Packing is not fun for first time Air Travelers to USA. If you are coming to USA to attend Colleges will have tough time while packing and shopping. You have limited space and lots of items on the list.

pack suitcase

Photo – Flickr – Lulieboo

From my travel experience, I have packed and unpacked suitcases several times. Following tips should help folks flying for the first time.

Refer to Our Europe Trip Planning article to learn how we efficiently packed and planned our backpacking trip.

When I was student and traveled to USA for the first time, it took several days of planning to pack the suitcase. In recent trips, it takes less than 30 minutes to pack.

Check-In Baggage

Following baggage limits apply  to/from USA/India. For other country readers, refer to the airlines baggage allowances.

Majority of the airlines allow 2 check-in bags (suitcase) upto 23kgs per suitcase.

For students, few airlines allow upto 3 check-in bags (23 kgs each). Before booking the flight ticket, ask about the baggage allowance.

If you have connecting flight, make sure they don’t charge for additional bags.

If you have any questions about baggage allowance, all the airline directly.

5 Tips to Pack Suitcase

  1. Remove the tags from new dress/clothes.
  2. Remove card-board boxes or any other boxes that came with the items you have purchased.
  3. For Fragile items, wrap it with clothes.
  4. Make a priority list and pack according to the list.
  5. First Things First. Spices take high priority, few books, clothes, personal care, etc.

How to Weigh the Suitcase

Different ways to weigh the suitcase. Make sure you get the weight right.

  1. Regular weighing machine – You weigh yourself first, then weigh again with the suitcase. Subtract and find the suitcase weight.
  2. Buy a hanging weigh machine. Hang the suitcase to calculate the weight.
  3. Weight individual items + weight of suitcase (not recommended)

Last time my hanging weighing scale messed up the weight. I had 23 kgs and while at airport during check-in, scales showed 24.5 kgs. Always, we have a cover filled with least priority items that can be removed if the weight is more than the limit.

 5 More Suitcase Packing Tips

  1. Tie a colorful ribbon on the suitcase handle. Makes it easy to identify your suitcase in the baggage claim area. I tie 2 different color ribbons.
  2. Even now, I don’t bring oil or pickles (details below)
  3. Insert clothes and dress into empty vessels if you are running out of space.
  4. Don’t arrange things inside the  suitcase. You are wasting time. It will all get messed up.
  5. I have TSA locks to lock the suitcase. Is it necessary to lock the suitcase?

I had very bad experience and had to trash a brand new suitcase and all the new cloths. At U.S. Customs, they pricked a hole into a couple of containers  with pickles for inspection. When the baggage reached home, oil was floating in the suitcase. All the new dress, spices, and so many items had to be thrown away.

Since that experience, I’m not taking any oil in the suitcase. If you decide to take oily items, do the following

  • Wrap the item in plastic cover (2 layers)
  • Seal the cap with duct tape
  • Put the cover insider any container.

Also, buy a light weight suitcase with wheels.

Having wheels in carry-on suitcase will also help to drag them around in the airports.


Do you have additional questions about packing baggage for air travel,post them in comments.

I’m sure someone is going to ask this question  “Why Air Hostess is waiting on  the Rail Track?”

See Also :  15 last minute tips for flight travel to USA


  1. Angelina Peterson on September 15, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    Hello, My advice is to roll your clothes in the suitcase. This way you could save some space. The clothes will not be wrinkled, too. I am so glad that I have found your article. Best regards!

  2. ranjit on June 7, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    how can i carry my scanner ? can i check in or do i carry as laptop in my laptop bag. it weighs less than a laptop

    • Raghuram Sukumar on June 8, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Scanner? Why do you want to take a scanner with you?

      • arun on August 12, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        may be he wants to open a xerox center.

  3. Good for you on September 6, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    The tip about not taking pickles and oils was really good.

  4. VJ San on December 17, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    My answer to the riddle:

    Air Hostess packs so efficiently that she don’t mind taking risk of even crossing the tracks with her baggage.

    My question:

    Dear HSB,

    How can we write about the food items in I-94? For instance, I m taking lots of masalas, dal, pepper, mustard and other spices with me.
    Also, how much to write the value for our baggage. Every body says to write below $100. Why is that? I m sure my baggage is worth at least 30000 rupees.

    Thanks for the post and your continuous support to us aspirants!|



  5. Raj on December 11, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    Do all airline allow 1 carry-on bag + a small back pack?

  6. Shishir on December 10, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    take spices in small to medium size packets for spices. advantages:
    1. small packets can be packed into nooks of the suitcase for efficient packing.
    2. In USA, you can open one packet at a time and use instead of opening a large packet and keeping it open.

    get a digital weighing scale from someone. it’s accurate and fun!

    my experience is carry only big cooker (5 ltr). not 3 ltr one. It’s better when you can cook more food at one go in US.

    more later..

    • HSB on December 10, 2011 at 10:41 PM

      Good tips.

  7. munna on December 10, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    We should utilise the carry-on allowance in best possible way. a small suitcase within the dimensions permissible and with wheels can be stuffed with around 10 kilos. besides that, one small backpack for carrying laptop should be taken and some extra electronics stuff can also be carried in it. you can carry a jacket in hand and also stuff like shawl, books, umbrella in hand above this allowance. Indian students have a typical habit of reaching airports in USA late and also overweight. A little bit of smartness in utilizing cabin baggage allowance will help people a lot.

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