The Art of Packing

By Blake DuBose and Mike DuBose

Having flown more than 1 million actual flight miles, we’ve seen the insides of hundreds of hotels, rental cars, airplanes, trains, and cruise ships. We’ve had a lot of fun—and have made just about every travel mistake you can imagine! Our travels, including almost 30 trips to Hawaii alone, have taught us valuable lessons on flying, packing, and making our way around foreign countries. In this article, we’ll share packing strategies we have learned to help you avoid some stress and have a great time on future trips. Review our other article on international travel for additional tips and tricks.

The words “lost luggage” strike fear into the hearts of casual vacationers and seasoned travelers alike. Two million bags are lost, damaged, or arrive late each year, even as fewer and fewer travelers check bags. According “Who’s Left Holding the Bag?” an excellent New York Times article by Susan Stellin, this figure does not include smaller carriers and international flights.

After airlines lost our checked luggage on trips to Italy and Scotland, we had had enough. By assessing our packing habits, we realized that we only used about 60% of the items we had packed for any given trip. That extra 40% was only more weight to carry, more luggage to keep track of, and more to worry about. So, we set out to formulate a better packing strategy. We talked with many frequent fliers, airline employees, and hotel staff members, and also consulted travel magazines and other literature for tips on how to travel (particularly, how to pack a suitcase).

As a result, we now take most of our belongings on board the airliner as carry-ons. This not only ensures that they make it to our destination, but also that we can transfer from flight to flight or city to city more easily. Also, we avoid long waits at customs and can head straight for our car, taxi, or rental car booth after leaving the plane. After making this shift to packing lighter (and smarter), we found that we could go on a ten-day trip to Hawaii or Europe with no checked bags—just two carry-ons!

Our philosophy in life, business, and travel has always been, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst!” Here are some packing tips to help your trip fall into the “best” category:

Start early: Begin the packing process one week before your departure. This will give you plenty of time to wash and dry clothes you want to take or purchase any items you are missing. If you pack the night before, expect problems!

Lose the extras: People often pack unnecessary items for long trips “just in case.” As restaurant and hotel dress codes around the world become more and more informal, clothing can often do double-duty for sightseeing and a night out. Foreign hotels also provide many conveniences, like hair dryers, irons, and toiletries, that were previously only standard in the US. These changes have made it easier to pack lighter and smarter.

Smart packing, especially for trips of a week or more, requires planning, patience, and skill. As you prepare, think smaller, lighter, and more organized. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to take this? How can I carry as much as possible in my carry-on bags and on my body? What is the best way to organize what I am taking? Is there anything I can leave out and just buy when I arrive at my destination?” Taking some time to ask yourself these questions and pack accordingly will ultimately make your vacation more enjoyable.

Think TSA-friendly: If there are any items that you will need to remove from a carry-on (like liquids and electronic devices), pack them last for easy access. Keep essential or expensive items (your passport, license, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, etc.) in a secure place in your carry-on, not your checked baggage.

Take your time moving through airport security lines, and once you are through, take careful inventory to ensure that your group still has all their belongings (especially laptops and iPads). Ideally, you want a companion to go through a few folks ahead of you and keep an eye on your items so no one steals them. (By the way, we just learned that you do not have to remove iPads from your luggage for inspection!)

Select the right suitcase: Carry-ons and checked bags are subject to different restrictions, but your luggage should generally always have wheels and a wide pull bar to make it easy to carry. Checked bags must be 62 linear inches or less (height plus length) and must not exceed 50 pounds for domestic or international flights. (Elite or Medallion members may enjoy more liberal allowances for their checked bags.) Carry-on luggage must be 22"x14"x9” or smaller and cannot exceed 45 linear inches. Get as close to that size as possible, since every extra inch means more room! Foreign carriers have even stricter rules, so if you have a connecting flight, check their guidelines as well.

As of March 1, 2013, checked bags on domestic Delta Airlines flights cost $25 each way ($50 round-trip); prices skyrocket for additional bags. For international flights, people flying coach can have one free checked bag weighing up to 50 pounds. The second bag costs $50 one way, and the third bag is $200. If you tend to fly a certain airline, you might want to consider getting that airline’s credit card. We use Delta American Express because it allows us and eight others in our group to take luggage for free.

