Packing Tips


As a traveler who has spent many hours in airports watching couples grapple with six to eight pieces of luggage, I’ve learned packing is as much an art as a science. Travel for senior citizens can be made much more complicated by these extra bags. How you’re going to be traveling and how long you will be gone determines how much you need to take. The tips listed here are particularly helpful if you’re flying, cruising (especially on a small ship) or going on a tour. You may want to print this out so you can have it handy the next time you travel. The following senior travel tips will make it much easier to handle the burden of taking luggage abroad.

If you travel at least a couple of times a year, buy an inexpensive toilet bag you can keep essentials such as deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor, shampoo, and conditioner ready to go. Use sample size bottles for shampoos and creams. Make sure the items will not open during pressure changes. If you’re concerned about a cap or lid leaking, wrap it in a separate plastic bag or tape it. Keep liquids separate from other items. Pack everything you can into your baggage to be checked.

At the time of this article, there are special security measures you must take with items to be carried on a plane. All liquids must be in a container with a capacity of 3.0 oz or less. All containers must fit in a transparent, quart-size zip-seal bag. This bag will go through security separately and you’re limited to one bag per person. I limit myself to prescription medications, lipstick, a small bottle of hand lotion, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer.

Senior travel abroad is most often not a one-time deal, so designate a drawer or shelf for travel items in your home. You can keep many of the items listed here ready to go, which will save time when packing and minimize leaving important things at home. Items you might consider storing in your travel space are sunblock (as proper skincare aging habits are important to get into for the senior new to traveling) electrical converters and adapters, a pair of binoculars, hand sanitizer, Swiss army knife (but don’t pack in your carry on), cork screw, flashlight, and non-electric alarm clock. I also carry a light weight cape or wrap that can be easily removed, used as a blanket and stored with my carry-on.

Check the weather conditions for your destination before you start to pack. Websites such as provide current weather and forecasts for thousands of cities around the world. The climate is more often than not a large factor in travel for the elderly. Just like your mother used to tell you, layer, layer, layer. Pack light weight items that you can add and remove as weather conditions change. Consider t-shirts, turtlenecks, shirts, sweaters and light jackets. Make sure you have a light weight windbreaker that can be worn or layered in many weather conditions.

Lay out all of the clothes you think you’ll want to take before putting them in the suitcase. Before packing, remove half of what you’ve laid out. Follow a color theme, so you can mix and match your clothes to make multiple outfits. Do not take expensive jewelry. As someone who left a wonderful necklace and pair of earrings in Lisbon, it’s just not worth the worry or trouble. Minimize the number of shoes you take. They are heavy and take up lots of room; such weight will not be appreciated by older adults. Put socks and hosiery in the toes of your shoes. Also, consider taking underwear or t-shirts that are on their last leg, so to speak. When you’re done wearing them, throw them away. You’ll save room in your luggage, and this will minimize the laundry that you will have to do when you get home.

Put heavy sweaters, jackets and coats on the bottom of the suitcase. Shirts and dresses that are buttoned tend to wrinkle less and should be folded at the seams and waist. Keep each layer as flat as possible, with plastic from dry cleaners separating them. Unpack as soon as you arrive at your destination. Wrinkled clothes can be hung in the bathroom during a shower and will often return to their pre-packed conditions. If you are traveling with a companion, each of you should pack some of your items in the others bags in case your luggage is lost or stolen. Pack an extra set of underwear and essential change of clothing in your carry-on bag, in case your luggage doesn’t make it to your destination.

Unless you are going to be gone for months at a time, or expect drastic changes in weather, limit yourself to one piece of checked baggage and one carry-on in retirement travel. If that’s too hard, then plan on no more than two pieces of checked baggage. My husband and I have a standard rule that we don’t take any more luggage than one person can manage for short periods of time. There have been a number of times when one of us had to leave the other in charge of the bags. Handling an overload of luggage bags is not an easy chore for the average citizen. Seniors with physical health complications will find such a task nearly impossible.

You want to have all the things you need for your travels without being so burdened that they hinder your enjoyment. Learn what and how to pack to eliminate some of the travel hassles so that your retirement travel experience is free from the physical strain of handling too many personal possessions.



About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at

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