Travel Tip Tuesday : 7 Things Not to Pack in Checked Luggage

Even the Carry-on Queen can admit that it’s not always possible to travel without checking a bag.  Circumstances will arise, TSA rules will change and at some point you are bound to want to bring home that one-of-a-kind souvenir that just won’t make it into the tiny luggage you came with.

For the next few weeks, we will talk about some things that affect travelers who can’t take advantage of carry-on only and therefore must check their luggage.  We’ll be covering lost, stolen or damaged luggage and/or belongings and even how to prevent some of these things from happening.

It is no secret that airlines often lose or misplace luggage.  It has been happening more frequently, especially with delays, which shorten connection time.

Today I would like to talk about some things not to pack in your checked luggage, in the event that you can’t possibly fit everything in a carry-on. Some of these may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised what I read, see and hear.  And sometimes we can all use a little refresher, right?

1.  Fragile items. Have you seen secret video of how airport baggage handlers treat your bags? Well, it ain’t pretty. Or dainty. Trust me, if you spend good money on an Italian Ceramic Biscotti Jar and expect to enjoy looking at it for years to come on the top of your fridge, do yourself a favor and ship that baby home. And something else fragile…eyeglasses. If you can’t wear them, but need to bring them along, slip them in your purse or personal item.

2.  Prescription medications. You should always carry your medicine with you. Especially if you have high blood pressure. The way the airline industry is these days, you’re surely going to need it! I’d say pack a few Advil on your person too, just in case you have a screaming child and develop a headache, mid-flight. It’s also a good idea to travel with your written perscriptions…just in case.

3.  Your itinerary and documents. Passports, other ID, hotel and car rental confirmations, e-tickets, your written itinerary- it all belongs on your person. Do you really want to be standing in the middle of the airport with no bag, no passport and no idea at all where you should go or what to do next?

4.  Cash. C’mon. This seems like a given, yet some people in their infinite wisdom decide that they don’t want to be mugged with large sums of money on their person, so they feel it might be better to stuff it in their luggage instead? Seriously? These are the same people who don’t sign the back of their credit cards, leaving it blank so when they lose it a crook can pick it up, sign the back and charge away, no questions asked. If you are worried – don’t carry that much cash at all! That is what ATM’s are for.

5.  Jewelry. Aunt Sally’s expensive heirloom diamond ring or emerald necklace have no business being in your checked bag where any thief could see the bling and help themselves. If you absolutely have to have it, wear it. Or, if it’s that important to you, it’s best left behind, tucked safely away in its cushy velveteen box.

6.  Electronics. Laptops, cell-phones, expensive camera and video equipment don’t belong in checked bags.  I’d much rather these items be in my line of sight when security personnel decide to perform random checks on them. If left to be screened behind the scenes, chances are greater that you’ll never see the items again or they’ll be returned in several pieces.

7.  All of your undies. Save at least one pair and tuck them in your carry-on or personal item. If you are stranded with lost  luggage, at least you can rotate the two pair you have, assuming you wore a pair on the plane, until your bag arrives.

Don’t want to worry about checking luggage? Click here to see how I can help you convert to carry-on travel.

Check out My Bella Vita for more travel tips!

Photo Credit : Flickr

  • User Gravatar
    Jenn Belden
    January 12th, 2010

    I no longer pack perfume in my luggage. If the bottle is bigger than the 3oz rule allows, it stays home.

    I spent THREE days in Las Vegas (pregnant, mind you, suffering from “dog nose” i.e., very sensitive to odors), my clothes reeking of my husband’s cologne – which had broken in our well packed and padded checked bag.

    Did I mention that this particular cologne turned my stomach?

    I also only pack leakable things (shampoo, sunscreen) wrapped in a paper towel and then sealed in a ziplock bag.

  • User Gravatar
    January 12th, 2010

    I would’n pack my Dachshund, you crazy woman!

    Lovely reminder thank you :)

    .-= Eleonora´s last blog ..Peak performance and Birthday wishes =-.

  • User Gravatar
    Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
    January 12th, 2010

    Bottles of red wine. I guess this falls into the fragile category.

    And on that note, if you are going somewhere like Bordeaux for the weekend from London, take the train or drive. I wouldn’t trust a bottle of red wine in my checked luggage and liquid restrictions mean you can’t take it as carry-on. If you’re flying, you won’t be able to take home any bottles of the yummy wines you sample on your tours of the wineries.
    .-= Caitlin @ Roaming Tales´s last blog ..Nominate your favourite food and travel bloggies for the 2010 Bloggies =-.

  • User Gravatar
    January 12th, 2010

    Since packing a bottle of perfume isn’t a viable option and smelling nice when traveling is a nice for everyone involved :-), we now take a few 2″ x 2″ cosmetic wipes, spritz them with perfume and seal in a small plastic baggie. No mess, no extra weight. They’re perfect for rubbing on pulse points and the good smell lasts a surprisingly long time!
    Great article!

