You know what you need to bring on vacation: Bathing suit, money, maybe an extra pair of glasses or your medications. The list of what you don't need is longer.
Whittling down a packing list means you can use a carry-on and that means you save three ways:
Save money: No bag fees* or overweight penalties
Save time: No long waits at the baggage carousel.
Save sanity: No worries about your bag making a flight as you sprint to a connection.
*Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit do charge for carry-ons, but most airlines don't.
What to Leave Back Home
1. Anything irreplaceable
Sad to say, there are sometimes thieves among us. You've heard of rogue baggage handlers rifling luggage but do you recall the couple that waltzed out of Phoenix's Sky Harbor with more than 1,000 bags? True, they were all eventually caught and sentenced but a lot of the stolen stuff was gone for good. And don't forget all those travel scams designed to part you from your money and valuables. Why risk it? One exception is electronics because today they are our everything.
Keep such devices on your person but leave the expensive earrings and necklaces at home and leave the irreplaceable one-of-a-kind timepiece in the vault. If you must show off to fellow travelers, flash your frequent flyer miles.
2. Valuables with no ID
It happens to all of us; we put down our phone, get distracted and forget to pick it up. The TSA sees this at security checkpoints on a regular basis but that doesn’t fully explain why their Lost & Founds are filled with pricy electronics. The big problem: most items can't be returned because the owners cannot be found! Granted, you might not normally want to tape a business card to your phone or tablet but it's not a bad idea when traveling. Or jot down your device's serial number and keep it in a safe place.
Wine or liqueur or anything tasty and breakable should not be packed. If the liquid is in a container larger than 3.4 ounces, it won't be allowed through security in a carry-on but putting it in a checked-bag is a dicey proposition, too. Even the most carefully wrapped and zip-bagged bottles can break. Whether it's a gift or souvenir, ship it. No sense ruining a perfectly good suitcase.
See number three. If it's too big, the TSA will toss it. Or you may find a lotion explosion in a checked-bag. Big box drugstores are everywhere so buy your sunscreen on arrival.
5. Reading material
I love the heft and texture of a book as much as anyone but not when traveling due to weight and space concerns. This is where electronics are especially useful; light and thin, a single device can hold an entire library.
6. Too many shoes
My rule of thumb is wear a pair, pack a pair. And wear the heaviest ones on the plane.
7. Hair dryer
Today, even the cheapest budget motels have dryers in their bathrooms and if you're staying with family, don't you suppose they might have one, too?
8. A 'maybe' outfit
This is a luxury only the darn-the-cost traveler can afford, or someone traveling by car. Look at your clothes carefully before packing: then, separate items you know you like and will wear from those you think you might like to wear. Then, ditch all the 'maybes'.
9. Extra credit cards
As a rule, I take two at most. Some friends have one spouse hold on to one, while the other keeps the second card. Jot down all card numbers and bank phone contacts in case of loss or theft and stash this info separately (not in your wallet).
10. A checked-bag for one
I get it. There are times when you absolutely need a big bag. Fine, but why not share it? A family of four with two checked-bags vs. four with four saves $100 round-trip on most airlines.
Bonus: Don't bring a phone that's missing important contacts
Check your phone before you take off to be sure you have added all the important contact numbers you'll need including airline, hotel, rental car and the dogsitter or whatever. Chances are you won't need any of these but it's good to know they're there if you do.