Pack Your Bags Like a Flying Pro Without Checking a Bag

by: Danielle Ternyila

All these packing tips for your next flight should make your experience easier, and hopefully save you the hassle of checking a bag and waiting for it around the carousel instead of hurrying off to your vacation or meetings. I very rarely check a bag when I fly, and these tips should do the trick for you too!

Take note, not all airlines have the same dimension limitations for your luggage, so it’s important to review that to be sure you won’t have issues at the airport. If you’re flying international, make sure you check out any other differences in rules for traveling and what to pack. Depending on the length of your stay, you might have to pack up your clothes and shoes in your checked bag; I don’t think I have ever flown to Europe without checking a bag, but I will recommend picking up a cheap pack of socks and undies at Walmart that you can toss as you go instead of flying home all that dirty laundry too.

When you arrive to your airport, you will need to show ID to enter security, so have that stored somewhere easy for you to find. Have it ready when you approach the front of the line to save time, and make sure you screenshot your boarding pass in case you have any issues with Wi-Fi; you’ll want this handy and ready with your ID at TSA.

Personal Item

This is your underseat bag, it will go below the seat in front of you at your feet, so it will be easily accessible throughout the duration of your flight. This is my essential bag; it’s packed with all my snacks, my laptop and anything I plan to need on the flight. If there is something I’ll need on my flight that won’t fit in this back, for some reason, I make sure to take it out of my carry-on before I board so I have it available. The carry-on will be harder to access during the flight.

This is also the bag I like to pack a spare change of clothes in too. I’ll usually pack my cotton t-shirt and a versatile pair of joggers in case I need to use them as PJs or going out. I’ve never lost my luggage on a flight considering I never check bags, but I have had my carry-on bag checked on a few flights when there wasn’t room in the overhead, so I like to be extra cautious.

  • Wallet with your TSA-approved ID
  • Phone Charger
  • Headphones

If you have an iPhone with the pain-in-the-ass headphones with a different jack, make sure you bring a regular set of headphones if you want to use the TV on the plane too if there is one. Some airlines, like United, tend to have spare new ones available, but the quality of those can be temperamental.

  • Laptop and Charger or iPad if needed

If you don’t have TSA Pre-Check, you’ll be asked to take the laptop out of your bag to go through the security checkpoint in the US. Make sure this is easily accessible so you don’t have to unpack and repack everything in the airport!

  • Snacks
  • Gum
  • Empty Water Bottle

You can’t bring liquids over X ounces, but you can bring an empty bottle that you can fill later inside at a fountain to stay hydrated on the flight. Not all flights offer drinks, and some don’t serve until a ways into the flight. I like to have my own water when I get on the plane, so I just fill it up after I pass security.

  • Medications
  • One Outfit and Pajamas
  • Books/or anything else to keep you occupied during your flight

Make sure to put the personal item under the seat in front of you for your flight. There is limited space in the overhead bins, which is why everyone is only given one (if that, depending on your airline). I know for me there is nothing I hate more than when someone acts so entitled to take up multiple spaces in the overhead for no reason. Follow the rule, man. They’re there for a reason, and you aren’t special because you’re the only one on the plane who wishes for more feet space.


It’s important your carry-on bag fits the dimensions for your airline. The last thing you want to do is hold up the line because your bag didn’t fit in the overhead bin. Then it will end up getting checked, and you’ll have to wait for what is likely the last bag to come around the carousel. Plus, I sometimes think checking the bag at boarding makes it that much more likely to get lost in transit. Why risk it?

  • Shoes/sandals
  • Your purse/travel or laptop bag
  • One Outfit per Day (or more if you expect outfit changes!)
  • Hair products and makeup
  • Blanket Throw (for comfort and to keep from getting home sick in your hotel)
  • Toiletries/Liquids (in zip-loc bags, and make sure to check sizes!)

Handy list

I’ve picked up a few handy tricks along the way, starting with my portable squatty potty! You heard me right – if I’m being honest, bowel movements aren’t the same when I travel, so this is a nifty packing hack I’ve found along the way. It is a small fold-flat bench that only stands a few inches above ground, but it takes up less space than my laptop. It is also great when waiting for long periods of time, you can use it as a seat in a pinch at the airport; it’s a stool after all.

