Recent restrictions on airline baggage allowances have made packing for a domestic flight unnecessarily complex. As airlines and the TSA take the fun out of preparing for a quick trip across the country, simplify your next trip with these 5 packing tips for domestic travel.
Packing Tip #1: Make a packing list. You may not have trouble finding items in California that you can buy at home in Kansas, but making a travel packing list (and checking it twice) will guarantee that you don't leave any essentials behind. Make a list of items that you'd need for any trip, then add seasonal items specific to your destination. I always have a quart-size, clear plastic bag packed with miniature 3-ounce toiletries ready to go, but lists come in handy when it comes time to remember easily overlooked items, such as socks and cell-phone chargers.
Packing Tip #2: Carry it on. There are endless advantages to checking a bag, and just as many to carrying it on board. If you're able to adhere to the TSA's somewhat-granular liquids restrictions, then avoid baggage delays and checked luggage fees by rolling your bag on board. Every airline has a published list of carry-on bag size restrictions, but most gate agents have become more flexible in light of recent checked bag fees -- from my personal travel experience, at least. This means creative passengers may be able to board with both a wheelie suitcase (22-inches and under) and a backpack large enough to accommodate every "personal item" that you own (make sure the backpack can still fit under the seat in front of you). Keep in mind that bulkhead seats don't offer any floor storage at all. With everyone competing for space in the overhead compartment, avoid being the last to board, or you may not have room for your rolling carry-on.
Packing Tip #3: Compare the carry-on fees. Believe it or not, some airlines still allow you to check a bag for free. JetBlue (www.jetblue.com), for example, doesn't charge a fee for the first checked bag, and Southwest (www.southwest.com) even allows you to check a second bag without fees. Now infamous for its fees for carry-on baggage, Spirit Airlines (www.spiritair.com) charges a whopping $45 fee at the gate (or $30 at check-in) if you want to bring your carry-on bag on board (personal items are free). You'll actually save money by checking your bag -- the fee is $25 per bag, for the first and second checked bag per passenger -- so unless you're flying out for lunch, expect to pay some kind of additional fee for each leg of your trip.
Packing Tip #4: Leave it at home. One advantage to domestic travel is that your destination will generally sell anything that you'd find at home. It may be more cost-effective to purchase oversize liquids once you arrive, rather than paying a fee to check your bag. If you're visiting friends or family, you can ask to leave your prohibited items behind for your next trip, or you can simply offer to give any unused portions to your host. Alternatively, use solid toiletries whenever possible (small bars of soap instead of body wash, for example), and stock up on sample-size shampoos. Some hotels even offer toothbrushes with mini tubes of toothpaste, which also come in handy on future trips.
Packing Tip #5: Use Space Bags. Also great for international trips, space-saving bags (the generic versions work just fine) allow you to fit much more in your carry-on bag. Pack clothing items into each airtight plastic bag, and roll out the excess air. Don't be surprised if your bag feels heavier than it used to -- clothes will weigh just as much without the excess air, but you'll be able to pack more into your carry-on bag.
Planning a trip overseas? Learn How to Pack for an International Flight. As always, feel free to share your own travel packing tips in the comments section below.
Having visited nearly 30 countries on 5 continents in the last decade, Zach Honig's fascination with travel has clearly become an obsession. Follow Zach on Twitter (@zachhonig), or check out his blog, Tech, Travel and Tuna, to keep up to date on his latest adventures.