10 things you don't need to pack

You’ve probably read plenty of articles about what to pack before you take a trip but less often do professional travelers tell you what NOT to pack in your suitcase. Ready to pack smarter? Here are 10 things you don’t need to pack and should leave at home to make your suitcase lighter and more manageable.

1. Expensive jewelry
Even if you’re going on a five-star cruise, leave your expensive jewelry, including watches, at home because travelers are just asking for it when they wear their flashy stuff. In fact, I always recommend that women turn their engagement rings around, when traveling through local markets and train stations, so that stones of the ring are facing their palm. If you do insist on bringing expensive jewelry for a special occasion like a fancy wedding, then carry it on the plane with you; don’t check it! And don’t wear it out on the town every day. I would suggest leaving your valuables in a safety deposit box at the front desk of a hotel or cruise ship or in a safe.

2. Travel iron
No one likes wrinkled clothes but chances are that wherever you’re going, they’ll have an iron. And if they don’t, like on a cruise ship, where irons are considered a fire hazard, there are other ways to get wrinkles out of your clothing. My favorite trick: Hang your clothes in the bathroom when you’re taking a hot shower. The heat will usually steam the wrinkles right out! Or, I’m also a fan of packing wrinkle-free clothing so I don’t even need to worry about ironing.

3. All of your tech gadgets
These days, most people have a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet, an e-reader…but do you really need all of them when you travel? Try to pare your tech collection down to the essentials and leave the others at home. For instance, if you can download the Kindle app on your iPad, you can leave your Kindle at home and just read your books on your iPad. That way, you can also leave their respective chargers at home, too.

4. Shampoo, conditioner and body lotion
We all like the products we like but when you travel, why take up all that space with your shampoo, conditioner and lotions? Unless you are going camping or staying in a hostel, wherever you go will have it all. If you don’t think you will like the hotel’s brand of amenities, then you can always go to a local pharmacy or grocery store and buy some. If you must have your favorite shampoo, then be sure it’s in the proper size container if you are doing carry-on only.

5. Hair dryer
Don’t even think about it. I’m always surprised when I hear women bringing their own hair dryer. Really? Do you not think the hotel, cruise ship or rental house will have it? Packing a hair dryer is just taking up valuable room in your suitcase unnecessarily and adds weight to your bags.

6. Paper guidebooks
Gone are the days when travelers have to stock their suitcases or carry-on bags with thick and heavy guidebooks. Don’t get me wrong – I love guidebooks but this is the 21st century and you can find all the information you need online or download it on to your smartphone or tablet.

7. Too many clothes
There’s an old saying: Pack half the clothes and twice the money. Those are words to live by. As you’re preparing for a trip, lay out all the clothes and money you plan to bring. Then only pack half the clothes and double the amount of money you had planned on. Like so many people, I used to over pack and then I got wise. And don’t use the excuse that you’re a girl who needs more stuff because my wife – the most girly girl I know—used to travel with a suitcase the size of trunk, but once she saw the light, she started using a suitcase that’s smaller than mine and now it’s carry-on only for her. Here are her packing tips.

8. Designer luggage
Speaking of luggage, don’t bring expensive designer luggage as it only draws the attention of thieves. If you’re a thief, who are you going to rob: someone that has a designer bag or someone that’s got some generic suitcase? Case closed.

9. Shoes
I once had a girlfriend who had to bring seven pairs of shoes with her on every trip because she needed them to match all of her outfits. That relationship didn’t last long. When I travel, I bring one comfortable pair of walking/running shoes and one pair of dressy shoes. Since women tend to have smaller feet, they can usually fit a few options. My wife recommends only one pair of heels, one pair of running shoes and flip flops or ballet flats.

10. Sudafed and other over-the-counter drugs
A lot of Americans don’t realize that it is illegal to bring some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States into some foreign countries, like Japan. These drugs include inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers), or codeine are prohibited. It’s best to look up country’s U.S. embassy for specific details. Here’s Japan’s as an example.

As you can see, most of the things I’ve listed will save you space in your suitcase but some can also save you jail time!

What things do YOU leave at home? What would you add to this list? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!


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56 Comments On "10 Things You Don't Need to Pack"
  1. naoma4|

    Suggestion: Pack only two colors in clothing or one if you have scarves and colorful accessories. I am gone 3 months each year in Paris — land of fashion and never have a problem looking “stylish.”

  2. Debbra Dunning Brouillette|

    I look back with embarrassment at how I over packed for my first press trip to French Polynesia several years ago (you were there, Johnny!). I not only brought my 17” MacBook Pro (didn’t yet have an iPad) but had too many bags to easily handle by myself and sometimes had to rely on others (thanks, Laz) for help. (I wasn’t used to navigating my bags without my husband being along, but that was no excuse!)

