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Carry-On Suitcase, open and being packed with clothes

Packing Tips for Carry-On and Checked Luggage

If you're packing for a vacation that includes airline travel, you’re probably trying to decide what should go into your carry-on bag and checked piece of luggage.

Download the AAA Packing Checklist - it will help you remember all the essentials from travel documents to medications, clothing, toiletries, electronics & more. Check out our packing video, demonstrating how to maximize your packing space. Plus, our packing tips below will help you efficiently pack both your carry-on and checked luggage.

Download Packing Checklist

Carry-on Bag:

  • Make sure your carry-on contains enough clothing and toiletries to last you through a 24-hour period in case your checked luggage is lost. That way you will have supplies available while the airline works on locating and returning your luggage to you.
  • Bring any necessary prescription medications. Keep in pharmacy containers or bring the prescription with you.
  • Pack any valuables like jewelry, money, credit cards, etc. in your carry-on.
  • Pack all liquids in a 3-1-1 bag to keep in line with TSA regulations.
  • Bring all necessary travel documents like your passport or entry visas, plus confirmations and tickets for your trip. Also, keep a copy of your travel insurance policy with you. Make a copy of your passport and entry visas and stash in a separate place, like your checked bag.
  • Bring reading material, travel games, playing cards, etc. These items will help to pass the time when you are traveling, especially if there is a delay.
  • Pack a travel Umbrella or packable poncho/rain jacket. It’s always best to be prepared for different types of weather depending on your destination.
  • Bring a luggage scale with you to weigh your checked luggage. Overweight bag fees can be very costly. The luggage scale will help you to avoid those fees.
  • Make sure you have a description of checked luggage. If you have to fill out a lost-luggage report, having a detailed description of your checked bag will be helpful – size/dimensions, color, brand, and any identifying marks. You can also take a photo of your luggage to help identify it.
Checked Luggage:
  • Make it easy to identify your luggage by using colorful Luggage ID Tags, TSA Approved Locks, or Luggage Straps.
  • Put Luggage ID Tags on both the inside and outside of your luggage. If the luggage tag on the exterior becomes unattached in transit, you have a backup inside.
  • Never put your home address on the luggage tags. Use your cell phone, work contact information or a trusted neighbor's information in case the luggage gets lost or arrives home before you do. This also protects you from someone identifying your home as being empty because you are on vacation.
  • For Domestic Travel: Make sure you have purchased a TSA Approved luggage lock. Therefore, if a TSA agent needs to examine their luggage, they can get access with their universal key. If the lock is not TSA Approved, the agent may cut off the lock.
  • For International Travel: TSA only exists in the US. Therefore, if you feel that you want to use a luggage lock, the security agents in foreign countries may have to cut the lock off if they need to inspect it. Be prepared and bring an extra lock. Cable ties are also a good option to use instead on locks when traveling internationally.
  • Pack light and efficiently. Mix and match clothing by coordinating items and colors.
  • Pack comfortable shoes as most trips involve a lot of walking.
  • Toiletries. You are not limited by size in your checked bag. Make sure to put any liquids in plastic baggies in case any should open in transit, this would limit spills/messes to the plastic bag.
  • Pack undergarments and bathing suits in clear plastic bags. This keeps items sanitary if TSA agents are inspecting your luggage. They won’t open up bags unless they see something dangerous or feel something sharp.
  • Bring a packable tote to bring home souvenirs.
  • Bring gloves, scarf, and hat if you are traveling to a place that’s cold. Women should also take a scarf in case you visit religious sites that require covered heads.
  • Consider security. Do not pack any items which airport security would deem a hazard.
These tips are a good starting point, but don't hesitate to consult your AAA Travel professional to figure out what's appropriate to pack for your specific itinerary.


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