10 Things You Should Never Pack in Luggage

We’ve all been there: kneeling on the lid of a suitcase, fighting the laws of physics to stuff in every last piece of gear we think we’ll need for our upcoming vacation. Only to yank the zipper closed, get to the airport and pay exorbitant fees for our oversized bag. In this age when airlines are starting to charge for any bag over the size of a briefcase, it’s more important than ever to conserve weight and refrain from packing unnecessary items. But what exactly are those items?

For this article GuideAdvisor contacted a dozen tour guides around the world to ask them their opinion about the things you should never pack. Our panel of 12 experts included guides in New Zealand, Denmark, Brazil, Italy, Canada, USA, and France and many chose similar items, which are listed below. The key rules we derived from the conversation are: most everyone packs too many clothes and should you forget anything, you can most always purchase it when you arrive at your destination.

Without further ado, here are the 10 things you should never pack in your luggage according to tour guides around the globe.

1. Too Many Clothes

Every guide we interviewed for this piece said that without fail the number one mistake people make when they go on holiday is to pack too many clothes. In the case of Hawaii, Costa Rica, southern Mexico and California and other beach destinations, all you’ll really need is a bathing suit, hat, shorts, sandals and a few light shirts. You’re on vacation after all, not going to an annual ball. For more northern climes, one pair of jeans should suffice along with a few different shirts/tops. Fiona Hewitt, a tour guide in New Zealand, also suggests “packing a good lightweight yet weatherproof jacket rather than lots of layers.”

2. All Your Electronic Gadgets

Cell phone. Laptop. Tablet. Camera. Another camera. It’s easy to get carried away when it comes time to packing electronics but isn’t part of your vacation about getting away from work-like devices? Our cellphones are so robust these days that’s they’re usually all we need when on a trip. But if you want to bring along an expensive (and heavy) camera or laptop, consider that you’re going to be spending a lot of time worrying about keeping it safe. And if you just can’t live without your iPad or other tablet, consider not bringing it along on a guided tour. Kristian Dahl Sottrup, a tour guide in Denmark says, it can be “annoying when your guests are more interested in finding WIFI than being where they are. If free WIFI is the height of your holiday, stay at Starbucks.”

3. Paper Guidebooks

It goes without saying that every guide we interviewed for this story recommended hiring a tour guide as opposed to trying to glean all information about an area while standing on a street corner with your nose buried in a book. Not only are they heavy, guidebooks are almost always out-of-date. Feel free to refer to them before your trip but then leave them behind, entrust your tour to a human guide and enjoy the moment. Guidebook authors even agree with this practice as we pointed out in our article “Why Human Beats Paper.”

4. Over-The-Counter Drugs

Unless you’re going on a backcountry adventure trip, most everywhere you travel in the world will have a pharmacy. Leave that giant case of headache pills and other non-prescription drugs behind and just enjoy your trip. After all, you’re going on vacation to relax that stress away. However, should the need arise, guaranteed a drugstore is just around the corner.

5. Expensive Items

Whether it’s jewellery, camera equipment, computers or that Louis Vuitton handbag, rest assured there’s only one thing you’ll gain from carting expensive items along on your holiday: stress. As we mentioned above, you don’t want to spend your time worrying about your costly gadgets. Plus, wearing expensive jewellery can make you stand out in foreign places where you could be targeted by thieves. Take the advice of Italy tour guide Veronica Maersca who recommends leaving the expensive stuff at home to “feel safe.”

6. Inappropriate Footwear

This was another item that every guide agreed upon. It may seem cliché but too often they see tourists carting around an entire suitcase full of shoes or, wearing completely inappropriate footwear, such as high heels, on their walking tours. Flat comfortable shoes are the way to go for both men and women. “It seems obvious but a lot of ladies arrive on the wharf in wedge heels or loose slip on shoes,” says tour guide Fiona Hewitt in New Zealand. “It makes it difficult when we walk the botanic gardens or a wildlife reserve or a beach.”

7. Too Much Make-up & Lotion

Some of the guides we contacted for this article were amazed by the amount of beauty products women will bring on vacation. Makeup, skin cream, hair products…it all takes up space, weighs your bag down and isn’t necessary. After all, you’re on vacation and most likely the places you’re staying at will have these items on hand. Leave the entire makeup bag at home and only bring one or two items says Italy tour guide Veronica Maersca.

8. Iron and Hair Dryer

A few tour guides we contacted recommended leaving behind other electronic gadgets such as a travel iron and hair dryer. Not only are they bulky and cumbersome to pack, you’ll probably be able to find some at your destination. And besides, you’re on vacation: why would you want to iron!?

9. White Outfits

There are only three places where white outfits belong: the beach, tropics or your wedding. Too often guides have people show up to their tours dressed as though they’re going to lounge in a Havana café for the afternoon. White T-shirts are one thing: an entire white suit is another. “I’ll always remember the lady wearing all white at the chocolate factory,” says Fiona Hewitt of Otago Tours in New Zealand.  ”(It was) disaster when they released the chocolate chute at the end if the tour!”

10. Towels

Despite the popularity of the book, the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” got one thing very wrong: a towel is not an indispensable travel item. In fact, it’s probably the most useless items you’ll ever put in your suitcase. Most likely you will you find towels at wherever it is you are staying. But even if that’s not the case, a towel is still a ridiculous travel item because it’s bulky and when it gets wet, it’s heavy, smells damp and takes forever to dry. If going backcountry or to the beach take a light sarong that way you can lie on it, you can wear it and you can pat yourself down with it after a swim and know it will dry off quickly.


  • REAF

    As an accommodation provider and guide I cannot believe the size of some of the suitcases people arrive with. This article gets things back on track.

    • Pamela Denis

      Isn’t it amazing what some people think will be an “essential” item on a holiday? I will admit though, it has taken some time for me to learn how to downsize appropriately!

  • clutterqueen

    I have one quibble with the above advice regarding packing over-the-counter meds: do put a few pain tablets such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen in your carry-on luggage in case you need it on a plane.

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