Air Travel Packing Tips

Mary Gormandy White
Airline Luggage Screener

With the increased expense of checked baggage fees and strict regulations regarding what can be included in carry-on luggage, it's more important than ever to make wise packing decisions. Don't put yourself in the position of increasing your travel costs or having to leave items behind at the gate because you didn't plan ahead when deciding what items to take and how best to pack them.

Five Carry-On Luggage Packing Tips

1. Bag Quantity Limit

Airlines typically allow passengers to carry-on one small piece of luggage and one personal item.

2. Carry-On Luggage Size

Make sure that your carry-on bag is not larger than 22" long x 14" wide x 9" tall if you don't want to have to check it before boarding your flight. Make sure the bag is not stuffed to the point that you will have difficulty fitting it into an overhead bin.

The personal item must be significantly smaller, as this allowance is intended to accommodate passengers who carry purses and laptops. At the most, the personal item can be a small tote bag, 36 inches or less.

3. Liquid and Gel Products

Airline passengers are allowed to include shampoo, lip gloss, lotion and other nonflammable liquids and gels in carry-on luggage, assuming that the containers are 3.4 ounces or smaller.

4. Assistive Devices

Airlines do allow passengers to carry-on certain assistive devices. For example, parents traveling with small children can bring safety seats for children who are traveling with them. Small folding strollers are also allowed, though they must be left with the flight attendant upon boarding. Airlines make similar allowances for items like wheelchairs, crutches and walkers. Patients who require therapeutic oxygen must use oxygen provided by the airline.

5. Other Allowed Items

Airlines typically allow passengers to carry on a few additional items. For example, you can bring a pillow and blanket for your comfort during the flight, as well as a jacket or coat. You can also bring a book, newspaper or magazine and a snack, as long as the food and beverages you are carrying were purchased beyond the security checkpoint in the airport.

Five Checked Baggage Packing Tips

1. Avoid Overstuffing Your Suitcase

Some bags are opened for inspection during the TSA screening process. Make sure that your bag is not packed so full that the person checking it will have a difficult time returning your items after they have been removed and inspected

2. Items to Avoid Packing in Checked Bags

Airline Travelers

TSA recommends that air travelers avoid placing any of the following items in checked luggage due to the risk of damage or theft:

  • Beverages
  • Cash
  • Electronics
  • Film
  • Food
  • Fragile items
  • Jewelry
  • Laptop computers

3. Luggage Locks

You can only use a lock on your luggage if you have one that is approved and accepted by TSA, such as those made by Travel Sentry and Safe Skies. If you attach an improper lock to a bag, the lock will be cut off during the screening process.

4. Checked Bag Fees

Each airline establishes its own fees for checked bags. The fees specified here are quoted based on economy-class domestic travel as of July 31, 2012 and are subject to change. Use the airline links provided to verify exact pricing before you travel. Note that the checked bag fees presented here are quoted one-way, per person and do not take into account additional fees for bags that exceed weight restrictions.

  • American: $25 for the first bag, $35 for the second, $150 each for additional items
  • Delta: $25 for the first bag, $35 for the second
  • JetBlue: No charge for the first bag; the second bag is $40 and the third is $75
  • Southwest: No charge for the first two bags; $50 each for the third bag through the 9th and $110 for the 10th
  • United: Fees vary based on point of origin and destination; use the trip calculator provided on the airline's website (click previous link) to determine applicable charges for your trip.
  • US Airways: $25 for the first bag, $35 for the second, $125 for the third and $200 for the fourth

5. Avoid Prohibited Items

It is important to note that any items considered explosive or flammable are not permitted on airplanes, even in the baggage compartment. Visit TSA.org for a current list that specifies every item that is prohibited.

Keep Up with Changing Requirements

Don't forget that airline and TSA requirements change frequently. Always verify current policies with your airline immediately before departure and stay abreast of changes in federal regulations. You can sign up to receive free email alerts from TSA any time that the requirements are updated via this form. You can also access TSA's mobile app at www.tsa.gov/mobile or download it to your smartphone or tablet device at iTunes or Google Play.

Air Travel Packing Tips