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6 Things You Should Never Pack for a Flight, Experts Say

Make sure you're not setting yourself up for a travel travesty with your luggage.

It doesn't matter if you're a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler: Packing your bags can be one of the most stressful parts of taking a trip. But whether you're leaving town for just a weekend or for weeks on end, there is a right and a wrong way to fill your suitcase. And while no one likes to forget something important while they're on the road, experts say there are still a few things you should never pack for a flight. Read on to see what you should leave at home the next time you're traveling.

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Toiletry bottles with hinge-top lids.

Travel, travel toiletries

No one wants to jet off without a supply of their favorite skincare, haircare, and beauty products. And with infamous Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations that limit you to no more than 3.4-ounce containers of liquids in carry-on baggage, there's an excellent chance you'll be stashing your supplies in your packed luggage. But as anyone who has ever arrived at their destination to find an entire week's worth of shampoo drenching their clothes will tell you, it's crucial to make sure you're packing the right kind of containers to hold any liquids or gels.

"Cabin pressure in a cruising airliner is much lower than at sea level," Jehan Azad, a travel expert and former guide, tells Best Life. "A bottle closed at sea level will be pressurized once airborne, and subsequently push the lid open and squirt its contents everywhere."

Experts recommend using screw-top bottles and avoiding containers with flip-top or hinge-top lids that snap open when you press on one side to prevent this clothing catastrophe. Even better? Provide your luggage with an extra layer of protection. "Depending on what the toiletry is, I may double or even triple layer [Ziploc bags]," Rita Juanita Pike, a contributor to travel news outlet The Points Guy, says.

Travel pillows.

using a neck pillow on a flight will ensure a smooth trip

Anyone embarking on a long-haul flight is likely to use the opportunity to get in their forty winks, especially if traveling on an overnight red-eye. But while making an airline seat anywhere near as comfortable as your bed may seem like it would require all the help in the world, you might be better suited by leaving your traditional travel pillow at home and opting for something more useful that you can also use to rest your head on.

"Travel pillows are great in theory, but they take up a lot of space in your bag for just a few hours of shut-eye," Lauren Maternowski, managing editor at Pack Hacker, tells Best Life. "Instead, I like to bring a packable puffer jacket and use that as a pillow when I need to get some rest. It's comfortable enough to use as head or neck support in a pinch, and once I reach my destination, I can use it as a jacket—its intended purpose. It's also great to have on hand as a blanket if your seatmate on the plane is really into using the AC."

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Certain medications.

Prescription medication

No matter where you may find yourself, it's essential to have your prescribed medications on hand to be taken as needed. This is why travel experts and airlines always suggest keeping your necessary bottles with you in carry-on items and never packing them in your checked luggage. But depending on where you're heading, the pills you're prescribed might land you in trouble when land in your destination.

"ADHD medication is just one type of medication that is illegal in many countries worldwide. Be sure to check your medications are legal before traveling," Carrie Pasquarello, CEO, and Co-Founder of Global Secure Resources Inc., tells Best Life. "If you are traveling with prescription medicine, be sure to have a doctor's note along with a proper written prescription [and] keep the medication in its original labeled packaging."

Metal accessories.

Man putting his shoes in a bin in the airport security line

As anyone who has passed through airport security knows, even the items you're wearing onto the plane can have an impact on how quickly you get through the line and make it to your flight. That's why experts recommend opting for clothing that can help minimize what you have to take off and put back on while passing through metal detectors—and also cut down on the chances of you forgetting an item at the checkpoint.

"Avoid wearing metal accessories like a belt or jewelry; they're a huge hassle to get off quickly when going through security," Maternowski says. "But that doesn't mean you need to go belt-less. Instead, opt for a TSA-friendly belt with a plastic buckle so that you can leave it on through the metal detector."

You may also want to consider scaling back on the number of decorative accessories you wear or bring onto your flight. "In terms of jewelry, necklaces tangle too easily within a bag, so the only accessory I bring is the ring I wear every day, which I slip into a small pocket in my bag before I even hit the line," she tells Best Life.

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Heavy clothing.

A woman sits on the floor packing her suitcase for a trip next to her bed

Depending on where you're heading, getting a bulky sweater or jacket into your luggage might be a travel necessity. After all, bathing suits for a beach vacation will always take up less space in your luggage than the bundling gear required for a winter ski trip. But for your everyday wardrobe, it can pay to plan accordingly by not overloading your luggage with clothing you likely won't need.

"When it comes to flying, I always try to be mindful of the excessive baggage fees that pretty much every airline charges now," Brian Donovan, CEO of TimeShatter, tells Best Life. "This is why I try to limit my wardrobe to one to two pairs of jeans only. Denim is bulky, and more importantly, heavy. You'll end up adding more weight to your suitcase by packing a pair of jeans for every day of the week. You can usually get away with wearing jeans more than once before they need to be washed anyway, so pack light on the jeans and save room for lighter clothing."

Hair dryers.

A hair dryer sitting on the counter

No one likes to be caught without their beauty supplies on the road, especially if you're traveling to an important event such as a wedding. But according to experts, toting along your trusty hairdryer is probably only wasting space in your bag. This is especially true if you're traveling internationally, where voltage and plug converters might not be enough for your appliance to work safely.

In this case, it's often best to count on your destination to provide you with the beauty tools you need. "Any decent hotel will have one in the room for you," Jonathan de Araujo, owner of The Vacationeer Travel Agency, tells Best Life. "If they don't, just call the front desk, and they'll bring one up for you."

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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