A while back, the Orlando Airport tweeted a couple checked bag luggage tips. I had a follow up question, so I tweeted back. And next thing I knew, the airport was giving me even more tips to add to this luggage tips for checked bags.
Of course, I’ve also learned a few tips from my own flights, so I’ve compiled 10 tips to help you on your next flight.
I’m trying to keep these in order of when you would actually check these tips off, as if it were a checklist. But they’re not in an order of importance. Every tip is pretty helpful.
I updated this to include a FAQ section about checked luggage. Those answers can vary per airline, per flight path (domestic or international), so be sure to use the TSA’s website for additional information.
10 Luggage Tips For Checked Bags
1. Purchase colorful luggage.
When I bought our luggage set, I made sure to pick out a beautiful purple luggage set. Of course, purple is my favorite color, so that made sense aesthetically. But it also makes sense from a practical standpoint as well.
So many people have black, gray, or charcoal colored luggage. Those are pretty standard. So, when everyone’s luggage is coming around the conveyor belt, it’s hard to spot your black luggage among everyone’s black luggage. If your bags are a bright, stand out color, you have a better chance of noticing it before it passes you by.
2. Pack your liquids in bags.
Luggage handlers are great and are as careful as possible with your bags. But sometimes, accidents happen. Your bag may get a couple bumps and bruises in travel. It would be terrible if you had a shampoo bottle that popped its top while it was getting loaded onto the plane. Or worse, a soda or beer that got shaken and then exploded. You would open your bags to a wet, sticky mess.
Save yourself the potential headache and pack your liquids in bags that seal. You can even go as far as I do and tape your bottles closed. That way, if they do open, the mess is self-contained.
3. Don’t pack valuables in your checked bag.
Sometimes, your luggage gets lost. And sometimes, you’re not reunited with it. That’s a possibility. So imagine if you had your valuables, or incredibly sentimental items, in that bag. You’d potentially never see them again.
So when you’re packing, keep your very important items in your carry on or personal item. Jewelry, wallets, things like that. That way, they’re always with your person and almost eliminate the chance of losing them.
4. Put a copy of your itinerary in your checked bag.
The Orlando Airport gave me this brilliant tip that I had never thought of. Print out a copy of your itinerary and put it in your bag.
That way, if the outside tags are damaged or lost between transfers, there will be further identification and route connections so your bag will get to where it’s going.
5. Weigh your luggage before you go.
There is a weight limit for checked bags that varies by airline and class. So definitely find out the restrictions before you finish packing your bag. When you’re done, weight it. If you don’t have a scale specifically for baggage (most people don’t, but many hotels do so you can borrow it outbound), just weigh yourself. Then, weigh yourself holding the bag. The difference is the weight of the bag.
Of course, that system isn’t entirely perfect, so leave yourself a little wiggle room between the weight of your bag and the airline’s weight limit. That’s especially important if you plan to pick up any souvenirs to carry back on your return trip. You’ll have to pay a fee if your bag exceeds the weight limit and that fee can be pretty hefty.
6. Use TSA approved locks.
You want to lock your luggage so no one goes through it, and I get that. But keep in mind that sometimes, TSA may see something through the X-Ray that they want to take a closer look at. And to do so, they need to get into your bag.
If you don’t use a TSA approved lock, the TSA does reserve the right to break your lock. And that would be a bad surprise to see when you’re reunited with your luggage.
7. Remove any old tags.
Keeping old tags on your luggage may feel like a fun way to remember your past trips. If you want to do them, remove them and frame them.
When your luggage is getting sorted for a connecting flight, you don’t want anyone to have to check a million tags to assure your luggage gets on the correct flight — or accidentally put it on the wrong one. So do everyone a favor and take off the old tags.
Fun fact: According to my quick Google search, airlines call these “bingo tags,” which makes no sense to me but is awesome.
8. Use a luggage tag.
You want to make sure you have your name and contact information on your luggage in case it does get lost and the airline needs to get it back to you. The easiest way to do this is with a luggage tag. Make sure your contact information is current on it as well.
The Orlando Airport verified that as long as the luggage tag doesn’t hang past the width of the luggage, it is acceptable to use.
