Skip to content

Common Mistakes When Packing for a Trip

Clothes, Shoes, Open Suitcase, Overstuffed, Apricot Couch, Common Mistakes When Packing for a Trip

Mark Weiss/Getty Images

Use these tips to avoid overpacking and streamline your luggage bulk.

The tendency when packing for a trip is to throw in everything — just in case. A chance of rain, and you're stuffing in rubber boots; the possibility of down time, and you're packing your entire library. The first step toward streamlining is to eliminate the items you truly don't need. These guidelines on what NOT to pack will keep your luggage bulk in check.

1. Items Prohibited By the TSA

If you're flying, check with the Transportation Security Administration to see whether anything you plan to pack is prohibited. The TSA website has clear guidance about what's allowed and what's not: in carry-ons, checked luggage or both. When in doubt about an item, leave it at home.

2. Regular-Sized Toiletries

Full-sized bottles of shampoo and lotion are heavy, take up precious space and, because of TSA 3-1-1 guidelines, make carry-on flying impossible. Create a toiletries kit with trial-sized drugstore sundries (toothpaste, deodorant and the like) and plastic bottles or jars filled with favorite products. A trip is also a great opportunity to finish off those almost-empty tubes of toothpaste and cosmetic samples. If you frequently visit a friend or relative, ask to keep a stash of your favorite products at his or her house.

3. Nonessential Clothing

Every article you pack should pull double-duty so build a mix-and-match, neutral-palette wardrobe. Use easy-to-pack accessories — scarves, shawls, ties and belts — to add a pop of color and transform daytime outfits into evening ensembles. Active-wear items work well for sports/outdoor activities and sightseeing. Hand-washing allows for fewer items. Opt for quick-drying, wrinkle-resistant fabrics; avoid those that require ironing or dry-cleaning. Also select the lightest fabrics possible. For cold climates, this means hand-washable silk and ultra-light fleece instead of bulky wool or cotton. It also means a coat you can wear in transit; the best are light (down coats are great, as are trench coats with removable linings) and just large enough to accommodate layers.

4. Too Many Shoes

Packing pros can get away with just two pairs, and you can, too. Wear your bulkier shoes on the plane. They should be both practical and versatile: comfortable winter boots with a touch of style are great for sightseeing or a night out. Tennis shoes work well for running around on or off the court. It's best if these shoes are easy to remove at airport security, though, so think slip-ons or those with Velcro or zipper closures. Your second pair can be dressier, though you might want to skip those with sky-high heels or heavy soles.

5. Extraneous Gear

Hotels provide a lot of what you need to feel at home. Often this includes bathrobes, hair dryers and a selection of toiletries. Knowing what's available ahead of time will help you streamline your packing list. If you're staying at a resort in a sunny clime, beach towels, mats and other accessories will be readily available, either through the resort or beach vendors. Unless you're extremely attached to your personal golf clubs, skis, tennis rackets or other sports equipment, plan to rent it on arrival rather than haul it with you. Keep in mind you can always ship your luggage ahead of time (for less than you might think).

6. Bulky Reading Material

Your vacation might not be the best time to fulfill that lifelong goal of reading War and Peace. Magazines, journals, newspapers and cheap — even secondhand — paperbacks are great for plane and train rides. Not only are they affordable and lightweight, along the way you can trade them with other travelers, donate them to an English-language book exchange or simply leave them behind for others to enjoy. If you're a voracious reader, it might be time to go digital. E-reader devices weigh only a few ounces and can store thousands of digitized books and periodicals.

7. Valuables

When you travel, sadly, mishaps involving lost luggage and skilled pickpockets are possibilities. When packing for a trip you can avoid tempting fate and streamline your bag by leaving valuable jewelry, clothing and accessories at home. If you have to bring lots of cash or expensive items, be sure to pack them in your carry-on instead of checked bags. And always travel with money in multiple forms: cash, debit cards and credit cards.

Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.