By Karen Tina Harrison

Travel Essential: Suitcase Guide -

Don’t be the slowest passenger on the security line -- or the one who sets off buzzers or is pulled aside and searched. This simple suitcase guide will help make your future travels a cinch.

1. Read “What to Know Before You Go.”

You can find it on the home page of, the site of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration of Homeland Security. For instant updates, check out or

2. Observe the 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids and gels.

You may only carry on containers of 3.4 ounces or less, packed in one 1-quart plastic baggie. “Minimize by choosing packets, travel sizes or tiny bottles you’ve refilled,” says’s Susan Foster.

3. Go light on the metals.

“Metal is what gets flags during the body X-ray scan,” says Foster. “It’s not one item, but an accumulation that sets them off.” Make sure you’ve eliminated as many beep-inducing items from your bag as possible before you get to the front of the security line. Piercings, zippers and underwire bras can all send the scanner into overdrive. Better yet, instead of wearing heavy metals, pack them.

4. Dress for in-flight comfort.

“Wear layers and a pashmina to use as a blanket,” says model/actress and frequent flier Kimberly Fisher. “Choose comfy undies and stash fuzzy socks, a sleep mask and small pillow, if you have room.” To keep hydrated in dry jet air, Fisher keeps lip balm and thick face cream at the ready. For H2O on the cheap, bring an empty water bottle to refill in the terminal water fountain -- after you’ve passed security.

5. Pack electronic essentials only.

Place them with their cords and chargers in small plastic baggies. Think twice before toting your laptop, says travel writer Melanie Nayer. “Laptops are impractically heavy and slow down the line. Negotiate with your hotel in advance for free business center use.”

6. Carry on now and save time later.

Now that domestic airlines charge for checked bags, flying carry-on only looks better than ever. What it means: A carry-on is a single piece of luggage that can fit in the overhead bin. You may also bring one “personal item,” such as a tote, computer bag or purse. Check your airline’s website for allowable bag sizes and weight requirements. And remember: “It’s your suitcase, not your closet,” says Foster.

7. Packing light doesn’t mean being dull.

“Eight pieces in black is boring! Bring things you love, just lightweight and mix-and-matchable,” says Syl Tang, a globe-trotting New York City-based owner of She suggests layering with designer tees, lightweight jeans and leggings. Also include tanks, a skirt and button-down shirt, plus a hoodie. Before putting anything in the suitcase, make a list of what you’ll need then subtract what you’ll wear once. Also, have fun with compact, featherweight accessories, says Tang.

8. Take select shoes.

The heaviest and bulkiest items are your shoes, says Foster. Wear a pair of easy-on, easy-off sneakers or boots on the plane. Then pack a pair of heels or sandals for night, and flip-flops for the hotel and warm climates. Pocket a tiny plastic shoehorn to re-shoe post-security.


Karen Tina Harrison was the beauty director of Sassy Magazine, and has consulted for a variety of beauty companies. She covers lifestyle topics for publications including The New York Times, Glamour and


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Travel Luggage - Travel Essential: Suitcase Guide