The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, has many rules about what we may carry-on and check on flights. Some things are strictly not allowed, while others only checked never carried, or vise versa. We could take TSA advice, “When in doubt, leave it out,” but is it that simple?
If you are traveling with cash, valuables, or medications in your luggage and your checked bag is lost or damaged it can wreak havoc on your vacation. As a rule, pack anything of value in your carry-on bag, just in case. Below are 10 things you should never pack in your checked bag.
10 Things You Should Never Pack in Your Checked Bag
1. Identification, Passports, Boarding Passes, and Essential Documents – All necessary documents, especially those with sensitive information, are kept on your person or carry-on bag. Remember to keep an extra photocopy of your necessary documents at home and at your hotel upon your arrival at your destination.
2. Cash and Credit Cards – All cash and credit cards are transported on your person on in your carry-on bag. Keep photocopies of your credit cards at home and at your hotel. There is a slim chance your checked bag will be opened by an airline employee or TSA, and although it is rare there have been reports of theft. Leave your checkbook at home, if you need checks carry them on your person and note the numbers in case of loss.
3. Jewelry and Valuables – The chances of your checked bag getting lost are very low. In 2011, 3.4 in 1,000 passenger’s bags were reported lost, damaged or delayed. Not bad, but if your bag happens to get lost and you packed your antique Rolex, or a pair of diamond earrings, you won’t be happy. Consider leaving expensive jewelry at home. If you travel with it, store it in your carry-on bag.
4. Medications – Travel with prescription drugs on your person or carry-on bag. If you notice, our theme here is “if you can’t live comfortably without it–carry it.” If your liquid prescription exceeds the 3.4 ounce limit, no worries–it’s allowed. You will need to officially declare it when going through the security checkpoint.
5. Laptops and Electronics – I once read this advice for flyers: “Electronics … should be packed in carry-on luggage because they are typically fragile, expensive, and more prone to breaking if transported in checked baggage.” To protect your electronics from breakage, or possible theft, I highly recommend you pack these in your carry-on.
6. All of Your Clothes – Pack a clean pair of underwear, socks, or even an entire outfit in your carry-on. Pack whatever you may need for a day or two if your checked bag is lost. Include daily essentials like a toothbrush, comb, and necessary toiletries.
7. Breakable Items – Fragile items are always packed in your carry-on. Consider mailing any fragile items so you do not have to travel with them.
8. Film – Put all of your film rolls into one storage bag and pack it in your carry-on bag. When going through security pass your film bag to a TSA agent and ask they inspect it by hand. The x-ray machines used by TSA can damage your film.
9. Food and Drink – You may check food and drink, however it is not recommended. If you flight is delayed or your checked bag is lost–the food can spoil and the pressure can cause containers to explode. Opening your bag to find your favorite pair of pants have been doused in red wine, or the unpleasant odor of spoiled food has penetrated your clothing. If you are traveling internationally, check the embassy’s website of the country you are visiting for rules prohibiting you from transporting food from your destination.
10. Lighters, Matches, and Flammable Items – Lighters with fuel may only be packed in checked luggage if they are in a Department of Transportation approved case. Matches are not allowed in checked baggage, and you should avoid packing flammable items, such as paint or liquid fuel.
If you have any questions, visit the TSA Traveler’s Guide (click to view).
As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.
Carmen M. Perez, Travel Planner
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