THE BLOG
10/03/2007 10:31 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Ever-Changing Rules Of Air Travel

The "fun" of traveling ended for me years ago. It was great when I was in my 20s and even 30s, when I first got to travel in business or even first class. I loved the movies and the hours of uninterrupted reading time. But once I hit my 40s and became a mom all that ended.

It's not just because my personal life changed my view of "being away." The entire "getting there" experience has simply become less fun. When it comes to air travel in particular, the nuisances abound. The lines are longer. The delays more frequent. And if it's possible, the food, when served at all, is generally less edible.

Effective Monday, another restriction was added to the already long and ever-changing list of things Americans need to deal with when traveling abroad. You now need a passport to travel to common destinations where one was previously not required - from Canada to the Caribbean. (Hopefully, all of you currently in the destinations affected by this knew it before you left!) I'm not against this specific change, mind you. It's the constant change and inconsistency of rules I find tiresome.

Here are three of my "favorite" (read the sarcasm here) inconsistencies:

1. Size of carry-on bag allowed. With lost luggage at an all time high, you don't want to check your bag these days. So, try to live out of a carry-on bag. But, beware as the "approved" size for a carry-on varies. The safest bet I've found is a 22" stroller bag. Anything bigger may not be allowed, but anything much smaller may not enable you to pack everything into a single bag.

2. Number of carry-on bags allowed. Another variation that can really cause you grief is the number of carry-on bags allowed. For example, if you take a United flight from Chicago to London, you can bring one carry-on and one personal item, eg a 22" stroller bag and a briefcase. However, due to UK regulations, on that exact same flight coming back, you can only have 1 bag. Period. So, if your brief case doesn't fit completely into your stroller, one of them must be checked. And of course, it's often too late to do anything about it by the time you're informed of this!

3. Allowable contents. A final example of the annoying inconsistencies of air transport today is what contents you are allowed to carry on. While the "liquids regulation" is a pain, at least it is pretty universal. So, you can plan for it. But other things can be real hit or miss. Take this example: FAA regulations now permanently allow life jackets with CO2 cartridges to be carried on. This may not be a rule everybody needs to be aware of, but if you are an open ocean racer like my husband, knowing you can bring your life vest is critical. And on more than one occasion, despite the stated regulations, the local security team has tried to stop him and he's had to pull out the actual FAA statute and fight his way through. Bon voyage!

These are just a few examples. But until the entire air transport system can come to some universal agreements about these things, the onus is on us, the poor traveling public, to be aware and be prepared. You can fight on site, but more often than not, you'll lose. So, I say if you're going to fly, better do your homework before you head to the airport.

PS - The only redeeming feature here is that there are so many truly fabulous destinations worth visiting, it makes the getting there worth it in the end!