Packing Security

The 5 Worst Packing Problems and How to Solve Them

When it comes to packing, a small mistake like putting a seemingly innocuous but prohibited item (like a too-large bottle of shampoo) in your carry-on bag can snowball into a messy chain of events. Fortunately, travelers faced with such packing problems have options. Whether you’re dealing with a confiscated item in the security line, a surplus of souvenirs, a nasty spill, or a broken bag, a bit of packing emergency know-how can mean the difference between a disaster and a worry-free getaway. Here are tips on creatively problem-solving some of the most common travel packing problems.

Packing Problem #1: Airport Security Confiscates Your Prized Possession

A TSA agent searches luggage at an airport.

If a security officer finds your five-ounce bottle of designer perfume and removes it from your carry-on bag, is it lost forever? Not necessarily.

I don’t recommend arguing with a TSA officer over something easily replaceable such as a jumbo-size tube of toothpaste, but if they confiscate something that has value to you, politely ask if you can take the item away from the checkpoint. If you’re lucky and the officer says yes, here are your options:

  • If you’re certain you have plenty of time before your flight takes off, you can go back to your airline’s check-in counter and either check your carry-on bag or ask to have the prohibited item placed in your checked luggage. Keep in mind that you will have to wait in line at the check-in counter and at the security checkpoint all over again, so you may need an extra hour or two before your flight is scheduled to depart. There is no guarantee that the airline staff will be able to help you out, so don’t return to the check-in counter unless you have time to spare; otherwise, you may risk missing your flight for nothing.
  • If you haven’t checked a bag and you drove to the airport, take your item to the parking lot and place it in your car. Again, be very aware of how much time you have, especially if you’ve parked in a lot that is a lengthy walk or ride away from the airport. You will have to wait in the security line all over again.
  • Did someone drop you off at the airport? If he or she is a very good friend (or someone who owes you a favor), give that person a call and ask them to turn the car around. Promise to bring your helpful friend a souvenir from your trip.

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Packing Problem #2: Too Many Souvenirs

Woman traveler choose souvenirs in the market at Ubud in Bali, Indonesia

Many travelers forget to save a little extra space in their suitcase for souvenirs. Others only travel with a carry-on, which means that some souvenirs (think liquid toiletries, jams, or spirits) may be prohibited past the airport security checkpoint. With no room in your bag for anything larger than a postcard of Tuscany and only a carry-on in which to cart two weeks’ worth of clothing, how do you squeeze in those bottles of pricey Italian Brunello di Montalcino you picked up while wine tasting in Tuscany?

Many travelers ship souvenirs back home—especially large or fragile things like handmade Moroccan rugs or Waterford crystal. A reputable shop that caters largely to tourists (and sells big and expensive items like furniture) will likely ship your goods back home right from the store. However, without shipping insurance or a tracking number, you have little control over the fate of your purchase.

A second option is to mail the item yourself. I recommend using major international shipping companies like UPS and FedEx as opposed to a local post office because overseas postal services may be unreliable and/or very slow. Be sure to get your shipment insured and write down a tracking number.

Your third, probably cheapest option is to pack a foldable bag that takes up little room in your suitcase. A soft duffel or zippered tote bag will work. If you end up with a mass of bulky souvenirs, you can unfold the extra bag and check it at the airport. Although you may end up paying a checked bag fee for an extra piece of luggage, this might be a more economical way to cart your souvenirs home than paying for international shipping, which is not cheap. Wrap some T-shirts or sweaters around any breakable items.

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Packing Problem #3: You Left (Insert Essential Item) at Home

man sitting on floor at airport with open luggage lost item

As you’re pulling up to the airport, it hits you: You’ve forgotten your cell phone charger, raincoat, guidebook, wallet, or some other item that you need on your trip. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath. Have you forgotten an item of clothing or an electronic device? It’s time to think positive and maybe even treat yourself to something new at an airport shop, or plan ahead to pick up a replacement on your travels. Or make the brave choice and go on without your favorite possession.

I probably don’t need to tell you to turn the car around the second you realize that you don’t have your wallet or passport. But if you’ve arrived at the airport with only a few hours before your flight (not enough time to get home and back), and you’re without proper identification, you have a problem. If you’re traveling domestically, you may still be able to board your flight, though you’ll need to take additional steps to get through security and there’s no guarantee of success. If you’re traveling to any international destination, there is no way you’re getting on a plane without a passport.

But if you do miss your flight, you still have a chance to save your vacation. First, go to your airline’s check-in desk and try to get on the next flight. If you’re already on your way home, pull the car over and call your airline. Airlines’ policies on missed or canceled flights vary, so you may find a sympathetic ear or you may end up paying full price for a new ticket.

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Packing Problem #4: Your Luggage Breaks

Broken traveling luggage at the airport

I’ve never seen a suitcase fail in the middle of the airport, although I’ve often envisioned this scenario after stuffing my rectangular bag so tightly that it ends up in the shape of a ball. With wear, tear, and overpacking, though, broken zippers do happen, and broken suitcase zippers may or may not produce a gaping hole with your underwear hanging out. Are you no longer carrying a suitable suitcase while traveling? Here’s what you do:

Proper preparation is the best way to handle this situation; duct tape should be at the top of your must-pack list. But if you forgot your trusty tape and your bag has a gaping hole, you’re going to need to find some tape, STAT. Whether you’re at the airport or you’ve already arrived at your destination, search for a shop, find help at your airline check-in counter, talk to your hotel concierge, or even ask around to see if any fellow travelers have some duct tape to spare (someone will, trust me).

A broken bag is the perfect opportunity to use those arts-and-crafts skills you learned in grade school. Is your zipper tab broken? Hook a paper clip through what’s left of the zipper (ask any store cashier for a paper clip if you don’t have one). If the situation is dire and your bag is non-functional, ask a store employee for some plastic bags in which to pack your things until you can get to a store that sells luggage.

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Packing Problem #5: Something Spills All Over Your Stuff

toiletry bag cosmetics in luggage

If you neglect to pack your liquid items in plastic bags, the rough-and-tumble ride from check-in counter to baggage claim may result in punctured plastic containers or broken bottles.

Is your favorite cashmere sweater slathered with costly face cream? Stay calm. Your clothes may or may not be ruined, depending on what has spilled and how long it’s had to set in. Heat sets many types of stains, so don’t dry your damaged clothes with a hair dryer or use hot water on them. If possible, bring your clothes to a professional cleaner. Or, if you’re staying at a hotel that offers laundry service, ask the staff to clean off your clothes. You may have to purchase one or two new items so that you don’t go naked while your clothes are being cleaned (reframe: it’s an excuse to shop).

Travelers who are in developing countries or places where there are no dry cleaners should roll up their sleeves and get to work. If you’ve brought along your favorite travel-size stain remover (which should be a toiletry bag staple, starting now), use it as your first step. Don’t have access to a stain remover product or detergent? First, flush the stain with cold water. Dab, don’t rub, so that the stain doesn’t spread. Dab stains with white vinegar, a great natural stain remover, or use dishwashing soap diluted with water, which effectively removes most stains (ask the hotel kitchen staff if you may borrow some vinegar or dishwashing liquid).

Before you submerge any stained item in a basin of water, press a towel against the stain to make sure that it doesn’t easily come up; if it does, it could color the water and stain more of the fabric. Dry sweaters and delicate pieces by rolling them in clean towels and then hanging them on hangers or the shower curtain bar.

Travelling? Consider some of these carry-on options:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Booking Strategy

The Airline Most Likely to Lose Your Bag

There may not be a more disheartening experience than showing up to your destination, heading down to the baggage claim, and waiting, waiting, waiting … until the crowd thins, the barren carousel whirrs softly to a halt, and your bag is nowhere to be seen. Reality hits: The airline lost your bag. And instead of shuttling to your resort and hitting the pool, you’re off to customer service not knowing if you’ll ever see that new bathing suit again.

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The truth is, lost baggage is a relatively rare occurrence. Collectively, airlines “mishandled” 4.68 bags for every 1,000 passengers in November 2019, the most recent month for which data is available. That’s not a lot. But the impact of those lost bags on travelers can be significant. Beyond a missing bathing suit, checked bags can include important medical equipment, materials for a business trip, or other valuable items. (It should be said, we generally advise against packing anything valuable in your checked bag for this exact reason.)

The Worst Airlines for Lost Luggage

All that said, some airlines are better than others at transporting your baggage from point A to point B. took a look at this BTS data over a year, and ranked airlines based on their lost luggage performance. The full rankings are here (along with rankings for other performance metrics) but there are some interesting highlights:

When you  look at the worst airlines for lost luggage relative to their size (the rate at which they lost luggage), four of the five worst performers were smaller regional carriers: Envoy Air, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airways, and PSA Airlines. The other airline in the bottom five was American, and United came in sixth.

The airline with the most mishandled bags overall is Southwest, with a  lost luggage figure of over 40,000 during this time period. However, Southwest’s rate of mishandled bags was pretty average due to the fact that Southwest also operates more flights than anyone else on the list.

The airline with the fewest mishandled bags was Allegiant, with Frontier, Hawaiian, Alaska, and Delta rounding up the top five best performers.

Readers, has an airline ever lost your bag? Share your story in the comments below.

Traveling? Consider These Carry-On Options

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Airport Health & Wellness In-Flight Experience Money Packing

The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling Abroad

Traveling internationally is an adventure best planned ahead of time, and not just when it comes to booking flights and packing. Sure, showing up at your gate sans passport or forgetting melatonin for your red-eye flight can put a damper on your long-awaited escape, but most of your preparation should be dedicated to ensuring health, safety, and financial necessities are covered. To save you some prep time, I’ve compiled this international travel checklist for your next long-distance journey.

Focus on Safety First

One of the easiest and most important items on an overseas travel checklist is also arguably the most ignored. Travel insurance and State Department alerts can be incredibly important in emergencies abroad, but many tourists bet they won’t become part of the small percentage of travelers who require evacuation assistance or protection from hotel or flight cancellations.

Subscribing to the State Department’s STEP alerts for your destination can help you stay up to date on upcoming and current travel restrictions, strikes, and areas of political unrest. Any alerts you receive will let you know whether or not to plan for some unexpected obstacles in advance.

Travel insurance can cost as little as a few dollars per travel day and cover anything from replacing a broken camera to emergency medical attention, potentially saving you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars.

