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Posted by on Sep 6, 2011 | 11 comments

Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: Packing

Essential Flying Tips for Travelers – Packing

Last week, I discussed essential flying tips to take into consideration during the travel planning / ticket buying stage.  This week I am offering tips for the travel packing stage.  These are general packing tips.  The idea is to help you navigate thru the airport with your luggage easily.  I will do a detailed packing post later.

As always, I encourage you to share your own tips with all of us.

Let’s see what we can learn this week.

  • Do I need to stress this? – Pack as light as possible

After 10 years of roaming the globe, I only travel with carry-on luggage.  It has simplified my travels in such a drastic way.  I can easily carry my luggage around, avoid back and arm injuries and don’t have to separate from my bags that often.  I will recommend you try to travel in this way. Believe me, you can pack a lot in a small suitcase (if you know how to do it).  Most important:  you don’t need to pack tons of belongings in order have a great experience.  However, I know this may not be a viable option to everybody.  If you need to check in luggage, pack as light as possible.

  • Don’t over pack your checked luggage

As I mentioned in the previous bullet, packing as light as possible should be your goal when traveling.  I already mentioned some good reasons to adhere to this practice.  So, do you need more arguments?  Well, let me tell you zippers can break (especially if you are using cheap luggage) when you overstuff your luggage. I have seen episodes of suitcase “explosions” in the baggage claim area.  I think you don’t want to experience something like this. Additionally, you may need to open your suitcase at the airport (or security will need to open it) and then it will be hell to close it. Pack light. Check.

  • If you don’t want to lose something, don’t pack it in your checked luggage

This should be a traveler’s rule.  Don’t pack in your checked luggage those pricey or important items.  For example you should never check:

  • Jewelry
  • Cash or credit cards
  • Expensive electronics (cameras, iPods, computers)
  • Important documents
  • Objects with sentimental value


  • Wrap fragile items

I always try to avoid packing fragile items.  However, sometimes I feel the need to pack a bottle of perfume or nail enamel.  From experience (hard experience, I guess), I have learned it is not wise to just put these items somewhere in the bag (not even in the toiletries bag).  Now, I put fragile items inside a ziplock bag before placing them in a determined space.  If there is a breakage or spillage, the ziplock bag will contain the mess.  The same applies to items that can easily open (shampoo, nail remover, etc.)

  • Spread out heavy items in your suitcase

Do not pack all heavy items on one side of your bag.  In general, it is more difficult to carry or lift bags with the majority of the weight in one side.  Plus, the bag will tend to fall to the floor from that side.  Spreading the contents will give you more stability.

  • Know the airline baggage restrictions

Beforehand, make sure you know how many pieces of luggage you are allowed to check in and how much is going to cost you to check them.  Nowadays, the cost of checking luggage changes frequently.  Also, know the baggage size and weight limitations.  Make sure your packed luggage meet those restrictions (if not, fees apply).

  • Differentiate your luggage from the rest

I am not talking about attaching a colorful bow to your bag.  I am not sure that tactic works very well.  I am talking about the following:

  • Forget about checked luggage and you will not have to worry about this (I know, I know, I already mentioned this)
  • Buy luggage in distinctive colors
  • Place a colorful luggage strap around your bag
  • Add a colorful handle cover
  • Use a luggage cover (like the ones sold by
  • Make a design with duck tape
  • Get creative!!

      Important: Always check the bag tag before leaving with it.

  • Differentiate your computer too (or label it)

Most laptops are black.  There are cases when people take the incorrect computer after the security check (I mean sad cases).  Have a way to quickly identify your laptop.  You can place a label or business card on it.  In that way, it is easier to identify it and there are higher probabilities of return in case you take the incorrect one.

  • Put a label on your suitcase

Label your suitcase outside and INSIDE.  If the outside tag separates from the bag, your personal information is still inside.