Airlines also allow a “personal” bag, but their definitions for this are often unclear. I suggest that you purchase a maximum-sized carry-on and a second, medium-sized gym bag (your personal item). Between these two bags and what you can carry on your body, you should be able to carry on most of your clothes for any trip. If you are traveling with friends, you could ask one who has no carry-on luggage to take one aboard for you.

Carry-on bags must fit into the stainless steel racks you see near the check-in gates at the airport. Once you have been through security (and up until right before you board), airlines will still check carry-on size carefully. Even if your bag meets the airline’s guidelines, some regional carriers have reduced-sized overhead bins. When this happens, your bag can be “gate-checked” and you will be given a pink tag at the departure gate. As long as the workers on the tarmac load the gate-checked bags onto the plane (as they should), you should be able to pick up your bags as you exit the airplane.

Of course, it is best to bring appropriately-sized luggage in the first place. Delta ( and other airlines have excellent luggage restriction information and frequently asked questions sections on their websites. However, size and weight regulations “change all the time,” according to a Delta rep, so double-check them shortly before your trip.

BEWARE! There is an elevator shelf (right after your ticket is accepted for boarding at the gate) where some airlines will allow you to store pink-tagged carry-ons. DO NOT USE IT! On a flight we took in 2012, ground crews “forgot” to load these carry-ons into the plane, leaving 30 people without them upon arrival in Atlanta! Mike, dressed in a sweat suit, was one of them—and he had a meeting with Jack Welch the next day! Instead of using the shelf, carry your pink-tagged luggage down the walkway to the aircraft and leave it on the right side of the ramp as you enter the plane so gate agents (who have to provide pilots with their release papers) can’t miss it. If you have an important meeting the following day, consider wearing your suit on the plane.

If you are checking luggage and want to bring back souvenirs, consider packing a smaller suitcase with your belongings inside of a larger one (staying within size and weight limits). That way, you have only “one” piece of luggage on your outbound flight, but will be able to store gifts and dirty laundry in the other suitcase on the way back. You will be charged the $50 fee for checking two bags only on your return trip rather than both ways. You can share the empty suitcase with friends or your spouse on the flight back home, or have an elite airline member check it to save on baggage fees. In fact, if you are traveling with a group, check your luggage under the name of the person with the highest status with the airline. This can exempt you from baggage fees and give you more clout when locating lost luggage.

We recommend buying middle-of-the-line, non-designer luggage to avoid thieves’ attention. Quality luggage should be able to withstand the wear and tear of traveling; still, don’t be surprised if your bags get lost or damaged. The airline may offer to replace your damaged luggage, but their bags are often made from cheaper materials. If you have quality luggage, ask if they will pay to repair it instead.

Once you are given your checked bags’ tracking labels, store them in a safe place on your body or in your carry-on—you will need them if your luggage is lost! Many airlines’ frequent flier programs offer a neat smartphone app that automatically notes bags’ check-in numbers and locations.

Caution: expandable suitcases may pass dimension restrictions when empty but fail when fully extended. Keep the expandable section closed until you get aboard the plane, when you can unzip it to allow its contents some extra room. Sometimes, we have to sit on our suitcases to close the expandable section!

Tie something to your suitcase that makes your bag stand out in the crowd. It should be easily identifiable and difficult to tear off (for example, a combination of strong red and purple ribbon). Keep your eye on the luggage ramp and stand close to where the bags pop out. Otherwise, thieves may walk out with your belongings while you’re waiting on the other side!

Label everything: Put easy-to-read labels on suitcases, cameras, cell phones, laptops, iPods, iPads, earphones, etc. Delta agents told us, “It’s amazing what people leave on planes!” Yep, count us in on that one! Check your seat carefully before exiting the plane. There is only a short window to report missing items, so do so while you are still at the airport or promptly file a report through the airline’s website.

We usually type up our contact information in a small font for items such as cameras and a large font for luggage and copy and paste it multiple times onto an 8.5”x11” page. Then, we cut out the paper labels and tape them onto our items using strong, very clear Scotch tape. As you travel, keep your eyes on your luggage! We have seen thieves case unattended bags. (This is even more important if you are taking European trains, since the luggage is stored near each car’s exit door and thieves may easily snatch your luggage as they get off the train.)

