15 First Time Flying Packing Tips to Help you Prepare

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When flying for the first time, it can be hard to know exactly how to pack your suitcase. From overweight luggage fees to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) restrictions, there are many factors to consider when packing your carry-on checked bag. We’ve created a first time flying packing list containing all of the tips and tricks you need to know in order to ensure nothing gets left behind and your first time flying is stress free.

1. Know the rules

Every major airline has their luggage restrictions and limits clearly outlined on their website. The general rule of thumb is that if your bag weighs more than 50 pounds, airlines will charge an additional fee. Rules vary based on each airline, and some countries have weight limits and restrictions. FareCompare.com is a great resource for comparing general luggage fees.

2. Purchase Lightweight Luggage

If it’s your first time flying, it’s important to note that the weight restrictions do include the weight of your suitcase. An average empty suitcase can weigh up to 14 pounds. If you know you’re someone who needs all of the extra room and weight available, opt for some lightweight luggage. Some ultralight suitcases weigh less than 10 pounds, and that can really make or break you at the check-in desk.

3. Make a list

To avoid over or under packing, make a list of everything you will need. It’s recommended that you start making your list a couple of weeks before your trip. This will give you plenty of time to purchase items you may not already own. Not only will this save you time and keep you from scrambling at the last minute, but it will also ensure you don’t leave anything behind. Below is a list of common items that are frequently left behind. If you’re going to a destination where you might need some of these items, make sure they’re on your list:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain gear
  • Phone chargers
  • Toothpaste
  • Lip balm
  • First aid kit
  • Swimsuit

4. Wear the heavy items

If you’re flying to a location where you will need a heavy coat or boots, save the space in your luggage and wear them in the airport. Removing these items at the security checkpoint might take extra time, but if you need the room in your suitcase, it’s definitely worth it. Planes are usually cold, and you can always store it underneath your seat, if needed.

5. Roll your clothes

This is a packing method most experts recommend, and I use it every time I fly. Rolling your clothes will take up less room in your suitcase, and it also decreases the risk of your clothes getting deep wrinkles or creases from folding. This method also helps use every square inch of your suitcase. If you want to take it a step further, pack all of your socks in your shoes.

6. Pack interchangeable outfits to save space

If you made a packing list, you probably have all of your outfits planned for your trip. Take it to the next level by packing items that go well with most everything on your list. If you’re worried about appearing less stylish because you’re repeating outfits, use accessories, like scarves, belts and jewelry, to switch things up. Interchangeable items will save time on your trip and space in your suitcase.

7. Take advantage of the personal item allowance

Most airlines will allow you to take one free personal item on the plane. Instead of carrying a small purse, opt for a large tote. I always like to store layering pieces, like flannel button downs, sweaters, or coats, for my trip in my personal item so I have extra room in my checked luggage, and I can use these items on my flight, if I get cold or need a makeshift pillow.

8. Do not pack your valuables in your checked luggage

Getting off of the plane and finding out that your luggage has been lost is every flyer’s worst nightmare, but it can and does happen. This is why it’s so important to store your wallet, passport, prescription medication, expensive jewelry items, etc. in your personal item. You will need your government issued I.D. and passport, if you’re flying internationally, to get your boarding pass and go through security anyway, and keeping it out will guarantee you have it with you throughout the duration of your trip. Also, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations require that you you pack all electronic devices inside your carry-on and personal items, as well as all of your charging devices and any additional lithium batteries.

9. Pack all liquids larger than 3.4 fluid ounces in your checked luggage

This step is crucial. If you are checking a bag, go ahead and pack all of your toiletries in your checked luggage to avoid the risk of having your personal items thrown away at security. If you have an overnight flight, plan to purchase travel sized versions of the items you will need on the plane. Bonus Tip: Pack all of your liquids in a plastic storage bag before storing them in your suitcase or toiletry bag. Items can shift around in your suitcase and break open during your flight, and few things are worse than unzipping your suitcase and finding your clothes soaked in lotion or soap.

10. Don’t pack what you will buy

If you have fashion boutiques and shopping in mind, don’t take up space in your suitcase with ordinary clothes. Take only the essentials so you have room for your purchases in your bag.

11. Avoid stains

Pack your light colored clothes inside out to prevent them from getting stains in your suitcase. Once you’ve made it to your hotel, use the complimentary shower caps to cover the bottoms of your shoes to keep them from staining your clothes after you’ve worn them. Also, make sure you bring a plastic or reusable bag to store your dirty clothes in. This will help you stay organized and ensure that your clean clothes don’t get mixed up with your other items.

12. If you’re only packing a carry-on, follow these tips:

  • Plan around your shoes –These are the bulkiest items and will probably take up the most space in your luggage.
  • Pack your items in order of largest to smallest – The packing order should look something like this: shoes, jeans or pants, tops, socks and undergarments.
  • Pack your nicer clothing items in separate bags – You can use plastic or cloth bags to pack your nice tops and pants. This will help keep your items looking fresh and new.
  • Use packing cubes or space savers – These zippered compartments are the perfect solution for organizing your suitcase to ensure you know exactly where each item is. We’ll talk more about these in the next tip.
  • Know your airline limits and restrictions – All major airlines will provide you with information about your carry-on restrictions, which might include your carry-on size, rules for carrying on liquid or other non prohibited items, such as sharp objects, firearms, and even electronic cigarettes. Always check with your airline or the official TSA website if you have any questions about what you can and cannot bring with you.

13. On the subject of packing cubes, use them in your checked luggage too

Packing cubes are small zippered compartments that come in various shapes and sizes. With packing cubes, your suitcase will become significantly more organized, and your items will take up less space. If you’re going on an extended trip, packing cubes can help you store used items and new items separately to eliminate the risk of your unworn clothing items getting dirty. You can opt for one large cube that fits perfectly inside of your suitcase, or you can use multiple cubes and pack them into your suitcase like a game of Tetris. Either way, packing cubes are said to be life changing

14. Less is more

Pack your suitcase, and then, pack it again. Almost every time I travel, I end up wearing some variation of the same outfit. I’ve started keeping note of this look and only pack similar looks for trips. If you’re going on a five day vacation you, realistically, don’t need five pairs of shoes and pants. Pack only the essentials and leave extra room in your suitcase for any souvenirs or gifts.

15. Add an identifying factor to your luggage

The worst part about baggage claim isn’t waiting for the luggage to get there, it’s trying to find your black or blue suitcase in a sea of black and blue suitcases that slightly vary from each other. Add a luggage tag, stickers, or ribbon to your suitcase to make it easy to spot. Not only will this help you find your bag faster, but it will also keep other passengers from thinking your bag is their bag. Using these tips as a guide for your upcoming travel plans will help eliminate stress and the chance of over or under packing for your first flight.