Checking a bag? While the temptation may be strong to put everything in your suitcase and lower the load you’re carrying, especially if you’ve got a layover, there are certain items you should never place in checked luggage. Read on to avoid making a dreadful mistake on your next getaway.
Passport or ID
This one should be obvious to most travelers. You’ll need to show your ID or passport to make it through TSA and airport security, so putting these documents in a checked bag could seriously impact your travels.
Even if you’ve got your passport, your other identification should always be kept on you rather than tossed in your luggage. We suggest to keep all your identification materials and money in your passport holder. You never know when your luggage could get lost and you wouldn’t want to be without your original documents.
It’s fine to keep photocopies of documents in your suitcase, but the real deal should always be with you.
If you take daily medication, you should keep it in your carry-on luggage. If anything happened with your bag, it would be difficult to get another prescription on the road and you would hate to miss a dose.
While you are limited to 3.4 ounces of liquid in your carry-on, you can get a medical exemption if you have a larger bottle of liquid medicine. To get your medication through TSA, tell the TSA officers that you have liquid medication and hand them the materials to inspect. If you are worried about getting your prescriptions through the TSA screening, a doctor’s note can help, but it isn’t necessary.
With over-the-counter medication and first-aid supplies, you can go either way. If there’s room in your carry-on, it can be smart to have it on you, but if you’re cramped for space, toss it in your luggage. These items could be replaced without much trouble on your travels.
Jewelry and Other Valuables
It’s somewhat of an open secret that TSA workers have been known to steal from luggage. In recent years, stings at Miami Airport and JFK revealed luggage handlers stealing jewelry, cash, and other valuables, including iPads and iPhones.
While the loss of a sentimental jewelry item can be devastating, what stings more is the fact that most airlines take no responsibility for safekeeping your valuables — yes, even though you may be paying a fee for them to check your luggage.
You may be able to get your homeowners, renters or travel insurance to cover the loss, but the smarter option is to plan ahead and protect your valuables. A zipper could fly open or a dishonest worker could go thieving. Never put anything in your checked bag that you would hate to lose, just in case.
Laptop, Camera and Other Electronics
If the stolen iPads and iPhones don’t have you convinced to never store electronics in your checked luggage, consider all that your suitcase goes through on its journey. All it takes is one rough toss from a busy luggage handler who is trying to get everything on the plane and you realize just how easily something valuable could break in transit.
Yes, a laptop can be heavy and a digital SLR can be bulky, and carrying these things on your journey can definitely be a pain. However, if you want to travel with your electronics, then you can either decide to do everything in your power to keep them safe or you can be willing to pay the price to replace them if there’s an incident. What would you rather do?
Traveling with cash is tricky. You might not want to have a lot of cash in your wallet because you are worried about pickpockets at your final destination, or you might be afraid that something will fall out of your bag while you’re in transit. If you’ve got a lot of cash with you, you may be hesitant to pass through security with so much cash on you. So it can be tempting to put it all in your luggage and not have to worry about it.
However, there’s a real risk of losing your cash if you put it in your luggage. The main culprits here are damaged luggage, which could open up en route, and dishonest airport workers, who take items from travelers’ luggage on those random screenings.
While you’ll probably want some food in your carry-on, it’s tempting to put wine, liquor, prepared foods, and other items in your luggage. Before you put anything in your luggage, ask yourself how you would feel if the container burst open. While that might be fine with a package of trail mix, you probably wouldn’t want red wine or saucy foods all over your clothes.
If you have to travel with dark or saucy food, double-bag it so contains spills. For wine and other liquids, look for bubble-wrap style storage packets, which secure the wine during transit. You can check out our wine packing guide if you need help!
Last but not least, don’t shove that incredible souvenir in your luggage for the journey home — if your bag is lost, you’ll never see it again! As a general rule, if you would hate to lose it or if it could break, your best bet is to keep it with you on the flight.