[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]
Planning vacations can be fun, settling on the perfect destination and scoring a cheap fare. Then comes the tedious slog known as packing. This guide will help with the details to save you some hassles, and maybe even a bit of money.
5 Things You Should Pack
But not necessarily in your checked luggage, if you do that (see #5, below). Keep electronics and those boarding passes with you at all times.
1. Electronic Stuff
You won’t forget your phone, of course, but if you watch movies on a tablet or laptop, be sure to bring that electronic device along with the various required charging cords plus a portable charger. If you’ll travel outside the U.S., check to see if you’ll need an adapter plug (but don’t worry if you forget that because the front desks of hotels around the world always have drawers full of these things).
These are labels for electronics or anything else of value. Your label can be a simple mark etched onto a phone or tablet, or the phone number of a travel companion. The reason is that the lost & found sections of airports and the TSA (and these are separate entities) are filled with electronics that cannot be identified and returned to their owners. And while you’re in label-making mode, be sure your luggage has one, too. And slip a business card inside the bag, just to be on the safe side.
3. Printed Boarding Pass
Yes, printed. You have your boarding pass (and other important documents) on your phone but print out a copy, as well. Phones have been known to die at the worst possible times, like in mid-security line. If you’ll travel with a passport, take a picture of it and print out a copy of the main page.
4. Old Clothing
This is not what you think. All this means is don’t pack brand-new clothing you’ve never worn before. Sometimes clothes have quirks – a top that keeps riding up, bathing-suit straps that dig into shoulders, pants that are just a little too short. It’s hard to enjoy a carefree vacation when you’re not 100% comfortable. Pack a small sewing kit to deal with the occasional loose button and the like.
5. Small Suitcase
In other words, pack everything in a carry-on. On many airlines, it will save you from the $50 roundtrip bag fee, but it’s also the bag airlines can’t lose. And when you arrive, you’ll be able to zip out of the airport while everyone else is waiting for the baggage carousel to start up.
5 Things You Should Not Pack
These don't belong in your carry-on luggage, your checked luggage or anywhere else.
1. Indiscreet Jewelry
You could bring your $32,000 dangly, ruby-and-diamond earrings for that destination wedding or your $35,000 diamond-encrusted Breitling watch. But what if they get stolen? Even if they are insured, you’ll certainly attract the attention of thieves. Leave the good stuff at home. In fact, play it safe and don't even sport real-looking fake bling.
2. Too Many Cards
Credit and debit cards, that is. A good rule of thumb is take one main credit card plus another as back-up. Jot down the card information and hide it in your suitcase (and be sure someone you trust back home has this info, too).
A nice bottle of wine makes a lovely gift, but watch it go down the drain if you attempt to bring it through the security checkpoint. Remember: no liquids in containers bigger than 3.4 ounces. If you want to bring alcohol, buy it at the duty-free shop when you’ve passed through security, if the airport has one.
4. Blow Dryers and Books
What do these things have in common? They both take up a lot of space in luggage. Instead, download your favorite titles to your electronics and use the blow dryer in your hotel bathroom (or borrow from your relatives).
5. Third Pair of Shoes
Pack shoes for walking and shoes for looking a little more special. Just make sure both are very, very comfortable. Just to be on the safe, pack some bandages for blisters, too; vacation sometimes involves a lot more walking than we’re used to.
I did not include such things as eyeglasses or contacts and medications, figuring such items are second nature by now. Suggestion: Pack your bag not the night before you leave but two nights before. It’ll give you a little extra time to have an "aha moment" regarding that must-have that you forgot about. For more on what not to pack, see Bizarre Airline Rules You Might Need to Know.