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Get Your Travel Documents and Credit Cards in Order

Make sure your passport and any necessary travel visas are up to date. Some countries require a passport to be valid for at least six months after your scheduled return, so make sure you won’t be turned away or delayed at customs because of an old passport. Not sure if you need a visa? See this list of every country that requires a visa for Americans.

Keep physical and digital copies of your passport and all your paperwork in case anything is lost, and give copies as well as your itinerary and contact numbers to family and friends whom you can contact in case of an emergency.

Notify your bank and credit card companies about your travel dates so they don’t deny your purchases, and ask about international ATM fees so you can find out which ones won’t charge you. It’s always a good idea to bring multiple cards in case one stops working.

Don’t underestimate how helpful a cell phone photo of your passport can be. Whether you have to go to the consulate and report it lost, or are just filling out a customs card and need your passport number, it will likely come in handy. Email the image to yourself to have an extra digital copy in case your phone runs out of batteries or goes missing. You may also want to bring a spare copy of your passport photo on your trip; having it handy will speed the processing of a new document.

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Get Vaccinated

It’s best to get the necessary vaccinations out of the way as soon as possible since it can take a few weeks to build full immunity. Some also require multiple doses, which may need to be administered over days, weeks, or even months. Talk to your doctor about getting the CDC-recommended shots, as the protocol for vaccines varies by country. For example, dozens of countries require proof of a yellow fever vaccination if you’ve been to at-risk areas. A travel clinic can help you sort out which vaccinations and medications you might need.

Keep your vaccination certificate in your carry-on in case customs requires you to present it when entering the country.

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Study Up on Your Destination

Whether you’re a travel app connoisseur or more of a paperback guidebook person, having some source of knowledge about your destination is invaluable. Read about the region you’re traveling to in advance to gain insight into important information such as currency exchange rates, useful phrases, tipping norms, appropriate clothing, and cultural/legal customs. It’s best to be prepared so you don’t land yourself in a compromising situation.

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Make Sure Your Home Is Cared For

There’s nothing worse than realizing once you’re six time zones away that you forgot to stop your mail delivery or ask someone to water your expertly cultivated house plants. Make sure your daily tasks are covered before you leave, or appoint a trusty friend to do them for you.

You can find a house or pet sitter to do your chores if you’re willing to list your home on Plus, you could find lodging through the site for your trip abroad if you’re willing to spend some time with someone else’s furry friends.

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Stay Connected

Want to stay in touch while traveling abroad? If you haven’t taken your phone overseas before, call your mobile provider to make sure it will work in the country you’re visiting and to ask about international phone plans that might be available. If your carrier’s plans are expensive, a mobile hotspot can be a cost-effective alternative.

Download the Necessities

Sometimes the most important thing you’ll pack is in your smartphone rather than your suitcase. Offline maps are your best friend when it comes to traveling with limited data or battery. You can find Wi-Fi in many places, but downloading offline maps through Google Maps or CityMaps2Go will allow you to follow your GPS without using up battery life and roaming data.

Downloading in-flight entertainment could also save you if your TV malfunctions on the long-haul flight. Streaming won’t be available without consistent in-flight Wi-Fi (which you shouldn’t ever depend on) but you can pre-download movies and TV shows through Amazon Prime, and music streaming service Spotify allows paying users to download tracks for offline use with the press of a button.

Don’t forget a portable backup charger. Watching hours of your favorite TV show is sure to drain your battery life, and there’s nothing worse than finally finding a Wi-Fi spot only to have your phone die.

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Pack These Essentials

While the contents of your checked bag will largely depend on the climate you’re visiting, you’ll want most of your trip’s essentials on hand in your carry-on. Start with this international travel checklist of items to pack:

For more ideas, see this international packing list.

Consider taking photos of your packed suitcase (both inside and out) in case it gets lost. That way, airline employees will know what to look for, and you’ll know what was inside in case you don’t get it back and need to file a claim.

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What’s on your international travel checklist? Share your tips in the comments below.

Pin the Checklist for International Travel

Good Walking Shoes for International Travel

For Women:

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For Men:

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Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.


Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide

No more free snacks? Paying for a boarding pass? $200 for a bag?

Airline fees keep increasing, and even industry darling JetBlue has added additional charges for checked bags.

Need to know which services will be free and which ones you’ll have to shell out for? Luckily, with our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees, you’ll find a one-stop reference chart for every major airline fee from every major domestic carrier. We update this chart frequently to add new fees and prices.

Best of all, you can download the airline fees chart in PDF format at no charge. Because unlike the airlines, we don’t make you pay for things that ought to be free.

Click on the image below for the Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees.

Free Download: Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees

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Editor’s note: The fees chart was updated in January 2019.

Airport Budget Travel Entertainment Fashion & Beauty In-Flight Experience Luxury Travel Money Packing Security

8 Travel Luxuries Even Cheap People Should Splurge On

I’m not ashamed to admit it. When it comes to travel—and life in general—I’m cheap. I drive a 10-year-old Corolla (which I bought used), I’ve never even considered paying for an airline upgrade, and I’ve been using the same, somewhat battered toiletry bag for nearly 20 years. After all, the more frugal I am, the more travel I can afford. But I’m old enough to have discovered a few travel luxuries that I am willing to spend my hard-earned money on.

Which Travel Luxuries Are Worth Paying For?

[st_content_ad]Every traveler has their own priorities and their own idea of which “travel luxuries” are worthwhile. For some, that might be spa visits or hotel upgrades. For me, the most important travel luxuries are those that keep me comfortable, ensure that my vacation goes smoothly, and preserve my trip memories for years to come.

A Good Carry-on

eagle creek expanse carry-on.

When the handle of my last carry-on, which I purchased for less than $40, stopped retracting after only a couple of years of use, I decided it was finally time for an upgrade. I generally don’t check a bag, so my carry-on has to be roomy enough to hold everything I’m bringing on my trip and sturdy enough to get me through multiple flights a year. This time I’ve invested in the Eagle Creek Expanse, which is made with high-quality materials and has a lifetime warranty.

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Nonstop Flights

girl with glasses staring out plane window.

Am I willing to shell out an extra $1,000 to fly in business class? No way. But if I have a choice between a connecting flight or a nonstop, I’ll pay an extra hundred or two to get where I’m going more efficiently. Airport connections add stress and uncertainty to a trip, and I’d rather spend the extra time exploring a new place.

High-Quality Hiking Boots

hiking boots in front of mountain and lake.

It doesn’t matter how stunning a landscape you’re hiking through; if your feet hurt, you’re not going to enjoy it. High-quality hiking boots are pricey, but they’re also built to last. Look for options with good arch support and a waterproof coating; I prefer a higher-cut boot that supports my ankles as well.

Reliable brands include Vasque and Timberland, but it’s worth shopping around and test-driving multiple boots to find the one that works best for your feet.

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Global Entry

TSA precheck line at Reagan airport.

Several years ago, a U.S. immigration official asked me what I did for a living as he was checking my passport. When I told him I was a travel writer, he raised his eyebrows.”Why don’t you have Global Entry?” he asked. Why, indeed?

A year later I enrolled in the program, and now every time I step into an expedited security lane or bypass a snaking immigration line after a long international flight, I consider it the best $100 I ever spent. (Membership lasts five years.) Even better, some travelers may be able to get Global Entry for free.

Waterproof Clothing

woman in waterproof clothes standing by waterfall.

It only takes one rainy hike in New Zealand (or Ireland, or Alaska…) to learn the difference between clothes that are water-resistant and those that are waterproof. Water-resistant clothes are fine if you’re dashing between buildings on a drizzly day—but not so much if you’re doing extended outdoor activities like hiking or biking in a climate prone to downpours.

As the old saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Stock up on waterproof pants and jackets before such trips.

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A Beautiful Travel Journal

paperblank lined journal.

Documenting the day’s experiences each night at my hotel is as vital a part of a vacation to me as trying new foods and exploring neighborhoods on foot. While I could easily scribble my thoughts in a two-dollar notebook from Target, my travel memories are precious, and I’d rather have them preserved in a more attractive place—like these gorgeous journals from Paperblanks.

A Versatile Coat

columbia bugaboo interchange jacket.

Unless you make every vacation a beach vacation, you’re going to need a good coat when you’re out exploring. I prefer investing in versatile jackets with multiple layers you can customize to suit the day’s weather. Examples include Columbia’s Whirlibird IV Insulated Interchange for men and the Bugaboo II Fleece Interchange for women. Both have a lightweight waterproof outer shell as well as a warm and cozy liner. You can combine them for maximum warmth or wear the shell or liner on its own.

While these coats aren’t cheap, the price is easier to stomach when you remind yourself that you’re basically getting three jackets in one.

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Photo Books

family photo book from shutterfly

It’s all too easy to share a few snaps from your trip on Instagram and then leave the rest of your travel photos to linger, unorganized and neglected, on your phone or computer for years on end. But as with my journals, I prefer to spend a little money to preserve my travel memories in a more visually appealing way.

After every trip, I create a photo book with Shutterfly. The service lets you customize photo layouts, backgrounds, cropping, and more. Other popular photo book providers include Snapfish and Blurb.

Which travel luxuries are most important to you?

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Airport Booking Strategy Packing

Should You Check or Ship Your Suitcase?

If you’re like most travelers, you’ve probably never considered shipping your luggage ahead of you instead of bringing it with you on a trip. Sure, over the holidays you might mail a few gifts to your destination to avoid having the TSA root through your suitcase and ruin your perfect wrapping job, but otherwise, it probably seems more practical, convenient, and economical to check your bags with your airline. But is this still the case? Have you ever wondered if luggage shipping is a better solution?

[st_content_ad]Most major U.S. airlines charge travelers to check a first or second bag on domestic and even some international flights—though few will guarantee that your bag will actually make it where it’s going on time. (If you thought luggage delays were frustrating before, imagine how you’ll feel if your airline loses a bag you paid $30 to check.)

Ultra-budget carriers Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant have added fees for carry-on bags as well. And no matter which airline you’re flying, if your bag is overweight, be prepared to shell out $50 or more in penalties on top of whatever fees you’re already paying for the privilege of checking that bag.

In light of these changes, shipping suitcases may suddenly look like a more attractive alternative. While it’s still generally more expensive to ship a suitcase than to check it, the latest airline fees have narrowed the cost differential—and what you gain in convenience and reliability may be worth paying a few extra bucks.

