Decor, Mommy, Style

The Organized Girl’s Guide to Packing


VACATION! We are going on vacation with 3 of our closest friends this upcoming week. We are all leaving our babies behind with their very loving and very capable grandparents. I’m equal parts excited and nervous. We’ve never spent any time away from either of our babies but know what great hands they will be in with my parents and sister. They will have a great time getting spoiled by Nanna, staying up past their bedtimes, and eating cake for breakfast with Papa but man, I already know how badly we will miss them. Here’s hoping that the WIFI at our resort works as well as TripAdvisor claims so that we can FaceTime them as often as we want!

As all moms know, with littles ones in tow, just leaving the house requires a deliberately packed diaper bag with extras of everything loaded in the back of your vehicles just in case something unexpected occurs. You’ve never felt true panic until you’ve been 45 minutes away from a store with a diaper blowout and pulling out the last diaper you have packed to find it to be two sizes smaller than your baby’s growing bum. The truth is I have always been an over packer. Since becoming a mom, my packing neurosis is in overdrive.

Keith and I went through a few years of constant travel for work. We were living in hotels and out of suitcases through most of our first year of marriage and most of my first pregnancy. With so much bouncing around, in an out of airport security and rental cars, we’ve gotten pretty good at this whole packing thing- even if I’m still struggling with the editing down the packed wardrobe part. So logically, I’ve been mentally planning my packing list for our Dominican vacation since about a week before we booked it.

I’m listing below a few travel and packing lifesavers I’ve picked up:

Pack by outfit

I always lay out and try on all of my outfits with shoes and accessories immediately before packing. I do this for a few reasons:

  1. To make sure what I’m visualizing will look good actually looks good – here’s to you, two pregnancies in 1 year, nothing humbles you more than buying two sizes bigger than you’re used to one year postpartum.
  2. To make sure I actually pack everything I mean to. There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing you forgot multiple items at home in your rush to get out the door. Take your time packing and make sure that you have an outfit for each day/activity you know you will be participating in. Don’t forget your travel outfits! My go-to travel outifts for the summer are cotton t-shirt dresses with Yosi Samra flats. For the winter, long tunics/sweaters with leggings and the same Yosi Samra flats. Cute and comfortable that can sustain a full day’s worth of travel.

The Carryon- the most important bag(s) of your trip

Especially when dealing with air travel, you will want to have all of your things as orderly as possible. You never know when you are going to be delayed in a freezing cold or blazing hot airport. Worse, the likelihood of getting rerouted, bumped from your flight, or altogether cancelled seems to be higher than ever. I pack my carryon assuming that we are going to spend one night without the rest of our luggage. This has only been off when we actually had to spend TWO nights away from our luggage while trying to get home form California – you would have thought we were traveling across the world instead of across the country. I have cases inside bags, inside suitcases. Because of this trend, I always insist- to my husband’s extreme annoyance- that we bring one suitcase onto the plane on top of his trusty backpack and my tote. In the suitcase I bring our toiletries, my jewelry, and one outfit each. This has saved us NUMEROUS times from having to re-wear underwear, buy toothbrushes from hotels, or panic over valuables when our travel plans derail.

In my tote I always, always, carry a few basic items

  1. Identifying documents– ID, Passport, and boarding passes are stored together in a plastic bag that is easily retrievable. I love those cute little passport covers but they aren’t practical at all. Virtually every TSA and customs agent requests that you remove your passport from the cover before waving you through.
  2. Quart Size Plastic Bag w/ toiletries- all of your liquids/aerosols must be 3.4 Fl Oz or less and fit inside a quart size bag. Because of these limitations, I keep my liquids to a minimum: hand sanitizer, hair spray, toothpaste (see: been delayed and/or cancelled TOO many times to take a chance on not brushing my teeth), lotion, moisturizer, Evian facial mist- I live by this stuff when on a plane. Spray the mist on your face as soon as you land and the drying effects that have taken hold of your skin while flying basically never happened.
  3. Travel Blanket– I have a Cloudz brand blanket I bought when stuck in Colorado Springs overnight. It is super small and lightweight but long enough to cover my legs and arms while seated and keep me warm. LOVE THIS THING!
  4. Electronics and chargers– I travel with a lot of electronics: iPhone, iPad, DSLR, handheld camera, and this time I had our waterproof camera as well. I packed all of these as well as their chargers, and headphones in the carryon. I also have an external charger that goes everywhere with me. It can charge two USB compatible devices completely up to 8 times before needing to be charged itself. Plus, it comes in my favorite, UT Orange!
  5. Snacks– I’m completely guilty of being the probable root cause of the word Hangry even existing. When my blood sugar gets low, no one is having any fun. And it seems to get low often on travel days. I am decidedly picky and have never been a fan of airport/airplane food so I pack enough food to get me through 24 hours of travel. When traveling outside of the US, you can’t bring any produce, meats, or liquids over the border. Depending on the country you are traveling to, you might have to give these items up before even boarding your plane. Because of that, I’m sticking with prepackaged granola, crackers, and cookies for this trip. Definitely doesn’t fit with my Paleo diet, definitely worth avoiding a hanger meltdown en route.

