Five Items Not To Pack For Your Next Flight

Five Items Not To Pack For Your Next Flight

Efficient travel packing isn’t just about what you include: it’s also about what you leave behind. Here are five items you should consider carefully before they land in your next travel bag.

Picture by Richard Giles

We’ve run lists in the past on what you should pack for a business travel trip, and this shorter list has a similar work travel emphasis. This time around, though, we’re examining the stuff you can sensibly leave behind. That’s particularly useful if you’re only trying to travel with hand luggage, thereby dodging often excessive baggage charges.

I don’t think many people would go to the extremes of travelling with one mobile phone and no change of clothes, as I’ve done in the past, but there are plenty of ways to travel light. That’s not to say everyone’s list will be identical: we all have different needs and tastes. But taking time to work out what you can leave behind is a worthwhile exercise.

If you’re going on holiday, some of the elements on this list might differ, but much of the logic is the same. Travel is about the experience, not the stuff you take with you.

5. Aerosols

You’re allowed to take aerosols as part of your carry-on luggage for Australian domestic flights, but they’re a massive nuisance since you have to take them out for airport screening. Save the hassle and use alternative versions instead (roll-on deodorant, for instance). If you must pack them, make sure that they’re in an outer pocket or at the very top of your bag so you can quickly remove them at the security checkpoint.

4. Excessive toiletries

Five Items Not To Pack For Your Next Flight

Extending on that theme, if you know your hotel will provide soap and shampoo, why take it with you? Your washbag doesn’t need to be the size of a cereal box. Some people take this to extremes, relying on the hotel to supply everything short of deodorant. I’m not quite that minimal, but I don’t see the point of packing soap when there’ll be plenty of it in the hotel.

3. Electric hair gadgets

Why pack a hairdryer? Any hotel will offer you a hairdryer. I also figure a straightener is probably a waste of space, but to be fair I’ve never had hair that long.

2. Too much tech

We’ve discussed the issue of whether you can just travel with a tablet or a phone instead of a notebook PC in some detail before, so I’ll just restate the essential point: think about what needs to happen on your trip and plan accordingly. If you can get away with just a tablet, or even just a phone, your bag will be much lighter.

1. Shoes

Shoes take up a lot of space, but I regularly encounter people who pack three pairs for a three-day trip. That seems excessive to me. Yes, if you’re a fitness fanatic, suitable gym shoes might be sensible (though barefoot running can avoid that problem). But if you can choose one pair of versatile shoes that function for both work and casual needs and wear them on the plane, you’ll save yourself a whole lot of space. I find a black pair of boots often works well for this; your needs will vary depending on your job, fashion choices and other factors. But if you’ve got a different pair of shoes for every day and you’re not actually in the footwear business, you’re wasting a lot of space.

What items would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman tried not to laugh at the guy carrying too many aerosols at the airport last week. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


  • Unless you’re staying at a really fancy hotel, the hair dryers they provide are quite useless. I don’t use a hairdryer so it doesn’t bother me, but for people who use them, I understand why they bring them.

  • I think it comes down to how long you are going away for, and to what destination: I’m moving overseas permanently in a few months, and I know for certain that I’ll be taking every valuable gadget and item with me; however if you are only going on a day or two trip then you may not need every toy you own. Also, depending on what activities are available to you at your destination, you may need more or less accordingly (so you’re not bored out of your mind).

  • One little tip on the shoe thing, as someone who takes a lot of short trips for work – if you’re going somewhere warm, make sure you’ve thought about what shoes will work with shorts. It’s quite easy to find a pair of shoes that’ll work with both work pants and jeans, but it can be a little harder finding a pair that’ll also work with your shorts.

  • If packing shoes I make sure they are stuffed full of socks, underpants, whatever I can crush before putting them in my bag. This reduces the space they take up.

  • With regards to the soap/shampoo thing, I’ve found that a lot of hotels now just have a single liquid in the show which is supposed to be both body wash and shampoo, and I really am not comfortable using that on my hair. It also means that they don’t supply conditioner, so if you have to bring your own, why not take shampoo too?

    Sure, soap for hand washing / body washing is one thing you can be guaranteed most hotels will provide, but hostels won’t, so you’ll need your own (and a towel, too).

    • For some reason Italian hotels don’t provide *any* toiletries (and I’ve stayed in dozens all over), so if you’re heading there, pick something up before you go to the hotel to clean-up.

  • I did 4 weeks in Thailand and Bali, the most extravegant things I packed were iPhone, iPad and MBP, this was to manage photos and upload each night, the phone/tablet was for communication and games at night or if it was too wet to go out.

    The rest of my things, was about 6 changes of clothes, the good old double pluggers and some deoderant, everything else could be bought over there or wasn’t needed. I feel soory for those that need 14 different pairs of shoes for a couple of weeks of travel, if walking is the main thing on the cards, comfortable and sturdy trainers/hiking boots are a must, we spent most of our time walking to and from taxis and shops, so flip-flops did it.

