PACKING TIPS & ADVICE
Whether you will be traveling for a weekend or several weeks, around the U.S. or overseas, efficient packing
makes for an easier and more enjoyable trip.
Here are some helpful packing tips, ideas and advice
that may improve your packing!
- Plan ahead. Try to avoid packing at the "last minute", which leads to inefficient packing and often
results in leaving something behind.
- Use a packing list to avoid forgetting anything. Prepare and review your packing list about a week before
your departure to give yourself time to shop for any needed but missing items.
- Maintain a toiletry kit specifically for travel. Keep it stocked and ready for a trip. You will
be less likely to forget any essentials and it will speed up the packing process.
- Before packing, take time to put identification, such as address labels, on any valuable items that you will
be taking along with you 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.
- Remove any claim checks still on your baggage from previous trips. They no longer serve a purpose and may
confuse airport baggage handlers, increasing the chances a bag being loaded on the wrong flight.
- Make sure that each piece of luggage, including carry-ons, have some form of luggage tag on them for
identification purposes. Luggage not easily identified at claim areas can be mistakenly (or deliberately)
picked up by someone else. Sturdy luggage tags are best since the free paper tags provided by the airlines
often get torn off by handling during transit.
- As an extra precaution, be sure to include identification inside each piece of luggage in case the
external tag is lost during your travels.
- If you know where you will be staying during a longer trip, add your hotel address/phone number to your identification
tags, especially for the outgoing trip to your destination. This will allow the airlines to contact you
there if your luggage is lost, rather than trying to contact you back at your home address.
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.
- Pack small items (such as socks, rolled up belts, etc.) inside your shoes. It makes efficient use of
valuable space and at the same time helps the shoes to hold their shape.
- When packing toiletries or cosmetics, transfer them into small, refillable
bottles. Take just enough for your trip. This will lighten your load and save space. The
bottles can then be re-filled for your next trip when you return home.
- 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 same items.
- 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.
- Keep in mind that 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.
- All critical items to the success of your trip (passport, plane tickets, itinerary, traveler's checks, credit cards,
medication, luggage keys, etc.) should be packed in your carry-on bags. Though some of these items can be
replaced if lost or stolen, that will consume valuable time. It is best to always keep them with you, so you
know where they are. Never pack them in your checked luggage.
- Pack what you'll need in your carry-on, but be efficient and keep it light and as small as possible.
Leave the 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.
- Enforcement of TSA security rules can sometimes vary from airport to airport. Pack any sharp items such as
scissors, and pocket knives in your checked luggage. You are not allowed to carry them on the plane.
When they are found during security check, they will be confiscated, and may trigger a more thorough search of
your bags causing you a delay.
- Use soft-sided bags, such as small daypacks or duffel bags, for carry-on because when needed, they can be
"squeezed" under your airline seat, into nearly full overhead compartments and through the sizing windows of
security screening machines.
- Don't over-stuff your carry-on bags. De-clutter them as much as possible so TSA agents get a clear, uncomplicated
X-ray image. When they can't make out contents, a hand search is required, slowing you down.
- Include one or two collapsible duffel bags when you pack for a trip so that you will have plenty of room on the
return trip for souvenirs or other purchases you acquire on the trip.
- Don't forget to pack useful (but small and light) items such as a few rubber bands, safety pins and zip-seal
plastic bags. They aren't always necessary, but you will be surprised at how many uses for them you can
come up with when you have them.
- If you're packing any dual-voltage electrical appliances (curling iron, hair dryer, travel iron, etc.) for
use overseas, switch the voltage to 220V as you pack them. That way you won't forget to switch them over
before using them.
- Remember not to pack bottles of shampoo or other liquids that are completely full. Leave some air space in
the bottle. Changes in air pressure/altitude can sometimes cause the contents to leak. Placing the bottles
inside a zip-seal plastic bag provides the rest of your bag's contents with additional protection from any possible
- Include some snacks such as trail mix, hard candies and/or snack bars in your baggage (not chocolate or any other
potentially messy snacks). They will come in handy if you get hungry waiting for a delayed flight, during a
long tour or late at night when you don't feel like leaving your hotel. Sharing them is also a great way to
meet fellow travelers or start a conversation with a new friend.
- 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.