Use sturdy luggage labels that can handle some abuse (not those free paper tags the airlines provide you). If you join airline and hotel customer loyalty programs, you may receive complimentary tags, or you could print your own (in a large font) and laminate them. It is best to have customized, “destination-oriented” labels. They should include your name, address (including home country), cell and business phone numbers, the phone number of a friend staying in the US, e-mail address, and airline and hotel customer loyalty program ID numbers. Be sure to put “1” before all telephone numbers to indicate that they are US numbers. Even if you go by a nickname, use the same name on your IDs as the one on your airline ticket and hotel reservations so that airlines can match them up easily. If you are flying internationally, you can include the name of your hotel and its address and telephone number so local airport staff can find you if you and your bag get separated.

Finally, insert business cards and copies of your detailed home and foreign contact information into your luggage’s inner and outer zippered compartments. Delta’s baggage department made this suggestion because tags on the outside of luggage often get ripped off.

Know the forecast: The number one factor for determining which clothes you will need to pack is the weather where you are going. Go to (which has a great smartphone app) a few days prior to departure and enter your destination cities, states, and/or countries. Then, select “ten-day forecast” to assess the projected high and low temperatures and rainfall. Use the information to drive your clothing selections. Keep in mind that temperatures in one region can vary widely based on the city and time of day. (Think of the temperature differences between San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.) On tropical islands like Hawaii, rainstorms are often short-lived or isolated, so a rainy forecast doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck inside the entire time. If you need an umbrella, you can easily buy one from a vendor or borrow one from your hotel, so we rarely pack more than one (if any). Always take a thin plastic poncho that covers the top half of your body. The package is only the size of a deck of cards and they only cost a few dollars, but they are a must!

Make a list: One of the best tips we can offer is to develop a personalized electronic checklist of everything you are taking on a trip. Throughout your travels, edit and personalize the list so it will become an essential packing aid. Mike’s list, which can be found at, saves a lot of time and increases his chances of remembering to pack everything! Google “free packing checklists” for help creating your own. Mike has different lists for non-airplane trips, international flights, and domestic flights.

Visualize what you plan to pack: Before putting anything in a suitcase, lay it all out on the bed. Remove anything you don’t need (preferably, anything you can’t fit in your carry-on or on your body).

Pre-pack and prioritize: Organize the items you plan to take into three categories: (1) body; (2) carry-ons; and (3) checked luggage. If you plan right, you may be able to fit everything into the first two categories, or at least limit yourself to one checked bag (which is free if you are flying internationally). First, pile the clothes and items you plan to wear onto the plane in one area. Then, set aside everything you can fit in your carry-on and personal item. Finally, place all other items in the “checked bag” pile. We rarely have a third pile, but when we do, it is usually things we could replace easily or do without.

Organize your toiletries: Toiletries can take up deceptively large amounts of space and will be thrown out during security checks if they are the wrong size. Liquids must not exceed 3.4 ounces per container, and three ounces in a partially-used bottle (half of a six-ounce tube of toothpaste, for example) do not count. The TSA defines “liquid” as anything that is not hard, so your peanut butter or face creams could fall into the “throwaway” can if not the right size or packed in your checked luggage! Instead of using bulky travel bags, double-bag your toiletries in clear, heavy-duty quart-size Ziploc bags. This allows you (and security) to see what you have while taking up less room in your bag. Screw bottles of liquid shut tightly. We always pre-pack an extra toiletry Ziploc for both US and international flights.

Why take enough deodorant to last a month when you only need enough for a week? Look for travel-sized cosmetics and toiletries at drugstores, or ask front desk staff at hotels for extras. You can also buy smaller toiletries from stores near your departure gate or order them online at companies like (a good website to visit). Our wives recently sailed through security with two-ounce hairspray pump bottles from TRESemme called TRES Spray, which lasted them a week. Small shaving cream canisters are available as well, but Mike suggests shaving with shampoo or soap to save room. If you prefer a certain brand of shampoo or other product, keep hotel bottles from domestic trips and refill them with your favorite brands for international travels. Do not try to check or carry on any compressed spray cans (like aerosol hairspray), which could explode in flight. Likewise, packing batteries in checked bags may cause a fire.

Dress for the plane: Long-distance flights are usually cold and noisy. On long flights, we wear warm jogging suits with zippered pockets for storage. In addition, Mike wears a fisherman’s vest with zippered pockets for his iPod, cell phone, medicines, magazines, books, pens, sleeping eye mask, passport, license, wallet, loose change, earphones, diabetic supplies, chewing gum, snacks, receipts, magazines, and other items. He looks like he is going trout fishing and is often asked, “Did you catch anything?” However, this is a great way to free up space in your carry-on for other items. You can find a vest online or in large sporting stores like Dick’s. A similar idea is to wear hunter- or soldier-style pants with zippered pockets on the legs and waist. Mike carries about 30 pounds of stuff on his body alone and then removes his vest once he is on the airplane.

