10 Things for the ‘Do Not Pack’ List

Published by Rick Seaney on April 24, 2019

10 Things for the ‘Do Not Pack’ List

It’s vacation time again – hope you got a cheap flight – and now it’s time to think about packing, but what you don’t pack can be just as important as what you do. You don’t want to pay any more baggage fees than you have to, right? Check out our Sit & Zip packing method for carry-on bags. It really works.

1. Diamond earrings

Do not pack diamond earrings (or rubies or sapphires) or antique silverware or a Picasso painting or a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. In other words, do not pack valuables. Do not pack anything you’d hate to lose. Things can go missing during travels, items get stolen, stuff gets broken. You can’t count on airlines to cover your losses, either, since most carriers state in their contract of carriage (on airline websites) that valuables are not allowed in checked-bags. If you must bring diamond earrings, wear them or pack them in a carryon, then in a hotel safe.

2. Items with no labels

Airline, airport and security lost & found departments are filled with expensive electronics and other valuables that are extremely difficult to reunite with owners because the items had no labels, no tags, no ID, no way to determine ownership.  Make it easier on everyone, tape or glue temporary labels or tags to items that include a phone number and/or email address (a business card will do). And since tags can get torn or ripped off, etch this information onto really valuable items where possible. Then, take a photo of the object (and if there’s a serial number, be sure to include that). Finally, always keep electronic devices on your person so you don’t fall victim to the classic grab ‘n go scams.

3. Alcohol

Bringing a bottle of wine for a host or hostess is a lovely gesture but unless you place it in a checked bag, it will be confiscated. Remember, no liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces can get past airport security. Tip: Buy large bottles of alcohol at your destination, or ship it ahead along with other bulky or fragile items.

4. Big bottles or tubes

Don’t pack big bottles or tubes of shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, hand lotion and face cream; if they’re in a carry-on, they won’t get past security (see #3) and these family-size products are enormous space eaters in checked-bags. Plus, they’re heavy, and overweight bag fees can cost $200 and more. Tip: If you are staying with relatives, help yourself to their stuff (and do the same for them when they visit you). If you’re staying at a hotel, many provide these items for free; if they are not in the room, ask at the front desk. If you must have your own special brand, stop at a big box drugstore on arrival.

5. Blow dryers

Today, blow dryers are standard bathroom fixtures in even the most modest of motels (and you can always call ahead to confirm or check the hotel’s website). Visiting family? Bet they’ll have one of these lying around. Save the space in your bag for something more important, like souvenirs.

6. Books

I like to read and I like books, but I also like packing as little as possible so I load up my devices with ebooks (and movies and TV shows). Make the most use of your phone; they are also our libraries, our maps, our flashlights, our guide books, our translators, our everything. Which reminds me, do not forget to pack your device’s charger cords.

7. Excess shoes

If you absolutely need three pairs of shoes, go for it but most of us won’t require more than two pairs. The best case scenario is to bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes and maybe something dressier or perhaps less dressy (like sandals), depending on your destination. Wear one pair, pack the other. I put each shoe in a separate plastic bag, so they won’t dirty clothes, and packing them singly allows you to pack them more easily.

8. Excess outfits

Unless you are a movie star, nobody really cares what you wear when you travel. So go ahead and repeat outfits. Tip: Avoid brand new, never-worn clothes because you won’t know if they’re comfortable. Stick with outfits you know you like, and know you look good in, so you can forget about fashion and focus on sightseeing.

9. Excess cards and cash

Don’t travel with too many credit cards or cash; they are too easy to lose. All you really need are two cards, one to use, one for back-up. As for cash, ATMs are everywhere. Tip: Record card numbers ahead of your trip and keep this info in a different location from your wallet, but also make sure a trusted friend or family member back home has the numbers, too. It’ll make it a lot easier to report a lost/stolen card and get a replacement quickly. Finally, be careful not to flash cash; you’ll only make yourself an inviting target for thieves and scammers.

10. Big bag

If I can travel to Europe for ten days with a carry-on bag, you can too. If you must use a big bag, try sharing it. If a family of four uses just two checked-bags instead of four, that saves $100 or more on most round-trip domestic flights, and that’s $100 more to spend on vacation.

Now get out there and have a wonderful time.

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