The incredible shrinking carry-on bag

“The incredible shrinking carry-on bag”

by Christopher Elliott via “USA Today”

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Mark Nevelow isn’t worried about the new airline carry-on luggage standards everyone’s talking about.

That’s because he just spent $99 on a new, smaller bag, a MobilePro backpack that fits under his seat. “I heard about the proposal,” he says. “I’m not concerned. With this backpack, it won’t affect me.”

At least, not yet. The controversial new limits proposed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group, set the maximum for luggage brought onboard at a slimmed-down 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches, significantly smaller than what’s now allowed on most planes.

Last week, after loud protests from several airlines, IATA backed down, saying it would “pause” the rollout of its voluntary “IATA Cabin OK” rule, which it claimed would give everyone an equal chance to store their carry-on bags on a large passenger jet. But don’t think for a moment that smaller luggage standards are dead.

“We can’t know for sure which luggage recommendations will become regulations,” says Michele Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, which represents luggage manufacturers.

It’s probably only a matter of time before shrunken luggage becomes the norm. Even Pittenger admits that the current trend “is toward efficiency,” and a lot of times, that means going smaller. Bottom line: Either you need new luggage, or you’ll have to pack light.

For Arabella Bowen, the editor-in-chief of Fodor’s Travel, that means fitting everything into her Kate Spade Weekender (alas, no longer sold). But she recommends the Lipault 2-Wheeled 19″ Carry-On ($169; lipault-us.com), clocking in at 19 x 13 x 6 inches, which IATA would be OK with. It’s also soft-sided.

“Soft-sided bags have the advantage of fitting into overhead bins with a bit of massaging even when hard-backed roller bags can’t,” she says. “In a pinch, they can even slide under your seat.”

Samuel Nebel swears by the Aerolite luggage ($99) he discovered at a recent trade show, because it’s light, small and just an inch larger than the IATA standard, but still fits in the overhead bin of most large passenger aircraft. “It’s ridiculously functional,” says Nebel, who runs a health and beauty products company in Atlanta.

Of course, technique matters, too. It goes without saying that you’ll want to pack less, and smarter.

“Roll instead of folding and use nylon straps to cinch down bulging bags,” says Jonathan Deesing, a packing expert for imove.com. If you’re serious about squeezing more into less space, consider a luggage cube or a compression bag.

“Using these bags, I’ve compressed a week’s worth of clothing in a tiny duffle bag with room to spare,” he says.

It isn’t just how you pack, but what you take. Stay away from heavy fabrics like denim or linen, advises Rachel Grant, a TV host and frequent traveler. “Choose to pack clothes that are made from light fabrics, like silks, light cotton and polyester,” she adds. If you must bring a pair of favorite jeans, then wear them on the plane. . . .

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