For Your Next Trip, Stock Up on Dental Mitts
SINCE the Transportation Security Administration began cracking down on liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage last summer, travelers determined not to check their bags have been haunting the trial-size aisles at
In response to the carry-on rules, which mandate containers of no more than three ounces and require that each passenger’s items be placed in a single, clear, quart-size, zip-top plastic bag, some fliers have reverted to old-fashioned hygiene — switching to shaving soap and tooth powder. And more than a few, simply unable to find three-ounce bottles or tubes of toothpaste in time for a trip, have shown up for business meetings or sightseeing tours looking not quite as fresh and polished as they once did.
“It’s simply the most demeaning thing we do on the road now,” said Joe Brancatelli, the publisher of the subscription travel Web site www.joesentme.com. Because it’s so difficult to buy the right size toiletries, he said, “We’re down to stealing this stuff from airlines and hotels, begging at the Bloomingdale’s counter.”
Spotting an opportunity, luggage and cosmetics companies alike are bringing out products inspired by the carry-on rules, from see-through toiletry kits to “dental finger mitts” — pre-moistened towelettes that you slip over a finger and wipe your teeth with.
Travelon, a travel accessories maker based in Elk Grove Village, Ill., is coming out with instant tooth gel, mouthwash and shaving gel in the form of tablets that, like Alka-Seltzer tablets, transform when water is added. Suggested retail prices are $6.99 for five shaving gel tablets and $7.99 for 25 tooth gel tablets. The company also offers a clear plastic quart-size toiletry bag with a zipper at a suggested price of $6.99; www.travelonbags.com.
La Fresh Group in Ontario, Calif., a new sister company to Diamond Wipes, which makes moist towelettes for the restaurant industry, has developed a line of travel wipes dubbed Travel Lite on the Go. The new line, which consists of everything from nail polish remover pads to those dental finger mitts, comes in boxes containing six wipes for $3.99 and $4.99 as well gift boxes of 48 single pouches for $18 to $25; www.lafreshbeauty.com.
Pitotubes, developed by Alisa Driscoll, a former flight attendant, are clear, refillable bottles small enough to meet the carry-on limit but also durable enough, she says, to place in checked baggage without concern for leakage. The bottles, holding a half to two and a half ounces, cost $10 each or $51.95 for a set of six; www.pitotubes.com.
The new products are appearing at a time when reports of lost, delayed or damaged luggage have increased sharply, in large part because more people have been checking their bags in response to the carry-on restrictions. Airlines mishandled 8.19 bags for every 1,000 passengers in January, compared with 6.93 for every 1,000 in January 2006 and 6.73 for all of last year, according to data released last month by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Some airlines are pleading with travelers to start carrying their bags aboard again. Continental has been posting a notice on its Web site that states, “Our Overhead Bins Are Lonely” and tries to persuade travelers that bringing bags onboard helps “avoid lines at the check-in counter and waiting at baggage claim.”
Others have begun to charge passengers for checking more than one bag. In February, Spirit Airlines imposed a $10 fee for checking a second bag. And coach-class travelers to and from some destinations on
Karen Anderson, a 1K passenger on United (the airline’s most elite frequent-flier level), has been using a clear plastic bag for her toiletries that she picked up at Los Angeles International Airport several months ago. “I like it because it is cute, has LAX printed on it and has a handle so I can readily pick it up out of my cosmetic case,” she said. Though she readily admits that it is a couple of inches longer than the required quart-sized zip top, she was careful not to fill it to capacity and carried it without problems through security at many airports, including Heathrow, until she was stopped at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas in February.
A Transportation Security Administration agent “made a federal case out of the fact that the bag was oversize,” said Ms. Anderson, 65, from Morgan Hill, Calif. “She loudly pronounced that this was Las Vegas, not Los Angeles. She pulled me out of line to continue the harassment, including announcing that she was sure I had forbidden items in it. I did not.”
Ms. Anderson, who carries a Ziploc bag as backup, offered to transfer her toiletries into that. “I was not allowed,” she said. “She made another agent do it.” In the end, everything fit in the Ziploc, and Ms. Anderson was released with all her toiletries intact. But the incident left her steamed. “Some of these people are on such a power trip that they do not care if they are imposing conditions that make no sense,” she said.
WILL the new products pass muster at the airport? I contacted the Homeland Security Department to find out. In an e-mail response, Carrie Harmon, a spokeswoman, said that while the Transportation Security Administration “doesn’t endorse any specific liquid/gel products, bottles or bags,” any kind of clear bottle is O.K. as long its capacity is three ounces or less. “If a bottle is not marked,” she added, “it’s at screener’s discretion as to whether it’s three ounces or less. So it’s better to have bottles that are marked.” Clear plastic bags with zipper tops are also O.K. as long as they are the designated one-quart size. Tablets and wipes don’t count as liquids or gels, so they don’t have to be in the one-quart bag. Go to www.tsa.gov for more details on what’s allowed and what isn’t.
Travelers can find toiletries and packing goods designed with the new carry-on rules in mind at www.minimus.biz, which specializes in travel-size and trial-size items.
Of course, if travel regulations change, instant shave gel and other newfangled goods could become outmoded. For now, however, Ms. Harmon said, “It is unlikely that we will make changes to the liquid/gel ban in the near future. These changes represent a long-term, sustainable level of security for the T.S.A., passengers and our aviation partners.”