Globetrotter Mom’s Guide to Packing


Jetting off for a weekend getaway certainly warrants an effort to fit it all in one carry-on per family member. You’ll save time on either end without having to check or retrieve bags (or worry that they’ll end up in Timbuktu.) For longer excursions, checking bags is probably unavoidable, but there’s an art to getting it all in under weight restrictions. Here’s the Globetrottermom Seal of Approval way to pack smart.

  1. Make a list. The last minute packer sans list ends up with too many unnecessary items and missing essentials. Save the list for similar trips in the future you can easily tweak to fit the destination.
  2. Check it twice. Omit redundant items your hotel might have on the other end. For example, packing your hair dryer, travel iron makes sense when staying in less lavish places. With upscale toiletries at more luxurious properties, you can omit many of your toiletry items.
  3. Watch your weight. Most airlines have limitations on weight and size of baggage. It helps to ask yourself if having your very own golf clubs, surfboard and skis are worth the extra $100 to tote it round trip or would you be just as happy to rent (and not have to keep track of) your own from home.
  4. Travel size your toiletries. If you must have that special conditioner from your salon, opt for the travel size over the economy sized you’ll hardly make a dent in while traveling. Ditto for make up. (Ask for samples next time you’re at the cosmetic counter to save for trips.) And if you know a mini toothpaste tube won’t cover the whole trip, pack two minis and discard one as you go. It’s a little thing, but lots of little things add up to make a big difference.
  5. The 411 on the 3-1-1. If you opt to get it all in on your carry-on, remember TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. All liquids brought onto planes must be in 3.4-ounce bottles (or smaller) and inside a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag. What’s a liquid and what’s a gel? Prescription medication is exempt but be sure to check TSA’s website for a full list of toiletries and gift items you can carry on board or in checked baggage. In many cases, shipping liquid and gel gift items is the way to go. Like that delicious blueberry jam you picked up at the gift shop in Nantucket? That’s a gel, and you’ll have to down it at the TSA checkpoint or chuck it.
  6. Let’s get personal about personal items. That stylish new clutch bag that looks darling with your travel ensemble… if you can only fit your house key and lipstick inside it, you’re better off leaving that in your luggage and opting instead for a backpack, laptop bag or larger purse to carry on board.
  7. Let kids pull their own weight. If you’re traveling with little ones older than 2 (who have purchased an airline seat) they each get a personal item and carry-on allowance too. A backpack on wheels allows them to carry their own stuff. It’s ideal if it fits under the seat in front of them so they’ll have access to it more easily during flight. A rule of thumb from moms of kids under age 5 is a new toy each hour of flight. Play dough, sticker or coloring books, small toy cars. Don’t feel like you must rely on electronic entertainment to make it through the flight meltdown free.
  8. Wash and Wear. With the rising popularity of vacation homes like VRBO, many include laundry rooms. So you can circle through a round of a few outfits, then wash and repeat. Nylon or other quick dry fabric lingerie can be hand washed and dry quickly.
  9. Multi-purpose wear. The tunic that doubles as a cute little black dress is one less top or dress you have to pack. The tube top beach dress cover up that’s also a long skirt, ditto. For guys, the hiking pants with the zip off shorts make sense when you’re say, trekking the alps on a warm afternoon, then dining at an outdoor café in cooler temps at sunset.
  10. Pick a color. Any color. Seasoned travelers often swear by the black trip, the blue trip or the brown trip. Where every outfit goes with same color strappy sandals or a smart walking shoes. Wear your bulkiest shoe (hiking boots or tennis shoes on board). Too many color combinations usually yields having to pack a closetful of shoes.
  11. Layer. The buttoned-down shirt that peeks out of V-neck sweater today stands out on its own tomorrow, paired with a tie. And mix n’ match. You know the quintessential turn 7 pieces into 21 outfits type of pairing you’ve seen in umpteen fashion magazines that fill a whole week’s wardrobe. Start looking at your closet through that lens.
  12. Sorting it out. Packing cubes make sense particularly when you’ve got a lot to pack for on a longer stay and/or you’ve got several family members clothes in one suitcase. Like when you’re hustling to get to the front gate of Disney World when it opens. It’s much easier to find the right kid’s socks and underwear when it’s color coded by packing cube. It’s also easy to sort by type of item (socks, lingerie, shirts, pants, jewelry, etc.) or by outfit or dressy vs. casual wear.

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