Monday, November 24, 2014

Carrying-On

My in-flight buddies: Samsonite & Long Champ
Happy Thanksgiving week! The weather doesn't seem to be sure of which season it wants to portray, but Thanksgiving is just days away, and I'm very happy about it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that there is no pressure to do anything but spend some time with family. There are no gifts to purchase, no services to attend, and no fear of offending anyone by wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving -- no matter anyone's religion or heritage, every American celebrates Thanksgiving, and I love that because everyone celebrates the holiday it has a way of uniting us all. The leaves have turned bright colors, and it's wonderful that there is comforting food like turkey, stuffing and cranberries on the table.

I've had a wide range of types of Thanksgivings ranging from the traditional big family event at home, to the New York City hot dog while watching the parade, but the very best Thanksgiving I've enjoyed was the year in Paris.

My mother and I were visiting my brother who was living there, and because I love Thanksgiving so much, I insisted on finding a restaurant that would serve the traditional American fare that day, turkey and all. Honestly, my mother and brother would have been fine with French food every day of our stay, but they obliged and found an American restaurant that was serving a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner for me -- they knew I would have been disappointed with anything else. Considering my fixation with finding stuffing and cranberries, it's ironic that I don't remember a bite of the food from that day -- what I remember instead is walking through the front door and finding nearly every American in Paris stuffed into that restaurant. In the way that only traveling abroad creates, every American in those rooms became best of friends on that day. Never have I felt such camaraderie and innocent American pride -- had there been any among us, I'm certain that even the ex-pats would have enjoyed the celebration that day.

Whether it's Paris or a parent's that will host the celebration of Thanksgiving this year for each of us, since this is the biggest travel week of the year, travel is almost a certain part of the plan. If flying is part of the travel, checked bags (and even some carry-on bags) are likely to carry the additional charges we've started to become accustomed to over the last few years. I don't like traveling with more than a purse and a carry-on mainly because I've had my luggage lost before, but in the last few years, I've discovered just how handy my fear of lost bags can be for avoiding most additional fees.

Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at carrying-on everything I need, and the biggest trick I've learned is the importance of the bag that gets packed. I swear by my four wheeled, 62 liner inches, Samsonite model.

An amazingly practical friend gave me this suitcase as a wedding shower gift, and it may be the most useful gift I received. When she gave it to me, she explained that she chose a model with four wheels to make traveling with it easy, and just as importantly, she chose the size that fits international standards for carry-ons. Prior to her explanation, I had not realized that domestic and international travel often allow for different size cary-on bags, with domestic carry-ons usually allowed to be slightly larger.

Something I've noticed in the last year, however, is domestic flights insisting on the smaller size bags which have been traditionally reserved for international travel. A couple trips ago, I heard an announcement at the gate that told passengers the flight was very full, so carry-on bags would be restricted to those that fit in one of those size-checking boxes all airports have. Interestingly, while these boxes show two sizes, this particular domestic flight insisted that every bag fit in the smaller of the two size boxes. My bag was fine, and I silently thanked my friend's great practicality as I watched other bags ticketed to be checked from the gate.

Since it seems that we're trending toward more and more travel restrictions, I assume this type of bag size requirement will become more common on domestic flights, but even if it's not, finding space in the overhead compartments on a crowded flight certainly is easier with a slightly smaller bag.



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-Kurt Vonnegut