggage has a built-in laptop work desk; some models have a built-in stool, allowing a traveler to sit down while waiting in long lines.

Janet holds a Parenting Publications of America Gold Award for travel writing.

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