Travel: Top 10 Things You Should Never Pack

It’s vacation time again, so pull out your bag and start packing. But first check out this list of ‘do not pack’ items. It could save you time, trouble and money.

By Rick Seaney

This will help you avoid fees for checked-bags, overweight baggage fees and other packing problems.

1. Irreplaceable items

Never pack valuables. Just don’t do it. Stuff get lost, things get stolen, items get broken. Tip: Most airlines state that valuables are not allowed in checked bags, so don’t count on getting reimbursed for your good jewelry if anything happens to your bag. If you must bring those diamond earrings, either wear them or keep them in the hotel safe.

2. Anything valuable without your name or number on it

Airline, airport and security lost & found rooms are filled with expensive electronics that are difficult to reunite with owners because the owners cannot be found. Make it easier to get items back – either by jotting down device ID numbers or attaching temporary tags (even a business card) that includes your contact information including phone and email. Even better, hang on to these devices so they don’t get lost; always keep them on your person. Always.

3. Gifts of alcohol (or any liquids)

We are not the Prohibition Police; on the contrary, bringing a bottle of wine for your host is a lovely gesture. However, pack it in a carry-on and security will confiscate it (you can only bring liquids in containers that hold a mere 3.4 ounces). You could pack it in a checked-bag, but then you run the risk of it breaking and Pinot Noir + Summer Whites = Disaster. Buy bottles at your destination, or if you must, ship such gifts ahead along with other bulky or fragile items.

4. Regular size shampoo or sunscreen

Even if you’re checking a bag, big or even regular size shampoos, conditioners, sun screens, hand lotion, face creams – they’re all enormous space-eaters – plus they add weight and fees for overweight bags can run as high as $200. If you’re staying with relatives, help yourself to their stuff and do the same for them when they visit you. If staying at a hotel, many already give you such items for free or you can ask for them at the front desk. If you must have your own brand, shop a big box drugstore on arrival.

5. Blow dryers

Hair dryers are standard bathroom fixtures in even the cheapest motels these days (and you can always call to confirm or check the hotel/motel website). Visiting family? Bet they have some of these lying around. Save the space in your bag for something more important like souvenirs.

6. Old-fashioned books

I love love to read and I love books, but I also like packing as little as possible so when traveling, I load up various devices with books (and movies and TV shows). It’s time to stop thinking of our mobile devices as phones; they are our libraries, our maps, our flashlights, our guide books, our translators, our everything. Do NOT forget to pack the charger cord!

7. More than two pairs of shoes

This is just a guide so if you need three pairs of shoes, go for it but here’s what I recommend: One good pair of walking shoes (these can range from sneakers to Top-Siders or comfortable moccasins) and women might also want something a bit dressier such as a flat or low-heeled sandal that’s good-looking but can still be worn for a certain amount of walking (if you’re in Europe, you will walk a lot). I’m not anti-shoe but footwear takes up a lot of room and weight in baggage. Suggestion: Wear one pair, pack one pair. Pack shoes individually with a bag on each to protect clothing.

8. Too many outfits

Unless your last name is Kardashian and you feel you must placate the paparazzi with a new outfit several times a day, do not stuff your suitcase with clothing. Avoid ‘maybe’ outfits as in, “Maybe I’ll wear it.” Unless you know you’ll wear it – and know it looks good on you and know it’s comfortable – forget it.

People far more fashion-savvy than I am advise us to pack clothing of similar colors so everything can be mixed-and-matched. 

9. Excess cash and cards

Don’t travel with more than two credit cards and carry them in different places (or have spouse or friend hold the other) so that if one goes missing, it’s not the end of the world. Do record your card numbers somewhere and make sure someone back home has this info so you can report it in the even of loss or theft. Don’t flash a lot of cash, either; you’ll only make yourself an inviting target for thieves or scammers.

10. A large suitcase 

If I can travel to Europe for ten days with a carry-on, I’ll bet you can too. But if you must bring a big bag, surely it can be shared. Example: A family of four packs two checked-bags instead of four which saves $100 round-trip in bag fees on many airlines. Bet you could put that money to good use on your vacation.