Mental Wellness: Packing for Vacation!

I am leaving this week for my long awaited vacation. And I know from personal experience, that sometimes packing for vacation can be the most stressful part of getting ready for vacation; especially if you are flying. Having to fit everything that you are going to need plus sticking with the regulations…it can sometimes just feel overwhelming and be enough to say, “Meh, I’ll just check my bags.”

But, I also know from personal experience of being a flyer and being an employee at an airport, that if you just plan well and know the regulations, you can save yourself some moneys by not checking your bag (and maybe also save yourself from what feels like a lottery…”will I get my bag or won’t I?”)



This is a picture of my suitcase pretty much all packed plus my “purse” that I am taking. Most airlines will let you have one suitcase that fits in the overhead compartment as well as one purse/computer bag/briefcase. I put my suitcase in the overhead compartment and my purse under the seat in front of me. Since I know where my bags are going to be (my purse will obviously be easier access for me), I try to plan what I am going to put in each of these bags based on that. I also know that getting into my purse is much easier than my suitcase, so anything that I need to grab out quickly (ahem, laptops go through the scanner in a separate bin so that goes in the purse and my quart size baggy of liquids goes in the purse too). I will throw some snacks in there too as well as an empty water bottle. You cannot bring any fluid through the security check point that is more than 3 oz and that isn’t in your quart size baggy. BUT, you can bring an empty water bottle. I brought an empty water bottle and travel coffee mug w/ me when I went to San Diego. I did the travel mug so I could get coffee but just pay for a refill of coffee instead of buying a new coffee with a new cup every time I wanted a quick pick me up. I won’t do that for this trip because I am going to stay with a friend and I haven’t been as reliant on coffee as I was in grad school…but I just figured I would share that quick tidbit with you as well!

Another money saving tip is that instead of buying all travel size items for your trip, check out your local dollar tree and see what you can find there. I found packs of 3 empty travel bottles for $1. My other cool thing that I found was a weekly medicine reminder thing. This one came with 7 containers that all just screwed together (so the bottom of one container was the top of the next one). I used four of these to put my daily moisturizer, night creme, hair curl creme, and night face wash in. All of these bottles were too big to take through security and if I had put all four of these things in little travel bottles, I wouldn’t be able to fit everything into my quart size bag. I also picked up my quart size bags from dollar tree. So I spent about $5 getting stuff to transport my liquids which is much cheaper than having to buy travel size items of everything (and you can’t get travel sized items of everything that is exactly what you use) and then I’m getting to use my stuff. Which, especially for my face, is really nice. (My face is quite tempermental and enjoys to act like a teenager…)

Being able to get through security quickly is always a nice sense of relief. I know from experience that sometimes the morning is the busiest time for airports. My flight doesn’t leave until like 8:45 but I plan on getting to the airport at 6 am just to make sure that if I am in a big long line, I won’t be standing there stressing about missing my flight. I also make sure that I am prepared to get through security as quickly as possible and not hold up other passengers. Like I said, I pack my bags according to how I need to get through security and then once I’m at my gate, if I need to adjust, I can. And since I get there early, I usually have enough time to do this.

Getting through security can sometimes be the biggest stressor. As someone that worked in an airport, here are my tips.

  • Play on the side of caution. If you aren’t sure if you can take something through security or not, don’t bring it or see if you can flag down a TSA/Security person before you go through security. Don’t feel bad about asking them questions on if you can bring something or not. And it shouldn’t be too difficult to find someone because part of their job is to walk through the airport (both before and after the security check point) and make sure everything ok. If you can’t find someone, just ask any airport personnel and see what they say.
  • If you accidentally packed your $100 perfume, head to the gift shop and see if they will send it back to you. It might cost more than it would to normally ship it back, but it’s going to be a lot cheaper than buying a new one.
  • Be nice to the airport workers. They understand that flying can be stressful and that delays are annoying and being in a long security line is frustrating. But you aren’t going to accomplish anything by taking your anger out on them.
  • Finally, plan ahead. Plan what you are going to have in your bag. Plan what you are going to wear. Plan when to leave to go to the airport. Making sure you have everything planned out will help reduce the stress the morning of. I like to make a to do list as well to make sure I get everything done (like taking out my trash right before I leave my apartment).

Hopefully this post is useful and provides some insight, both from a passenger’s perspective but also from someone who worked at an airport’s perspective.

What are your flying tips?

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