Security and Anti-Theft Bags

I heard recently that it’s NOT a question of IF your identity will be stolen….it’s a question of WHEN….  I find that fact a little unsettling.  😦

However, my hope is to do all I can to make that ‘when’ NOT when I’m on vacation (i.e.  ‘out of touch’ and difficult to be notified or to take care of it)

I learned of these anti-theft/security bags while planning an upcoming trip out of the country complete with red-eye flights and overnights in busy airports.  I wanted more security than our current bags/backpacks offered.

So….here’s what I’ve learned…and what I purchased.

In shopping, I concentrated on the Travelon and PacSafe brands.  Reviews of both of these companies give them HIGH MARKS – similar in their anti-theft properties.

Anti-theft Technology 

in both of these brands…  🙂

  • Cut Resistant Technology
    • Shoulder straps have cable inside to stop strap slashers.
    • Side and bottom panels have wire mesh inside to stop bag slashers

Travelon LTD Tote   (on my wish list)  🙂

  • Lockdown Hardware
    • Straps can be attached to poles, posts, chairs, etc….
    • Locking zippers prevent pickpockets
  • RFID Blocking Technology:  pockets for credit cards and passports with RFID blocking materials to block ID Thieves.  Thieves can easily purchase chip readers that enable them to simply walk past you… and scan personal information from credit cards/passports INSIDE your purse/wallet…without ever making contact with you or your bag.  Men’s wallets in back hip pockets are especially susceptible.  The RFID blocking material protects your personal information.

And….these bags are actually quite ‘travel’ stylish.  There is a line of leather products, though that was more than I wanted to spend, so I opted for the less expensive lines…but that IS available if that’s your preference.   🙂

**Read below for other options on RFID blocking materials (even a way to MAKE YOUR OWN) if these bags, wallets, etc… are not in your budget.  These aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ option….but they will work – if that’s what you need to do. 


These two brands  (Travelon and PacSafe )  are comparable in price and security features. Beyond that, our decisions came down to design and usability…I preferred the Travelon bags for myself.  My husband, who prefers to travel with a backpack, chose the PacSafe. Now….neither of these brands are ‘cheap’….However, some small discounts are out there if you are willing to jump through the necessary hoops.

I began my research on the company websites (my recommendation…).   That’s where I found accurate information on dimensions, etc…. (As you may know, info on Amazon may or may not be correct) and which bags had the features we each wanted.  Once I knew what bags I was interested in, I compared prices on other sites – Amazon, eBags….and strangely enough, Kohl’s which carries a SMALL inventory of these bags. (Target sells a FEW of their wallets).  Prices really don’t vary much among these sources, but with Kohls coupons/Kohl’s Dollars or discounts with Amazon, there may be some savings.  TJ Maxx and Marshalls occasionally has a small inventory of Travelon items though I’ve rarely found the bags…and of course, their inventory is constantly changing….

For myself, I was looking at TWO bags – a cross body purse for traveling days or days touring crowded public places  AND a carry on for the flights.  My husband was in the market for a backpack.

Purse:  I wanted something cross body, small and lightweight but still large enough to carry wallet, passport, cell phone/cord, and a few personal items.  I found what I wanted in the Travelon Anti-theft Classic Essential Messenger Bag on Amazon.  With discounts/reward points I ended up paying around $25 for it.



Carry On:  My carry on was a tough decision –

East West Weekender

because I had so many ‘requirements’.  It had to accommodate my laptop and a binder notebook.  I wanted a secured front pocket (locking zipper) for smaller items and an easy access slip pocket for boarding passes, luggage tickets, etc…   I also needed a sleeve on the back to slip over luggage handles once we picked up our checked bags. Finding all of those features – in a bag that was just the right size….took some time…. but I finally found it.  I got the Travelon  Anti-Theft East/West Weekender Tote.  I purchased it from eBags using reward point earned from buying my husband’s back pack the month before. I think this particular bag has been discontinued as they constantly update their inventory, however, with every bag they discontinue, they introduce another ‘better’ one to take it’s place.  ha!!


NOTE:  When buying multiple things from eBags, buy the most expensive item first. When the reward points for that purchase post, (30 days later) buy the next most expensive item on your wish list applying that credit…and so on and so on…down your list. Their reward point system is VERY NICE!!!  🙂

BackPack: My husband chose a backpack from PacSafe. In addition to all the security features, he wanted good back structure/support. It also had to accommodate his DSLR camera and all it’s ‘toys’….  He found what he wanted in the Venturesafe X30 Anti-Theft Adventure Backpack.  This now has a rain cover which wasn’t available when we purchased…and would have really come in handy in Alaska.  :/


These bags held up very well on our trip. They were really nice to have on our red-eye flights and long layovers where we definitely snoozed a bit.  Being able to lock pockets and secure our bags to chairs or posts gave us a little more security…and more ability to relax a bit.

