10 Things for the ‘Do Not Pack’ List

It’s vacation time again – hope you got the best flight deal – but now it’s time to think about packing. Tip: What you don’t pack can be just as important as what you do pack.

10 Things for the ‘Do Not Pack’ List

This list will help you avoid fees for checked-bags, overweight baggage and – hang on to what you’ve packed.

1. Diamond earrings

Do not pack diamond earrings (or rubies or sapphires or similar) or antique silverware or your Picasso painting or a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. In other words, do not pack anything of value; do not pack anything you’d hate to lose. Stuff goes missing, things get stolen, items get broken. You cannot count on airlines to cover your losses, either, since most state in the contract of carriage (see the airline’s website) that valuables are not allowed in checked-bags. If you must bring diamond earrings, wear them or pack them in a carryon and then place them in a hotel safe. Better yet, leave the jewelry at home.

2. Unidentified objects

We are not talking about UFOs here; we are talking about anything of even minor value that lacks any sort of tag identifying you as the owner. Airline, airport and security lost & found departments are filled with expensive electronics that are extremely difficult to reunite with owners because they cannot be identified. Make it for easier on everyone, tape or glue temporary tags to items that include your phone and/or email (a business card will do). And since tags get torn or ripped off, etch this information onto items where possible, and in all cases take a photo of the object which includes the serial number (and jot this down, too, in case your phone goes missing). Keep electronic devices on your person always, so you don’t fall victim to the classic grab ‘n go scam.

3. Alcohol

We are not the Prohibition Police; on the contrary, bringing a bottle of wine for a host is a lovely gesture but unless it’s in a checked-bag, security will confiscate it (this is true for any liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces). Tip: Buy your bottles at your destination, or ship such gifts ahead along with other bulky or fragile items.

4. Family size bottles and tubes

When checking a bag, large or medium size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, sun screen, hand lotion and face cream are enormous space eaters, plus they can push bags into overweight territory and overweight fees can reach $200 or more. If staying with relatives, help yourself to their stuff and do the same for them when they visit you. If staying at a hotel, many provide such items for free or ask for them at the front desk. If you must have your own special brand, stop at a big box drugstore on arrival.

5. Blow dryers

Hair dryers are standard bathroom fixtures in even the cheapest motels these days (and you can always call ahead to confirm, or check the hotel/motel website). Visiting family? Bet they also have one of these lying around. Save the space in your bag for something more important like souvenirs.

6. Books

I love love to read and I love books, but I also like packing as little as possible so when I travel, I load up devices with ebooks (and movies and TV shows). It’s time to stop thinking of our mobile devices as phones; they are our libraries, our maps, our flashlights, our guide books, our translators, our everything. Which reminds me, do not forget to pack your charger cords.

7. Three pairs of shoes

If you absolutely need three pairs of shoes, go for it, but most of us can make do with two: a good pair of walking shoes (ranging from sneakers to Top-Siders or similar) and maybe something dressier or a pair of sandals, depending on the destination. Suggestion: 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. An excess of outfits

Guess what? Unless you are – oh, maybe a big movie star – nobody really cares what you wear when you travel, and unless your clothing is totally outlandish, no one is going to notice. So go ahead and repeat outfits. Avoid new stuff because you’re goal is to wear things you know are comfortable and know look good on you. In other words, pack just enough clothes that are appropriate to the destination, so you can forget about them and focus on sightseeing.

Tip: People far more fashion-savvy than I am say pack clothes of similar colors so everything can be mixed-and-matched. And watch our video demonstrating the easy Sit & Zip packing method. It really works.

9. Excess cash and cards

Don’t travel with more than two credit cards and carry them in different places (or have spouse or friend hold one). This way, if one goes missing, it’s not the end of the world. Do record your card numbers and keep it somewhere outside your wallet, plus make sure someone back home has this info; it’ll make it easier to report a lost/stolen card. Tip: Don’t flash cash; you’ll only make yourself an inviting target for thieves or scammers.

10. A big bag 

If I can travel to Europe for ten days with a carry-on, you can too. But if you must bring a big bag, try sharing it. If a family of four uses just two checked-bags instead of four, that save $100 roundtrip on domestic flights. Bet you could put that money to good use on vacation. Oh, right, tickets – time to get shopping.


Updated: April 17, 2017