Note that luggage shipping isn’t the simplest process beyond drop-off and pick-up: Standard service can take several business days in transit, and anyone who’s had issues with FedEx or UPS delivery might be skeptical. You could try to minimize the timing issue by shipping in advance of your trip so that your stuff is there when you arrive. And you might worry less about whether it takes a few days when you’re shipping home, since you’ll be arriving to all the comforts of home and can usually keep what items you truly need (toiletries, meds, etc.) with you in transit.

But with bag fees now at $30 on most lines, shipping it for about the same cost avoids the aggravation of checking your bag on an airline, especially if you have a short connection or you hate waiting for your stuff at a luggage carousel. Shipping companies have pretty good tracking programs that let you make sure your bag is going where it’s supposed to, which provides peace of mind.

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To help you “weigh” your options, we’ve outlined the pros, cons, and costs of checking bags versus shipping them. We’ve included information on standard delivery services (such as UPS and FedEx) as well as specialty luggage handlers like Luggage Forward and Luggage Concierge.

One important note: Shipping is generally not an economical option if you’re flying overseas. Many airlines still allow travelers to check at least one bag for free on international flights, and shipping a bag outside the United States can cost almost as much as your airfare. The information below is geared toward domestic travelers.

In Addition to Your Carry-On…

The Essential Overnight Bag from Madewell

When we travel, we want to maximize our packing storage, so why not opt-in for this beautifully affordable duffel from Madewell?

Checking Bags

Who: All major airlines

Price: This varies by airline. On domestic flights, most airlines charge passengers to check a single bag. These airlines include American, United, Delta, JetBlue, and Spirit, all of which charge anywhere from $25 to $100 each way for the first bag you wish to check. (You will sometimes pay less if you prepay the fee online at the airline’s website.) Southwest continues to allow passengers to check one bag free of charge.

Beyond that first bag, you’ll have to pay a fee on every airline except Southwest. The fee varies from $35 to $50 each way depending on airline, itinerary, and whether you check your bag at the airport or online.

Spirit’s carry-on fee applies to any bag that won’t fit under the seat in front of you and ranges from $22 to $100 depending on whether you’re a member of its $9 Fare Club and whether you pay the fee online, over the phone, at check-in, or at the gate. Allegiant charges $10 to $75 for carry-ons, depending on the circumstances, while Frontier charges $30 to $60.

In most cases checked bag fees do not apply to elite flyers, passengers who have paid full fare on a particular route, and travelers flying to some international destinations. Check your airline’s baggage policy for exact terms and conditions.


  • Despite the fees, checking your bags is usually still the cheapest option for travelers bringing only one or two pieces of luggage.
  • If you are a last-minute packer, checking bags is convenient since you don’t need to make advance arrangements for dropping off your bag or having it picked up.
  • When the system works properly, your luggage departs and arrives at the same time you do, no matter what time or day of the week it is.


  • Even if you pay a fee to check a bag, there’s no guarantee that the airline won’t lose or mishandle your luggage.
  • You’ll have to wait in line to check your bags before your flight, and then wait again at the baggage carousel after you arrive.
  • Schlepping your own bags to and from the airport can be tiring, and it’s less convenient than having a luggage shipping service do all the work for you.
  • If your bags are overweight or you’re checking more than two items, you could pay dearly in airline penalties—making shipping a more economical option.

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Standard Delivery Services

Who: FedEx, UPS, DHL, the United States Postal Service, and other all-purpose shipping companies

Price: How much does it cost to ship a suitcase? The cost varies widely based on the size and weight of your bag, the distance it needs to travel, and the speed of service that you select. Consider FedEx luggage shipping. To send a 40-pound suitcase from New York to Chicago in two business days, FedEx quoted $49.70. Want it there overnight? The price skyrockets to $311.45.

Raise the weight of the bag to 55 pounds and FedEx charges $61.73 for two-day delivery—which could be less than the penalties you’ll pay for exceeding your airline’s weight limit. (For example, Delta charges $100 for bags weighing between 51 and 70 pounds.)


  • These services are quite reliable and will give you a tracking number so you can keep tabs on the whereabouts of your bag.
  • They’re generally less expensive than specialized luggage shipping services, and (as in the example above) could be more economical than checking a bag with your airline under certain circumstances.
  • Shipping your bags ahead of time allows you to skip check-in lines and waiting around at baggage claim.


  • UPS, FedEx, and the like do not offer as much personal service as the smaller luggage shipping companies.
  • You may need to drop your bag off at a designated shipping location or arrange for a special pick-up several days before your trip.
  • Service may only be available on business days.
  • In most cases, shipping your bags will be pricier than checking them with your airline.

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Get a Carry-on or Suitcase That Does More

The Bigger Carry-On from Away

Three words: lightweight, durable, and multi-functional. The Carry-On from Away makes traveling that much easier, especially with its removable, TSA-approved battery for your electronics.

Luggage Shipping Companies

Who: Luggage Forward, Luggage Concierge, Luggage Free, LugLess, and others

Price: Luggage Forward charges $99 for a small bag (25 pounds) or $139 for a standard bag (50 pounds) for shipping within the U.S. in three business days. To get a 25-pound bag from New York to Chicago, Luggage Free estimated a rate of $74.99 for for a carry-on-sized bag. Rates go up from there based on the weight of the bag, shipping speed, and pickup and delivery specifics. It offers an on-time delivery guarantee. (Additional fees apply for Saturday delivery and/or assistance with packaging and labeling your suitcase.)

The LugLess estimate to get one carry-on bag (under 25 pounds) from Philadelphia to New York was $24.99 for three-day delivery. Compare that with the $99 that its owner and market leader Luggage Forward would charge, and LugLess seems like the cheapest way to ship luggage domestically. It’s cheaper than the standard $30 airline baggage fee as well. (Note: LugLess does not operate worldwide, so you’ll have to choose another service for shipping outside the U.S.)

LugLess works by sending your bag with UPS or FedEx, depending on which is offering the best price. For the minimum cost you’ll have to bring your bag to a drop-off center. Having it picked up at your house, office, or hotel may cost more.


  • Because these companies are fairly small, you’ll get a lot of personal attention. If your itinerary changes, an agent will handle the details of rerouting your luggage.
  • These companies are experienced at dealing with luggage in all shapes and sizes, including skis, surf boards, golf clubs, bicycles, and monster-sized bags.
  • The luggage shipping services generally guarantee that your bags will arrive on time and unscathed—which is more than you can expect from an airline.
  • As with the standard shipping companies, using these luggage shipping companies will allow you to bypass check-in lines and baggage carousels. Instead, your luggage will be waiting for you at your hotel when you arrive.
  • For parents juggling kids, car seats, strollers, diaper bags, and such, not having the additional burden of suitcases is a great relief.
  • You can go online and get an immediate quote. You can see how fees change based on luggage weight, destination, and shipping speed and see what works best for your travel plans.


  • Personalized service comes at a price. These companies are usually the most expensive option.
  • Like the standard delivery companies, these agencies typically do not deliver on weekends (though some Saturday services may be available).
  • You’ll need to plan ahead enough to pack early and arrange for a pick-up time before you leave for your trip.

Would you rather skip the hassle altogether by simply packing lighter? See A Traveler’s Guide to Minimalist Packing and Ultralight Travel: How to Pack Light Every Time.

Our Favorite Travel Items

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ed Perkins, Carl Unger, and Michele Sponagle contributed to this story.

Fashion & Beauty

The 5 Best Sling Bags for Every Type of Traveler

The sling bag is a popular bag style that goes by many names— it’s sometimes referred to as a belt bag, sling bag, or even a fanny pack. Here are five sling-bag styles that are equal parts stylish and functional.[st_content_ad]

5 Sling Bags for Travelers Under $100

These five sling bags for men and women are not only affordable, but are also on trend and extra useful for travelers needing quick access to their essentials.

Aer Sling Bag 2

Aer sling bag in black. 

As one of the larger sling bags on the list, you could use Aer’s Sling Bag 2 as a personal item or an everyday bag. With a separate compartment for shoes and clothes, you can easily pack a change of clothes. Plus, a dedicated electronics sleeve protects your gear on travel days.

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Lululemon on the Beat Belt Bag

lululemon on the belt bag.

This unisex lightweight bag from Lululemon is versatile enough that it can be used both for athletic endeavors and travel adventures. The bag is convertible and can be worn three ways: over the shoulder, around the waist, or cross-body. I love the dual front and back pockets for easy access.

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack

Dagne dover ace fanny pack.

The most appealing features of this sling bag are the organizational details. Dagne Dover’s Ace Fanny Pack has two stash pockets to keep your cards safe and secure as well as a front zipper pocket and key clip. The water-resistant neoprene fabric is particularly useful for travelers heading to rainy places.

Baboon Fanny Pack

Baboon sling bag blue.

Cult-favorite travel bag brand Baboon makes a stylish and functional sling bag for men and women. The Fannypack style has a water-repellent coating on the nylon fabric and plenty of pockets. High-quality materials, a hidden back pocket, and durable zippers make this sling bag a winner.

[st_related]9 Fashionable Fanny Packs Perfect for Travel[/st_related]

Osprey Packs Daylite Shoulder Sling Bag

Osprey packs daylite shoulder sling.

The Osprey Daylite Sling bag has organizational pockets that fit a camera, light layer or scarf, water bottle (either clipped or inside), as well as daily essentials. Plus, the strap’s mesh material doesn’t cause you to overheat, even in humid climates. It’s comfortable, due to the anatomically-shaped shoulder strap, and the pockets are easily accessible. I’ve used this bag for over a year now and can attest to its usefulness and versatility. It’s the ideal sling bag for a day of hiking or an active vacation. Read more of my full review here.


More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Fashion & Beauty Packing

Top 10 Items from Oprah’s Favorite Things List (Plus a Tip for Even More Discounts)

Use Oprah’s Favorite Things list as a cheat sheet so you can be done with your “nice list” holiday shopping in a flash. Items suggested by the beloved icon are sure to sell out, so be sure to buy goods before all that’s left to give is coal.

Oprah’s Favorite Things, in its entirety, can be seen here. Here are 10 of our travel-friendly favorites.

