Are you going on an International Trip?  Oh Boy. It’s suitcase packing time.

It’s the fun when you are not used to packing suitcases for international air travel.

Guess, how many people helped me with packing when I came to America for the first time?

About 15 people, family and friends, were helping me pack. Everyone had a say in what to pack, how to pack and what not to pack.

Now, times have changed. We travel frequently and it doesn’t take days to pack suitcase our suitcases for Air Travel to foreign countries.

In December 2015, I flew to Europe and it took me 45 minutes to pack for the trip.

Check-In Baggage Allowance – 70 lbs

When it used to be 32 kgs per suitcase  (70 lbs) when I came to America. Those days are long gone.

It was so much easier to pack all the stuffs. But, now airlines allow max of two suitcase with 23 kgs in each. Some airlines charge even for one suitcase.

So, we have to be very careful in what we pack and how we pack.

Here are few tips that will be of some help.

Students traveling for the first time, will have lots of stuff to carry. But, staying informed about what to carry and how much to carry will greatly reduce the amount of effort and stress on you.

Air Travel – Suitcase Packing Tips

  1. Remove all the tags from new dress/clothes. It will weight almost 200 Grams ( try me ).
  2. Remove all the card-board boxes. If you feel something are fragile, try to wrap around your dress.
  3. You will get almost everything in U.S. So, try to get items that are not available in US. Those stuff goes into suitcase first ( Indian Spices, your mom’s recipe books, pressure cooker, ..). So, the idea is to create the list of items and assign priority.
  4. Tie a colorful ribbon on the suitcase handle. It will be much easier to identify your suitcase in the baggage claim area.
  5. Try to avoid bringing oily stuffs ( hair oil, pickles, home made oily foods…) I had very bad experience and had to throw away an entire suitcase. At U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, pricked a hole into couple of thick plastic bags with pickles and when the baggage reached home, oil was floating the suitcase. All the new dress, spices, and so many things worth Rs 20,000 to 25,000 had to be thrown away.
  6. Usually, you will make a huge list, buy all the stuffs and when you pack it and weight, it will come to 30+ kgs. Priority list will help you to decide which items to remove.
  7. If you have 10 pairs of socks, see where you can stuff the socks or use it to wrap spices items or try to insert the socks into shoes, so it will save space.
  8. Don’t try to arrange things in suitcase, whatever you arrange, it will be in messed up order when you get it in U.S.
  9. Try to get the weigh scale where you can hang the suitcase using a thick rope. Other weigh techniques will not give you accurate weight. Hang the weigh scale to your roof using chain/rope and weight the suitcase. I have tried so many ways, but finally ended up following the above way.
  10. If in case you got small suitcase and find it hard to fit the stuffs, then place heavy items that occupy less space in that suitcase.

Bonus Tips

  1. Keep breakable items in the center of the suitcase
  2. Keep flexible items at the corners.
  3. Always zip your suitcase, so that zip is top of the suitcase.
  4. Don’t waste your money on air travel insurance
  5. Split the items when you pack
  6. 25 Air Travel Tips

I hope, above tips will help to pack the suitcase in more effective way.

Learn from our recent trip to Europe about planning and packing.

See Also :  Should you lock the suitcase with TSA locks?


  1. Revathi Reddy on September 28, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    Hi Raghuvaran!
    Thanks for amazing and informative blog post. This blog really helps the student community who are in a plan to visit USA for abroad education. The suitcase packing tips for air travel, prioritizing list along with your own experiences make this article an worth reading. Thanks for the wonderful blog post.

  2. Pavan Krishna on July 16, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Thanks for this article. One question is Can I carry laptop and HDD loaded with movies and songs? Will there be any kind of checking of these things?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on July 17, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      Piracy is not good. Will they check your laptop specifically? No one can give an answer.

  3. Skanda on July 13, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    HSB, just a small correction.
    Dec 2015 is still a long way.

    You had travelled in Dec 2014 maybe.

  4. AB on February 11, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    When I came to the US, I also dragged in a Himalaya of stuff with me. Several years and lots of international travel later, I have come to regard luggage as a great evil. Stay away from luggage. On my last international flight, I only had carry-on luggage. Why? There are several reasons:

    1. In a new country, the most difficult thing is to figure out how to get from point A to point B. It is impossible not to get lost in a new country. It is impossible not to get confused about which road goes where. At these moments, the luggage feels like a millstone that I have to drag around.

    2. Luggage adds to your travel time in the baggage claim area and also opens you up to intrusive and annoying investigations by customs officers.

    3. If you dont have much luggage, you can quickly run across and take cheaper public transport, which, sometimes in a new city/country can give more confidence than cabs.

    Of course, I completely understand why everyone will disregard my advice. When I was travelling outside India for first time, I would not have listened either.

    But, it's true. Only carry the following to the US:

    a. 5 shirts, 2 pants and other clothes in small suitcase to be checked in. Also throw in 2 toothbrushes, 1 bottle of deodorant, 1 soap and 1 tube of toothpaste.

    b. Laptop, education certificate(s) and 10 packets of Maggi in carry on bag.

    c. Passport/I-20 etc in smaller pouch to be put inside carry on bag.

    d. One jacket that you carry by wearing it.

