Although the trend today is to stuff everything you need for a trip into a carry-on and forgo the idea of checking luggage its never worked for me. I’ve never been able to master the concept. Watch the number of bags loaded on to the carousel at the end of the flight you’ll realize I’m not alone.

So, if you’re like me and always check a bag please know there are some things you should never put in checked luggage.

Travel Documents

This pertains to all checked luggage but it’s especially important for international travel. Always make certain you keep your passport and visa with you in your carry-on. You will almost always need those documents to clear customs in the country you’re visiting and for your return trip home. You probably won’t have access to checked bags before you reach the customs desk.

The same precaution should be taken for all important papers including travel insurance documents and any work or personal papers that contain sensitive information. Put those papers in a carry-on.

Remember, original copies should always stay with you. Any items you want to pack should be photocopies.

Here’s a better idea. Keep copies of important documents on a flash drive you carry with you. Having a true copy of the passport personal information page on a flash drive could speed replacement should your passport be lost or damaged.

Jewelry and Valuables

We like to think that only honest people handle our luggage as we travel. That however might not be the case. TSA officials are not the only people with access to your suitcase. Unscrupulous baggage handlers have been known to riffle through luggage.

According to SITA, an organization that gathers statistics for airlines, only .012% of checked bags were reported lost, damaged, or stolen during 2010. That’s no consolation if you happen to be among the .012% and you loose a very important family heirloom.

Frankly, the best idea is to leave jewelry and other valuables at home while you travel. And if you must bring fine jewelry with you, keep it safely with you in your carry-on.

Laptops and Electronics

According to a TSA spokesperson, Electronics “…should be packed in carry-on luggage because they are typically fragile, expensive, and more prone to breaking if transported in checked baggage.”

No matter how well you wrap your devices in bubble wrap or beach towels they are still a target of the people who handle the luggage once checked.

Most devices are just too expensive to let out of your control.


If you’re required to take medications you should always have them with you in your carry-on. Certainly prescription drugs should always be kept in your possession.

You are allowed to bring liquid medications onto the flight even if they exceed the 3.4-ounce limit. But you have to declare the oversized liquid when going though a security checkpoint. It helps to have a signed note from your doctor or a medical ID card to identify liquids and any prescriptions you are carrying.

It’s a good idea to have an original prescription document with you when you travel should you need to replace medications while on the road.

Cash and Credit Cards

This should go without saying, but never stash cash or credit cards in your checked luggage. It’s just not a smart thing to do because you never know who might rummage through your bag once you hand it over to the airline.

Make it a rule to keep you cash, credit cards, and your checkbook with you in the bag you keep under your own control.

And there are other items…

In addition there are other things you should never stow in checked bags.

Never pack breakable items no matter how well you think you have wrapped them.  Keep cameras and film under your control. Don’t pack food, especially if you’re on an international flight. Many countries won’t allow you to bring food products into your destination.

Here’s one more thing you should pack in your carry-on. That’s a change of clothes… at least underwear. If your suitcase is lost or stolen you’ll be glad to have the extra clothes until you get replacements.