Try to wear your bulkiest shoes and coat on the plane—they are space killers when packed. You can always take coats off once aboard the plane and use them as blankets or pillows. Wear a collapsible hat or toboggan on long trips since airplane air is dry and cool and most of your body heat escapes from the head. To save even more space, wear any bulky earphones around your neck and leave the protective case at home.

If you have checked luggage, pack your valuables, medicine, identification documents, and at least half of your clothes in your carry-on in case the checked bag is lost. Believe me, you do not want your trip of a lifetime to turn into the trip from hell! To be on the safe side, when packing, assume that your checked bag and all its contents will be lost, never to be seen again!

Choose clothes cleverly: If you have clothes, underwear, or shoes that are ready to retire but still look decent, consider taking them on your trip and discarding them before you leave. The extra room left in your luggage will allow you to store gifts and souvenirs (or make your suitcase lighter). Each year, Mike takes his old Hawaiian shirts and faded underwear with him to Hawaii and leaves them there when he departs.

Another option is to plan to wear each item twice on your trip. After each use, clean any stains from your clothes, hang them in the shower to steam, and place them in the closet to air out. Then, pair items with different pants or shirts later in the trip. In cool climates, white or black turtlenecks can be worn with just about anything. If you coordinate colors so that everything goes together, you could have enough for an eight-day trip with just one jacket, three shirts or blouses, and a couple pairs of pants.

You can also wash and re-wear your clothes. Many hotels have a washer and dryer (or at least a laundromat within walking distance), but you can wash clothes in the sink if necessary. Take a small Ziploc bag of washing power like Tide, fabric softener, and a small container of a stain remover like Shout. Use the closet to air dry items, or purchase a travel clothesline with suction cups and hang it over the tub.

Check the hotel’s amenities: Most modern hotel rooms feature a hair dryer, soap, towels, iron, and toiletries, but you should go to the hotel’s website to be sure of what they provide. If in doubt, call or e-mail the front desk. If some items (like irons) are not found in every room, the front desk can usually loan them out to you.

In foreign countries, rooms are often smaller and conveniences less common. For example, if traveling internationally, always take a washcloth (they can be hard to find in Europe) and your favorite soap. Soap bars in international hotels are very small, so look for medium-sized bars in US hotels and save them for international trips. Also, the view from that great 5th floor room may not be as desirable when you learn there is no elevator and you’ll be dragging your luggage up the stairs!

Leave most electronics at home: Make sure to take the proper foreign outlet adapters for any electronics and chargers you bring on your trip; however, pack as few gadgets as possible. Research adapters online before buying, as many stores will try to sell you more than you need. Some hotels keep a set of converters and lend them out, but don’t count on it!

Most large international cities have Internet cafes with computers you can use for reasonable fees, so you probably won’t need your laptop. Ideally, you want a smartphone like the Apple iPhone 4s or 5 that allows you to receive e-mails, surf the Internet, make calls, take pictures, and access maps or GPS. (Many hotels even have free or reduced-rate WiFi, which you should turn on when using a global-ready smartphone to avoid hefty roaming and data charges.) Check with your carrier before your trip to configure your phone for the country being visited and get details on international rates. For domestic trips, most US hotels have business centers that members of frequent user clubs can access for free.

Prepare your prescriptions: Your medications are important for your health, so take one set aboard the plane somewhere on your body and a second set in your carry-on luggage. Also, bring written prescriptions from your doctor in case your medicine is lost or security questions the pills. If you must bring multiple prescriptions, ask the pharmacist for the smallest bottles possible or insert smaller bottles inside the larger ones to save space. We use seven-day plastic pill containers, carrying a list of the medicines signed by the pharmacist for proof. Before we leave on a trip, we also obtain prescriptions for strong antibiotics like Amoxicillin in case of infections.

If you wear glasses or contacts, bring extra pairs in your carry-on suitcase. If you will be out in the sun a good bit, add sunglasses, a collapsible hat or cap, and a small tube of 30 SPF or higher sunscreen. (If you cannot find a three-ounce tube, just put some in an empty medicine container.)

