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Liquids and Luggage in the "New Normal"

Air Travel Resources
Packing Tips

The travel meme of the week, and probably the year, is "the new normal," a catch-all for the fluid-less future of flight, a future of minimal carry-ons, heaps of checked luggage, parched throats, cracked lips and no toothpaste. We will never pack the same, although with a wealth of companies offering luggage shipping services and free toiletries, getting used to "the new normal" might be easier than you thought.

The no-liquids rules are mere inconveniences; drastic changes in luggage policies and handling present a more serious concern. News reports have the volume of checked luggage up by anywhere from 10 - 35 percent on major U.S. airlines; for a system that was already understaffed and overburdened (not to mention hardly foolproof), those are significant increases that have already led to more lost luggage, increased flight delays and piles of confiscated items at security.

While travelers are struggling to adapt to the new restrictions and challenges, nature, of course, abhors a vacuum, and where the disappearance of swollen carry-on bags has created space in the overhead bin, new services and amenities have rushed in to fill the void.

Replacing Liquids
Can't face traveling without toothpaste? Not to worry; airlines, hotels and even rental car services are providing travelers with essential amenities that now appear on the no-fly list. You're on your own on the plane, however, no matter how refreshing a brushing may be on a long-haul flight.

As travelers deplane, SkyWest airlines is giving away kits including a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, a razor, deodorant, foldable hairbrush, laundry soap and other toiletries. Proctor and Gamble is giving away "Crest Smile Packs" including toothpaste and dental floss at Avis rental car counters in 25 airports nationwide. And while many hotels have long provided a clean toothbrush just for the asking, since the restriction on gel-type pastes of any kind went into effect, some chains have stepped into the breach by providing many of the restricted items at check-in.

Wyndam Hotels launched a "We Remember What You Forgot" program (although it might be better named "We Provide What They Took Away") on August 11, and Omni Hotels has a similar program.

At this rate, you will have more toothbrushes when you finish a trip than when you started -- but will leave a trail of toothpaste tubes in your wake.

Checked Baggage Allowances in Flux
Soon after the London terror plot was exposed and the new carry-on policies instituted, several airlines relaxed the usual two-bag limit on checked bags, waiving the sometimes formidable fee for a third checked bag. Unfortunately, many airlines have reinstated the fees, including United, American and Northwest. These policies are changing daily, so I am loath to post a list of airlines offering the baggage accommodation lest the information become quickly dated and you end up cursing Traveler's Ed while paying for your third bag at check-in. I would recommend you check with your specific airline before showing up at the airport with three bags to check.

Luggage Forwarding Services
For some time now, I have recommended that you consider shipping items ahead at peak travel times such as holidays, particularly large packages containing gifts or souvenirs. I admit, however, that this very useful tactic was primarily used by the ultra-organized or savagely overpacked, and that the vast majority of travelers still schlepped all their stuff to the airport and suffered the consequences.

Now that you are more likely to max out your checked luggage allotment than your carry-on allowances, several companies are ramping up efforts to get your business in what may become a very competitive business.

Of course, you can use the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, DHL and other popular shipping companies; most folks understand how these services work, but with many of these companies now offering pickup right from your doorstep, they can function almost like a luggage service. If these workaday services are not your idea of a vacation option, there are several companies that specialize in luggage conveyance for travelers.

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