Sorel Women’s Out ‘N About Puffy Insulated Winter Sneaker Boot


Modernize the Napoleon Dynamite moon boot look with the Oprah-approved Sorel Women’s Out ‘N About Puffy Insulated Winter Sneaker Boot. You have to be willing to own your own funky style to rock these; but if you do, you’ll be treated to a brand I trust to make footwear with all-day comfort, warmth, and a whole lotta style.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Sorel Women’s Out ‘N About Puffy Insulated Winter Sneaker Boot

“Part sneaker, part down coat, these waterproof nylon boots (with microfleece lining!) are so cozy and functional, they might be the ultimate foul-weather shoe.”

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Sony SRS-XB12 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker


Wherever your travels take you, there too should go your tunes. Keep the party going with the waterproof Sony SRS-XB12 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker. With enough battery life for 16-plus hours, this Bluetooth speaker still manages to be small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Sony SRS-XB12 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker

“They can withstand being submerged for up to 30 minutes!”

Brouk and Co. Duo Travel Organizer for Cosmetics and Jewelry


A toiletry bag and jewelry case in one, the Brouk and Co. Duo Travel Organizer offers an expansive compartment for toiletries, plus has a separate zippered section below.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Brouk and Co. Duo Travel Organizer for Cosmetics and Jewelry

“These ingenious toiletry bags […] make jam-packed suitcases a little less chaotic, one vegan leather pouch at a time.”

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@Jewelchic by House VIP DW-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

jewelchic by house water bottle.

Save some cash and reduce plastic waste by packing a water bottle in your carry-on. This is a good option, as it’s constructed with food-grade stainless steel, so it easily withstands everyday wear and tear.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the @Jewelchic by House VIP DW-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Proceeds support efforts to give children in Zimbabwe access to quality education.”

CALPAK Luka Duffel Bag


Minimalists can avoid paying bag fees by packing it all in a single carry-on. The Calpak Luka Duffel Bag is water-resistant, versatile thanks to over-the-shoulder straps, and as Oprah details below, it even has a separate compartment for shoes.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the CALPAK Luka Duffel Bag

“The duffels—which attach to the luggage—have a shoe compartment, so your hiking boots won’t track mud on your clean blouses.”

Powerbeats Pro

powerbeats pro.

Wireless is the way to go, and it’s worth paying a little more for better-quality earbuds like the Powerbeats Pro. The charge will keep your audio going for nine hours. But keep the charging case nearby and you’ll get another 15-plus  hours.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Powerbeats Pro

“Sweat- and water-resistant earbuds are the perfect workout partners.”

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Intelex Cozy Body Slippers


The Intelex Cozy Body Slippers were cleverly designed with dried grains and lavender stuffing, so they can treat toes with hot (read below for Oprah’s toasty trick) or cold (pop them in the freezer) therapy.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Intelex Cozy Body Slippers

“Pop ’em in the microwave for 60 seconds (seriously), and you’ll have warm, happy feet for up to an hour!”

The Everything Travel Blanket


A blanket, a pillow, an oversized scarf, and a wrap all in one. Aptly named, the Everything Travel Blanket will be the go-to essential you’ll keep in your carry-on bag trip after trip.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Everything Travel Blanket

“Avoid those flimsy [travel blankets] on airplanes!”

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Courant Catch:2 Multi-Device Wireless Charger


Simultaneously charge up to two devices wirelessly simply by dropping them onto this Qi-enabled charger. No need to remove your device from its case either, as the Courant Catch:2 Multi-Device Wireless Charger is strong enough to charge through cases as thick as three millimeters.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Courant Catch:2 Multi-Device Wireless Charger

“Time to cut the cord: This sleek leather base lets you charge two phones, or AirPods and a phone, simultaneously, just by laying them down to rest on top.”

Fruit Pies from Piedaho


I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of time to bake, or a lot of extra space in my travel bags for that matter. Still, I like to show my hosts some gratitude by bringing a little something, especially when visiting over the hectic holidays. Enter shipped-to-your-destination fruit pies. In addition to the flavors Oprah mentions below, the Fruit Pies from Piedaho also come in Blackberry Pie with Fresh Thyme Crust. Expect the Blue Ribbon-winning pies to arrive at their destination fresh—fresher than you, probably.

What Oprah’s Favorite Things Likes About the Fruit Pies from Piedaho

“Swoonworthy pies—like Strawberry Vanilla Bean and Salted Caramel Apple—that the Piedaho company bakes and ships.”

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Oprah’s Favorite Things 2019 Discounts

Find promo codes for a lot the items listed in Oprah’s Favorite Things over at Oprah Magazine. Happy shopping!

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Senior Editor Patricia Magaña Figueroa writes about travel. Follow her @PatiTravels.

Airport Packing

Here’s How to Not Get Burned by Carry-on Weight Limits

There’s nothing like the feeling of victory that comes with squeezing everything you need for a weekend, a week, or even a month into the modest confines of a carry-on suitcase. And once you’ve fit all your gear into a suitcase that can fit in the overhead bin, you’re very likely in the clear.

But … if you’re traveling internationally, simply packing everything into an approved-size carry-on may not be enough. That’s because many airlines—particularly international carriers—enforce cabin baggage weight restrictions. And often, those weight restrictions are less than the average packed carry-on.

[st_related] Carry-on Bag Packing List[/st_related]

Do Carry-ons Have a Weight Limit?

If you mostly fly U.S. carriers, the thought of weighing your carry-on may have never occurred to you. That’s because—at least for now—major U.S. airlines including American, Delta, and United don’t generally put weight restrictions on carry-on bags. Domestic carriers have clear carry-on size restrictions, but not weight restrictions. In fact, U.S. carriers may not even be equipped to monitor weight at the gate, since boarding gates generally don’t have scales.

However, on international carriers—even on codeshares with U.S. airlines—weight is a real consideration, and one that impacts what you can and can’t carry onboard. Most of the time, airlines that limit the weight of carry-ons will ask you to weigh your bag as you check in. But sometimes, you’re left to your own devices until boarding, at which point the mistake can cost you.

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SmarterTravel editor Sarah Schlichter found herself in just such a situation recently while flying an Australian carrier between Sydney and Hobart, Tasmania.

“During the check-in process there were blaring messages about your carry-on weighing seven kilograms, but there wasn’t a scale anywhere that I could see,” Schlichter said. “And I don’t speak kilogram, so I was like, eh, we’re probably fine. And if not, we can gate-check.”

When, at boarding, the airline weighed her bag and discovered it was over the limit, Schlichter discovered there was no gate-check option and had to pay $40 in overweight carry-on fees to get her bag onboard.

She recounts: “The staffer who weighed our bags during boarding asked, ‘You get a 15-kilogram checked allowance. Why didn’t you check?’” It’s a question Schlichter has been mulling over ever since.

[st_related] Heading to the Airport? Use This Pre-Flight Checklist[/st_related]

How Much Can Carry-ons Weigh?

When traveling internationally, determined travelers can often squeeze everything in a carry-on, but that bag is often heavier than airlines’ carry-on weight maximums. That’s because the weight restrictions tend to be extremely modest.

Here’s a rundown of some major carriers’ carry-on weight limits for economy-class flights:

Why You Should Still Aspire to Carry On

For many travelers who can fit their necessities into a carry-on, trying to make a smaller suitcase work can be worth the extra effort. You’ll have an easier time navigating public transportation with a smaller bag. Your bag is more likely to be able to fit into the trunk of a cab, or in the baggage area on a train. A smaller bag is easier to carry upstairs, and it takes up less room in a hotel room.

Not only that, but checking a bag introduces a whole host of challenges, among them tight connections, especially in destinations where you must reclaim your bag before clearing customs for the next flight. Going carry-on-only also spares you the extra time waiting around at baggage claim when you reach your destination.

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Tips for Meeting Airlines’ Carry-on Weight Restrictions

If you’re going to meet airlines’ tight weight restrictions on carry-ons, you’re going to need a plan.

Before you do anything else, look up your airline’s weight restrictions in advance. If you’re married to the idea of bringing your carry-on onboard, stick to those weight restrictions. Don’t count going unnoticed: Weighing suitcases for international flights is pretty standard, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid detection.

Step two is to weigh your empty carry-on. Though anything under about 10 pounds is considered lightweight in the carry-on luggage universe, when you only get 15 pounds total for a carry-on, using that much of your allotted weight on your suitcase is not a pro move. If you want to free up some weight, you might consider buying an ultra-lightweight suitcase that weighs less than five pounds.

Then it’s time to assess your travel gear and trim weight where you can. This is where you want to make every ounce count: Look for smaller toiletries, lighter shoes, streamlined entertainment, and other lighter ways to travel. For more tips, see A Traveler’s Guide to Minimalist Packing.

Before you pack, make sure you have an accurate scale. As you pack, shift heavier items to better balance the weight of your carry-on and personal item. Sometimes, the same amount of weight is allowed if it’s distributed between your two allowed cabin bags.

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If you’re right on the edge, you can sometimes move things around to reduce the weight of the bag. But it’s always a good idea, if you think your bag exceeds the maximum weight for carry-ons, to have any items you wouldn’t want to check (items like medicines, jewelry, and electronics, for instance) in an easy-to-grab place so you can transfer them to your personal item should you get to the counter and discover you have no choice but to check your carry-on.

When it comes to carry-ons, size is important. But when you’re trying to go carry-on for international travel, it pays to weigh as well.

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Entertainment Fashion & Beauty Holiday Travel Money

Free Holiday Shipping Is Available from These Popular Sites

You’ve done the hours of research to find the perfect gifts at the right price. So why squander the savings on shipping? The vendors below are offering free holiday shipping this year, so you can take care of everyone on your list without paying extra.

Free Shipping Year-Round

Many online retailers offer free shipping year-round if your cart’s total sum reaches an established amount, usually in the $35 to $100 range. The minimum order amount to qualify for Amazon’s free shipping for the holidays or any other time of the year is $25. Select the checkbox “Free Shipping By Amazon” when searching to identify the millions of products available for free freight.

If you’re a Prime Member, however, there is no minimum order, and you should expect most packages posted within two days. Other retailers (such as popular vendors Zappos and Dior) generously provide free shipping year-round, with no minimum purchase required.

As the holidays approach, peruse coupon sites (like RetailMeNot) for free holiday shipping codes, or spot them on banners on your favorite retailers’ home page or via the site’s pop-up windows.  Note that you’ll often have to subscribe to email newsletters to gain this free holiday shipping perk.

