I'm a changed woman. I used to frantically rush to the airport at the last moment, desperately hoping the plane would be delayed so I wouldn't miss it. But since September 11, I've changed my ways.

The new travel realities mean I have to arrive at the airport at least an hour before a domestic flight. I also have to wait in more lines, show photo ID repeatedly, and lift luggage up-and-down for security checks. All this requires more patience and strength than I naturally possess.

Since I regularly give speeches to conventions and corporations, I have to fly frequently. So I thought I'd figure out how I -- and other businesspeople -- can adapt. My goals:

  • Work while waiting
  • Eliminate checked luggage for short trips
  • Make my carry-on stuff easier to carry, lift, open
  • Meet new carry-on limits
  • Not spend a fortune

I set about finding solutions, and here's what I came up with:

1. Luggage. Airline security now strictly enforces carry-on limits of one bag plus one briefcase or purse. So I needed something that could carry a lot, fit through x-ray machines, was light-weight with wheels. The one problem, however, is that I wanted a garment bag. Not easy.

I tried something new -- a carry-on with a removable garment folder, from Eagle Creek. I got their 22-inch Latitude bag, which meets most carry-on requirements if you don't overpack, since it expands. Along with the Latitude, I used Eagle Creek's Full-Length Folder, which is part of their "Pack-it System." It's a garment bag that folds in three, so you can put it inside a carry-on.

Frankly, when I got the Folder, I didn't think I was going to like it, but I was happily surprised. This is a piece I'll use regularly. Other storage pieces, such as Eagle Creek's Cubes, kept my stuff well-organized, and allowed me to pack much more. You could use these with carry-on bags from other suppliers, as well.

2. Briefcase/Purse. Since this is the second -- and final -- carry-on you're allowed, I wanted to be able to get as much into this item as possible. The answer was a "briefcase" that also served as my computer case, purse, and desktop (for use in the waiting area).

I used Eagle Creek's Latitude Office briefcase. It slips over the handle of their luggage (and most others), so I didn't have to carry it. It had lots of pockets and features. I might also have chosen one of the back-pack briefcases from Brenthaven. Some of these provided a virtual desk, as well as giving serious protection for computers. I liked the hidden pocket on the outside that makes it easy to retrieve tickets and photo ID without making them easy targets for pick-pockets. Their size, however, seems better suited for men and they carried a heftier price tag than the Eagle Creek.

3. Power. If I'm going to wait, I'm going to work, so I need my computer and cell phone. The most important tricks:

  • Fully charge your batteries the night before.
  • Bring the electrical cords and look for a seat in the waiting area near an electrical outlet.
  • Buy an airline power cord adaptor. Some airlines have electrical power available during flights, but you have to bring your adaptor cord. These cost $100 and are available from your computer maker, electronics retailers, or www.roadwarrior.com.
  • Increase your cell phone service contract. Before you go, contact your service provider, and change your plan for a month or two to get more minutes or free long-distance. You can change back when you return.

4. Short-cuts. If you have to check luggage, it's much, much faster to use curbside check-in. Sure, it costs a couple dollars for a tip to the porter, but you'll save a lot of time. Wear comfortable, slip-on shoes; you'll have to remove them for security. Don't take early morning flights; do you really want to leave your home at 5 am? Smile and say thank you -- the hassles are easier to handle when you do.

So join me in my new attitude in travel -- calm, relaxed, productive. I've changed my ways -- at least for now!

Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Organizer, Wear Clean Underwear, and The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. To receive Rhonda's free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com.

Copyright © 2002 Rhonda Abrams.