Unexpected baggage fees and unfortunate run-ins with the TSA are just a few consequences of totally preventable packing mistakes. Avoid these 10 all-too-common slip-ups to ensure packing perfection the next time you travel.
Packing Mistake #1: Assuming Your Hotel Will Have What You Need
Most upscale hotels provide hair dryers. But hair-dryer availability becomes spotty at mid-scale and budget properties—especially overseas. Same goes for other little extras like irons, toiletries, bathrobes, charging stations, blankets, and adapters. So while it's probably not essential to do a ton of research if you're staying at the Ritz, tourist-class properties necessitate a quick call or email to see what's available for guest use. (Hotel websites are not always up to date, especially those of smaller, independent properties.)
Packing Mistake #2: Not Reading Up on Your Airline's Baggage Policy
Airline fees are always changing. (Don't believe me? Try keeping this airline fees chart up to date.) For that reason, it's important to check your airline's extra fees, including baggage fees, booking fees, change fees, and charges for meals, every time you fly. Airlines don't tend to release splashy announcements when they raise their ancillary charges, which leaves you at risk of paying more than you planned.
Packing Mistake #3: Checking Your Bag Too Late
An 11th-hour check-in might cut your wait at the airport, but it also increases the odds that your bag will be lost by the airline. Airport baggage handlers need time to transport your luggage across the tarmac and get it onto your plane. You're cutting it dangerously close when you check in with 30 minutes or less until departure. Simple solution: Get to the airport with time to spare.
Packing Mistake #4: Focusing on Size, Not Weight
I love compression bags, but these little space-savers can also make your bag impossibly heavy. Although you might manage to fit an extraordinary number of things in your suitcase, you run the risk of exceeding the standard weight limit. Your plan to travel the world with a single piece of luggage might fall to pieces the moment the desk agent weighs your bag. Most airlines levy fees when bags exceed 50 pounds, so if you've stuffed a ton of stuff into that suitcase, weigh it before you drag it to the airport.
Packing Mistake #5: Taking a Chance on the TSA
Most people have, by now, figured out that the TSA doesn't always catch oversized containers of liquids passing through airport security. Don't confuse this exception with a customary procedure. Yes, I've gotten multiple zip-top bags of beauty products and large-sized gel deodorants through the X-ray scanner without a hitch—and so has everyone else, apparently. But there's been no official rule change. TSA agents continue to confiscate oversized liquids and gels whenever they happen to be paying attention. Don't chance it. If a security agent spots your $75 bottle of organic face oil, he just might seize it—no goop for you!
Packing Mistake #6: Not Making a Packing List
Creating a packing list is a necessary ritual, your vacation-prep magnum opus. Yes, you've been on the road a thousand times, so maybe you think you can remember everything off the top of your head, no silly catalog needed. I promise, though, that you will forget some crucial item—be it underwear or floss or an umbrella—if you skip the checklist step. Make a packing list! Do it now.
Packing Mistake #7: Getting Rid of Your Packing List
Keep that packing list. Bring it with you on your trip. Fold it up and stick it in a suitcase pocket. When you're scooping your belongings into your bag in a hotel room at the end of your trip, scan the list again to make sure you've repacked everything you brought in the first place. Voila! No longer must you inspect every inch of your guest room to ensure you've left nothing behind before final checkout.
Packing Mistake #8: Not Protecting Containers of Liquids
Aircraft cabins are pressurized during flight, but not when they're at sea level. When cabin pressure rises gradually, the air inside closed containers expands, leaving the containers more prone to leakage. Be prepared for anything liquid in your bag (such as foundation, wine, or shampoo) to seep out of its container while in flight. That zip-top baggie provides a barrier between your clothes and the little bottles of liquids. (Thanks, TSA!) But remember to also protect liquids in checked luggage with bubble wrap, plastic bags, or even a specially designed product like WineSkin.
Packing Mistake #9: Attempting to Sneak Your Oversized Bag on the Plane
Some airlines are stricter in policing carry-on-bag size than others. Although you might regularly sneak your jumbo roller onto the plane with one airline, you might not be so lucky with another carrier. United, for example, promised to be more exacting about enforcement of bag fees earlier this year and even went so far as to install new bag-size measurement stations in airports. Pay attention to bag-size limits, especially when flying with an unfamiliar airline.
Packing Mistake #10: Checking an Anonymous Bag
Make sure your bag is carrying ID in multiple places, including on the inside. (An external bag tag can get ripped off in transit.) It's a huge mistake to check a piece of luggage that isn't labeled with identifying information, including your name and a phone number or email address via which you can be reached during your travels. If your bag gets lost or stolen, you'll be kicking yourself for skipping this crucial step.
—By Caroline Costello
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