If next-day delivery is cutting it too short, consider free in-store pick up, now offered at Walmart, Old Navy, Lord + Taylor, and Target, among others.

No time to pick up your goods at the store but need it now? Take advantage of same-day delivery from Target. The giant retailer has partnered with shipping-service provider Shipt to provide same-day delivery. You can take advantage of the free month-long trial here.

Before I jump into the list of the vendors offering free holiday shipping, a great way to guarantee free shipping by Christmas is by shopping on Free Shipping Day. This year, that falls on December 14.

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Free Shipping By Christmas

  • Aveda: No code is needed to take advantage of Aveda’s limited-time free-shipping offer on all orders, available through December 31.
  • Benefit: Free shipping on cosmetics orders over $50 through January 1.
  • Bobby Brown Cosmetics: Through December 31, enjoy free shipping on orders over $65.
  • Cafe Britt: Free domestic shipping applied to orders of three or more bags of gourmet coffee through December 31.
  • Charles & Keith: Free standard shipping on all orders over $100 through December 31.
  • Free shipping on orders over $19 through December 29.
  • Free shipping on orders over $100 until January 1.
  • Cutter & Buck: Free ground shipping on orders over $50 through December 31.
  • DKNY: Free shipping on orders over $50 through December 31.
  • This gourmet gift basket is gluten-free and shipping-costs-free through December 23.
  • Loyal Hana: Free domestic shipping through January 1.
  • Nyx Cosmetics: Free shipping on orders over $25 through January 1.
  • Omaha Steaks: Thanksgiving dinners shipped free; offer valid in the Continental U.S., on select dinners, and through November 30.
  • Origins: Free shipping through December 31, no minimum order or code required.
  • The North Face: The outdoor retailer is offering Free 2-day and Overnight shipping to make sure all your last-minute gifts make it under the tree. Order up to December 19 for Free two-day shipping and if you’re really in a pinch, the brand is offering One day only and the cut off is December 19 at 11:59 p.m. PST.
  • Vans: Free three-day shipping on all orders through December 31.

What We’re Buying this Holiday Season

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Heading to the Airport? Use This Pre-Flight Checklist

If you’ve booked an airline ticket for an upcoming trip, heading to the airport may be an anxiety-inducing experience. Whether you’re an avid flyer or an infrequent one, there are a slew of fees to keep track of, plus security protocols that may seem overwhelming.

Fear not. This handy flight checklist will help you get to the airport, through security, and to your gate with ease.

Before You Leave Your House

Before you even start to pack, consult this packing list to make sure you’re well prepared.

  • Check in online to avoid a long wait at the airport. You can usually check in online up to 24 hours before your flight.
  • Find out if your carrier charges extra baggage fees if you check your bags in person at the airport. Save yourself time and money by checking your bags online at home before you go.
  • Verify what the airline’s weight limits are for baggage. To avoid extra fees, weigh your bags at home using a small luggage scale. If they are overweight, remove or redistribute some items, or plan to pay extra.
  • Make sure you have all your travel documentation in one place (purse, carry-on, etc.) that’s easy to access. Add your hotel and airline’s phone numbers as well as the emergency number at your destination into your phone.
  • Make extra copies of important travel documents, ID/passports, key phone numbers, etc. It’s advised to have a copy for each bag.
  • If you’re traveling with a carry-on bag, make sure there are no full-size toiletries inside. All liquids and gels must adhere by the 3-1-1 rule, and be stored in a clear plastic quart-sized bag. For more information, see Airport Security Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Ensure you’re not traveling with any prohibited items. If you were planning on bringing such items with you, ship them instead—otherwise they’ll be confiscated at the airport.

At the Check-in Gate

Once you’ve arrived at the airport, you may need to head to the check-in gate, depending on what you did online before you left your home.

  • If you’ve checked in online, drop off your baggage (if applicable) and head to the security line.
  • If you haven’t checked in online prior to arrival, check in at a kiosk or in person at a check-in desk.
  • After checking in by kiosk, drop off bags at the appropriate counter.
  • Add your baggage claim receipt to your collection of travel documents. If you have connecting flights, especially those on separate carriers, it’s especially important to keep your baggage claim tag with you to avoid any delays or snafus.
  • Get your ID and boarding pass out for the security line.
  • Be sure to throw away any bottles of water, cups of coffee, or other liquids or gels that may be confiscated at security.

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At Security

Take stock of the following steps before getting in the security line.

  • Have your ID and boarding pass out and ready for the TSA official.
  • Take off your shoes, belt, and any jewelry that may set off the metal detector. Make sure there is no loose change or other items in your pockets. Place all items in a bin on the conveyor belt. (Note that you can skip some of these steps if you have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.)
  • If you have a clear plastic bag of liquids or gels in your carry-on bag, take it out and place it in a bin next to your shoes, belt, etc.
  • Place your bags and coat on the conveyor belt.
  • If you are traveling with a laptop, take it out of its carrier case and onto the screening belt. If your laptop is in a checkpoint-friendly case, it does not need to be removed from its outer bag.
  • Wait until you are called to go through the metal detector or full-body scanner. If asked, show the TSA official your ID and boarding pass. Acceptable forms of ID include passports, driver’s licenses, military IDs, and permanent resident cards, among a few others. (Make sure your ID is compliant with REAL ID requirements.)
  • Comply with any TSA official requests, such as an additional bag inspection or personal screening.
  • Reclaim your items and head toward the gate.

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At the Gate

You’re almost done. Before you board the plane, check the following:

  • Make sure your carry-on fits the aircraft’s overhead dimensions. Usually there is a sample crate at your gate to determine if your bag will fit.
  • Check to see if there is meal or snack service onboard your flight. If not, you may want to purchase food and drink from a concessionaire in your terminal or at a food court.
  • Wait for your clearance to board the plane, then make sure to get in line with your designated group (check your boarding pass to see which group you’re in). If you have small children or special needs, you may be able to get advanced boarding privileges. See the gate agent if you have any questions.

Do you have any expert tips for how to prep for a trip to the airport, as well as how to handle check-ins and security? Share your own airport checklist below.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2010. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Airport Passenger Rights

How to Cope with Lost Luggage on Vacation

Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to our YouTube channel!

You’re standing at the baggage carousel for what seems like forever when the steady flow of bags onto the conveyor belt slows to a trickle, then stops. Your bags are nowhere in sight. Or your bags do show up, but look like an angry gorilla has been throwing them around his cage for sport. Who’s responsible for your damaged, delayed, or lost luggage?

As long as airlines have been checking baggage, they’ve been sending a few somewhere other than where they were supposed to go. Fortunately, airlines are doing better recently than they did 20 years ago, so your chances for a happy ending have improved for two reasons:

  • They’re losing fewer bags. The government has been collecting statistics on mishandled bag reports for decades, and the number of mishandled bag reports per 100,000 passengers has dropped from a high of seven in the early 1990s to about three since 2009.
  • They’re getting better at tracking the bags they do lose. With barcoded tags and even a few RFID-enabled tags, the airlines’ systems keep excellent track of bags. The last two times I’ve had a bag problem, an agent at the lost-baggage desk was able to tell me immediately where my bag was and the flight on which it would arrive.

Although airline performance has improved, what you do when an airline mishandles a bag remains about as it was in the 1990s. Below is guidance about what to do if your luggage is delayed, lost, or damaged, as well as tips for preventing these scenarios.

What to Do If Your Luggage Is Delayed

[st_content_ad]If your bags don’t arrive on the carousel, try not to panic. Most so-called “lost” baggage really isn’t lost; rather, it’s delayed. And in most cases an airline can reunite you with your baggage within 24 hours.

When you realize that your bag isn’t going to show up on the carousel, go immediately to your airline’s lost-baggage counter, which you’ll find in most big-airport baggage areas. In smaller airports, ask any airline employee where to go. Even if you have someplace you need to be, report missing baggage before you leave the airport. (Some airline contracts specify that you must file no later than four hours after arrival; others say 24 hours.) When filing your claim, give the attendant a hotel or home address, as well as a phone number where you can be reached.

Hand over your baggage check (but write down the numbers) and fill out the form, making sure to get a copy of any relevant tracking numbers, websites, and phone numbers (some airlines have an online system while others will provide you with a phone number to call for updates). Note the name of the agent that handles your claim as well as the estimated time your bag will arrive.

If your bags are on the next flight, you could have them within a few hours. If they’ve been sent to the wrong airport, it could take a couple of days. If your baggage is delayed on a connecting itinerary involving more than one airline, you deal with the airline that flew you to your final destination, even if you think the first airline was responsible.

[st_related]Heading to the Airport? Use This Pre-Flight Checklist[/st_related]

The airlines typically bring you your luggage when it is found; you will rarely need to return to the airport to pick it up. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, alert the front desk about an incoming bag. Airlines usually deliver delayed bags at no cost to you, but some may ask you to pay.

Additionally, many airlines will reimburse any unexpected expenses caused by the loss or delay (keep your receipts!). No law requires any specific assistance, only that airlines must have a policy and make it available to you.

At a minimum, airlines typically cover overnight needs such as toothpaste and such; some lines stock and hand out regular overnight kits at the lost-baggage desk. If your bag is lost on a flight arriving at an airport other than your home, many airlines offer to cover all or part of the cost of items you may need to continue your vacation or business trip. Some airlines offer a set daily allowance; others offer to reimburse you for items you buy on the basis of receipts. And some airlines say almost nothing beyond “We’ll get your bag back.” Very little is set; prepare to negotiate.

Only one major U.S. airline, Alaska, provides any monetary compensation for delayed baggage: If the line doesn’t deliver your checked baggage within 20 minutes of arrival at the gate, it issues a voucher for $25 toward a future flight or 2,500 frequent-flyer miles. Other airlines do not issue refunds of baggage fees until your suitcase is declared lost.

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Twill Carry-On Bag

Twill carry-on from everlane
Twill Carry-On from Everlane

Anticipate the delay by packing all of your entertainment essentials in the versatile and stylish carry-on bag from Everlane.

What to Do If Your Luggage Is Lost

If an airline doesn’t get your bag back to you within five days, the bag may be truly lost. An airline defines “lost” at anywhere from five to 30 days, at which point both you and the airline proceed on the assumption that you’ll never see your bag again.

If the airline loses your bags, make sure you get a written claim for damages. This may require a different form than the original “missing luggage” form. This can be done at the airport or online.