    Fortunately, I have learned from that experience and pack much lighter and more efficiently now. I’ve taken to heart the tips other travelers have shared, like rolling clothes, taking fewer clothes—planning to wear things more than once in different ways—and shoes, and finding a carry-on combination that works for me to maneuver alone. I still have room for improvement, but I’ve “come a long way, baby!”

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good to hear!

      1. Paul Jacobelli|

        It’s not so much what comes with us on the trip that I get concerned about. It’s what comes back with us after, say, a long weekend in NYC or, for instance, a month in Italy. While maybe 3 pairs of shoes started the trip to Italy there were maybe 10 pair of shoes that came back with us…

        1. Natalie DiScala (@nataliediscala)|

          You are such a shopaholic!

        2. Johnny Jet|

          Ha! Your wife must be related to mine!

    1. Penelope|

      If you can’t carry your luggage the length of a football field, unpack enough that you can. That’s advice I got and unpacked on the way to the airport, ending up with nothing to wear to bed.

  3. Valerie C.|

    As a female business traveler (I’m on the road every week 4-5 days a week) I cannot disagree with you more about not packing the toiletries and hair dryer. Perhaps this is a gender ‘thing’, but I’ve found too many times that the products provided by the hotels are poor quality (even the branded products are cheaper versions and don’t work as well) and have had to fight off skin/hair issues as a result. And the hairdryers are often very low quality hairdryers that do not work well. I typically leave a small bag at the hotel to store these items if I will be back and forth between the location for a period of time, but even it’s a one-off trip they are in my bag.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I can understand. Natalie says the same thing. I guess I should’ve put an asterisk next to that one.

    2. Cheryl S|

      I completely agree on the hairdryer comment. It was the first thing I thought when I read it….hotels never have high quality, good wattage hair dryers. The little travel hair dryers they provide take double the time to dry hair and leave my wavy hair frizzy. Keep the hair dryer in your suitcase if you care about your hair style, men or women!

      1. Johnny Jet|

        I might have to take that out because my wife says I just don’t understand. I don’t — I have very little hair and haven’t used a hairdryer in 10+ years

  4. MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel)|

    Just to say I love the photo of Natalie!

    1. Natalie DiScala (@nataliediscala)|

      Haha – thanks! I have to say, I never really realized just how small my suitcase is until I saw that photo. I really push it to its limit! :)

  5. Jennifer|

    I’m guilty of packing my hair dryer. :-( My hair is super thick-even after I have it thinned out (I know…what a problem to have) and the hotel hair dryers usually take 2-3 times as long to dry my hair.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      You sound like my wife! How do you girls have so much hair and I barely have any?!

    2. Natalie DiScala (@nataliediscala)|

      I agree. I prefer to have my own hair dryer but it does take up so much room!

  6. lMichaelSTL|

    There is a custom some use on sailboats. When ever you get off the boat, take something off with you. This hopefully keeps you from overload unnecessary items onto the boat. I use this when packing, pack, then take something out. Actually I take several things out of my to be packed pile. Never miss them

  7. Lily|

    Being Asian, I need my travel size slippers unless hotels provides them (I.e. China). Whenever I get samples from the mail (liquid detergent, toothpaste, shampoo), I put them in a box only to save for travels. If no washing machines or laundary service are around, I have my packed detergent if needed to hand wash a few. Last minute packing helps. Actually helps because my guy tends to use more shampoo than the female me. :\

    Also, I wear my secret belt stash to help keep my rolled up cash. I’m a first time, international traveler. :)

  8. Sheryl Mexic|

    My late mother did it right. She wore beautiful jewelry but she had travel jewelry that wasn’t always the real thing. Who can tell the difference between a dismond and cubic zirconia?

    1. v|

      Always thought I would hate to get mugged/robbed for CZ though! hmmm.

  9. SavvyBoy|

    I fly international a lot from my base in London, UK. I roll clothes and I stuff my shoes with underwear when I pack them, presently i am on a 3 week trip with just a carry on bag.On a slightly different slant one thing I always take when travelling international is a 4-way extension cable (power lead). This way I only need a single power adapter but can charge/use all my electrical stuff.

    1. michaelstlMichael|

      I always take a six foot extension cord. I use it at airports, resturants, and the hotel room.

  10. The Hummels (@journeytheearth)|

    Great tips! Especially that last one about over-the-counter medications, which I hadn’t heard yet. I feel like I’ve learned to scale my packing way back from what it used to be. I never bring an iron or hair dryer – don’t use them when I’m at home either – I like to be low maintenance :). Though when visiting places where it’s really humid, I learned I actually need to pack a few extra clothing items since you start sweating as soon as you get out of the shower and have to change your clothes a couple times a day. Either that or just wear swimsuits the whole trip. :) – Jeanette

  11. Nancy Reid|

    I agree with everything except the shoes, especially if I am cruising!