My Birdie, by She’s Birdie, is my favorite security piece I travel with; it’s compact and attracts minimal attention hanging as a keychain off my bag, but when I pull the cord, it lets out the most insane screeching noise with beeping and loud flashes. It gets everyone’s attention, which makes me feel safe in most places, knowing I can have all eyes on me within seconds if something were to happen. A homeless man got aggressive with me in Houston while I was sitting in front of my hotel on a bench back before I found the birdie. I bet it would have had that man far from me much quicker! (I got creative in that moment and tried to draw as much attention to us as possible and get louder so someone came to my rescue, then the hotel staff escorted me inside.)

An extra lock is good to have for your hotel if you are traveling on your own or just want to take some extra precaution. I purchased this one on Amazon that is small and easily portable but has worked for most doors I’ve come across. It fits over the door faceplate and locks it in place so it will not budge from the outside while you’re inside.

I love watching movies on the plane from my phone (I download them to my device before we fly to watch on airplane mode without wi-do!). This phone holder and other similar items are used to let your phone hang on the seat in front of you. Use this to watch movies all during your flight without having to hold it or wait until the light turns on and tray tables can come down. This has been one of my favorite flight investments so far, and it really was very cheap! It is convenient and makes my flight more enjoyable, so it’s worth it to me! If you prefer to read, you might prefer a magnetic bookmark to hold your spot on bumps or a mini light for late night flights when they turn the lights out.

Overall, I hope these packing and travel tips are helpful! This is my go-to list for packing without a checked bag. It takes time to master, and rolling your clothes makes for much more room in the luggage. Wear your biggest/heaviest clothes on the plane, and you should be set! Now, go have a great flight!

Comment below what other travel tips or information you want to hear more about on the blog.


Travel Smart, Stay Safe | Adventure Is Calling

by: Danielle Ternyila

My career has provided me the opportunity to travel more than I could have eved dreamed, hitting 27 states before I turned 26 and even visiting several countries on my bucket list! Being a young woman and merely 5-ft tall, I’m always careful when I travel, and in some cases I’ve had to learn things the hard way.

It’s become a tradition that any time I am leaving the state, my dad tells me, “Be smart,” and I’m supposed to respond with, “Be safe”. This is his reminder that no matter where I am going or what I am doing, I need to be smart and stay safe. This means being aware of my surroundings and who is around me. It means planning ahead and making the best decisions. I need to make smart choices and be prepared, so now I hope some of the things I’ve learned along the way might help you.

Ubers and Taxis and Lyfts, Oh My!

Did we or did we not grow up on, Don’t get in cars with strangers? It’s definitely different today with so many ride service apps available now, but we still need to take precaution getting in any vehicle.

Before you get in any car when you’re traveling, whether you’re on your own or with friends, ask the driver, “Who are you picking up?” If they don’t say your name, don’t get in, although I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. When they do know your name, you can take it a step further and confirm your end destination if you’d like, or just make things official and ask their name.

And FYI, never give them your name first! How would that prove anything?

There have been too many horror stories of fake Uber drivers picking people up. Make them confirm with details only your driver should know. Before I even walk up to their window to ask; however, I walk behind the car and check the license plate first, too (Jersey friends, not all states have a front license plate!). I do not care how silly I look walking around a car all the way to the back to stare at the license plate and confirm before even addressing the driver. If they are doing their jobs, they will understand the need to confirm the plate. It’s better to be safe than be sorry.

When I’m traveling alone, or even with my girlfriends, I also do not share personal information out loud, and that includes talking about where you’re from, your hotel, reason for travel, all of it. If the driver asks and you are uncomfortable with not answering at all, you can always bullshit a few answers to appease them. Be mindful of what you say on phone calls in the car, too!

