Depending on the type of trip you will take, the amount of luggage you have will vary. We will use my upcoming trip to Salzburg and Rome as an example. I will have one suitcase to check and one backpack and one purse as my carry-ons. I could take only my big, hiking backpack, but that won’t be helpful on this trip, but it could be the way to go on yours.
What can you take on the plane?
- Check with your airline for carry-on restrictions and size. Many allow a briefcase/purse plus one small bag.
- Any liquids (and liquid-y solids like Nutella, mustard and mascara) that will go through security must be 3 ounces or smaller and all must fit in a quart-sized bag.
- Child-sized scissors with blunt tips are allowed on planes.
- An umbrella is A-OK.
- Here’s the list from TSA of prohibited items. (And I learned in Vienna that my dull camping knife was forbidden, though it went through Toledo and Paris security without being banned.)
What I like to pack in my carry-on:
- A change of clothes and my pajamas. Lost bags are a reality and a clean set of clothes after an overnight flight is always a plus.
- All of my important toiletries, including toothpaste and a toothbrush, face wash (a clean face is another great feeling after a long flight), deodorant, lip balm and contact solution. I pack as many toiletries here as I can, because for a week, you don’t need more shampoo or conditioner than can fit in a 3 ounce bottle anyway.
- A small hand towel.
- Half of my medicine, preferably in the original container, although I never have been asked about it. If your medicine is essential, you do not want it in your checked baggage.
- A comb or brush to avoid scary hair after a fitful night of sleep.
- A deck of cards. You never know when cards come in handy. You could teach your seat partner a new game or play solitaire alone.
- A water bottle. Make sure it is empty before security and you can fill it up once you pass through because liquids in any amount inside the terminals are safe. (Exception: Amsterdam. My water that was filled within the airport was dumped out by security because there was a special security checkpoint at the gate for U.S.-bound flights.)
- My electronics and adapters. They are safer here than in checked luggage. And I might need to charge something in the airport.
- Gum to chew to reduce ear popping. I start chewing before the ascent and descent. A head start helps out.
- Snacks. The food could be terrible and you don’t want to have to pay for an overpriced granola bar or candy in the airport.
- Bandages. I am prone to hangnails and paper cuts, so I do not travel anywhere without some on hand.
- Entertainment. This could include a DVD player and a movie, a puzzle book, magazines or books, or music. Remember that paper is heavy and you do not want to carry around more than you will need.
- A notebook. I record all sorts of things, from impressions a country or city makes on me to good restaurants and silly things people say.
- Tissues. I also have a perpetually runny nose, so these are very important.
- A set of important documents needed for check-ins or for identification. Another set is in my luggage.
What to pack in checked baggage:
- Essentially everything else goes here — clothes, shoes, left over toiletries, gifts, space for purchased goodies, etc.
Some packing tricks and tips:
- Heavy things go on the bottom (when the suitcase is standing up) of the suitcase. You don’t want your suitcase to topple over.
- You do not need a clean pair of pants for every day, unless you are planning activities where you will get dirty.
- Pack your socks and underwear in your shoes. That way, that space is not wasted.
- Plan your wardrobe and then eliminate one or two things. You really won’t need it.
- Try to pack clothing articles that don’t wrinkle easily or don’t show their wrinkles.
- Stay with a black or brown color scheme so you need fewer pairs of shoes.
- Do not fill your suitcase unless you plan on purchasing nothing on your trip.
- Make a list of all the people and their addresses for postcards. Better yet, fill out address labels before you leave and stick them on the postcard before mailing. Mail yourself one so you can have a memory and a cool, international stamp.
- Rip or cut out the sections of guidebooks you will need so you don’t have to carry the whole book.
- Don’t forget sunscreen, bug spray and bug bite medication.
- Small locks can be helpful in hostels that don’t provide them and on trains or in airports.
- Bring small, American trinkets. You never know when you could amaze someone with something or just have something nice to share with other travelers you meet.
- Don’t forget the cords for your iPod, computer and camera and extra batteries or your battery charger.
- Pack a burnable CD if you are worried about dumping thousands of pictures on your computer. Once you load them, burn them to a CD and then you can delete them from your camera.
- Have the addresses for your lodging readily available at customs checkpoints. The paperwork for entering England asks for this information. Other countries could ask, too.
- If you are going somewhere where bathrooms could be shady, make sure you have tissues or a mini roll of toilet paper because many WCs lack that element. The also often lack soap, so pack some hand sanitizer, too.
- When it comes to snacks, pick ones that won’t crumble because you want to be able to eat your food. Granola bars and trail mix are good; crackers are bad.