You may also want to pack a thin thermometer, a few Band-Aids, and over-the-counter medicines for nausea, diarrhea, constipation, small infections, stomach upsets, and minor pain (we usually only take a few from each box and label them in smaller bags to save room). This may sound like overkill, but you don’t want to have to search for medicine or a doctor in a place you’ve never been before!

Consider luggage insurance: If you are checking bags, you may want to insure them. It costs American Express members as little as $20, and they guarantee that they will find your luggage within three hours!

Prevent and recover lost luggage: Stellin’s article“Who’s Left Holding the Bag?” provides great details on what to do if your luggage is lost. It was published in March 2013 and you can read it on the New York Times’ website.

If your luggage is lost, you must report it missing at the airport’s baggage area within seven days if you ever want to get it back. Have your tracking labels available, and write down your travel itinerary, including dates and hotels’ names, telephone numbers, and addresses, in advance so you will have it ready for the airline agent (this also is great to hand to taxi drivers when they are returning you to your hotel). Airlines will often ask you to describe your luggage, so we take pictures of ours before the flight and write down the brand names as a precaution. We also take a manila folder that contains all of our travel information such as hotel and flight reservations, itinerary, guide names, etc.

If your suitcase is lost on an international flight, be aware that many foreign airline desks only operate a few hours each day and baggage services are often contracted out to people who couldn’t care less about your luggage. US 1-800 numbers don’t work internationally, making calling the airline from another country tough, so determine their international telephone numbers before leaving the US. Note: if you are traveling with a tour group, they will not wait for you to find your luggage.

If you can give them a tracking number to refer to, hotel staff and travel guides can be a huge help by calling the airline on your behalf. Lost luggage can also be reported through the airline’s website, but we recommend going through their local agent first.

Be sure to join frequent flier clubs, since they have great new phone apps that will show the location of your luggage! Another new product is a locator that uses cellular technology. You place it in your luggage, and when the airliner takes off, it shuts down. When the plane lands, it turns back on, and will send you an e-mail telling you where your luggage is! It sells for $50 plus activation fee. If you have read our article about our trip to Italy on, you’ve probably already rushed out to buy one of these devices!

Once you begin to pack, consider these points:

  • Don’t worry about dressing up. It’s rare you will meet anyone you know in another state or country, and the extra clothes take up lots of space.
  • Remove any guns or sharp objects like scissors or knives from your luggage.
  • Pack the heaviest items at the bottom of your suitcase near the roller wheels for better balance and easier pulling.
  • Bring one pair of decent-looking, comfortable shoes that will be acceptable in a nice restaurant (I prefer black Dockers since they are light, flexible, and match everything) and wear a good pair of walking shoes (like New Balance) on the plane. Do not bring shoes that eat up a lot of room in your bag or hurt your feet. Stuff socks tightly inside your shoes to conserve even more space.
  • Roll clothes up tightly. Delta flight attendants recommend putting rubber bands around each rolled item to keep them tight, reduce the space they consume, and decrease wrinkling. Don’t worry too much about wrinkles—once you have unpacked at your hotel (but before putting your toiletries in the bathroom), simply hang clothes near the shower rod, turn on the hot water, and close the door to produce steam. The wrinkles will fall out in about ten minutes.
  • Put away all of your clothes when you arrive at your hotel. Nothing is worse than living out of a suitcase!
  • Make good copies of your license, birth certificate, and passport and store them in your carry-on (Mike also obtained a second driver’s license that he includes as well). Guard identifying documents with your life because if you lose them, you will have major problems! Caution: the name on your ticket and your government-issued ID must be identical to avoid delays at airport security. If you are visiting a foreign country, Google and document the US embassy’s telephone number and address in case you need assistance.
  • Take a list of all credit card, bank account, emergency telephone, and passport numbers, along with relevant Web addresses, in case of theft or loss. Most credit cards have international telephone numbers on the back. Remove all unnecessary cards from your wallet.
  • Consider ripping out only the pages that you need from your travel guide (we like Frommer’s) instead of taking the bulky, heavy book.
  • Even your checked bags are not safe. According to USA Today, there were 70,000 formal complaints against the TSA in 2012 for valuables missing out of checked luggage—just think of how many went unreported! Split up your money and credit cards in hidden places on your body and in carry-ons in case of theft. That way, if one card is lost or stolen, you have a backup. If you do not have any credit cards, secure one (preferably two) different types of cards (for example, a MasterCard and an American Express).
  • Sodas are free on airlines, but alcoholic drinks are now $7 each, so if you drink alcohol, consider buying some 1.7 ounce mini bottles of your favorite liquor at large liquor stores. You can place larger bottles of liquor or wine in protective containers in your checked baggage, and if you are departing from an international airport, you can purchase duty-free wine or liquor at an international store and have it delivered to you as you enter the plane as a carry-on. Another method is to buy a carry-on-sized, very cheap bag, fill it with the wines or liquors you desire, and check it. When you return, leave the cheap bag at your hotel.
  • If you are flying internationally, there is a good chance that your luggage will be opened several times by security: before you depart, right before boarding (a new procedure), and again when you arrive at your destination airport. Show security agents any liquids, breathing machines like CPAPs, medicines, etc., to avoid them pulling things out of your neatly organized suitcase. Place these items at the top of your carry-ons to remove them easily.
  • Consider joining the US Customs Global Entry program. You must pay a $100 fee to apply, complete an application with a background check, and be interviewed at a major airport, but afterward, you can bypass long customs lines and use TSA “fast lanes,” where you do not have to take off your shoes, remove electronics like laptops from luggage, or take off your belt. We are Global Entry Travelers, and it is a neat, fast program for both US and foreign travel! You can learn more about this program at
  • Thin materials like silk take up less room and hold fewer wrinkles.
  • A fanny pack or backpack can be worn on the plane, and they are excellent places to store your camera, wallet, money, water, snacks, and ID while touring.
  • Take extra alkaline (or preferably, stronger, longer-lasting tritium cell) batteries on board the airliner with you.
  • Pack a small, collapsible plastic cooler that lies flat in your suitcase and can be used on tours for ice and drinks. Europeans do not use much ice in their drinks, and you will have to ask for it at hotels and restaurants (then, you might receive ten pieces!). Hotels will not have ice machines on your floor and or ice buckets in their rooms.
  • If you pack well, you may have room in your checked or carry-on baggage to take sealed cans and bags of non-perishable food. However, do not check fresh fruit. If you are taking canned foods to save money, be sure to include a can opener in your checked baggage. We usually buy snacks and foods to be consumed during the trip at a local grocery store.