Explore by Foot with Confidence

This brings me right back to studying abroad in Paris and getting up at 4am to get on the train to head to Disney for open, and I can’t forget when I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona on business and explored a new area every evening for dinner. I’ve learned it’s best to blend in with a crowd when visiting new places on your own, so I map out my route in advance, and I’ll even study Google maps before I head out to make sure that once I start walking down the city streets, I don’t have to constantly stare at my phone for directions like a lost tourist. Of course, that doesn’t mean the GPS isn’t on in my pocket as a back up that I can whip out to look at with a brief glance (maybe 1 headphone in the ear to listen), and my dad already received texts of where I was going.

Always keep an eye around you. Be smart and pay attention to people around you, be aware of your belongings on your person. I’ve invested in a simple anti-theft crossbody that I strictly use when I travel. If you aren’t going that all-out on your trip, stick with bags that zipper all the way shut, perhaps invest in a lock, keep them on the front of your person. Wallets, cash, and your IDs and all should be in a secure pocket, with anti-theft capabilities if possible.

Open bags are easy to be grabbed into, bags out of sight to the owner are a target to pickpockets, and putting your purse on the floor isn’t just unlucky; you’re asking for trouble. Money belts are also another great tool, and always be sure to separate some items, especially credit cards. I lock cash and some IDs in the safe and carry the rest securely in my bag. Of course my travel bag has several safe spots for this stuff, which I’ll get to in a second!

Take Precautions Before You Go

Invest in a birdie! For a fair price, you can get this small device that looks and hangs like a key chain, but when you yank out the bottom piece, a loud and alarming sound will go off. When in need, which hopefully never happens, this thing will draw immediate attention to you and whoever you are trying to ward off. (TIP: the loud noise will also keep away animals if you are in that unlucky of a situation!)

Another alternative I travel with is a small “purse-friendly” pepper spray. The only downside to this is that it is a hassle to fly with. You can take flight only with it stored in your checked baggage, and when you go international, the laws regarding pepper spray can get very strict. I was shocked when I landed in London for my first solo trip and learned that it’s almost completely banned in the United Kingdom.

My PacSafe anti-theft bag with Birdie security

For my first solo trip, my mom gifted me this PacSafe crossbody. It is an anti-theft bag that I bring for every trip, made from tough durable material so no one can cut the strap on it and steal it. The zippers all come down where they can lock onto another little lock, which then also tucks the zippers in to hide them. Of course it even has separate secure compartments for storing IDs and money. It has so many great features, and after 5 years it still looks brand new after all the trips I’ve taken it on. For the peace of mind all these years it has been worth it, and of course it really doesn’t look bad either! There are a number of different bags out there like this, backpacks and totes too!

My favorite feature on this bag is it can lock onto the chair you’re sitting on in a restaurant so you don’t have to worry while you eat!

Traveling Under the Influence

Traveling alone can be some of the greatest adventures, but that’s the most important time to keep your head on straight and mindful of your surroundings. Although I’m not much of a drinker today, I limited myself when I did indulge (because how can you not, when in Rome!). One night I overindulged a little with some friends in LA, and I had the worst panic attack when I got back to my room at the end of the night. I was safe, but feeling tipsy alone wasn’t fun, certainly nothing I would risk either in public when traveling on my own.

Let Someone Know Your Plans

I send my mom my full itinerary every time I travel, and during the trip, I am texting my dad when I leave the hotel, try a new restaurant, or go explore the city. I always make sure someone knows where I am, even if I’m on a different continent at times.

You should always have an accessible phone line, too! When I went to Italy for 3 days with the bestie, I didn’t think I really needed to spend the extra money on an international plan for just 72 hours when I’d be busy exploring all day anyway, but I was grateful I did when I needed to call another friend back home to translate something to the police for me while also trying to calm me down about the man who chased us through the train station; he claimed he was a taxi driver and was very mad when we turned him down as he tried walking us to his car in the visitors lot rather than the taxi line – another great lesson learned!

It all comes down to making smart decisions and choosing safe options, even if sometimes they’re a bummer or awkward when you have to tell the Uber driver you can’t talk. Regardless, be mindful of what you’re traveling with, and who is around you.

Be Smart, Be Safe!