  12. Robert|

    Still can’t seem to get my wife to stop over packing! Clothes, clothes and more clothes! :(

  13. tru|

    Wow, women are such foolish travelers, it would seem. How kind of you to set them right with this article.

  14. Cathy C|

    While it makes sense to check with the embassy for surprises, YOU try getting OTC meds in France when you’re sick on a Sunday!! Overseas pharmacies are not necessarily open long hours and may require you to speak the language to get what you want. Some meds (like antibiotic ointment) that we take for granted as OTC items require a prescription in France. I learned the hard way when I became ill and had to be rescued by fellow tour members who didn’t follow the above bad advice to come unprepared. Now I pack more OTC meds than I used to for basic emergencies.

  15. Matthew (@LimitlessPtntl)|

    I usually pack and wear some old kit, then go shopping and throw the old kit away. Ship the stuff back that I can’t get in my carry on case, most things I need are in my shoulder bag which so far no one has counted

  16. Esmeralda|

    I always want to travel in style but this should not sacrifice how much I can carry. I usually pack my clothes rolled. this helps the clothes to be less wrinkled. also, I choose one shade of color when traveling. in this case, accessories, shoes and bag can be mixed and matched.

    in my recent Boracay trip, I brought a cover up that has no print , neutral color and can be styled in several ways. I never had the same outfit each day.

  17. Sheryl|

    I love AAA maps and travel books and visit the AAA office when I arrive to a new locale. Workers are a great source of local tips. No smart phone in my life. Old school is still good enough for me.

    1. Erica|

      Sheryl, if you ever do get a smart phone, you will wonder why you waited so long. It’s the 21st century, after all.

  18. nahmj|

    I am an advocate of travel light. I packed based only sufficient, based on my past experience.

  19. Alicia|

    Thank you for that! I don’t think I’ll be able to do it, as much as I try I’m always taking to much

  20. carmine|

    The hair dryer is a touchy subject for my wife.
    She too is a girly girl and we travel to europe often
    we bought a european hair dryer, high voltage and never leave home without it
    happy wife, happy me

  21. L.B.|

    4 basic colors: black, white, khaki and denim. Surprisingly, all interchangeable, and as someone else stated, add a touch of color with a scarf or another accessory.

  22. Kathleen|

    Oh, I love that last comment — to bring only white, black, khaki and blue (or denim). Maybe even just white, black and blue! So easy to add color by a scarf, or costume jewelry! Another reason to travel light is that it just FEELS better not to be lugging along so much!

    1. Christine|

      Black & Gray or Black & Denim, with beautiful colors in scarves. Freedom in the light…ness!

  23. JaneB|

    Sometimes paper guide books are still great. You can rip out the pages you need, or scan and carry on your phone/tablet/laptop.

  24. Erica|

    It might be boring to you as traveler to have limited clothing and colors, but as you’re moving about, no one else notices you are wearing the same thing over and over again.

  25. Brenda|

    I’m on the road right now. I like bright colors so I make sure I have a couple bright blouses that can mix and match with everything else. One dress, two skirts, one pair of lightweight pants- all neutral, the rest is turquoise and green. I never bring jeans, too heavy and nobody wears them when you go to other countries. Everything can be worn in multiple ways with a coordinating scarf and some fun jewelry. If I can’t schlep it up the air stairs, deal with it on the Metro, or lift it into the overhead bins, it’s too heavy.

  26. Laura|

    My suggestion is to leave the hair dryer at home and go have your hair washed at a local hair salon. I started to do so about 10 years ago: lighter bag (also, no shampoo, conditioner and other other hair products), but especially I really enjoy it, it is a nice occasion to talk with the locals, to learn about the place, get suggestions on where to go for a good meal, or see hidden gems you don’t find on travel guides. It’s funny even when the hairdresser doesn’t speak any language I know. My husband also appreciates to be left alone for one hour or so, and go around by himself. He always seems so proud to show me the places he discovered while I was at the hair salon. My best experience was at a salon in Tokyo, with green tea and sweets offered when I arrived, a long head and shoulders massage, lying on those very comfortable reclining chairs… so relaxing!

  27. Vickie Lopez|

    Very good suggestions especially about the expensive jewellery. I know many people who lost their bags and inside they had their jewellery. Best regards

  28. matteo|

    Many places do NOT have a hair dryer in EU. Allows me to have my golden looks looking sexy all the time. Travel hairdryer – A MUST!

  29. Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke)|

    I agree completely with Cathy C.’s comment about OTC pharmaceuticals. Always better to have your own meds with you than worry about (a) finding a local pharmacy, much less figuring out what the local equivalent is of the drugs you would get back home (although travel insurance companies can provide assistance with those issues), and (b) having an accessible pharmacy that’s even open if you wake up with a fever or sore throat in the middle of the night. (Plus, if you’re feeling sick and weak, the last thing you may want to do is leave your hotel room.)