  • I’ve stopped packing pants. Seriously people we have underwear. That’s all you need. I conduct all of my business meetings pantless these days. I’m telling you men will want to be you and women will desire you

  • Maybe I’m just “old school” but the thing I’ve learned to not take is paper-based reading material. Busines travel means meetings, meetings usually mean pre-reading, and then there’s the work you could be doing in ‘down time’ between meetings, for which you need resources. Now, with iPads and smartphones, not taking paper versions is a no-brainer, sure, but I was travelling for work before mobile phones were mobile. It’s an old habit and hard to kick, especially when you include stuff like magazines that you like and or that novel you’re reading. Paper is heavy; go electronic, or online.

    • I often find that the articles are skewed in ways which assume we all live like technology reviewrs; multiple ipads, multiple laptops and phones, no worries paying $200 for an overnight bag…

  • I think some good tips above. Also shave soap/stick with a cheap brush for shaving is great for weight saving and getting through airport security. Must be the solid soap not the creams (if the spill what a mess)

  • Especially for long trips the lighter you can pack, the better. I pack for no more than 3 consecutive days (4 if I have to take a suit). Of course, double that for underwear. There are pretty much no circumstances overseas where you cannot launder and replenish your clothing. It will cost you less of your sanity to launder 4 items every 2 days than it will to launder 20 items every week and most Hotels offer a service. You can get 3 days of clothing, a laptop, a tablet, your phone, chargers, etc easily into a carry on. Which leads me to my next tip. Most airports have little soaps, gels, shampoo’s and conditioners you can get when you get to your destination. I do this everywhere and have never come across a situation where I haven’t been able to get a mini toothpaste and soap for a couple of bucks. If your hotel does not offer these (Italy, I’m looking at you) then the convenience store down the street certainly does. It may not be your preferred brand, but your on holiday, live a little.

  • Good points – I read this article because I’ll be travelling soon.

    Just on point 4 though Angus – have you ever looked at analysis of what is in the average shampoo / soap? I don’t really consider it myself to be cleaning to fill my skin with an array of petrochemicals, heavy metals and other toxins which are known to destroy living organisms, which my body, last time I checked, is one.

    Each to their own I guess. Not to say I travel with soap, but you did ask why somebody might take their own soap. Personally I just use the water and pass on the soap when I’m out of town. And no, I don’t smell because of it 🙂

    Actually, in the skin are anti bacterial life forms which are designed to fight bacteria which cause bad smells and odors. Funnily though, 99% of soaps actually kill these beneficial bacterias in our own bodies. The same applies with typical shampoos, which destroy the natural balance of the scalp which then give rise to head mites / dandruff.

  • LOL @ “anti bacterial life forms …’designed’ (by who??) to fight bacteria which cause bad smells and odors”…really?? Amazing how the soap know just to kill them and not the ‘1%’ stinky ones. An excess of H20 is also known to destroy living organisms (if they ingest too much, or forget to breathe)…better steer clear of that too. Hang onto those friends of yours with hyposmia, worth their weight in gold!

    Great article – can’t agree with dumping the hair straightener tho…and Cameron, get a tablet, even ipod 2s are going for a song now. Ladies, definitely get a DIVA CUP too (not for blokes…don’t google it…you have been warned). Saves the environment, save space.

  • This was clearly written by a man! If I used hotel shampoo I would look like a poodle, and I never use soap because it makes my skin so dry it flakes. Hotel hairdryers are terrible and straighteners are an entirely different thing that some women consider a necessity. Women just have to pack more things than men, since society tells us we have to look our best all the time or we will die alone :p

  • I always travel in my Vibram Five Fingers, jeans and suit jacket, and pack 1 pair of business shoes. Vibram’s are by far the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever travelled in. My jeans are for heading out at night, and I wear my jacket to save it from getting too rumpled. I take a satchel bag with my Mac Air and iPad, and a carry on with everything else, for a 6 day trip to the US. I do this about 8-12 times a year. This light packing is mainly from using the tips and tricks I’ve learned from lifehacker over the years. Thanks for making my travel SO much better!

  • Out of about (say) 50 holidays I’ve been to in my life, around Australia and the world, about 5 were at hotels.

    I’d rather spend more time somewhere than waste money at a (fancy) hotel.

  • I save abit of space sharing the figure 8 mains lead that plugs into my laptop and camera battery charger. Phones don’t take long to charge and laptops last enogh time to recharge the camera batteries.
    In fact you can reduce further by removing the plug on your iPhone/Pad charger and plug directly in and the charger will just hang off the power point.
    I used the reverse trick in a backpackers recently plugging the longer figure 8 cable into the iPhone charger so it would reach to my bed from the wall socket.
    I do wish my laptop had enough juice to charge my phone/tablet just via one of its USB ports, would mean less another charger.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!