A simple rule of thumb: Pack anything of value or importance in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost by the airline. But there’s more to keep in mind. Below are 10 things that you should always leave out of your checked bag.
Jewellery and Valuables
Of course, it’s not probable that your checked bag will be lost by an airline. But if your checked bag contains an antique watch, a family photo album, or your wedding ring, you’re in trouble.
Most carriers require passengers to submit claims forms when bags are lost. Your airline will then tally the depreciated value of the contents of your missing suitcase—if your claim is accepted, that is.
We recommend leaving jewellery and other valuables at home when traveling, but if you must bring these items on the road, be sure to store them safely in your carry-on bag.
Identification, Passports, Boarding Passes, and Essential Documents
All necessary documents, whether they’re work or insurance papers or other sensitive information, should be kept with you in your carry-on bag. But there is another solution—back it up. If you plan to put papers of importance in checked luggage, keep copies (either hard photocopies or copies on a flash drive) on your person.
Cash and Credit Cards
All checked bags are screened electronically but select checked bags are opened by airport agents and screened by hand. When packing a checked bag, be aware that a security agent—a stranger, essentially—may be rummaging through your things at some point. There have been reports of workers stealing valuables from passengers’ bags; as expected, such occurrences are rare.
There’s always a chance that your suitcase could get damaged en route, too. If a busted zipper befalls your bag, any packed cash will be easy pickings for thieves.
Lighters, Matches, and Flammable Items
Airports have a handy checklist of prohibited items on its website. Items of note include lighters, matches, and flammable objects, which anyone going on a camping trip might need to pack.
All of Your Clothes
If your luggage disappears into the mysterious black hole of missing checked bags, you’ll thank your former self for putting an entire outfit—enough to get you through a day or two at your destination in case your airline loses your suitcase.
There’s a theme here. If you can’t live comfortably without it, don’t pack it in your checked bag. Accordingly, prescription drugs are best kept on your person.
Passengers are permitted to bring liquid medications onto planes, even if they exceed the 3.4-ounce limit for carry-on liquids. But you’ll need to officially declare your oversized liquid medications when going through the checkpoint. Tell a security officer stationed at the checkpoint that you’re carrying liquid medications, and hand them over for inspection. It helps to have a doctor’s note or a medical ID card, but it’s not required.
Don’t blame it all on the baggage handlers. Sure, they’ve been known to bust up a prized possession or two. But baggage handlers, under pressure to load hundreds of bags onto a plane in a short amount of time, are just trying to get your flight off the runway. Fragile items should always be packed in your carry-on bag.
Food and Drink
Flyers should avoid putting food and beverages in checked bags. Passengers aren’t prohibited from storing chow in checked bags, but it’s a wise suggestion nevertheless. If you’re traveling internationally, you may be prohibited from bringing food to your destination. Each country has its own rules about what kinds of foods can be brought across borders. Check the embassy website of the country you’re visiting for more information.