    Keep to the minimal. As soon as you arrive in US, there is no need to jump to buy mobile phone or learn to drive. These things cost money and that can make life tough for a "starving student". Most importantly, staying minimal will save you the embarrassment of seeking help from others, Indians or otherwise. Be your own boss and walk a few miles if need be. It is healthy too.

    • HSB on February 11, 2011 at 8:45 PM

      You realized after several international trip and ofcourse you should be earning travel light and buy stuffs on the go. Students who are coming pledge their homes and properties to pay for education. Your logic of travel light doesn't apply to students who are cash strapped. Every USD they spend is converted to Rs45.

      • AB on February 12, 2011 at 2:09 PM


        Please notice that most of the points I wrote are with a view to saving money. First of all travelling light to the US will eliminate the huge expense of buying a whole truck of stuff before flying to US.

        Further, notice that in US, I am not at all talking about wasting money. In fact, I am saying that one should live minimally. Then, you can save money, build character and build health. It is all round gain.

        Lots of students from India jump to buy mobile from 2nd day in US. In the age of Skype and Gtalk, you dont need mobile. I still dont have mobile phone after 7 years in US and I never have any problem.

        Even in recent post, you talked about someone who had lots of trouble during first few days. You know how difficult it is. I get cold sweat when I think about my first few months in US. I am only trying to suggest people not to go through the same trouble if avoidable. If you have less stuff, you can change apartments on foot (I have done this myself). Things cost MONEY… taxi costs money…and poor students dont have money. One can easily live with 6 shirts and 3 pants. I do not understand how someone can need more than 1 jacket? I am only pointing out ways to save money and energy because I have been through this same initial horror of first few months and I want no one else to go through it.

        • HSB on February 12, 2011 at 2:37 PM

          1) Taxis cost money, but many times you will change apartments? Thats not something you do daily or weekly.
          2) Buying clothes in India is CHEAP compared to buy stuffs in USA for a new student. Students cannot manage with 5 set of tshirts? Laundry costs money.
          3) Flight is carrying your luggage and baggage carts are there to move around in the airport.
          4) Number of times you would have lift your suitcases might be less than 5.

          Spending on mobile is based on individual. Nowdays students take family plan and add 4 lines to lower the cost. If they don't have mobile, atleast landline at apartment is MUST. Also, there is difference between being cautious of spending and cheap for just the sake of it.

          • AB on February 12, 2011 at 5:39 PM

            1) Yes, when you get your accommodation in US from a distance, you will probably not get best deal. Even after arriving, the first deal you take is likely to be bad one. It's best to move a few times before you have the perfect place.

            2) Clothes are definitely cheap in US. Go to a WalMart and you will get T-shirts for $5 and pants for $10. I cannot imagine pants in India costing Rs 450.

            3) Luggage carts? lol! First of all, they CHARGE for those carts and you cannot move from one level to another of airport with a cart. You cannot leave your cart unattended for 1 sec to go to the toilet. You cannot board a bus or a train with lots of luggage…you cannot use airport connection air trains with luggage…

            Really? Having landline or mobile is a MUST? lol! Get a Skype No. that works exactly like an ordinary phone, except that Skype is more convenient, does not require a credit check, calls to customer service, a physical handset/landline, can be installed and made fully operational in 20 minutes and costs less ($6/mo). I wonder which part of this you are objecting to.

          • HSB on February 13, 2011 at 5:38 AM

            Seriously – You don't user baggage carts in airport because it costs $5? Thats says you fall into Frugal Category. There is difference between necessity, luxury and just being cheap for the heck of it. Good luck carrying around 50 kgs in your shoulders. I'm just wasting time replying to your comments.

            Speaking in your language – going to walmart costs money. So, I assume you never been to India after coming to US in last 7 years, because it costs money to buy flight tickets right?

          • Ashish on December 1, 2011 at 9:55 AM

            `Well, two people with two diff but genuine views and both of you’d something to share for the good cause of helping others. Only thing is it looks ugly when the opinions are being presented as if one is correct and other is wrong. And in this case what AB is suggesting his way of doing things which is good for people who tend to live the way he does and HSB is saying the things which he feels are good for others. So point is not to have a fight….. And after reading all the posts of both of you… I feel that HSB could have been more polite and should not have taken the reply of AB personally.

            Anyways thanks for such a nice blog HSB

    • kon on April 26, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      exactly! i’m going to the US w/ w&t this summer, so basically for 4 months which is quite a long time for me (never been away from home – and by home i mean my hometown which is a large city, not my parents house – for such a long time), and i’m gonna take a large backpack 🙂 i’m a girl, but i think i can fit most of my stuff to it, and i most definitely agree that stuff such as shampoos, toothpaste etc should be bought in the US. of course i’m not really from India, but from a central Europe and i guess there might be some differences leading to that i think it might be even cheaper to by clothes & such in the states as opposed to bringing everything w/ me then i arrive.
      but i cannot stress enough how much i agree w/ AB’s point of view that all that luggage just weighs you down, makes you feel like a miserable foreigner confused immensely by all the different road signs and such, which you really don’t need at the point then you really feel tired and lost and jet-lagged. the less things to drag w/ you, the easier is the traveling 🙂

  5. Vishnu on January 17, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Thank you so much. I am going to US only for a 2 month trip. But, still found it to be very useful.

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