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February 14, 2005
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New Products, Services Offer Relief to Travelers
By Martha Lynn Craver
March 15, 2002

Want to fly baggage free to your out-of-town convention? Or make it through that random bag check without your neatly packed clothes being disheveled? How about carrying on a nail clipper again?

Flying has never been more of a hassle, but a growing assortment of products and services is becoming available to help the harried business traveler.

New luggage designs started popping up just weeks after Sept. 11. For example, both Samsonite and Tumi are selling computer cases that double as overnight bags, with enough room for toiletries and a change of clothes. Several styles are now made with see-through compartments. Inspectors can easily see the contents and may feel less compelled to poke around in them. Also, Samsonite is making a carry-on hard-side bag with a soft pullout seat so travelers can take a load off while waiting in long lines.

One sure way to avoid luggage-related delays and inconveniences is to ditch the bags altogether. Virtual Bellhop, a Chicago company that has seen its business increase substantially since September's terrorist attacks, arranges to send bags ahead via FedEx or other ground carriers. Travelers call a toll-free number and the company arranges to have the luggage picked up at home and sent to the requested destination. Service currently is limited to U.S. cities, and delivery generally takes three to five days. Two-day or overnight service is available for an additional charge. The cost for two-day service for one piece of luggage between New York City and Los Angeles, for example, is $103 one way and $193 round-trip. Regular delivery is $94 one way and $177 round-trip.

The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is offering another way around packing, and others are sure to follow. A new service called "luggage-less" travel allows frequent guests to store clothes and toiletries at the hotel. The Ritz-Carlton will launder, dry-clean and press the clothing, replace personal toiletries and have everything in the guest's room when he or she returns. The service is available only to those who stay at the hotel four or more nights a month.

With the airlines cutting back on in-flight meals, a cost-cutting trend that accelerated after Sept. 11, many hotels are offering box lunches for guests to take with them on flights. The Ritz-Carlton Washington makes "flight bites" available up to one hour before checkout.

Of course, the best way to reduce airport delays is to pack light, giving security personnel less to inspect. Don't try to prepare for every possible contingency. Emergency items can always be bought if needed.

Avoid putting anything in the elasticized compartments on the side of a bag, since they are hard to get to. And if you bring an umbrella, make sure it's the collapsible kind without a point. To give inspectors easy access, segregate items that may warrant close scrutiny, such as shaving kits and cosmetic bags. CONNECTUSA is selling a plastic manicure set that won't trigger security alarms. Manufactured in Solingen, Germany, it includes a rounded nail file, nail clippers and tweezers.

Wear loafers, or other shoes that don't tie, to facilitate removal. And if you need a suit on your trip, wear it rather than packing it, so it doesn't get rumpled in the inspection process. "Remember, everything you pack is subject to touching and mussing," says Rolfe Shellenberger, a senior consultant with Runzheimer International.

Jim Ostroff contributed to this story.

Researcher-Reporter: Gerry Moore

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