A few final suggestions:

  • Weigh your suitcase on your home scale before going to the airport (you can also purchase a small weighing scale with a hook that you use to pick up your luggage). There are a variety of handheld scales that can be found for about $30 on We have the Heys scale and it works great! You need to come in a few pounds lighter than the maximum weight allowance. Also, if you are flying with international carriers, check their weight and size restrictions at your destination or stopover airport before you travel. Some European airlines restrict baggage weight to 33 pounds (versus 50 pounds for American airlines). European trains do not limit your luggage weight or size.
  • Register as a frequent flier with your preferred airlines. As a member, you will receive some perks (including being the last to get kicked off an oversold flight) and will accrue miles to use for free trips. This also allows you to view and change your seat assignments, check-in online, and print your boarding passes at home before leaving for the airport. By checking in online, you won’t have to waste time standing in line at the ticket counter and can proceed directly to security. Delta also informed us that you can save a few dollars on your second piece of checked luggage. To do this, sign into your frequent flier account online less than 24 hours before departure. Then, select “Itineraries” and hit “Check In.” You will designate how many checked bags you will have and then can print off your boarding passes. If you use certain American Express cards to purchase tickets on Delta, you and your traveling party may be exempt from luggage fees.
  • Be first in line when your boarding zone (the number is located on your ticket) is called. This is not the time to be passive! People are bringing way more than their share of carry-on luggage and overhead bins are filling up fast, forcing some passengers to check luggage. Don’t worry about where you are sitting; find an open bin in front so you can grab your luggage as you exit. The bins on the right and left sides of the plane are always larger than the ones over the middle section of seats.
  • Throw your carry-on suitcase in the overhead with the wheels facing outward (it will fit easier) or the handle sticking out so you can retrieve it quicker. Then, stow your gym bag under the seat in front of you (unless you are sitting in a bulkhead). You can visit to determine your seat’s location and how it stacks up with others, as well as the services provided by the type of plane you will be on.
  • It’s worth paying a little extra to sit in the new Economy Comfort area, which is a hybrid between first class and coach. Seats are a little nicer and are located toward the front of the airplane, so they are called earlier when boarding.
  • Don’t wrap gifts—security will open them. Many stores will ship your gifts back for you; however, be sure to buy them with a credit card (not a debit card) to have some protection rights in case your items are damaged or lost.
  • You could also mail your bags to your destination in advance using a private luggage shipping service (Google “luggage shippers” to find some options). If you do this, verify that your baggage has arrived before you leave for your trip.
  • For more travel tips, check out Mike’s non-profit website,

We hope that this information will help you plan and pack smart. Have a fun vacation, and don’t look for us at the Lost Luggage Counter…we won’t be there!


