|by Jason Steele|
I have traveled a lot, yet I am still learning new rules about how to pack for a trip. At the same time, I am learning that some of my friends and family members who I considered very well traveled still have not learned all of these rules.
1. Never Pack Anything Valuable In Your Checked Luggage Yes, this is obvious to many people. Nevertheless, I recently had a situation where a family member had their luggage delayed. She was worried about what would happen to her electronics if the bag were lost. Uh Oh. Electronics, and just about anything valuable other than clothing, is excluded from compensation when an airline loses your luggage. Even then, furs and other valuable clothing items are still excluded. Always carry on medicine, electronics, jewelry, irreplaceable photographs and anything else you can’t afford to lose. If you must check them, read the list of excluded items and purchase insurance for anything you must check beyond the covered limit.
2. Pack As If Your Luggage Will Be Delayed You learn this the first time you fly from a warm climate to a cold one and all of your winter clothes are delayed in checked baggage. When you pack a carry on, pretend like you will have to live out of it for at least 24 hours. My wife and I did this on our honeymoon, and a single bag was delayed 24 hours. We just went about our business, knowing that our essential items had been with us as carry ons. We had bathing suits, sandals and everything else we needed to enjoy the beach rather than shop for supplies and submit receipts. No, you won’t always be able to carry on everything that you will need for 24 hours after you arrive, but at least you can carry the things that you can’t easily or rent at your destination. No matter where you go, you should always have a change of clothing on your carry on.
3. Be Self Reliant Never pack more than you can comfortably walk a few blocks with. Curb side check ins and baggage porters are great, but they aren’t always there when you need them. Small airports in particular can be a ghost town when your flight arrives late at night. My trick is to pack one suitcase with wheels and a second bag that can be attached to the wheeled one.
4. Cross Pack When I fly with my wife, I make sure to put some of my essentials her bag, and she puts some of her clothing in mine. If one of our bags is lost or delayed, it minimizes the impact. On a long trip, that can give us an extra few days to allow the bag to catch up with us, or give us extra time to find replacements for our belongings. Even if you are traveling alone and have to check multiple bags, don’t put all of your underwear in one of them.
5. Go With Cheap Luggage As much as I like nice stuff (don’t ask me how much my bicycles cost), I go cheap when it comes to luggage. I know that it is likely my bags will be scuffed, torn, or shredded before the airline looses them. In that case, I will not shed a tear. When I seek compensation, my best recollection of what I paid for the bags will likely be far more than reality. At the price I pay at places like Ross, TJ Max, and Tuesday Morning, I can afford to replace them every 5-10 years anyways. These days, I carry luggage that costs less than a typical baggage fee.
6. Pack An Extra Duffel Isn’t it funny how you can never seem to pack all of your stuff in the same space when you are returning from a trip? Isn’t it amazing how an airline’s baggage scale shows your bag as being overweight in one direction, but not in another? Having a small, extra duffel solves both problems. More than once I had to offload a few heavy items to the duffel when I came home with an unplanned souvenir or when one of my bags was supposedly overweight.
7. Never Pack To The Max You should always leave about 10% of your bag empty and keep it at least 10% below the weight limit. To do otherwise, is to court disaster, even with a spare duffel around.
These are my rules and they have served me well. Does anyone out there care to add to the list?