Checked luggage

the nitty gritty! First, some advice: Always, always keep your baggage claim sticker. It makes dealing with lost luggage SO MUCH easier if they can just scan your sticker and look up where you bag is. Without the sticker, you need your boarding pass, ID, and blood of your firstborn to get anywhere.

Separate your clothes and shoes from makeup and toiletries

If you have a suitcase with two compartments, I recommend separating out your clothes and shoes from your makeup and toiletries. I’ve had more than one explosion of lotion or conditioner happen on a dry clean only outfit and it’s a yucky, unfortunate mess. Because of this, I put ALL of my liquids and aerosols in their own big, plastic bags. That way, if one thing explodes (and it will), you don’t have to spend an hour washing off all of your other bottles and sprays.

If you unpack in hotels, pack the way you will unload into drawers. Put your underwear and socks in the same area, tshirts, shorts, etc. I always lay dresses and pants flat on top of everything else to avoid as much crinkle as possible because I LOATHE ironing and I’ve yet to be in a hotel with my own steamer.

Know before you go- weigh your suitcase

at home before leaving the airport to ensure it weighs less than the 50 pound limit. You can have bags that weigh more than 50 pounds but there is an overage charge and with the price of bags already annoying high, we try to avoid these if at all possible. Trying to rearrange all of your careful packing because your suitcase is too heavy is no fun, trust me. Because we don’t have any heavy duty scales at our house, I’ve found the best way to weigh the suitcase is to have my husband stand on the scale (because I’m not going there right now) sans suitcase. Then he stands on the scale holding the suitcase. If the difference is less than 50 pounds, we are good to go. If not, we can rearrange at our own pace without the United Airlines people threatening to send us to the back to try again when we’ve solved the weight issue.

Make copies of EVERYTHING

 and PRINT EVERYTHING before you leave for the trip. Even though we have spent most of our time traveling to corporate events, it seems that no matter where we go, we never have consistent access to a printer when we are on the go. Most places we travel to also claim to have great internet access so that our smartphones aren’t out of commission. Even domestically, this seems to never be the case. The resorts we seem to meet at are inevitably in an internet black hole. This can leave you in a pickle if you need to quickly retrieve a reservation number or try to remember what on earth the name of the company you booked for a fishing tour is. Since we are going out of the country, we have our actual passports of course, and 2 copies of each of our passports. Once we get to the resort we will leave our passports and 1 copy of them in the safe in our room. The other copy will be kept somewhere else in our room. I’ve also printed out all reservations we have made with the reservation numbers and details: car service reservation, resort reservation, fishing guide, and snorkeling excursion. Again, if you know that you are going somewhere that you will have easy access to the internet, being able to retrieve this kind of information on your phone is an option. I’ve been stuck one too many times without the ability to pull things up on my phone that I’ve starting planning for no phone access.


Again, this one I learned the hard way. It is so common for vendors in vacation towns to only deal in cash. Some of them simply don’t want to pay transaction fees by accepting credit cards. Some of them are out of the country where dealing in cash is still the most common form of currency exchange. Trust me, you don’t want to get stuck with an angry boat captain because you had a miscommunication over their ability to accept credit cards. Always bring enough cash to cover any known expenses you will have on your trip. If you don’t end up needing it, keep it in the safe in your room. You won’t be sorry you have it.

Be flexible

traveling is stressful for everyone, all the time. And the people you are dealing with- ticketing agents, TSA agents, the Starbucks lady, etc. are dealing with these stressed out people Show them some grace if they aren’t as bubbly as you would like.


Good luck packing and safe travels!


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