I expect these bags to be around for years to come.


There are multiple YouTube videos  on testing RFID blocking properties.  Here’s what I found on a quick search:  RFID Blocking Testing   When watching these, confirm you’re watching from independent sources and not from a company that’s just promoting their own brand while discrediting their competitors.  Travelon and PacSafe (and a few others) produced successful test results.


Now….What if These Products are OUT of Your Budget:

Well, you may not be able to get the ‘slash-proof’ features, but you CAN address the RFID issue less expensively.

  1. RFID blocking wallets –  Travelon, PacSafe or ID Stronghold brands tested well.
  2. RFID Blocking Sleeves:  These can be purchased from Amazon. (and possibly Marshalls or TJMaxx if you happen to catch it just right)  They are sleeves to slide credit cards and/or passports into.  Buyer Beware:  Not all sleeves are the same. Read reviews carefully…with special attention to reviewers who have actually ‘tested them’.  There are sleeves that ‘work’…then there are sleeves that are ‘pretty’….and some reviewers leave you scratching your head when they write reviews saying: “I LOVE my RFID sleeves.  They’re so pretty…all my friends commented that they wanted some too.”    Go figure!!!  *sigh*


DIY Test for RFID Blocking:

How can you be SURE these really work?  Insert a work badge…door badge…or any card that is scanned into the sleeve/wallet/pocket and try to use it.  If you can’t use it, then you know it’s adequately blocking.   OR….you can just trust the reviews on Amazon….just look for MULITPLE people saying the same thing.  Of course, Travelon, PacSafe or ID Stronghold are reputable companies that bring with their name a sense of ‘trust’….  🙂

I purchased a pack of sleeves (12 credit card; 4 passport) from Amazon.  They’re nothing fancy…nothing pretty, but they do the job.  I was pleased with them and we are still using them.

Make Your Own

You CAN make your own RFID blocking sleeves using aluminum foil.  These homemade varieties passed the testing when made with THREE sheets of Heavy Duty aluminum foil. Check out YouTube videos for instructions on how to do this (and watch several videos/techniques to gather the best ideas from everyone).

As you might imagine, these homemade sleeves are only a TEMPORARY fix…as they  will require care when inserting or removing the credit card to keep them from tearing…but if an RFID blocking wallet or bag is not in your budget, this CAN work…

Helpful Links:


10 Things To Do Before Leaving Your Home for Vacation

Photo Credit: Estelle Page on Flickr CC Lic

In the middle of vacation excitement, planning, packing etc….  taking a few minutes to run through a few quick checks can relieve a little of your ‘worry’ about your home in your absence.

1  Tell a TRUSTED Neighbor You’ll Be Out of Town.  Someone in the neighborhood should know that your house is empty should there be any emergency or suspicious activity. Give them a way to contact you in addition to your cell phone (hotel phone number??). Your neighbors are your ‘eyes and ears’ while you’re gone.

2.  Suspend Mail and/or Newspaper Delivery:  The US Postal Service will hold mail for up to a month.  We schedule delivery the day AFTER we return so we’ll BE THERE when it arrives. If you take a newspaper, cancel that as well.  Not only does it eliminate the piles of papers in your yard, but it MAY extend your subscription by the number of cancelled days.

Photo Credit: vijairaj           CC Lic.

3.  Make Arrangements For: 

  • Pets. Reserve time at the kennel or secure a pet-sitter. The best kennels fill up quickly during the Summer so begin researching these early. NOTE:  Drop by for an unannounced VISIT to check them out before reserving.
  • Plants:  For just a few houseplants, it may be easier to transport the plants to the friend rather than ask the friend to come to your house. For plants in your yard, find a neighbor child who is either trustworthy…or whose parents are diligent about teaching/requiring responsibility –as they will be the ones ultimately responsible for follow-through. 🙂  I always liked for my adolescent kids to take on tasks like this…  They made a few dollars and it taught important lessons (Yes, we understood OUR {the parents’}  role in it all.  I was ‘ok’ with that as I thought it was good for my kids.)  Another option would be to get an automatic water-er.

4.  Put Lamps and/or TV on a Timer.  This gives the appearance that the house is occupied. If you have two timers, set them at slightly different schedules.  Set family room lights/sound to be on in the early evening and bedroom lights /sound coming on at bedtime to mimic real life patterns.

