Whether you’re flying for a charter vacation or making a trip “home,” you might be like us and trying to do it with nothing but carry on luggage. For us, it hasn’t been a case of being too cheap to pay baggage fees (although I’m certainly not a fan).
Sometimes, we just don’t want to risk losing a day of vacation by having to wait around if our luggage is lost. On two other occasions, we’ve had flight combinations that didn’t automatically transfer bags from one flight to another and we just didn’t want to have to deal with retrieving bags and rechecking them when we had a semi-tight connection time.
We don’t usually have a lot of clothing, particularly if we’re heading somewhere warm, but there’s that pesky “one quart bag for liquids” requirement — many people even call it the “one quart Ziploc” requirement (if you are not familiar with the requirement, read here). But bypassing the Ziploc can mean that you can almost double what you can put in the bag.
I found the two bags in the photo at the top of this article — TSA-approved clear plastic one-quart zipper top bags — in local stores before a trip last winter. The one with the white trim actually holds the most but, of course, I could only find one. The black one is the second-best one I could find. Both came with a selection of 3-ounce or less bottles that I could fill with my items.
As I started looking for/at these, I discovered a few things.
- Shape is everything when it comes to how much stuff will fit into it. The closer it comes to a cube, the better.
- “Flat” bags waste a lot of space. While the bags in the photo at the top of this post aren’t totally stuffed, the one in the Ziploc at right is . . . and it has less in it than the non-stuffed bags at the top.
- Look for bottles that are as close to the TSA limit of 100 ml./3.4 ounces as possible. Smaller container are a pain to fill and waste space as you can’t get all the contents out, etc. Some bags tout the shear number of bottles that come with it, but you’re better off with fewer larger bottles.
- Heavier construction and particularly heavier duty zippers are important for the bag to survive the trip and still be usable on the return.
- Carefully check the quality of the bottles and make sure that tops screw on securely. I’ve had a LOT of problems with flip tops opening from changes in pressure (even in the cabin there can be enough change in pressure to pop one) or something being squished in on top of it. I’ve got a couple of “locking” flip tops that do work well.
I found a variety of bags and bottles in local stores and interestingly, found far less satisfactory options online. Most of what I found online were nearly flat containers with bottles that were 1 to 2 ounces. Admittedly, it took me a couple of hours going to 3 or 4 stores before I found the two good bags, but there is nothing online that I’ve found that I would recommend (anyone who does know of a good bag, please leave a note and hopefully a link in the comments).
The other big technique to get all your liquids in the bag is to know what does NOT have to be in the bag. TSA just recently redesigned their web site and no longer has a list of exactly what counts as a liquid/aerosol/gel. See the TSA site.
- Medicines — prescriptions and over the counter — don’t have to be in the bag (they do have to be declared). A reasonable amount of contact lens solution and spare lenses are considered medical.
- Liquids, aerosols and gels have to be in bag, but solids don’t. So use a stick deodorant, sunscreen stick and a solid-type skin “lotion” such Palmer’s Cocoa Butter (that comes in a tub). Take a solid lipstick or Chapstick instead of a lipstick “gel.” Consider solid types of make up in place of liquid forms.
- Don’t automatically put all your personal care items such as your toothbrush and comb in the bag. But do remember that your toothpaste has to go in the liquids bag — and the tube must be 3.4 ounces or less (no, a partial tube of a larger size doesn’t meet the requirement).
Got some other tips for getting the most out of your liquid allowance? Please leave a note in the comments!