Of course, if you’re pressed for time or just don’t care, you can just wad up your clothes and stuff them into your luggage willy-nilly. It’s not pretty, but it will at least get your wardrobe in your luggage, more or less.

Tips for All Types

Bag It!

  • If you’re traveling by air and the thought of a random government employee fingering your underwear gives you the creeps, pack your unmentionables in a clear plastic bag. (You don’t have to spend top dollar on premium travel bags; gallon-sized freezer bags work nicely.)
  • Zip-top bags are also good for swimsuits (in case you want to pack it up before it dries) and dirty things (in case you don’t want them mingling with your clean clothes).
  • While we’re on the subject of bags, if you’re tempted by the nifty vacuum-sealed variety, remember: they squash your clothes into a smaller space, but don’t make them any lighter. You can, however, fit more into your case … which makes it even heavier. With airlines charging a premium for bags over the weight limit, be sure to factor that into account.

Mark It!

  • If you’re traveling with a laptop, iPad, or similar device, label it. Tape a business card to it or stick on an address label or something—at most airports you’ll have to send it through the scanner all by itself, and you don’t always get through at the same time. If someone accidentally picks up your laptop thinking it’s theirs, it could be on the other side of the world before you discover the switch.
  • Ditto small electronic devices you might be inclined to use in-flight … and then accidentally leave in the seat pocket in your hurry to get off the plane.
  • Speaking of ID, put some kind of information inside your bag, not just on the luggage tag. If the tag comes off (and sometimes they do) your bag will have a better chance of returning to you. I keep an old driver’s license in mine. When travelling overseas, tuck a copy of your passport in the bottom of your bag just in case something happens to your original ID.

If Your Luggage Goes AWOL

I recently flew from New York to Dallas; my luggage flew from New York to Chicago to ... I’m not really sure where. It eventually came home, but not without multiple inquiries, assorted claim numbers, and an over-the-phone ID of my bag. (“The bottom pocket has sheet music, cute black shoes, a fabulous blue scarf … Don’t open that top pocket, you’ll be sorry. Trust me on this.”)

All that to say, if you’re traveling with a friend, consider packing one outfit in their luggage and vice versa. That way if only one bag gets lost you’ll at least have one change of clothing each. Also, if your bag does go missing, be proactive in contacting the airline and staying on top of the search. It wasn’t until the third call that I finally got through to someone who actually seemed to know what to do about my missing bag.

Do you know what happens to lost luggage that isn’t claimed? After 90 days in the airline version of the dog pound, it goes to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. This treasure trove is bigger than a city block and boasts “Over one million items pass through the store annually.” No need to pack for a trip there—you can buy a suitcase on site and fill it from the vast array of clothing someone once tried to take somewhere. They say over seven thousand new items go on their shelves every day. Hmmm ... anyone up for a trip?


Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends.  She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life.  Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.