    I also respectfully dissent from the advice not to pack a Kindle. My Kindle paperwhite just provides a better reading experience than using the Kindle app on a tablet, laptop, or smartphone screen. Plus it’s really lightweight and it uses the same charger as my Android phone, so I don’t need to bring an extra charger with it.

    I WILL say that while I’m lucky enough to still have abundant hair despite being in my 40s, I’m happy to use the hair dryers provided by hotels. :)

  30. Lee|

    I pack my backpack with reading material that I can leave behind or throw away (like newspapers or magazines). That way I know I’ll have room for souvenirs on the way home. I also tell my wife to leave her engagement ring at home because we don’t want to lose it… or attract unwanted attention!

  31. Anne Reilly|

    Actually, if you need hair conditioner, then you’d better pack it. For the past few years, it has become obsolete in many (even high-end) hotels in Europe. Look for a small travel size bottle and use sparingly to make it last.

  32. Jean Farrell|

    I do still pack some actual books. They’re marked with post-its, flags, highlighting, etc. I just don’t find it as easy to flip through travel books on my kindle or ipad. And I am not the least bit anti-e-book. I am someone who reads almost 100% ebooks now, except for travel books.

    As for everything else you said, I mostly agree, with one small caveat. I generally bring two pairs of shoes, BOTH of which are comfortable, with one that can pass as a dressy shoe. The reason I like both to be comfortable was perfectly illustrated by a trip to Scotland this summer. We went kind of off the beaten path to see if we could travel through time through some standing stones by taking an illegal shortcut through a field that turned out to be boggy. Our shoes were COMPLETELY soaked through, thoroughly drenched. So I switched to my other comfortable shoes until the first ones were dry, which actually took more than a day. There is nothing more miserable than wet or aching feet.
    I was kinda shocked to stay in an Airbnb that didn’t provide any soap, shampoo, etc. this summer, but in general, they provide that stuff, and if not, I like visiting the local shop to pick something up. I generally don’t bring anything that I can easily buy in my destination.

    I definitely don’t buy designer bags, the baggage handlers don’t treat it delicately, but I do try to buy suitcases with a distinctive pattern or color, even if kinda ugly. Makes it easier to find your bag on a luggage carousel and makes it less likely that you’ll take someone else’s luggage or that someone will take yours. I pair it with a distinctive luggage tag to make doubly sure. A generic black bag is dangerous. Someone took my mother’s bag once, and it took a day to get it back. Same thing happened to a friend of mine, except he took someone else’s bag.

  33. Martin Kromer|

    I keep a drawer for older cloths that still have some wear but needing to be replaced. Socks, underwear, even dress shirts. I pack these items when I travel and start to jettison them as the trips days come to a close so I have only the cloths I am traveling in on my way home. Obviously not all cloths fit into this category.
    I’ve even gone to the Salvation Army and picked out 50 cent shirts and pants, especially if it’s a fishing trip and leave them also.

    Men don’t usually carry a murce but I do walk on with a mesh diving bag and a roll on. Never been questioned.

  34. Olga Gonzalez|

    I think the books are still useful. Rip out the pages and maps you need. Also not all areas have Internet access and it’s nice to have the info handy in those cases.

  35. Clarence Oveur|

    Half the clothes and twice the money always works!

  36. Ed. W|

    How do I print articles off your web site?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Sadly, we don’t have that function. It might be best to copy and paste into a Word Doc and try.

  37. Bosco Ziffel|

    A friend taught me about socks and underwear. They are so inexpensive at Walmart, buy what you think you need. After wearing, throw them away. This will leave more room in your bag for stuff you buy. Need more, find an inexpensive store where you’re going!

  38. Bosco Ziffel|

    Sorry, I meant for this to be for white socks and underwear when you’re wearing tennis shoes and such.

  39. Melida Wharton|

    Oh wow! Can you believe the Ohio State vs Penn State game?? Big Ten East here we commmmeee! I cannot get enough of college football! :]

  40. Lily Rose|

    As for everything else you said, I mostly agree, with one small caveat. I generally bring two pairs of shoes, BOTH of which are comfortable, with one that can pass as a dressy shoe. The reason I like both to be comfortable was perfectly illustrated by a trip to Scotland this summer. We went kind of off the beaten path to see if we could travel through time through some standing stones by taking an illegal shortcut through a field that turned out to be boggy. Our shoes were COMPLETELY soaked through, thoroughly drenched. So I switched to my other comfortable shoes until the first ones were dry, which actually took more than a day. There is nothing more miserable than wet or aching feet.

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