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These essential packing tips will make your next holiday journey a breeze.

Essential packing tips for the holidays, or any day

The holidays are finally here! You've booked your flight, bought your gifts, and checked the weather. Now all you need to do is pack.

As exciting as holiday travel can be, there are plenty of potential stressors that might be out of your control. One way to keep things moving smoothly is to keep your luggage manageable, easily accessible, and in compliance with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requirements.

Follow these essential packing tips during your next holiday journey:

Choose a suitable suitcase

  • Carry-on bags are not one-size-fits-all. Dimensions vary by airline, so check the requirements for your airline before you travel, especially if you're traveling internationally.
  • Luggage tags display your name, phone number, and email address. For personal safety, never include your home address so thieves don't discover that you're away from home. For the same reason, consider meeting a taxi or car service somewhere other than in front of your home.
  • While luggage locks are permitted, the TSA still has the authority to break open any lock in order to search through a bag. Use only TSA-approved locks that are easily opened.

Pack smart

  • Place the heaviest items at the bottom to keep your suitcase from tipping over.
  • Save space and prevent wrinkles by rolling clothes rather than folding.
  • Packing cubes are a great way to fit more items into your suitcase and double as dirty laundry bags during your trip.
  • Wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes onto the plane.
  • Always keep your medication with you in case of the unforeseeable. If your suitcase is sent to the wrong city, you'll be medically prepared.
  • Use regulation-sized containers no larger than 3.4 ounces for liquids, gels, and aerosols. When in doubt, follow the TSA's guidelines.

Prepare your papers

  • If traveling internationally, your passport's expiration date should be one year out, and no less than six months.
  • Make sure you know the PIN number for your credit card, not just your zip code. Getting a PIN code can take up to two weeks, so plan ahead.
  • Notify your credit card company before you travel to another state or country.
  • Make three printed, hard copies of your ID or passport. Put one in your suitcase, and give the other two to trusted family or friends back home. Additionally, print a copy of your important contacts and keep it in your suitcase.

Leave gifts unwrapped

This one surprises many people, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Leave all gifts unwrapped so TSA agents can further inspect them, if necessary. Wrap presents when you reach your destination or ship them ahead of time. Additionally, do not place toys that look like knives or weapons into a carry-on bag.

Speaking of gifts, here are some top-selling items that will surely make the travelers on your list happy.

  • Compression socks can help lower your risk of developing blood clots and swelling during long flights. Sockwell socks at AAA start at $14.
  • RFID-blocking travel accessories offer high-quality, anti-theft wallets, passport cases, and purse organizers that protect your ID in style. Travelon RFID products at AAA start at $17.
  • Packing and compression cubes help you pack more stuff in less space while keeping your clothes wrinkle-free. Eagle Creek cubes at AAA start at $30.
  • SCOTTeVEST is the ultimate travel layer, with innovative pockets that hold electronic devices, eyeglasses, passport, wallet, keys and anything else you might need. Prices start at $60.

You can find any of the above gifts and much more at your local AAA store. For more travel information and guidance, visit AAA online.