This is what not to pack in checked luggage.

Airport navigation is one of those necessary evils of traveling. Surely everyone has their own kind of horror story to share about a bad airport experience. Besides delayed flights, outrageously priced trail mix, and getting on the wrong plane, the biggest stressor of flying is the baggage.

With so many regulations out there and numerous variations between airlines, it can be a challenge to know just what to pack. Generally most of our attention goes on the items we actually carry on to the plane, but it is important to carefully pack your checked suitcase as well.

We’ve compiled a list of 20 items you should absolutely leave out of your checked luggage when packing. Pay special attention to these particular things to avoid any unnecessary stress.

1. Important Documents

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The last thing you want to do is leave your passport and travel documents in the bag that gets packed away on the plane. Always have these items close to your person to make sure nothing is stolen. These kinds of things happen easily, so always have a proactive plan in place. If you want, you can even make copies of these important documents to include in your checked baggage as a backup in case of emergency.

2. Electronics

Electronics and laptop computers are expensive and likely contain sensitive information. If you are bringing extra electronics besides your phone, it is a good idea to add them to your carry on bag instead. Just leave them towards the top so they are easily accessible during that TSA line.

3. Fragile Items

This is pretty self explanatory really. Fragile items are certainly what not to pack in your checked luggage. It is no secret that most checked bags don’t get treated with much TLC. You’ve likely cringed on the inside while watching people load suitcases onto the plane with gusto. If you have a special souvenir or gift that you absolutely do not want broken, add it to your carry on bag for safe keeping.

4. Medications

Prescription medications are usually something that people need to help maintain their health and quality of life. Don’t get stuck in a foreign country with lost luggage and no medicine. Always include your medications in your carry on. Keep in mind that the TSA makes exceptions for liquid medicines that may exceed the 3.4 ounce limit.

5. Too Much Booze

A lot of people like to take a little of the party back with them by purchasing alcohol to bring home. It is perfectly okay to bring back some fine liquor from your destination, just make sure you don’t bring too much. Check the specific guidelines of the airline you are flying to be sure your bag won't get flagged.

6. Jewelry and Valuables

It is always practical to think twice before bringing any kind of valuable with you when traveling. This especially counts for checked luggage. You might think your items are more secure in your suitcase, but don’t forget that your bag can easily be lost or stolen.

You don’t want to lose Grandma’s precious heirloom necklace on your island vacation, so reconsider bringing any kind of invaluable objects.

7. All Your Clothes

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Whenever you check your luggage, there is always the inherent risk of it getting lost. This situation is stressful and inconvenient no matter the circumstance, but it can be less so if you plan ahead. Pack yourself a little survival kit to include in your carry-on or personal item. This can include your basic grooming products and an outfit or two. This way, whether your checked bag makes it to your destination when you do, you can be comfortable for at least a few days.

8. Unbagged Liquids

Nobody wants the unfortunate experience of arriving at your destination only to find that your shampoo bottle exploded all over your clothes. Aside from the fact that you might smell a bit like Suave’s sun ripened strawberry shampoo for the rest of the trip, this is never a fun encounter. Unbagged liquids are what not to pack in checked luggage.

Avoid this problem entirely by investing in some quart and gallon sized zip plastic bags. No matter the size, pop all of your liquids and aerosol products into these baggies before you pack them away.

9. Flammable Objects

TSA guidelines allow for a number of weapons and related items to be packed into checked luggage. Even large items such as saws can be included in your bags. The main regulatory factor with these types of things is that no items that require any type of fuel may be included. No flammable liquids or chemicals are permitted in either your carry on or your checked bag.

This rule also applies to explosives such as fireworks, gunpowder, and flare guns - all things that are what not to pack in checked luggage.

10. Agricultural Items

This rule particularly applies if you are flying internationally. Many airports throughout the world are extremely picky when it comes to the transportation of agricultural products. This is due to the risk of spreading plant based diseases and harming the country’s native plants.

11. Credit Cards and Cash

Like the jewelry and valuables, the same rule applies to credit cards and cash. These are certainly not what not to pack in checked luggage. Keep your money on you at all times to avoid getting stuck in an unfortunate situation. 

12. Food

All meal products are not explicitly banned from checked bags, but they are not encouraged either. Food can easily get spoiled and cause more issues than good. Some airlines actually ban ready-to-eat meals because of the heat they generate.

13. Certain Weapons

Before exercising your Second Amendment, double check with the guidelines of the TSA and the specific airline you are flying. Certain weapons are not permitted, even inside your suitcase. Keep this in mind when considering what not to pack in checked luggage.

Other weapons are permitted, but only in special circumstances. For example, you can bring stun guns as long as the power source is taken out. Other items such as taser might not be allowed on most airlines.

14. Camping Equipment

If you are flying to a remote destination and plan to go off the grid for a while, you probably want to bring your camping equipment along too. Before you start tying your bandana around your head, double check with your airline to make sure everything you are bringing is allowed.

Of course, things like your tent and sleeping bag should be no problem to stow in your checked bag. The issue arises with other items such as camping stoves. A lot of camping accessories require fuel, and may have residual fuel even if it is empty. It is smarter to purchase any items like this once you arrive at your destination.

Use this list when you pack for your next trip.

Hopefully these guidelines offer some insight on just what you should avoid packing when you fly. Now you know what not to pack in checked luggage. Breeze through that TSA line without even a drop of sweat when you do your research before you pack. With a couple of tips and a determined spirit, you will be a packing pro in no time.

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Faith is a writer and social media manager residing in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is passionate about people and currently attends university in pursuit of a degree in Clinical Psychology and Counseling. A nomad by nature, Faith finds utmost joy in trekking around the globe and strongly advocates backpacking as the best way to explore anywhere. Being a bookworm and an avid coffee drinker, she is likely to be found sipping an Americano and mulling over a classic novel.

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