If you have ever had the misfortune of losing luggage, you know how frustrating it can be trying to remember what you packed inside. Traveling back and forth between Italy and the USA yearly has given me many opportunities of “trial and error” in packing suitcases. I hope you can benefit from some of these tips as they are tried and true! =)
1) Packing large liquids: Every time I pack home made olive oil or wine to take back to family, I always store them in glass bottles, and a week before departure, transfer them into empty plastic coca cola bottles. They seem to be the most sturdiest and resistant plastic bottles for me. I then use packing tape around the entire neck and cap of the bottle to seal the lid shut tight. I then bubble wrap the bottle, sealing well with packing tape. After that, I place the bottle in a plastic bag, and seal again with packing tape. I have brought over many liters of oil\wine during numerous transatlantic trips and have NEVER had anything leak. I know it may be a bit of a process, but it would be worse having everything break and leak all over your clothes!
2) Always place heavy items at the bottom of the suitcases, near the wheels. This prevents lighter items from crushing at the bottom.
3) Always line the sides of the suitcase with the items that are sturdy and flat, with no sharp edges, like books, small boxes, etc. This provides additional support for the sides of the suitcases where there is often only fabric and no metal railing or support.
4) Use the curved corners of the suitcases (usually above the two bottom wheels) for clothing items that can be twisted or stuffed, like socks or gloves.
5) Place things inside shoes….like perfume bottles……they offer extra protection for small, fragile items.
6) Place the most delicate items in the center of the suitcase, surrounded the other items that provide support and cushioning.
7) Remember, your bags will be thrown (literally, I’ve see it with my own eyes!) and in the course of the journey will have had each of its sides banged against some other object at least once. So here’s what I do: At home, after you’ve packed, hold your bag and try to shake it, toss it, do whatever you can to see if the items shift. If so, rearrange your items so that they don’t move during the flight. This will prevent any possible breaking\leaking of delicate items. Note: EVEN if you have hard shell suitcases, as I had, they still have the potential to break. I had a brand new one literally lose a stopper and break before it reached Rome! I personally stick to THICK fabric suitcases, with durable stitching all along the sides….that’s very important….as the name brand doesn’t matter, trust me. I’ve had both cheap and expensive name brand suitcases. Believe it or not, the cheapest ones I bought lasted me the most due to the strong stitching.
8) Always attach a ribbon or bright colored luggage tag so you can clearly identify yours from another passenger. That way, you don’t need to pick up every same colored bag to find out if its yours.
9) Only use TSA approved locks…..that way they never break your locks. Also, I usually just lock the main zipper and for all other side and pocket zippers, I just use a twisty tie.
10) To get the exact weight of your suitcases BEFORE you get to the airport, do this: Weigh yourself on a home digital scale, then weight yourself again carrying the suitcase, then subtract the second number from the first and you will get the exact weight of the bag! (EX: my weight is 125. my weight with the suitcase is 190. Weight of the suitcase then is 65 lbs. And always give yourself a 1 pound buffer between your scale and the airport’s scale, as some airliners are extremely strict on weight restrictions. If you still feel uneasy, use the front pouches of the suitcase to pack “less important” things, so that worse case scenario, you can just pull out the item easily and send it home with whomever accompanied you to the airport.
11) For those with laptops: I strongly recommend investing in one of those air shield TSA approved bubble laptop briefcases….the ones where the laptop can stay in the briefcase throughout security. It has been my husband’s lifesaver as he always travels with his laptop.
12) Be mindful that on full flights, airport personnel have the right to ask that carry on bags be checked in as luggage. I’ve seen in happen. Thus, I always place any vital documents or important prescription medicine in my purse.
13) Always pack an empty water bottle in your purse or carry on before you board. Why? Because that way, when you are provided with water, you can just pour the water in the bottle during your flight and not have to have the uncomfortable tray table down! I just stick the bottle in the magazine pouch on the seat in front of me! Plus, You don’t have to worry about spills during flight turbulence =)
14) If your bag is lightly ripped or has a slight rip, just place strong packing tap over the rip and you are good to go! I’ve traveled with suitcases having 5-6 rips all over but taped well so that they’ve made it beautifully! Don’t spend your money on a new bag unless you determine it’s really in bad condition.
15) To clean your suitcases after a long flight, just spray inside out with a 50:50 solution of vinegar to water. Keep the suitcase opened and in the sun until dry.
I hope these tips help you pack away safe and sound!
Have a great flight!