5. Check Thermostat Settings.  If you have a programmable thermostat, all the better!  Without one, find the happy medium between conserving energy but not going overboard -. Having it too warm in the house is hard on the refrigerator and electronics. Turning it too low in the winter can lead to burst plumbing pipes.

6.  Check:  

  • Faucets, Toilets:  Make sure they aren’t ‘running’ or dripping
  • Electrical and Electronics:  Unplug electrical items that can be unplugged.  Make sure that all electronics are either on a power surge protector or unplugged.
  • Windows. Re-check all the windows…even if you ‘remember’ locking them last week.

7.  Clean out the Refrigerator.  Our last night before vacation is always “leftover night”. Not only does this help with the ‘clean out the refrigerator’ but it’s an easy meal/prep.  After that meal, anything perishable is thrown away or put in the freezer.

8.  Wash all dishes and put them away….Run the dishwasher and unload it.  Even the smallest crumb or food residue on a plate in the dishwasher can attract bugs or ants when your kitchen is uninhabited for a period of time.

9.  Clean out your purse/wallet. We do not travel with ALL of our credit cards or keys. We only take the ones we will need. Not only do I want to lighten the weight of what I’m carrying, but if a wallet/purse were stolen, I don’t want to have to cancel 15 credit cards or replace a Keychain FULL of keys (Car keys are not only a hassle, but VERY expensive to replace).


Photo Credit:  CC Lic.  [[File:Socialmedia-pm.png|Socialmedia-pm]]

With social media such an important part of our lives, it’s tempting to begin to feel ‘over-confident’… and advertise an empty home without thinking about it.  It’s BEST to NOT post travel plans to those outside your REAL friend circle.  If you DO choose to share these plans on social media/Facebook, check your privacy settings to confirm that information is ONLY going out to TRUE friends…not a wide array of acquaintances or business contacts.   This becomes even ‘trickier’ if you have kids on these sites…..who have a tendency to think the whole world is their BFF.  A ‘conversation’ may be necessary….  I’m not totally convinced the privacy settings on Facebook are as ‘trustworthy’ as they seem and of course, some social media outlets don’t have any privacy guards at all…..


These are all things we know….but I find that when getting ready to leave, things are so busy…hectic…’full’, that it’s easy to forget something.    Having a list to check off takes the pressure off of me to ‘remember’ everything.

Happy Travels!  

8 Things to Do When Checking into a Hotel Room


As with most things in life, it’s necessary to find a balance between safety/cleanliness and not going overboard or becoming paranoid.  ha!  Take this list for what it is…suggestions.  Most of these things take less than 30 sec. to do and can save you either time (from unpacking THEN changing rooms)   OR headache (from taking bedbugs home with you)  OR illness (from a room not properly sanitized)….and certainly save you from danger if danger lurks.   Ten minutes going through this list (or portions of it) may end up being time well-spent.

1. AT CHECK IN Confirm that your room is what you reserved:  Check the rate, room type and any special requests (N/S, location, floor, etc…) and CHECK OUT DATE.  Once you ‘accept’ everything at check in, you have no recourse later.  ALWAYS have your confirmation e-mail – either printed or electronically.

NOTE:  Women traveling alone should always request two room keys.  A well trained clerk will automatically give you two,  however, if the clerk is not quite up to par and asks the question,  don’t alert anyone nearby that you’re traveling alone.  

2.  Security Checks:  Before locking the door, check the bathroom, closets, under the bed and behind the curtains. It’s unlikely that there will be an intruder, but checking just takes a few seconds. Once you confirm the room is ’empty’, secure the  door.

3.  Place your luggage on a hard surface.  It’s tempting to throw the suitcase on the bed or chair, but if there are bedbugs in the room, THAT’S where they’ll be. Instead, put your luggage on the luggage rack.

This hotel put the remote in a holder indicating that it was properly sanitized. That’s Great! I still wiped it down.

4.  Quickly use an antibacterial wipe on  frequently touched surfaces like door handles, bathroom fixtures (handles), TV remote, lamp switches, telephone, temperature controls and alarm clock. (whatever you plan to use) While there’s no need to go overboard with this, it really only takes about  90 seconds…. and be aware that hotel TV remotes are often the dirtiest thing in the room.  Yes, housekeeping SHOULD clean these, but you never know if they really take the time to do it.  🙂

NOTE: Purchase a small package of 15 Clorox wipes at the Dollar Tree for $1. It will last through several trips (just seal in a ziploc bag between trips).