9. Don’t put ribbons on your bag.
A huge, colorful ribbon or pieces of string sound like a great way to help identify your luggage from afar. Unfortunately, that’s not really a great idea.
Ribbons or string may get stuck in the conveyor belt, and that could potentially damage the luggage handles or the airline’s equipment.
10. Velcro embellishments are okay.
We have these cute Velcro handle wraps that say, “Just Married” and our wedding date on them. We’ve had them on our luggage since we got married. One got lost somewhere between New York and Japan, but the other has been going strong for over six years.
The Orlando Airport said that my Velcro handle wrap was “a perfect choice,” so definitely pick up one of those if you’re looking for something to help you identify your luggage.
FAQ’s About Checked Luggage
Can a backpack be checked luggage?
Yes, a backpack can be checked luggage. For the most part, though, a backpack fits into the size allotment for carry on bags, so you might want to use that backpack as a carry on instead.
What should I pack in my checked luggage?
Of course, you can pack your clothing, shoes, etc. in your checked luggage. You already know that. I did want to list some common items that you may question.
If you want to drink wine on your vacation, you can. But you have to bring a corkscrew with a blade in your checked luggage only. Sharp objects cannot be brought in your carry on.
Gel heating pads
If you need a heating pad, and you use a gel heating pad, you need to pack that in your checked luggage. It’s not permitted in your carry on bag.
A rounded or butter knife is permitted in either bag, but knives with points must be in your checked bag.
Pocket knives must also be in your checked bag.
Your checked luggage is where you are going to need to pack any liquids that are over 3.4 ounces. This limit is also set in place for aerosols and creams (like body butter, pomade, etc.).
Things you wouldn’t consider liquids fall under the “creams” category. Like toothpaste. Jellies, jams, and peanut butter are also considered creams and cannot be brought in checked bags.
Funny aside: I was going through security once, and a man was carrying a plastic grocery bag with a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly — presumably to make sandwiches. He was able to bring the bread onto the plane, but the peanut butter and jelly were taken away.
Drinks, like soda, must also be in checked bags.
Magic 8 Ball
Okay, honestly, I don’t think anyone is trying to bring this on a plane, but the description of this on the TSA’s website is amazing. Ready?
For Carry-on bags: We asked the Magic 8 Ball and it told us…Outlook not so good!
For Checked bags: We asked the Magic 8 Ball and it told us…It is certain!
If you want to bring scissors that are over 4-inches in length, they must be packed in your checked bag.
Things like ski poles, baseball bats, etc. must be in your checked bag.
Will soda explode in checked luggage?
Soda may explode in checked luggage because of the pressure in the hold. If you absolutely need to bring back a soda from your trip, pack it in a ziptop plastic bag that is closed completely. That way, if it does explode, the sticky soda gets all over the bag and not all over your clothing.
We’ve brought beer back on two separate flights, one domestic and one international. When we flew with a six-pack internationally, one of the six beers exploded but the other five did not. When we flew with beer domestically, it did not explode. Of course, those are anecdotal not scientific studies, but they’re worth noting.
What is restricted in checked bags?
There are a lot of things that are restricted in checked bags, things like gasoline that I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be packing anyway. To make it easier, we listed a few common items that you may be thinking of packing that are restricted in checked bags.
– Alcohol that’s over 70% (140 proof)
– Cooking spray (we’ve brought food and items to cook with to Japan, like the time my aunt packed American cheese, so this was worth noting)
– E-cigarettes/vaping pens (you can put them in your carry on)
– Lithium batteries with more than 100 watt hours (there are special instructions for these to be brought in carry on bags)
– Portable chargers, power banks, or power chargers containing a lithium ion battery (these can be brought in carry on bags)
– Matches (a book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are allowed in a carry on bag; strike anywhere matches are not allowed on planes)
– Samsung Galaxy Note 7
– Sparklers (so if you wanted sparklers for a wedding, you’d have to buy them at the ceremony spot)
What should I not pack in checked bags?
Just a little rundown of things that you should not pack in your checked bag, in case it gets lost or stolen.
– All your clothes (You want a clean outfit, just in case you do lose your bag)
– Breakables (if you have a special gift or souvenir, pack it in your carry on)
– Wallet (with your cash and ID)