General Clothes (All Weather)

1. Socks (White and matching colors) – Any old ones to leave?

2. Underwear (T-shirts and shorts) – Any old ones to leave?

3. Shirts (casual and dress) – Any old ones to leave?

4. Suits and Ties (RARE!)

5. Pants

6. Shoes (Dress and walking)

Summer Clothes

1. Swimsuit

2. Shorts

3. Casual shirts

Winter Clothes

1. Overcoat and jackets

2. Jogging suit

3. Gloves

4. Toboggan

5. Sweatsuits

6. Turtlenecks

7. Toboggan

Toiletries >>>NOTHING MORE THAN 3.4 OZ liquid!

1. Toothpaste (3 oz) and toothbrush with floss (Get out for security)

2. Hair brush and nail clippers

3. Regular shaver

4. Q-Tips (small plastic box of 20) and band aids

5. Deodorant (3 oz.) (Get out for security)

6. Vitamins and extra antibiotics (carry on body through security without X-ray and ask TSA to visually inspect)

7. Small bottle of mouthwash


1. Hats or cap

2. Belt

3. Wine cork screw

4. Sleeping machine with cord and facemask and electrical cord

5. Diabetic:

o three machines

o extra strips

o two bottles of insulin

o AAA battery for pump

o pump supplies

o blue inserter

o two needles

o sugar tablets (small and large)

6. Sunglasses

7. Fannie pack

8. Two weeks of medicine

Airline and Other Travel Supplies

1. Ticket and early check-in (Assess flight status)

2. iPhone and auto and home charger (CHARGE)

3. iPad and charger (CHARGE)

4. iPod and charger (CHARGE)

5. Ticket holders

6. Complimentary drink ticket coupons

7. Club cards (Crown Room, Delta Medallion, Rental Car, Hotel)

8. Passport, license, Global Entry, and extra picture ID (Store separately/make copy)

9. Books and magazines for reading with pads and pens

10. Digital camera with charger

11. Earphones with AIRLINE adapter; new and extra AA or AAA batteries

12. Business Cards

13. House and car keys (Take aboard plane)

14. Manila Folder—Hotel, car rental, and airline documentation file (COPY DEB)

15. Small tube of Vaseline for nose to prevent bacteria

16. Prescription for prescribed medicines (antibiotics and diabetic)

17. Signed list of prescriptions from pharmacy for security

18. Chewing gum

19. Cash and credit cards

20. Wine and corkscrew/Crown Royal mini-bottles

21. Leg support hose for flight

22. Alcohol in mini bottle and washrag to wipe plane seat down

23. Place extra credit card, license, and debit card in carry-on

24. Print tickets in advance

25. Flashlight for carry-on

26. Check weather

27. Airport parking lot entry pass (Take picture of parking place and location)

28. Remove extras from wallet

29. Add in wallet and suitcase medical history

30. Money belt or credit card/cash/passport hidden neck case

31. Extra large multi-purpose plastic laundry bags

32. Pads and pens—reading materials

33. Check all suitcases for luggage tags


1. Passport and Global Entry copies of birth certificates/license/passport

2. Small, plastic raincoats (in box)

3. Thin ice holder (place sideways in luggage for TSA)

4. List of prescriptions signed by pharmacist

5. Blow-up neck pillow for Deb

6. Sleeping eye covers

7. Miniature umbrella (if space allows)

8. Antibiotics (Amoxicillin, Levaquin, eye drops, Neosporin)

9. Soap and washcloth for Deb

10. Correct electrical connectors for Europe

11. Checked bag for Europe with wine and buy wine/liquor or buy at international gate

12. List of credit cards, numbers, and international calling numbers

13. Collapsible tote bag

14. Stain remover

15. Tide in plastic bag to wash clothes at hotel

16. If checked bag, take out one month of American Express luggage insurance

17. Register with Secretary of State Smart Traveler Program for emergencies

18. International-ready ATM card (Find Bank of America sister foreign bank locations)

19. Double check TSA secure information on my airline profile.



Make sure flight is on time on iPhone! Name on everything!