For the 50+ Traveler

A perfectly packed suitcase is a thing of beauty.

Imagine arriving at your destination and opening up your case to find that nothing is out of place, your clothes aren’t covered in an explosion of shampoo or suntan lotion, and your cosmetics are perfectly intact.

Pack your suitcase wrong and you invite all sorts of headaches, from ruined clothes to insane upcharges for baggage. Make a few adjustments to your packing process and the travel dream of a pristine suitcase can be your new reality. Let’s look at the seven most common mistakes people make when packing their suitcase, and how to fix them.

1. You’re Waiting Until The Last Minute

We know; spontaneity is your middle name, but if you want a suitcase that will survive a journey halfway around the world, you need a touch of planning ahead.

Waiting until the last minute to pack your suitcase is a rookie mistake because you have way too much on your mind to even begin packing it correctly. Tossing your socks into your case with one hand while calling an Uber with the other is inviting disaster.

Pack your suitcase in advance. You are far more likely to remember everything, and you’ll save yourself piles of undue stress.

2. You’re Ignoring The Reigning Queen Of Organization

Marie Kondo has made a household name for herself with actionable steps to declutter your life, so of course she has a sure-fire method of packing your suitcase properly.

Follow her instructions and you too can have a suitcase full of tidy little organized rectangles that won’t jostle around during transit. It sure beats balling up your expensive blouses and hoping for the best.

3. You’re Packing Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Packing light is an art. We know that you think that you need ten pairs of shoes to strut around Paris on your seven-day holiday, but trust us, you don’t. Not only will you be stuck lugging around those wedges that will never see a Parisian cobblestone street, but you could pay some seriously hefty fines at baggage check-in.

Overpack and you’ll run the risk of forking over big bucks to get your bag on the plane.

Generally speaking, the weight limit for luggage on domestic and international flights is 50 pounds, but it can vary by airline, so always check in advance.

If you’re prone to overpacking, save yourself the sticker shock and get a travel scale. You can also combat the urge to pack your entire closet by sticking to one color palette and choosing clothes that you can get more than one wear out of.

4. You’re Playing Fast And Loose With Your Cosmetics

Most quality cosmetics don’t come cheap. The average American spends up to $50 on cosmetics a month. That investment can turn into a powdery mess at the bottom of your bag in a New York minute if you pack them incorrectly.

Powders are especially vulnerable. Tuck a cotton ball into your bronzer compact or eyeshadow palette so they are less likely to jostle and break. Put your liquid makeup into sealed bags and bring it with you in your carry-on. Remember that you can only carry on liquids or gels in containers that hold 3.4 ounces or less.

Airport security.

5. You’re Rolling The Dice With The TSA

Making assumptions about what you can or cannot bring in your carry-on could have costly consequences or even lead to you being detained by Homeland Security. Every day, people are forced to toss out expensive products because they don’t know the rules. Consult the TSA’s comprehensive list of banned and allowed items, which is frequently updated, to make sure you know what you can take before you fly.

As long as your approved liquids are in containers that hold 3.4 ounces or less, you can bring them in your carry-on. Always carry any important medications in your carry-on as well, as well as your identification and credit cards.

You can also bring alcohol in your carry-on, as long as it’s 3.4 ounces and unopened. Cheers to that!

6. You’re Inadvertently Being A Soft Target

Unfortunately, we live in a world where thieves are always looking to take advantage of soft targets. It’s easy for an unscrupulous person to fish around in your luggage on the sly, banking on the fact that by the time you realize that something is wrong it will be far too late!

Deter petty thieves by making sure your valuable items are tucked deep into your suitcase. Even better, bring them with you in your carry-on. You can also upgrade your suitcase to one with a combination lock, or simply purchase a lock yourself and hook together the zipper on your bag. Remember, criminals will look for soft targets, so putting a few obstacles in their way is worth keeping your property safe and sound.

Want to keep yourself really secure while traveling? Here are six ways you’re vulnerable to hackers when you go abroad, and what to do about it.

A woman packing her suitcase.

7. You’re Not Researching Your Final Destination

Even seasoned travelers can make dangerous assumptions about what is and isn’t allowed in their final destinations. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and you could face heavy fines or even trouble with the law if you violate the rules of a sovereign country.

Gum, for example, is banned in Singapore, and high heels are a major no-no if you’re walking through Greece’s ancient historic sites (although you can wear them otherwise). Many people trip up when it comes to bringing banned medicines to foreign countries. Products that are perfectly legal in the United States are banned in many countries overseas.

Sudafed and Vicks may be banned in Japan depending on the concentration of active ingredients. Codeine is a prohibited substance in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Japan. You can’t bring Benadryl to Zambia, and many sleeping aids, like Ambien, are outlawed in countries like Singapore. When in doubt, check beforehand on the State Department’s site.

A perfectly packed suitcase can deter thieves, keep your belongings protected, and even save you from trouble in other countries. A few minor adjustments are all that it takes to level up your packing game.

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