"I do tend to take more shirts than I need. But I end up wearing them all."
Patti Allen of Grosse Ile, Mich., 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.' "
Weigh buying a luggage scale
Here are three luggage scales to help heavy packers stay under the 50-pound weight limit. All hook to the handle of your suitcase; when you lift, it gives you the weight.
Travelon Stop & Lock manual luggage scale with tape measure, weighs bags up to 75 pounds, $10 at Travelers World, 6253 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield, Mich. 248-855-3180, www.travelersworld.com
Taylor digital luggage scale, weighs bags up to 88 pounds, $19.99 at www.macys.com.
Lewis N. Clark Balanzza mini — digital luggage scale, ultra-compact, weighs bags up to 100 pounds, $19.99 at www.walmart.com.
Carry-on weight: Most U.S. airlines do not weigh carry-on bags or have a 40-pound limit. This may change as airlines look for new revenue streams.
Many foreign carriers already have strict weight limits for carry-ons — Lufthansa's is 17.6 pounds and Air France's is 26.4 pounds, for instance — so check the rules if flying a foreign carrier on any leg.
Carry-on size: Most U.S. airlines allow carry-ons to be 45 linear inches (width plus height plus depth). However, a recent article in Travel Goods Showcase, a travel industry journal, warns that some airlines are rejecting modern 20-inch- wide carry-ons because the bags don't fit into the sizing boxes, even though they are 45 linear inches.
The typical carry-on is 22-by-14-by-9 inches, and the new bags are 20-by-16-by-9.
Tiny overhead bins: Ironically, aircraft with small overhead bins are a positive for travelers. It means that larger carry-ons are taken at the point of entry to the aircraft, stowed below for the flight and brought back when the plane lands. Keep valuables with you.