The Long View: Coping With Carry-On Regulations | My Family Travels
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FTF's cruising expert examines carry-on regulations and how family sailors can cope with leaving the liquids and gels behind.

I haven’t willingly checked a bag in 10 years, even for a weeklong cruise. With some strategic packing in my regulation wheelie suitcase and an oversized tote that I pretend is a purse, I haven’t had to. My motto is that most fellow cruisers are more interested in their own apparel to notice whether you wear the same black pants a few times during the week.

Even with formal night looming, the trick is to edit what you bring, be prepared to creatively mix and match your clothing and throw in a few accessories to dress up your outfit. And as for kids’ clothes, we pack collared shirts with neckties for the boys to wear with khakis on formal night in lieu of full dinner jackets. They prefer it, and we have never felt out of place in the dining room. My daughter, with her Imelda Marcos-worthy collection of shoes, is another story, but even she has learned to pack like a pro.

The best part of all this, aside from never losing our luggage, is that we don’t have to wait for our bags – we simply walk right on and off the ship carrying them ourselves.

Flash forward to the fall of 2006 when liquids, gels and even – gasp – mascara were forbidden in carry-on luggage. Although the ban has been relaxed to allow for tiny travel-size potions (and are these your brands?), most die-hard fans of carry-ons have admitted defeat. But while the cruise lines are not being asked to ban gels and liquids (so far), packing for a cruise has become more complicated, even for passengers who do check their bags.

For one thing, if you come to the ship straight from the airport, you may not see your larger bags – and therefore, your toiletries – for hours; maybe not even in time for dinner. And at the end of the cruise, most people leave their larger bags outside the door the evening before disembarkation, stuffing their toiletries and PJs in their carry-on the next morning.

Here are some tips that might make planning and packing a little easier:

• Bring your expensive lotions and perfume on the cruise if you must, but pack them in your checked luggage and consider bringing a few dry toiletries in your carry-on. Try individually wrapped facial cleansing towelettes or pads if you think you’ll want to freshen up and don’t want to use a bar of soap on your face, and keep in mind that most teen acne medications offer their products in pad version. I have also found nail polish remover and eye-makeup remover in individual pads that I’ve been traveling with for years, even before the recent bans. And a small container of baby powder can substitute for deodorant.

• Keep in mind that ships are loaded with stores that sell not only the basics, like toothpaste and shampoo, but high-end make-up and perfume, should you need them. Of course, the shops are only open when the ships are not in port, but the amenities in your cabin might help get you through the first day.

• Luxury cruise lines, like Crystal and Seabourn, pack staterooms with high-end toiletries, like Aveda and Molton Brown, respectively, but even mainstream cruise lines have come a long way from the single, tiny white bar of soap. Royal Caribbean, for example, offers the basics for all its passengers, including shampoo, but VIP passengers in suites receive upgraded amenities. And Disney Cruise Lines has just debuted a nice line of H20 Plus Spa products in all its staterooms, made with marine botanicals and offered in generous sizes.

• The beauty of using toiletries supplied by the ship is that, not only are they free, but you can use them disembarkation morning, then toss them without regret. Or keep them and refill them if they are the proper, under-3-ounce (100 ml) “travel size” that’s permitted on planes.

Now if we could just get the airlines to start selling toiletry products on board – and we heard a rumor that this may be in the works for Air Canada – we’ll be all set.

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