  • User Gravatar
    Trisha Miller
    January 12th, 2010

    Great list! The only thing I also make sure is in my carryon (IF I’m going to a tropical resort) is a bathing suit, sarong (or wrap) and a thin pair of flip-flops – that way if my checked luggage doesn’t make it, I can still lounge by the pool and eat at the grill or buffet until they show up.
    .-= Trisha Miller´s last blog ..Interview: Susan Farewell, Travel Writer and Author =-.

  • User Gravatar
    January 13th, 2010

    Anything heavy! There aren’t weight restrictions on carry on luggage (yet that I know of) so if I can carry it I will to avoid any luggage fees.

  • User Gravatar
    January 13th, 2010

    I actually bring 750mL bottles of craft beer or homebrew back with me with almost every trip. Though the girlfriend always worries about broken bottles, I very rarely do. My procedure it to have one bottle in one sock, then in a plastic bag, then in a less dense article of clothing like a sweater, then in another plastic bag. The key tips are always that glass breaks when it hits something, and that the suitcases should be able to close easily or the pressure of the contents will break the glass. So beer/wine bottles are something you should have caution with, but are not articles that you should never pack in checked luggage.

    I long for the days when I could just load a backpack up with bottles and carry them on.
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..BBA Challenge #27: Portuguese Sweet Bread =-.

  • User Gravatar
    January 13th, 2010

    Excellent suggestions, Robin, and the comments are smart, too. The only ting I would add is to pack one extra outfit (something that you can crush and won’t wrinkle). Extra underwear is essential, but it’s sure nice to have a change of clothes if your bag goes astray.

  • User Gravatar
    January 13th, 2010

    Perhaps this falls into the category of meds, but I’ve learned the hard way not to pack my contact lenses in my checked bag. I usually wear my glasses en route, especially on long flights, and sometimes my contacts find their way into my toiletries bag. But if you’re caught on the ground with lost luggage, it’s no fun to have to wander around without being able to wear sunglasses! For the same reason I always like to have my toothbrush handy; although this is an easily replaceable item, it’s nice to have one nearby when needed!
    .-= Sonia´s last blog ..WanderFood Wednesday: a few of my favorite things, part one =-.

  • User Gravatar
    Mary Jo
    January 16th, 2010

    I’d add perishables and keys to the list. You can find my reasoning for why I wouldn’t pack certain things here:


    Although. . . I have checked wine in my bag, wrapped and buffered in the bag, and have never had a problem.

  • User Gravatar
    June 7th, 2011

    These are all good tips, but I’ll admit that we’ve taken our chances and successfully packed red wine (lots and lots of bubble wrap, mind you), small ceramics (anything larger than a dinner plate gets shipped), and venetian plastering supplies (I shudder to think of even attempting to put trowels in a carry on bag). Nevertheless, I’d second this post – better safe than sorry!

    I’m so glad that you have been lucky so far Donna! :)

  • User Gravatar
    Jeff Titelius
    November 9th, 2011

    This is a great list to keep handy when traveling! Sometimes you think you don’t need to carry it on, but like you said above, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Thanks Jeff! It’s true – you just never know when it may come in handy ;)

  • User Gravatar
    November 21st, 2011

    I agree with Daniel regarding of packing of wines/bottles. Socks are great shock absorbers, and when followed with other padding and plastic bags, our bottles have fared much better than those “professionally” wrapped. When traveling with young children, we also used extra diapers and plastic bags.

    Another good place for smaller breakable bottles (hot sauce, etc) is inside shoes.

    Thanks for the tips Jonene. I just arrived home with olive oil strategically wrapped in my suitcase, wrapped around clothes and it survived. However, someone not so lucky on my plane had her bottle of limoncello break in the suitcase. So, I think it’s hit and miss. I do like the diaper idea! :)

  • User Gravatar
    September 24th, 2012

    I actually agree with Daniel. My last trip I brought a bottle of champagne home and as long as you wrap it up right it should be just fine. Another big note on that is to make sure to pack it away from the edges of course and to pack it away from the poles that the handle goes into. Right in the middle facing from top to bottom works best!

    Cheers Kali! :) Glad it worked out for you.
    Kali recently posted..7 Alaskan Experiences to Write Home AboutMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    November 4th, 2012

    @ Caitlin,

    I have brought wine and beer with me as checked in luggage countless of times and nothing has ever happend. Wrap it in a few layers of clothing against bumping and there is no way it’ll break. Try put pressure on a bottle (evenly distributed) and see if you can make it break. ;)

  • User Gravatar
    November 11th, 2012

    I’m happy that you’ve had success with that Mill!

Who Linked To This Post?

  1. Prevent Lost, Stolen or Damaged Luggage | My Melange
  2. What to check and what to carry? | Chateau Colombier

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