Traveling tips, tricks and #packinghacks

A picture of a woman having problem with packing a suitcase

Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone! The school year will soon be over and vacation season is just weeks away. Whether it’s a “stay-cation,” family road trip or an escape to a tropical island, traveling can be tricky if you’re not prepared.

A smooth, stress-free vacation begins well before the journey begins. Start with establishing a three-ring “Travel Central” binder where you keep all of your information in a single location. What should you include? Airline itineraries, frequent flier numbers, car rental information, hotel reservation confirmations, copies of passports and birth certificates, and other essential documents. I also recommend having a section for miscellaneous items such as “what to pack” lists, instructions for house and pet sitters, important phone numbers, copies of health insurance cards, etc.


  • Create a vacation hashtag so you can easily search all images from the same trip and create an amazing vacation photo album. For example, we picked #HoffmannDisney2016 for our Disney vacation.
  • Scan your passport, identification card (driver’s license) and itinerary and email them to yourself. This provides an instantly stored extra copy in the event of loss or theft (fingers crossed it won’t be the case, but better safe than sorry).
  • Call your credit and debit card companies before you leave to insure you have authorization to use your card(s) in foreign destinations.
  • Wear something with deep pockets on the plane – it will prevent you from having to dig through your bag for your phone, wallet and boarding pass.
  • Black leggings are a safe and comfy bet for traveling — they are classic, comfortable and inexpensive. Wear them under dresses and skirts for travel and use them later during your trip for a workout.
  • Mark your bags as “fragile.”In most cases, luggage marked “fragile” is kept on top which likely makes it one of the first bags to be released upon arrival.
  • Make sure to have a pen. At the airport, you may need it to fill out documents (customs forms, etc.) and pens are often scarce…plus, for those germaphobes (like my husband), you may prefer to have your own.
  • If you are willing to shell out a few extra dollars in exchange for convenience, travel-sized items are a good option for things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, body wash, etc. On the last day of the trip, you can toss them out and WA-LA…instant extra room in your luggage for souvenirs.
  • Zip lock bags are perfect for packing liquid items that have the potential to spill (such as shampoo). Pack extra for your return trip.
  • Buy matching shirts for the children when you will be in a crowded destination (such as that place with the mouse!). It sometimes helps to spot wondering children more easily! And, it makes for a cute family picture!!
  • Airport food can be expensive. Pack some extra snacks in your pocketbook or carry-on.
  • Get travel insurance. Just do it. It’s not too expensive, but the benefits could be priceless.
  • Use shower caps to separate city shoe soles from clean garments.
  • Slip necklaces through straws so you won’t waste time untangling items.
  • Never put your identification (driver’s license/passport) or medications in checked luggage — these are necessities that are way too difficult to replace in a timely matter.


  • Never underestimate the uses of infinity scarves — they have multiple uses…use it to dress up an outfit, as a blanket on the plane or to shield your face from the sun while at the beach.
  • For easy charging of multiple devices, pack a power strip so everyone in the family can charge what they need to.
  • Bring reusable bags – we all have a million of them and they are great to store dirty or wet clothes or use them as beach totes.
  • Roll your clothes — it’s not an urban myth, it does save you tons of room in your suitcase.
  • Pack in outfits — especially for kids…it will make your vacation much less stressful! I promise.
  • Pack your oldest “underthings.” You can wear and toss them. Bonus: you get to hit your favorite shop when you come home!
  • Always pack a hat! Bad hair day? Check! Protect your recent highlights from the sun? Check!


  • Know the difference between “direct” and “nonstop” flights. Unlike non-stops, direct flights can touch down at other airports before arrival at your ultimate destination.
    Make sure you purchase your airline ticket with the exact name that appears on your ID. While it may seem obvious that “Maggie” is a nickname for “Margaret” and “Ernie” for “Ernest,” that may not “fly” with an airline desk agent or security officer at the customers desk.
  • Take a photo of your luggage…just in case it is misplaced and you need to describe it in detail to airport personnel — especially helpful if they do not speak the same language.
  • For easy detection and to avoid accidentally grabbing someone’s else’s suitcase that looks similar to yours, purchase a suitcase with a bright color/unusual pattern or attach a multi-colored ribbon.
  • Bring disinfecting wipes and clean the tray table and armrests – especially if someone in your party has allergies (or is a germaphobe!).
  • Want to have a drink on your flight? Pick up one or two (or three or four) “airplane bottles” of your favorite drink. Mix it with the complimentary soda and WA-LA – instant cocktail.
  • Always travel in a hoodie! Can help if is often chilly on the plane and helps you retreat (at least a little) from surrounding noise.
    BYOB – Bring your own buds…ear buds that is. You can use these to watch the movie on the plane without have to shell out $2 for ear phones.


  • Throw a hotel soap bar (or bring dryer sheets!) in your dirty laundry bag so it doesn’t stink up your suitcase for the rest of the trip.
  • Buffet and zip locks – you’re paying for the food anyway, so grab a piece of extra fruit or muffin for an easy snack later in the day.
  • Forget your wall charger? Not enough outlets? Check the back of the television in your hotel room – most newer models have a USB port you can connect for power.
  • Stay hydrated. Being in the sun, sweating and drinking cocktails will naturally dehydrate you, so it is more important than ever to keep water by your side.
  • Look before you leave – that means your airplane seat, a restaurant, cab, hotel room, etc. Someone always forgets something. This goes for everyday life too, not just vacation! Look before you leave.
  • If you have forgotten something, check with the hotel front desk before paying top dollar for toiletries. Most housekeeping departments have toothpaste, toothbrushes, shower caps, disposable razors and other basic essentials and can provide them upon request free-of-charge.
  • Have “curious” little ones? Use bandaids to childproof outlet covers. #parenthack
    Tip housekeeping. Think about their jobs and then reconsider saying “they already get paid.” A good rule of thumb is $2 per day (five-day stay….leave $10 with a little handwritten “thank you” on the complimentary, in-room hotel stationary (look in the drawer). A little kindness goes a long way.
  • Pick a souvenir and make it a family tradition – and let the kids pick them out. My top two suggestions? Magnets or Christmas tree ornaments. We have tons of each and we love to pull out the ornaments when we are decorating the Christmas tree and talk about past trips.
  • You can never take too many photos — especially on vacation. With the convenience of cell phone cameras, all members of your traveling party will most likely be snapping pictures throughout the trip to post on social media. Why not create a vacation hashtag so you can easily search all images from the same trip, and create an amazing vacation photo album.
  • On the final day of your trip, collect your loose change and give it to someone who looks like they could use it!

My final piece(s) of advice…

  • Slow down. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be flexible. Keep an open mind.
  • You are on vacation. The hustle and hassle of every day life will be there when you return home. Today, just enjoy your family and your home-away-from-home destination.

Safe travels, my friends.
Cheers, LM

*I am Leigh-Mary (Barone) Hoffmann – born and raised in Farmingdale. I’ve worked in travel public relations for 20 years and have a personal blog – Happily Ever Laughter – where I can share feel-good and inspirational stories, a handful of funny anecdotes and a bunch of laughs, as well as a good helping of “I can totally relate to that” messages. I would love for you to check it out –

I’m pleased to be a part of the Farmingdale Fabulous Moms Group blogging team. Please let me know what type of travel posts you would like to read … feel free to email me at

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