Whether you're headed on a weekend getaway or off on a multi-week international adventure, efficient packing will make your trip easier and more enjoyable.
Here are some tip, tricks, and advice to get you started packing!
Plan ahead. If you end up packing in a rush you'll be more likely to forget something important.
Use a packing list. A list will help you ensure that you do not forget anything important. Prepare and review your packing list about a week before your departure to give yourself time to shop for any necessary items.
Maintain a travel toiletry kit. If you keep a toiletry kit stocked for a trip at all times you'll be less likely to forget any essentials and it will speed up the packing process.
Label your valuables. Before packing, take time to put identification, like address labels, on any valuable items you plan to take on your trip. It will greatly increase the chances of their return if they are left somewhere, if they are lost by the airlines or if they are stolen.
Update your luggage tags. To prevent confusion or accidental theft remove any outdated claim checks. and ensure that each piece of luggage, including carry-on items, are labeled with a sturdy luggage tags. It's also a good idea to include identification inside each piece of luggage, just in case a tag is torn off during transit. If you know where you will be staying, include the phone and address of your accommodation; this will allow the airlines to contact you while you're on your trip rather than trying to contact you at your home.
All checked baggage must now go through security screening for explosives. In most airports, this will be done by bomb-detection machines after you have checked it with the airline. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees will open and hand-search any bags that are flagged by these machines as questionable or suspect. Notes will be left in bags that are hand searched, explaining that the bag was opened and searched. After a hand search is completed, a blue plastic lock will be placed on the bag so that travelers will know that the bag was not opened again after the federal inspection. If you believe a packed item was damaged or is missing, you can call the Transportation Security Administration's consumer response center at 866-289-9673.
Use only TSA Approved Locks. If a checked bag must be hand searched and it is locked, it may be forcibly opened and the bag or lock could be damaged. TSA-approved locks (that can be unlocked by TSA agents) are available for locking up your luggage.
Do not pack any food or beverages in checked luggage. Food items such as cheese, fruitcake and chocolate are dense enough that they can sometimes be mistaken for explosives by bomb-detection machines and set off an alarm.
Do not pack your film in your checked baggage. The bomb-detection machines are much more powerful than carry-on security machines and your film will be damaged. Film should be packed in your carry-on bags.
Leave gifts unwrapped. Wrap them after arriving at your destination. If a bag must be hand searched, any wrapped packages will be unwrapped for inspection.
Spread out heavy items. If you are packing several heavy items, like books, spread them around inside the bag. Stacked books are very dense and will likely cause the bomb-detection machines to flag the bag for hand-searching. (It is best to distribute your books among all your checked and carry-on bags.)
Pack your undergarments (and anything else that you do not want handled) in nylon packing cubes or see-through bags. If your checked bag is hand searched, inspectors can usually "crush and feel" the packing cube for security purposes without having to actually handle all of its contents. Pack any shoes/footwear last so that they will be on top of other items. This will make it easier for security screeners if the bag is hand searched.
Don't over-pack your bags. This will prevent the bag's contents from spilling out if it is opened for hand searching. It will also make it easier for security screeners to properly re-close your bag.
Pack small items in your shoes. Packing small items like socks, or rolled up belts inside your shoes makes efficient use of valuable space and helps the shoes to hold their shape.
Pack toiletries into small, refillable bottles. Lighten your load and take just enough of each product for your trip. The bottles can then be re-filled for your next trip when you return home.
Coordinate with your travel companions. If you are traveling with someone, coordinate together on your packing. Sharing common items such as an alarm clock, travel iron or first aid kit will save you from each having to pack the redundant items.
PACKING YOUR CARRY-ON
Pack your liquids properly. TSA regulations state that liquid/gel/cream/paste/aerosol toiletries in carry-on bags must be in containers of 3 ounces or less to get through security checkpoints, and all of those containers must fit comfortably in a one quart size, clear plastic, zip-top bag. Refillable, travel-size bottles are available for toiletries that you want to take in your carry-on bag. For more detailed information and advice about the TSA carry-on liquid regulations and restrictions, visit our Carrying On Liquids page.
Mind your measurements. Most airport baggage regulations are being more strictly enforced these days. A carry-on bag no larger than 9"-by-14"-by-22" will be allowed on most airlines. There are weight limits for carry-on bags, as well. We list many of the baggage regulations on our Baggage Regulations Page and you should check with your airline for more detailed information.
Pack vital items in your carry-on. Never pack Items like passports, plane tickets, itineraries, traveler's checks, credit cards, medications, luggage keys, etc. It's important that you know where these items are at all times.
Pack efficiently. Take what you need, but leave bulky and heavy items for your checked luggage. You won't have the strain of carrying large bags around airports and on and off planes. There will also be much less to go through if you are selected for a random search by airport security.
Do not take sharp items in your carry-on. Items like scissors and pocket knives will be confiscated at security, so be sure to pack those in your checked luggage. Pack any sharp items such as scissors, and pocket knives in your checked luggage.
Use soft-sided bags. Soft-sided luggage can be squeezed under your airline seat, into nearly full overhead compartments and through the sizing windows of security screening machines.
Declutter your carry-on. If your bag is over stuffed TSA agents won't be able to get a clear, uncomplicated X-ray image. When they can't make out contents, a hand search is required, slowing you down.
GENERAL PACKING TIPS
Take a collapsible duffel bag. This will ensure that you will have plenty of room on the return trip for souvenirs or other purchases you acquire on the trip.
Pack small, useful items. Item like rubber bands, safety pins and zip-seal plastic bags don't take up much space and are often very useful.
Switch dual voltage appliances to 220V as you pack them. That way you won't forget to switch them over before using them.
Leave some air space in bottles of liquid. Changes in air pressure/altitude can sometimes cause the contents to leak, and leaving space will prevent them from leaking.
Place bottles inside a zip-seal plastic bag. If bottles leak the contents of your bag will be protected
Take snacks. Pack filling, high energy foods that keep well and won't melt. Foods like trail mix, hard candies, or granola bars are great options. And if you're delayed at the gate or arrive at your destination after restaurants close you'll be happy to have a snack!
Swap half of your bag's contents with your travel companions. If you are traveling with a spouse or a good friend, consider swapping half of the contents of your bag with the other person's bag. If one of the bags gets delayed or lost by the airline, you will both have enough stuff to get by until the delayed bag arrives or until you can purchase replacements.