The Korea Herald


Secret of the overpacker? Bring what makes you happy

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 27, 2012 - 19:38

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They’re the people standing at the airport counter, frantically pulling things out of their overweight suitcases.

They’re the ones with the porters. The super-sized carry-ons. Six suitcases for a five-day getaway.

Their absolute necessities are varied but hefty. Cartons of Q-tips. Bath towels. Scuba gear. Multiple bathing suits.

And shoes for every occasion.

“Now, the trip could be a month or two weeks, but I would say I need about a minimum of eight pairs. Because you need your flats, you need your sandals, you need a medium heel, you need one pair for evening,” says Bertha Cohen, 76, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

“I have gotten much better through the years, but still, I have my favorite things I cannot part with. I have to confess, I am vain. I am a vain person. I don’t feel right if I don’t have an outfit that makes me comfortable and sure of myself.”
James Goers poses with all the gear he has to pack when he goes on scuba diving vacations, Jan. 8 at his home in Romulus, Michigan. (Detroit Free Press/MCT) James Goers poses with all the gear he has to pack when he goes on scuba diving vacations, Jan. 8 at his home in Romulus, Michigan. (Detroit Free Press/MCT)

If airlines bestowed kisses, it would be to the over packers of the world.

The U.S. airline industry has made about $3.4 billion a year in baggage fees since most airlines started charging for checked bags in 2008.

Packing light is a virtue and a necessity these days, travel experts say.

Thus, heavy packers tend to stay quiet about their oversized habits, silently carting their towering suitcases through the airport like Ginger heading for the three-hour cruise that led her to Gilligan’s Island.

But challenged, they do defend themselves.

“There’s no way I could pack light,” says Jamie Goers of Romulus, Mich. He has to use one whole suitcase just for his scuba gear when traveling to Aruba or Grand Cayman.

“I have a short suit and a long suit, depending on the water. I also have my regulator and a vest, a belt, boots, fins and gloves and goggles, and I have a knife that I check,” says Goers, 56. “I take all my stuff and cram it in the boots. My wife and I check two pieces of luggage ― the one for my scuba gear and one for our clothes. And we have two carry-ons with our cameras and computers.”

So far, Goers has managed to avoid checking a third or fourth bag. That is fortunate.

Check four suitcases on Delta, and you pay $770 round trip. Check a bag weighing 51 pounds, and you’ll pay $180 extra roundtrip.

Two years ago, Thomas Szwast of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, got burned by overweight charges on his way home from the Caribbean.

Because of souvenirs he and his wife had tucked in their luggage, one of their bags weighed 56 pounds. Delta slapped an additional $90 fee for going over 50 pounds.

“I was ticked,” says Szwast, 54. “So I bought a luggage scale, and it’s very accurate. What we do now is weigh our luggage before we go to the airport. Our goal is to get our suitcase to weigh 45 pounds.”

Still, 45 pounds is heavy for the average traveler. A full suitcase is usually only about 30 to 35 pounds. What’s he bringing?

“We go on cruises, so we’ve got shoes, enough clothes for seven or eight days,” Szwast says. “I’ve got to wear a jacket because there are two formal nights. We bring some toiletries. I’m not going to a resort where I can wear shorts all the time. We don’t over pack to the point where it is ridiculous. But we do take something extra in case of a spill or accident.

“I do tend to take more shirts than I need. But I end up wearing them all.”

Patti Allen of Grosse Ile, Michigan, can relate. She packs eight to 10 towels for drying her hair. If she goes on a 10-day cruise, she brings 10 outfits and eight bathing suits.

“I don’t like to wear anything twice. That’s why I pack more,” says Allen, 61. Luckily, her husband is a light packer. Between the two of them, her things take up most of the suitcase space.

“Yeah, I do pack a lot,” she says. But to avoid overweight luggage charges, she weighs her luggage on a bathroom scale before she leaves home. Packing heavy is her prerogative “and as long as my suitcase isn’t over 50 pounds, why not?” she says.

“I like to be ready for any kind of weather, and I like my choices about what to wear.”

Annabel Cohen, Bertha Cohen’s daughter, can travel the world with hardly more than a tote bag. But she marvels at her mother’s heavy-packing habits with something like admiration: “Once I said to my mom, ‘Will you really need 400 Q-tips for your few weeks away?’ And her answer was, ‘I might.’”

By Ellen Creager

(Detroit Free Press)

(Distributed by MCT Information Services)