The maximum an airline pays on lost bags and their contents is generally limited to $3,500 per passenger on U.S. domestic flights, and a varying rate per passenger for checked baggage on international flights based on the Warsaw Convention or the Montreal Convention. In the United States, if you paid a checked baggage fee for your lost bag, the airline must refund your fee. Check your carrier’s website for specifics.

You can purchase “excess valuation” protection from your airline if your checked baggage is worth more than these limits, but before doing so, make sure the items aren’t already covered by your homeowner’s or travel insurance policy. Some credit card companies and travel agencies also offer optional or automatic supplemental baggage coverage.

The airlines typically have a long list of items for which they will not be held responsible; these include jewelry, money, heirlooms, and other valuables. These items should always be left at home or packed in your carry-on bag.

Any lost baggage claim process is obviously a negotiation. Airlines will typically cover only the depreciated value of whatever you say you lost, not the original purchase price. They will ask for receipts, even for a suit you bought 10 years ago. You may go back and forth several times before reaching a deal. The airline may offer you a voucher for future travel in lieu of cash, which is generally a good deal only if the voucher value is double to triple a satisfactory cash value and, even then, only if the voucher conditions actually allow you to travel.

[st_related]Air Passenger Rights: The On-the-Go Guide[/st_related]

What to Do If Your Luggage Is Damaged

Once you’ve gotten your bags off the carousel, immediately check them for damage or other signs of tampering or mishandling. Report any damage before leaving the airport; airline customer service agents will often want to inspect the bag.

Keep in mind that most airlines won’t cover minor damage such as bumps, scratches, dents, and scuffs, nor will they cover damage to straps, pulls, locks, or wheels that are the result of normal wear and tear. Airlines will generally cover broken fragile items packed in your luggage only if they are packed in a container designed for shipping. And they exclude damage or loss claims for a long list of high-value items such as jewelry, computers, and cameras that are both fragile and tempting targets for theft.

Airlines won’t take responsibility for damage that occurred during a TSA inspection. If you think your baggage was damaged during a TSA inspection (all inspected bags will have a written notification inside), call 866-289-9673 to report it. When that happens, expect a protracted “he said, she said” tussle between the TSA and the airline.

You will most likely need to produce a receipt for any repairs or be required to use airline-sanctioned luggage repair vendors. Ask the baggage claim attendant for specific information. You don’t want to find out that you have paid for a repair that isn’t covered.

[st_related]Luggage Locks: Should I Lock My Suitcase When I Fly?[/st_related]

Medium Suitcase from Away

Medium suitcase from away
Medium Suitcase from Away- available in all different sizes and colors.

Mitigate any risk of damaged luggage with the lightweight polycarbonate shell of an Away bag. What’s more, this luggage is cheap yet guaranteed to last a lifetime.

What to Do If Your Luggage Is Stolen

Head directly to the baggage carousel when you get off your flight to minimize the potential time for your bag to be stolen. Many airlines scan bags when they’re loaded into the baggage claim area and keep records, especially at larger airports. If your bag goes missing after you’ve left the baggage claim area, your claim is no longer with the airline, but with the police. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover a stolen suitcase; if it doesn’t, consider purchasing travel insurance.

How to Appeal Your Lost Luggage Complaint

If you can’t reach a satisfactory resolution with your airline and you feel the need for further assistance, file a complaint with the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

[st_related]How to Prevent Flight Delays (and What to Do If They Happen Anyway)[/st_related]

How to Prevent Lost Luggage

Of course, all of this information assumes the worst has already happened and damage control is needed. Nothing undermines a well-planned vacation quite like no-show luggage. So how can travelers safeguard their stuff? The obvious solutions are to book a nonstop flight or pack everything in a carry-on, but clearly this won’t work for everyone. Fortunately, there are other ways to ensure you can avoid these worst-case scenarios altogether.

  1. Put your name and cell phone number on the outside and inside of your bags, and include a travel itinerary. Luggage tags can easily be torn off in the rough-and-tumble handling process, but a name and contact info—along with a copy of your itinerary—placed on top of your belongings inside your bag will almost certainly stay put.
  2. Take a picture of your luggage. If your bag has gone AWOL and you’re attempting to get it back, photo evidence will help. Take a picture of the outside of your bag to show the airline staff member who is helping you locate it. Snap a picture of the inside of your bag as well; this will come in handy in case you need to file an insurance claim for your lost belongings. It’s also wise to take a quick photo of your baggage-claim ticket, in case you lose it.
  3. Customize your luggage. Suitcases, unfortunately, sometimes suffer from a case of mistaken identity at the baggage carousel. This is especially likely to happen when half of your plane is traveling with the same black Samsonite. Give your bag a makeover with a colorful luggage strap or some neon duct tape. For more ideas, see 9 Ways to Make Your Luggage Stand Out.
  4. Arrive at your departure airport early. Travelers who check in late—whether they arrived at the airport with only minutes to spare or got held up in a meandering check-in line—are more likely to get separated from their bags. Baggage handlers need time to process luggage and load it onto planes. Aim to arrive at the airport a couple of hours before your flight (or more for international flights or busy holiday periods).

[st_related]How Early Should I Get to the Airport?[/st_related]

  1. Avoid tight connections, as these increase the likelihood that your bags will go missing. If your flight is late, the window of time for airport staff to transfer your bag from one plane to the next narrows. Some booking sites sell domestic multi-leg itineraries with layovers of less than an hour, which doesn’t leave any wiggle room in an industry in which flights are frequently delayed. International connections can take even more time if you have to reclaim your bags, go through security, and check them again. For this reason, it’s important to allow plenty of time—two or more hours, ideally—on international layovers, and at least 90 minutes for domestic connections.
  2. Don’t put valuables or “can’t be without it” items in your checked baggage (medicine, important papers, jewelry, laptops). Pack all such items in your carry-on. See 10 Things Not to Do When Checking a Bag for more information.
  3. Make a list of packed items and their estimated value before you leave. It sounds tedious, but when an airline asks what was in your bag, you don’t want to forget anything of value. If you make a packing list before you travel, hang on to it—this is an easy way to remember everything you put into your bags. Keep receipts for any expensive items you pack, as you may be required to send copies of them to the airline in the case of a lost bag. If you absolutely have to check some of those items, insure them separately: An airline won’t cover them even if you buy excess-value coverage.
  4. Make sure the person who checks your baggage attaches the correct destination ticket to every bag, and get a claim ticket for each. Always remove old claim tags to prevent confusion about your destination. Better yet, opt for a smarter luggage tag. Several high-tech brands of tags feature codes or microchips that travelers can use to find lost luggage. Consider Dynotags, SuperSmartTag, or ReboundTAG.
  5. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag so you’ll have something to wear if your checked bag is lost or delayed. If you’re traveling with a partner, consider dividing each person’s clothes between your checked bags; this way if one of the bags is lost, you’ll each still have some of your belongings.
  6. Travel insurance is the best guarantee that you’ll recoup any losses. See Travel Insurance: What You Need to Know for more information.

Stylish Leather Luggage Tags

Luggage tags
Leather Luggage Tags

Perhaps the simplest precaution to take when traveling- and its the easiest to forget. Attach affordable yet stylish luggage tags to add extra identification and evidence to your belongings.

What to Pack on Your Next Trip

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated with the latest information. Ed Perkins, Caroline Costello, and Margaret Leahy contributed to this story.

Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors Packing Sustainable Travel Travel Technology

What to Pack for Hiking: 38 Essentials

Don’t hit the trails without packing these hiking essentials that could save your life, or just your summit attempt.

Hiking Essentials: Gear

Hiking essentials: backpack

[st_content_ad]Backpack: A good backpack is key to a comfortable hiking trip. Pick one that’s lightweight and big enough to hold all your hiking essentials, but not so big that you’re tempted to over pack. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak Ultralight Daypack is one of the lightest daypacks out there, weighing in at just 1.26 pounds. The light weight doesn’t mean that important features are skimped on—it still has comfortable padded straps, a hip belt that can be stashed away, a water-resistant exterior, and a padded back panel. Keep your backpack organized with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Stuff Sacks  which are equally lightweight. Bonus: All Hyperlite gear is hand-made in Maine.

[st_related]The 11 Best Waterproof Backpacks for Travel[/st_related]

Water Bottle: If you don’t want to carry a ton of water on a long hike, or just want to be prepared in case of an emergency, the Lifestraw Flex is a good choice for a water bottle. The included filter removes bacteria, parasites, and chemicals, so that you can safely and quickly drink from any water source you find. The soft bottle is lightweight, easy to pack, and simple to drink from.

Portable Battery: Don’t be stuck with a dead phone in an emergency. The Sherpa 15 Power Bank won’t take up too much room in your pack, and gives your phone a full charge without needing to pack extra cables. If you get lost, having a charged cell phone is essential.

Trekking Poles: A good set of hiking poles can help save your knees from strain on the descent, and prevent slips and falls on tough terrain or muddy trails. I like the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles, which fold down small to fit in your daypack, and fast thanks to a simple push-button release system. These poles can adjust to fit almost any hiker, and weigh a mere 8.25 ounces.

[st_related]SmarterTravel Shopping Guide[/st_related]

Hiking Essentials: Footwear

Hiking Shoes: Low-top hiking shoes are designed for shorter day hikes. The Keen Terradora Waterproof shoes are designed specifically for women hikers, offering a more narrow fit that’s completely waterproof but still breathable. For men, the Keen Targhee II is a similar choice, with the same breathable waterproofing and lightweight design.

Hiking Boots: Opt for hiking boots over shoes when you’re facing a longer, tougher hike, or for those times when you’ll be carrying a heavier pack—like on an overnight trip. Hiking boots offer more ankle support, as well as additional protection from bites, scrapes, and water. I love the Scarpa Hydrogen Hike GTX, available for both women and men. These boots are waterproof and breathable, and have a Vibram sole that gives traction that’s lightweight. I especially appreciate the understated and stylish design of these hiking boots.

[st_related]7 Spring Travel Shoes That Can Handle Any Type of Weather[/st_related]

Hiking Essentials: Clothing

Hiking Tights: Tights are a tempting choice for hikes. You probably already own something similar to these super-flexible leggings in your wardrobe for running or yoga, but a hiking version are designed to withstand the rigors of an intense hiking trail. Fjallraven’s Abisko Trekking Tights are tough enough for hiking thanks to a super durable four-way stretch fabric that has extra reinforcement over the rear and knees to protect your skin when you’re scrambling over rocks or sitting on the ground. Plus, unlike most leggings, these trekking tights come with plenty of pockets and are available in a men’s version as well.

