Packing for Air Travel - The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Bags and Accessories

There's something special about air travel. The thrill of flying, the buzz and excitement in the airport, the anticipation of what awaits on the other side... But wait... I need to pack first! Excitement gives way to stress. What size bag can I take? How will I fit all my stuff in? What if my bag is too heavy? 

Choosing a bag is a balance between navigating airline restrictions and your own personal preferences and needs.  This guide looks at the basic factors you should consider when choosing your bag and we'll also suggest some packing accessories to make the whole process easier. Let's get started!

Maximum Bag Size

Most airlines allow a maximum bag size for checked baggage of 62 inches of all the dimensions combined (length + width + height). A 30- or 33-inch bag is definitely small enough to fit all requirements. If you can’t fit all your belongings in that size bag, you can go with one of our most popular bags for air travel - the slightly bigger 36 inch duffel. Although it’s actually 68 inches combined, most airlines will let it through. If you choose to take a 42 inch soft trunk, though - that’s considered OVERSIZED by all airline standards and you will be charged for the luxury.

Compression bags are an excellent way to take more stuff without needing a bigger bag or extra weight. Pack your items inside, use a vacuum to compress, and you’re good to go! Packing cubes are also a great solution for getting as many items as possible into limited space.

Wheels or No Wheels

Wheels add weight to the bag itself, so if you’re short on space inside the bag, you might want to pack in a soft trunk without wheels. But if you can afford the extra weight, consider the convenience of having a trunk with wheels. This is especially helpful if you need to walk long distances inside or outside the airport. If your airport has carts available for a small rental fee, you can forgo the wheels and rely on the carts. Another solution is a foldable luggage cart, which can be easily stored when not in use. 

Weighing Your Bag

There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport and discovering that your luggage is overweight. You are forced to move some items into your carry-on, throw things out or pay extra for another piece of luggage. You can avoid this inconvenience and expense by weighing your bag at home with a luggage scale. Instead of making a rushed decision at the airport, you will make calmer and better decisions about what to take and what to leave at home.

Carrying Passports and Other Essential Documents

One of the challenges of air travel is the need to carry important documents for long periods of time while keeping them safe. Carrying passports and other essential documents in a backpack or purse is not recommended, since these can be lifted while you’re asleep. It’s better to use a neck pouch or waist belt to keep your documents close at all times.

Identifying Your Luggage

We all know that feeling of standing at the baggage claim, looking for our luggage which looks exactly like everyone else’s. Colorful luggage tags and luggage straps will ensure that your bag stands out and save you time identifying your luggage.

Converters and Adapters

International travel requires converters and adapters so that you can plug your devices in at your destination. A global adapter allows you to plug in to outlets in 150 countries. A converter kit will convert electricity from 220V to 110V and vice versa. It’s great for small appliances like most travel irons, hair dryers and garment steamers. In today’s wired world, you’ll want to be connected as soon as you arrive, so we recommend packing these items in your carry-on for easy access.

Foldaway Luggage

We also recommend bringing along foldaway luggage. You are likely to need a smaller bag for short trips, and you may very well be bringing home more than you went with, especially if you like to shop. A foldaway backpack is great for day trips and a foldaway tote bag will serve you well when you want to pack for the weekend. They both take up very little space and weight in your trunk and are extremely useful during your time away. 

If you were unable to weigh your luggage in advance and you get stuck at the airline counter with an overweight bag, you can just whip out your foldaway duffel bag and fill it with some of your heavier items.

Enjoy Your Travels

Packing for air travel can seem daunting, but when you have the right luggage and accessories, it becomes much easier. Of course, you still have to figure out what to take and how to fit it all in, but that’s a subject for another blog post...

About the author 

Hadassah Levy is the VP of Marketing for Pack for Camp. She attended sleepaway camp for a number of years and wishes she could have gone for longer. She has also sent her children to various camps, and knows first-hand how stressful packing for camp can be and how essential it is to make this process more efficient and streamlined.