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:
- 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
- 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.