Socks: Good socks are the key to comfortable hiking. They keep your feet dry, prevent blisters, and provide cushioning and warmth. Smartwool’s Hiking Socks are available for both women and men, and use merino wool to wick away moisture, prevent chafing, and help regulate your temperature.

Hiking Pants: For serious backcountry hikes you’ll want some heavy-duty hiking pants, like Arcteryx’s Sabria Pant. These pants are lightweight, durable, and boast 50-plus SPF. The Sabria’s are specially designed for women with a lower adjustable waist and a slim silhouette feminine.

Base Layer: For cold weather hikes, add a layer underneath your hiking pants with lululemon’s Fast & Free 7/8 Tight II, which are made from patented Nulux fabric that’s quick-drying and sweat-wicking, yet designed to feel like you’re not wearing anything at all. For trail running or less-intense hikes that don’t involve scrambling these can be worn alone.

Sunglasses: Enjoying the view at the summit means protecting your eyes with sunglasses like these ones from Maui Jim, which wrap around for full eye protection. The lenses are also scratch-resistant, so you can be tough on them.

Hiking Underwear: Your favorite delicates might be comfortable, but they aren’t immune from the wear of lengthy hiking trips. Look for underwear that’s moisture-wicking and odor-resistant, like these pairs from ExOfficio for both women and men. For women, Patagonia’s Switchback Sports Bra is a soft and supportive option that’s also quick-drying and won’t cause chafing.

Hiking Shirts: If you’re planning on carrying a backpack, opt for a t-shirt over a tank top to prevent any irritation from your backpack straps. Smartwool’s Merino 150 Base Layer Micro Stripe Short Sleeve tops for both women and men can be worn alone or layered for cooler days, and merino wool fabric means it won’t smell, even on a longer backpacking trip. For warmer days, Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-Shirts for women and men are an ultra-light option that’s moisture-wicking, breathable and features patented Polygiene for odor control.

Hiking Shorts: For hot trail days, Fjallraven’s Abisko Shade Shorts are designed to keep you cool, with ventilation for air circulation. The lightweight fabric is quick-drying and stays cool even as the temperature rises. The shorts are made for hikers, with zippered hand pockets and a loop to secure your gear to.

Jacket: Even if it looks like it’s going to be a warm day, packing a jacket is always a good idea on hikes, especially ones with a summit above the tree line (where it can be significantly colder/windier than it is  at the base). The weather can change quickly: Prepare by bringing along a lightweight jacket like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, available for both women and men, which delivers an impressive amount of warmth and wind-resistance for the weight.

Hat: You’ll want a hat to keep the sun off of your face, but a regular ball caps can get very sweaty after a while. Get a hat that’s made for activities and wicks away moisture, like Fjallraven’s High Coast Vent Cap.

Gloves: On chilly fall hikes or cool summer mornings, a pair of lightweight, waterproof gloves are essential. These picks for both men and women will keep you warm and dry, even in a sudden downpour.

Gaiters: Although not very fashionable, gaiters, waterproof covers that slip on over your boots to protect your ankles and calves from rain and mud, are very practical. I like this pair from Outdoor Research which easily slip on and off.

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Hiking Essentials: Miscellaneous

Snacks: Peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, and trail mix are also good options for packable sustenance.

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Caroline Morse Teel loves to hike, especially in New England. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the summit.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.


Ultralight Travel: How to Pack Light Every Time

Packing light doesn’t mean sacrificing style or comfort, but it does require rethinking such travel basics as suitcases and shoes. An ounce here, a half-pound there—when you’re packing for a trip, these small increments can add up fast. Do the math and it’s easy to see why this matters: If your checked bag is too big or heavy, you’ll incur baggage fees on most airlines. If you are carrying on a suitcase, weight matters even more since you’ll be lifting your bag dozens of times while in transit (in and out of the car, onto the security belt, into the overhead bin, and so on).

[st_content_ad]After years of traveling, I’ve learned the many advantages of bringing only a carry-on, even on trips of more than two weeks: avoiding baggage fees, not having to worry about the airlines losing my luggage, and being less encumbered by heavy bags while navigating a new place. And while other flyers are waiting at baggage claim watching the belt go round and round, I’m breezing past them to hop in a cab and get on with my day.

Whether you’re looking to travel with a carry-on only or you simply want to cut your checked bag down to size, these tips for packing light can help.

How to Make Your Suitcase Lighter: The Basics

If the challenge of ultralight packing has you wanting to lock your doors and stay home forevermore, it helps to think basic instead of specific, at least at first. When making your packing list, start by separating your items into these key categories.


The carry-on from away
The Carry-On from Away

Packing light starts with a featherweight foundation. When you’re looking for a suitcase, consider these weight classes: A 22-inch carry-on roller suitcase is generally considered lightweight if it’s under 10 pounds. Manufacturers start claiming “ultralight” status at around the seven-pound mark. Brands such as Lipault and Delsey are both known for lightweight offerings in the five- to six-pound range. The MegaLite collection from IT Luggage is even lighter.

Whichever suitcase you choose, make sure that it has enough pockets and compartments to help keep you organized, and that it’s as roomy as possible without exceeding your airline’s size requirements. For more suggestions, see 10 Ultralight Rolling Carry-on Bags Under 5 Lbs.


When choosing clothes to pack, consider lighter fabrics. Wool and heavyweight fleece are sure to keep you warm, but they also tend to be both bulky and heavy. Fabrics known for being particularly lightweight, on the other hand, include silk and synthetics such as nylon and polyester. Cotton, linen, and cotton blends are slightly heavier, but they tend to still be on the lighter end of the spectrum and should remain on your list of options.

[st_related]Reversible Clothing and Accessories for Travel: 17 Items to Double Your Wardrobe[/st_related]


Wool runners from allbirds
Wool Runners from Allbirds

When it comes to shoes, packing light is a tricky balancing act between bulk, style, and comfort. The lightest available shoes, such as sandals and ballet flats, may not offer enough support for long days of walking. If you’ve got a heavier pair you need to bring, let your feet do the lifting and wear them when you’re in transit, reserving your suitcase for lighter shoes. Above all, be realistic about your shoes. Unless it’s for a specific special occasion, all your shoes should be multi-use. (Bonus points if you can pull your trip off with just one pair. For help, see One Shoe Trip? These Are the Best Pairs That Do It All.)


The lightest option for toiletries, of course, is to pack none and either depend on your hotel to provide you with basics or purchase them when you arrive at your destination. If you can’t travel without, solid shampoos, conditioners, and small bars of soap tend to weigh less than their liquid counterparts (you can travel even lighter by cutting the bar and taking only the portion you’ll need for your trip). Travelon’s shampoo and body wash sheets each weigh in at about half an ounce per package of 50.

[st_related]The Best Zero-Waste Toiletries for Travel[/st_related]


Traveling with the right electronics can save you both weight and space. A typical e-reader or tablet weighs in at somewhere between eight ounces and one pound, roughly the same as a modestly sized paperback guidebook or sizzling beach read. You can store an entire suitcase full of books on one small device, and with a tablet, you can score handy additional features like travel apps that can help you cut down on your vacation paper trail. Just don’t forget the charger.


Featherless hoody from marmont
Featherless Hoody from Marmont

A jacket can add major bulk to your packing list, but plenty of outdoor suppliers offer surprisingly lightweight options—like the seven-ounce women’s Featherless Hybrid Jacket from Marmot or the 10.5-ounce REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket for men.

Outdoorsy not your style? Since so many companies now offer some variation of lightweight outerwear, you’ve got plenty of options that don’t sacrifice fashion for weight.

[st_related]The Best Packable Winter Jackets[/st_related]

Key Tips for Packing Light

There are no hard and fast standards that can apply to every imaginable trip, but here are a few rules of thumb that have served me well when learning how to travel light, gathered from years of trial, error, and inspired experimentation.

Every Little Bit of Space Helps

Swap your pile of paperbacks for a tablet or e-reader, forget about those “just in case” items you could easily buy in your destination, and maximize your space by filling in nooks and crannies with small items (including stuffing socks, underwear, mittens, and even T-shirts into your shoes). See What Not to Pack for more help whittling your list down to the bare essentials.

Don’t Pack More Than a Week’s Worth of Clothes

To keep everything fresh, toss in a dryer sheet (you might find you can forgo perfume altogether with this hack). To erase wrinkles in a pinch, pack a travel-sized bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser and spritz your garments on the go. For trips longer than a week, plan to do laundry along the way.

[st_related]How to Do Laundry on Vacation (No Laundromat Required)[/st_related]

Pack Outfits That Mix and Match

Pack only garments that can be color-coordinated with everything else in your travel wardrobe. If an item doesn’t work in multiple outfits, leave it at home. I generally try to limit myself to two pairs of pants and two pairs of shoes that go with everything else I’ve packed.

Maximize Your Personal Item

In addition to a carry-on bag, airlines allow you to bring a personal item such as a purse or laptop bag. I generally bring a small backpack, which can hold a lot more than a purse but will still fit easily under the seat in front of me. (If I need a purse during my trip, I fold it up inside a larger bag.)

[st_related]Carry-on and Personal Item Size Limits for 32 Airlines[/st_related]

How to Pack Light and Stay Organized

A cornerstone of ultralight travel is expert-level organization. The most common approaches to packing include folding, rolling, and compressing, which involves placing folded clothing in a sturdy plastic bag (like these) and rolling the bag to force additional air out, thus saving space.

The folding method works best for garments with sturdier fabrics, such as denim jeans or chambray blouses, while rolling your clothes works best for softer fabrics that are less likely to wrinkle, such as cotton and wool. Compressing, while a great space saver, does not ensure a lighter bag; in fact, it can tempt you to over-pack, thus running the risk of incurring surprise weight-induced upcharges at the airport.

[st_related]Video: Rolling vs. Folding[/st_related]

Consider folding outfits into “units” and placing them into your bag together rather than placing all sweaters in one pile, all jeans in another, and so on. The following packing tools can help with this type of organization.

