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Smart Packing

By Donnita Cagle Bassinger, CTC, MCC

Packing is often the dreaded task before the adventure. It’s not easy, but packing well will save you time, money and frustration.

The temptation is to pack everything you “might” need, but if you know what to expect, you can plan for almost anything.

Plan ahead

Lay out head-to-toe traveling clothes for each family member the night before, especially for early morning flights. The temperature in airports and on planes can fluctuate dramatically. Everyone should bring a sweatshirt, light jacket or sweater — no matter where you are going. T-shirts, joggers, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes work great for most kids. Dress everyone in the same color shirts or hats to keep track of each other in crowded places.

Look up the expected day and night temperatures for your destination so you can plan accordingly. Make a list of activities you will be doing each day, with specific items required, then pack outfits for each member of your family for each day, based on that list. Pack an entire kid’s outfit into a zipper bag and write their name and the activity on the bag. As you pack, make sure everything fits and there are no stains or tears. Choose multi-purpose items: shoes such as Keen sandals, and cargo pants with zip-off legs are great for travel.

Split each person’s clothing between bags in case one bag gets lost. Are laundry facilities available at your destination? If so, reduce the amount of clothing by half.

Tape a card with your name and cell number inside each piece of luggage. On your luggage tags, only put your name and cell number — not your home address. Purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes coverage for lost or delayed bags.

Technology can save the day

For about $25 each you can purchase Apple Air Tags, which are small tracking devices that use Bluetooth technology to locate items around the world. These devices are invaluable if your bags are lost or misplaced during travels. Put one in each checked and carry-on bag.

Use your smartphone to take a photo of your open and closed luggage before you leave home. It’s easy to accidentally leave a bag somewhere or have a checked bag lost by an airline. Having a photo and being able to track the location of your items can save your vacation.

Carry-on versus checked bags

If you can avoid checking bags when you fly, it will make the logistics of traveling much easier, save you time and hundreds of dollars. The cost for one bag to be checked roundtrip ranges from $70 to $150. Waiting for your bags after arrival can take a few minutes or a few hours, and anyone who has dealt with a lost bag knows what a mess that can be.

If you are only bringing carry-on items, make sure any liquids are in a quart size zipper bag with no container larger than 3.4 oz. Visit for current details. Don’t “check” anything you can’t replace. Keep all important items such as medications with you. And leave valuable jewelry at home so you don’t have to worry about it.

Check with your airline to see if there is a discount for prepaying baggage fees. Airlines allow a free personal item. Use a beach bag or large tote as yours. Put a small purse and other items you need onboard in this bag. Kids can bring a small backpack with their snacks and toys for on the flight.

Airline baggage rules have changed

Check airline websites for their latest policy. “Basic economy” fare tickets and low-cost airlines may only include a personal item for free and charge you for carry-on bags. If you don’t follow their rules, you could end up paying up to $100 per bag! Measure and weigh each of your bags to avoid excess size or weight charges at the airport. So far, airlines still allow you to bring car seats and strollers for no additional charge.

Finally, have one outfit for each family member that is coordinated so you can get a nice family photo. You’ll be happy to have this to remember your adventure!


Smart mom travel essentials:

  • Plastic zipper bags of all sizes

  • Black marker and ink pens

  • Small scissors (in checked bag)

  • Tape and sticky notes

  • Medical kit with small amounts of any medicine you might need, tweezers & bandages

  • Clothes pins to clip wet swimsuits to chairs to dry, close drapes etc.

  • Anti-bacterial wipes and tissues

  • Sunglasses, sunscreen & bug spray (liquids go in a plastic bag, in checked luggage)

  • Chargers, extra batteries & an electrical outlet extender

  • Night-light and small flashlight

  • Passports and copies if leaving the U.S.


Meet Vacation MOM Vacation MOM is brought to you in partnership with Eugene Airport

Donnita Bassinger has been a travel agent for over 30 years and has packing down to a science. She is a mom of three who lives in Eugene, and the owner of VIP Vacations, Inc. She looks forward to talking to you about your travel plans.

Contact Donnita at 541-913-5272 or on facebook @VacationMOM


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