Travel Tips -- Packing Checklist

A lot of the hassle of travel revolves around your suitcase.  Is it large enough to carry all of your "stuff?"  Is it too heavy for the airlines' weight limits?  Will it arrive at the other end?  Did all of the contents make it through the trip?

Welcome to our Ultimate Packing Checklist, where you'll find some of the best packing tips around.   

Two Weeks or More before Leaving
     Packing Checklist

  • Contact your health insurance provider to verify coverage if you are leaving the country.  If staying in the U.S., be sure you know how to access health care providers where you are going.  Be sure you understand the cost implications of increased deductibles, copays, out of network charges, etc.

  • Stop the newspaper and mail delivery, or arrange for friends and neighbors to pick them up for you.

  • For international travel, make two copies of your passport.  Give one to a trusted friend/neighbor/relative, and keep one at home.  If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, your friend can fax a copy of the passport to the U.S. Embassy.

Before You Begin to Pack
     Packing Checklist
Our packing tips begin with a few things you need to do several weeks prior to your trip.  Make a list of exactly what you want to pack.  This helps in a couple of areas -- first, your list will serve as a packing list later on, to be sure you don't forget anything..  And second, your packing list will help you organize your packing and eliminate a lot of "just in case" impulsive items.  Make sure you have the following items on hand:

  • One gallon or two gallon Ziploc bags -- see below.

  • Travel steamer -- steamers are used by the finest clothing stores to prepare their stock for sale.  Why shouldn't you look your best after your clothes have been squashed in your suitcase?

  • Folding travel hangers -- because those permanently attached hangers in hotel rooms will drive you nuts.

  • Backup supplies of toiletries -- you'll be packing your stuff in advance, not throwing it in your suitcase the day you are leaving.

  • Travel alarm clock -- nope, those wake up calls don't always work, do they?

  • Colored luggage strap for your suitcase (more on this below).

  • Luggage tags -- for the outside of your luggage, in one of the outside pockets, and also one for inside your luggage.  It's a good idea to have your business address and phone number on your luggage tags -- there is no need to advertise that you aren't at home. 

  • If you are going on a cruise, pack some extra clothes hangers.  Cruise ships never seem to have enough of these.

Ziploc Bags -- A Traveler's Friends
     Packing Checklist
Here's an inexpensive way to reduce the hassle and problems on your trip.  Buy a supply of one gallon and/or two gallon Ziploc bags.  Keep in mind that anything in a clear plastic bag is much easier for security personnel to examine.  You can also use them for the following:

  • Double bag all of your toiletries.  You can eliminate drips, spills, squirts, squishes, and all of the other little surprises of travel. 

  • Organize smaller items by grouping them together in a Ziploc bag.

  • Place dirty clothing/wet items inside Ziploc bags and just toss them in your suitcase.  You can also use the bags to shrink your dirty/wet clothing for repacking (see above).

A "Virtual You"
     Packing Checklist
Ever forgotten some important article of clothing?  Most people have.  Here's how to avoid it. 

  • Mentally dress yourself from head to toe in different outfits, and write down each article of clothing you're planning to wear.  This is sort of a mental checklist to be sure that all of the clothing you'll be wearing winds up in your suitcase. 

  • As you pack your suitcase, check off the items you have written down.

You're Ready to Begin
     Packing Checklist

Now you can put our packing tips to use.  Start your packing one or two days prior to leaving -- the night before at the latest.  Lay out all of your clothes and stuff and get ready to begin.

  • First, there are some things you should not try to pack, including:
    -- alcoholic beverages (flammable, can leak, may look suspicious)
    -- food or liquids (may look suspicious)
    -- fragile items -- no, you really can't make them safe
    -- anything alive (!)
    -- valuable items
    -- anything flammable -- cigarette lighters, nail polish remover, etc.
    -- knives, scissors
    -- unlabelled prescription drugs -- leave them in the pharmacy container, and if possible bring along a photocopy of your prescription

  • Now stand back and take a look at your suitcase.  Try to visualize how you carry it or push or pull it.  The bottom of the suitcase (that's the side closest to the ground) will be where all of the heavy stuff will fall to. 

  • Lay your suitcase down where it's comfortable for you to pack.  Keep in mind what you just figured out above -- put all of your heavy stuff in what will be the bottom of the suitcase when you are carrying it.  This is probably different from what you will read in other packing checklists, but it does make sense.

  • Now layer in the rest of your smaller items, working up from the bottom. 

  • Slide your toiletries into the middle of the suitcase, where they have the most padding (just in case).

  • Finally, lay your larger clothing (pants, jackets, coats) over the top of the pile of stuff you now have in your suitcase.  Fold pants over each other, fold coat sleeves and bodies, etc. 

The Final Touches
     Packing Checklist

  • Before you close the lid, put your personal identification on top of the pile of clothing, along with a copy of your itinerary or airline schedule.  If your outside tags are torn off, the airlines will open your luggage to locate information that helps them identify who owns your suitcase.

  • Close up your suitcase and zip it up.  Then, especially if you have a black roller-style suitcase like most of the rest of the world, run your colored luggage strap around the outside of the suitcase (inside the handle) and snug it down tightly.  Now you have a black suitcase with a red stripe, or a yellow stripe, etc.  It's much easier for you to identify as yours, and also much easier for other travelers to identify as not being their bag.  We can spot our luggage from 50 feet away when we walk into a baggage claim area.

  • Secure the zippers on your bags with cable ties (you can buy these in the electrical department of any home improvement store, like Home Depot or Lowes).  These have to be cut if someone wants to get in your luggage -- no problem at all for government security, but an instant tip-off to you that someone has been in your bag.  Don't use the cute little locks that came with your suitcases -- did you know that all of the keys to each style of lock are the same?  That's not good security for your belongings. Cable ties are also very useful for security if your hotel room is not ready at your destination, and you have to store your luggage with the bellman. 

How Much Does It Weigh?
     Packing Checklist

  • Airlines have become very stringent on overweight suitcases.  You will want to weigh you luggage prior to leaving home.  There are two ways to do this.  First, you can weigh yourself, then weigh yourself while holding your suitcase, and then subtract the two weights. The difference is the weight of your suitcase.  Another way is to balance your suitcase on your scale as best you can while looking at the readout of the weight. 

  • If your luggage is overweight, try this tip:  Take your heavy items and put them into a compact roller bag that is small enough to carry onto the plane. 

Stuff You Need to Include
     Packing Checklist

  • A copy of your passport in your carry-on luggage (i.e., not where you carry your passport).

  • Enough prescription drugs for an extra week (two weeks if traveling internationally).

  • Health insurance card/contact phone number for health insurance provider.






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