Packing Cubes

Pack-It original™ cube set
Pack-It Original™ Cube Set

Packing cubes, like this cute bear-themed set from Eagle Creek, are great for maximizing space in your bag. They categorize items and store them separately, making it easier to find exactly what you need in your suitcase. If you’re on a budget, you can use gallon-sized freezer bags—they do the exact same thing for a lot less money, and they’re sturdy enough to be reused over several trips.

Packing Folders and Envelopes

Another organizational aid, packing folders or envelopes offer the same efficient space-saving functionality as packing cubes, but they’re better at keeping your clothing wrinkle-free. These are good options if you’re toting lots of button-up shirts or blouses, and many come with boards to make folding easier. But keep in mind that any folded garment is still liable to crease along fold lines.

Packing Sacks

Pack-It specter tech™ sac set
Pack-It Specter Tech™ Sac Set

The most free-form of the packing aids you’ll find, packing sacks are like cubes but in softer bag form. They won’t keep clothing wrinkle-free, but they’re a great hiding place for belts, jewelry, hair-styling tools, shoes, and other necessities that you don’t want to toss into your bag willy-nilly. Consider these packing sacks from Eagle Creek; they’re water-resistant and partially transparent, so you can see what’s inside without tearing open each bag.

[st_related]The 6 Best Packing Cubes Ever[/st_related]

How to Travel Light in Tricky Packing Situations

I’m often asked how I manage to squeeze everything into a single carry-on and personal item, even for trips as long as a few weeks. I’ve put together advice for traveling light in three tricky packing scenarios.

Challenge No. 1: A Long Trip Through Multiple Climates

First off, if you’re going for much longer than a week, resign yourself to doing a little laundry. (Your shoulders and back will thank you when you’re not lugging 17 days’ worth of clothes.) You can pay your hotel to do it for you, look for a nearby laundromat—think of it as a glimpse into the local culture!—or simply wash your dirty duds in your bathroom sink.

Second, get creative. This is the time when all those clever convertible travel clothes are actually worth the money, like pants that can be turned into shorts by zipping off the legs or jackets that have a gazillion pockets for all your odds and ends.

The secret to dealing with multiple climates is layering. The same lightweight T-shirt that you’d wear when strolling around the humid streets of Buenos Aires can serve as a base layer during your hike in the snowy Andes. Keep your heavy layers to a minimum—you can wear the same sweater or fleece every day as long as you keep changing the lighter shirt closest to your skin. And be sure to bring your jacket on the plane with you so you don’t have to stuff it into your suitcase.

If your trip starts in a wintry climate and ends in a tropical one, consider mailing your cold-weather gear home so you don’t have to lug it around for the rest of the trip (or vice versa). An alternative is to bring along older clothes that you don’t mind donating or leaving behind along the way.

[st_related]The Essential Carry-on Bag Packing List[/st_related]

Challenge No. 2: A Week on a Cruise Ship

Shorts, bathing suits, and tank tops are easy enough to pack, but the most common sticking point for cruisers is formal night. How can you get a tux or an opulent ball gown into that teeny little carry-on?

Luckily, these days you don’t really have to. Many cruisers opt to skip formal night altogether and head to the buffet or order room service instead. But if getting gussied up for formal night is as much a part of your dream cruise as ocean breezes and fruity cocktails, you’ve got options. Men can pay to rent a tuxedo on some ships if they want to dress to the nines—but on many cruise lines you can get by with nice slacks and a jacket (a tie is preferred, and easy to squeeze into a carry-on). Bring multiple ties to change your look if there’s more than one formal night.

For the ladies, think little black dress. If there are a couple of formal nights on your cruise, save space by wearing the same dress twice with different scarves, shawls, jewelry, or other accessories. Choose shoes that can also go with sundresses or other less formal outfits at dinner for the rest of the week. For more help, see Top 10 Cruise Packing Tips from SmarterTravel’s sister site, Cruise Critic.

[st_related]The Ultimate Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a Cruise[/st_related]

Challenge No. 3: The Business Trip

Business trips pose two primary challenges for people trying to pack light: looking professional without toting half your wardrobe, and bringing only the most essential gadgets to get the job done.

Unless it’s a particularly lengthy trip, you can usually get by with a single neutral-colored suit that can be mixed and matched with different shirts, ties, and/or accessories. For example, a woman can wear the same pair of black suit pants for a daytime meeting (pair with a button-down shirt and jacket) and for dinner out (substitute a flowing wrap for the jacket and add earrings or other jewelry to dress up the look). By sticking to neutral colors, you should also be able to keep yourself to a single pair of dress shoes. If you’re bringing a blazer or jacket, wear it on the plane to free up space in your carry-on.

The advent of the iPad and other tablets has helped lighten the load of the business traveler considerably by providing an alternative to bulkier laptops. Don’t have a tablet? If it’s a short trip, you can probably get by with only your phone.

A note for business travelers attending a conference: Forget about lugging all those folders and freebies you received on the trade show floor. Go through them the night before your departure and pack only what you really need or want. If you still don’t have room in your carry-on, have your hotel mail the remaining goodies back to your office.

Don’t let the task of packing light weigh you down. Armed with these top tips, you’re well on your way to your next destination, lighter of bag and spirit.

Outfits to Pack on Your Next Trip

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Christine Sarkis, Dara Continenza, and Margaret Leahy contributed to this story.

Airport Packing

7 Smart Ways to Bypass Baggage Fees

Every year, U.S. airlines collect billions of dollars in baggage fees. But these charges are optional—so why are so many travelers shelling out so much money when many of them could avoid baggage fees with some modest effort?

[st_content_ad]Naturally, packing light is one of the best ways to escape these extra fees. But traveling with the bare minimum isn’t always an option—especially for passengers taking lengthy cruises or families that need multiple pieces of luggage. Even those who’ve mastered the art of packing everything into a carry-on can be hit with full-size fees, as ultra-discounters like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant charge for carry-ons.

The following tips explain how to avoid baggage fees with tricks that the airlines probably don’t want you to know about.

Know Your Airline’s Policy

Navigating the airlines’ complicated baggage policies is no small undertaking. Baggage fees change frequently and can vary by airline, destination, date of travel, number of bags, and bag weight and size. Even if you’ve secured an affordable plane ticket, you could end up paying a lot more than you bargained for when flying on a carrier that charges baggage fees. The average cost of a single checked bag is $60 round-trip on most major airlines.

So which airlines don’t charge for baggage? Southwest Airlines allows two free checked bags per passenger, while JetBlue permits one free checked bag if you purchase anything besides its cheapest fare.

Unfortunately, not all discount airlines have such magnanimous baggage policies. You could pay anywhere from $28 to $65 for a carry-on bag aboard Spirit Airlines if it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you, and the carrier’s checked bag fees cover a similar range. The legacy airlines—Delta, American, and United—charge $30 each way for your first checked bag on all domestic and some international itineraries.

Your best bet is to thoroughly read your airline’s policy before you book your flight. You can see a comprehensive list of airline baggage fees at Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site.

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Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Travelers who fly often can save on baggage fees by joining their favorite airline’s frequent flyer program. Virtually all major airlines offer some kind of loyalty program that includes baggage fee discounts or waivers for “elite” or “preferred” members. (Most airlines, including the big ones—American, United, Delta—bestow elite or preferred status on frequent flyer members who’ve flown at least 25,0000 miles annually with the airline while meeting a minimum spending limit.) Visit your airline’s website to learn more about its frequent flyer program benefits.

If racking up 25,000 miles a year doesn’t seem attainable, consider applying for an airline credit card. Several major airlines waive checked bag fees for cardholders. For example, most Delta SkyMiles cardholders can check one bag for free on Delta flights, and United MileagePlus Club cardholders can check two bags for free.

Note that some of these cards have annual fees, so you’ll want to do the math and figure out whether the waived baggage fees and other perks are worth it. For a list of airline credit cards and benefits, see Airfarewatchdog.

Take the Train

While airlines are charging left and right for bags of any shape and size, train travel is a different story. Amtrak’s baggage allowance policy says passengers may carry on up to two pieces of luggage (not including personal items like purses, strollers, or computer bags) and check up to two pieces of luggage—for free. Additional bags cost a surprisingly low $20 per bag.

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Know How Much Your Suitcase Weighs

Overweight baggage fees can be far costlier than base charges for checked luggage. For example, American and United issue a fee of $100 for each checked bag weighing 50 – 70 pounds on domestic flights, or $200 for bags weighing more than 70 pounds.

Bring a small portable luggage scale with you so you can weigh your bags prior to your departure and return flights. If your bag is just under the weight limit on your outgoing flight, extras you pick up along your trip, from souvenirs to soggy rain coats, could add some serious heft on the way home. Is your luggage too heavy for the flight back? Stuff some things into your travel partner’s suitcase or ship them home.

Ship Your Bags

At first glance, shipping one’s bags may sound like a prohibitively expensive prospect. But take another look at your airline’s baggage policies, and suddenly standard delivery services and even luggage shipping companies don’t sound like such a bad idea.

How much does shipping luggage cost? Prices charged by standard delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and USPS vary based on size and weight of bags (luggage shipping companies such as Luggage Forward and Luggage Concierge tend to be slightly more expensive).

FedEx charges about $62 to send a 55-pound suitcase from New York to Chicago in two business days—significantly less than the $100 overweight fee on some major airlines. And there’s no need to wait in lines at the check-in desk and baggage carousel when sending luggage through the mail. For more information, read Should You Check or Ship Your Bags?

Upgrade Your Luggage

Thanks to high-tech materials like ballistic nylon and polycarbonate, it’s not difficult to find full-size suitcases weighing less than 10 pounds. As an example, consider a 26-inch upright spinner that weighs 9.6 pounds on, or this set of three suitcases from Lucas, each weighing less than eight pounds.

Overweight baggage fees, which apply each way and per bag, can amount to hundreds of dollars over several trips for passengers who don’t travel light. Because most high-quality luggage brands are designed to be both lightweight and exceptionally long-lasting, they can help frequent travelers avoid overweight baggage fees over time.

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Pack Light with Cool Products

If you struggle to fit everything into a carry-on bag, you might need a little help from handy products like compression sacks (also known as vacuum bags), which can squeeze more into less space. Or stash key items in one of the pocket-laden garments from SCOTTeVEST, which are cleverly designed with hidden compartments that store more than you’d think. And look for squishy, foldable travel essentials that take up minimal suitcase space whenever you can; some of my favorites include the Vapur Anti-Bottle and the inflatable Travelrest Pillow.

What to Pack in Your Luggage

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.