  • Bring your own food or snacks

Plan your meals while flying, if you want to save money (most airlines charge for food or snacks in domestic flights).  Even if your flight includes meals (international), pack something to eat.  You will thank me once you have to hang out for 12 hours in an airplane.  The time between dinner and breakfast is about 8 hours.  Don’t tell me you are not going to get hungry during that time.

  • Bring your own entertainment

This year British Airlines paid compensation to the Dukes of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate) because they confessed how boring the flight was. Turn out the video system of the airplane broke and it was the most boring flight ever.  Same happened to me during my flight to Brazil.  I had 11 hours of torture.  Lesson: do not rely on the in-flight entertainment (unless you are one of the fortunate beings who can sleep on an airplane).

  • Pack your electronics together

In this way, you can get them out of your bag quickly if security officers instruct you to do so.

  • If you know something is not allowed in the carry-on luggage, don’t pack it there

Do your own baggage inspection at home. Don’t take chances with objects you know are not allowed in carry-on luggage.  If you are returning home, revise the objects acquired at your destination. You don’t want security to confiscate your beautiful souvenirs.

What are some of your general packing tips? Let me know in the comments section below.



  1. I agree: light, light, light is the key word. Like you, carry on and nothing else. As go go along you will be surprised how little you really need and what’s missing can be purchased along the way. I mean, I have yte to find a country which doesn’t sell toothpaste!
    As for labeling your check-in luggage: I don’t. The reason being that there are some very ‘organised’ people around who read the labels, check the names and addresses, thus know the owners are away and proceed to rob their homes. I’d rather lose my suticase than being burgled.
    inka recently posted..Biennale Istanbul – more art closer to homeMy Profile

    • Inka,
      I understand your preocupations about labeling your suitcases. I know a lot of people who have this concern. Here are some possible solutions:
      – You don’t have to put your address in the label. Your name and phone number (or e-mail) should be enough).
      – Like I said in the post, put a label inside your suitcase (skip the address if you still feel worried).
      – Stick to carry-ons to avoid this problem.
      Hope this helps.
      Ruth recently posted..Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: PackingMy Profile

  2. I think my biggest problem when I do over stuff my suitcase (besides when I’m carrying stuff for work) is that I procrastinate because I hate it so much. Then I’m in panic to get packed and throw everything into the suitcase! I’m my own worst enemy…
    Jenjenk recently posted..Visiting Japan: Gift Giving CustomsMy Profile

  3. It’s easy to pack light when you’re taking a shorter trip or even bouncing between hostels on a rtw trip, but everything we own is carried with us and we tend to stay in places for longer periods of time (like a month). Now that we LIVE on the road, it’s almost impossible to just bring a carry-on.

    It’s true that you can buy stuff anywhere you need to go (so why pack it?), but that really only works for shorter trips. I always need to have toothpaste with me (obviously replenishing as I go), as well as shampoo and sunscreen and soap, etc. And travel sizes just don’t cut it when that’s what you’re using all the time.

    Anyhow, I very much agree with what you’ve written, but I’ve realized that it’s less realistic for those who travel in less traditional ways. =)
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo Essay: LondonMy Profile

  4. I completely agree with packing light especially if any train travel will be involved. It is exhausting lifting your bags to get on and off the train as well as potentially having to carry them up the stairs at stations. I think my next purchase will be a bag with those swivel wheels so the bag can be pushed or pulled in any direction.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Five of the Best Sweet Treats to Try in ParisMy Profile

  5. In addition to a address tag, I also have a laminated 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper in my suitcase pocket, just in case the tag falls off.
    adventureswithben recently posted..Adventures in AlaskaMy Profile

  6. We must have packing on the mind, I just posted one the mistakes I made packing 🙂
    Ayngelina recently posted..Pack this, not thatMy Profile

  7. Tengo que aplicar eso pero es que…………es tan difícil chica!! siempre cargo con una mudanza y no uso la mitad de lo que llevo jaajaj lo acepto!

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