5.  Quick Checks:  

  • Check that windows and terrace doors are locked. (Unless you have mobility issues and there’s no elevator, request an upper floor)
  • Check the hot water and the toilet flush as well as the heat or a/c .  (It’s easier to move to another room BEFORE you’ve settled in.)
  • Make sure the alarm clock is turned OFF. 🙂  You don’t want to be awoken tomorrow morning at a time set by the previous guest.

6.  Check for Signs of Bed Bugs:  A telltale sign of these creatures is brown specks around the headboard, mattress seams, and bed frame. Check as briefly – or in depth— as you wish. (We encountered these on our last hotel stay…in a very nice hotel with raving reviews. From now on, I’ll check VERY carefully!!!  Lesson Learned!!)

I minimized this as much as possible (it’s not something I would want to see)  but for those who NEED to know what these creatures look like… Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki – Lic. :Publ. Dom. via Wikimedia Commons

Quick Check:  look around the headboard, the seams of the pillowcase or under the alarm clock or lamp

Detailed Check:  (If you’ve ever taken these critters home you’ll be more apt to do an in depth check the next time you’re in a hotel….)  Lift the corner of the sheet and check the seams. Check under the bed around the legs and edges and seams of the mattress.

After determining there are no bed bugs, it’s ‘safer’ to put your luggage on the bed or chairs.

Note:  Bedbugs do NOT spread disease…they’re not dangerous in any way. They’re just very difficult (and expensive) to get rid of if you bring them home with you.

7.  Remove the Comforter  Most hotels do not wash bedspreads, blankets, etc…after each guest.

8.  Wash Glassware before using:  Have you seen the YouTube video of housekeeping staff in a hotel wiping used glasses out with the used hand towel, then putting them out as ‘clean’ for the next guest?  There’s no hot water, no soap, no heated drying to sanitize…just a wipe…with a dirty towel…and it’s ready for you.  The only way to be truly assured these are clean is to clean them yourself….  You can use hot water and the bar soap in the room…or a drop of shampoo.  Honestly, ‘soap’ is ‘soap’.

Undercover news report filmed at a Hilton, Embassy Suites and Sheraton:

I always prefer the single use cups  – wrapped in plastic.  They may not be as ‘luxury hotel’ but at least I know they’re clean.
Again…some of these things may seem over-board to some. However, if you’ve fought the battle of bed bugs at home, you will be more likely to check for them in a hotel. If you’ve ever walked in on housekeeping while they were in your room and seen something that turned your stomach, you’ll be more suspicious of cleanliness in the room. If you’ve ever returned from a trip only to spend a week in bed with the flu, you’ll be more likely to wipe surfaces with a disinfectant wipe. (No you can’t be certain where that flu came from…)  It all goes back to your personal experiences.  (Isn’t that the way it is with everything in life?  haha!!)
Just take from this what you find necessary and disregard the rest.  🙂

The Souvenir You’ll Keep (and LOVE) Forever

IMG_4403It’s Christmas time!!  Our tree is up and decorated….and while everyone else is sharing pictures of their Christmas trees on Facebook, I’m sharing ours here, on my vacation blog.

Why?  Because our tree is a compilation and remembrance of all our vacations.  THIS is the very place my pictures ‘fit’.  🙂

Most everyone likes to bring home a souvenir from their travels – that one item (or two…or three…) to remind us of our vacation. We may shop and shop for that  ‘perfect’ item.   The souvenir or curio shops will offer you many MANY options – from t-shirts to trinkets of all types…   How do you choose???  


The questions that go through my head as I browse are: 

  • Is this item ‘timeless’?
  • Will I still want it in my house in 10 years?  25 years? 
  • Will it even LAST 10 or 25 years? 
  • Do I want to dust it for the next 10 years?  or 25 years? 🙂 🙂 
  • Do I have room for (and want)  25 more of these as we continue to vacation?  

Perhaps you’ve made souvenir purchases and KNOW that these things can begin to pile up over time.   When an item gets old or out-dated – it stops being treasured and becomes something we no longer want (and something our kids ridicule…ugh!!!)  We may even begin to see it as ‘clutter’…. Then, that ‘memory’ finds its way into the attic…or a garage sale…or worse…the trash bin. Where’s the ‘memory’ in that?  😦

For a while, our family bought t-shirts. However, even that ‘useful’ item had it’s drawbacks. It wasn’t timeless. The children outgrew theirs. They become faded and eventually, the drawers got FULL.  Maybe we could store them in the attic until we have time to make a quilt, but even that plan can get overwhelming with everyone having their own t-shirts…  It’s just difficult to keep up with that.

Photo of the tree WITHOUT the lights so you can possibly see the collection of ornaments from our travels.

I came up with an alternative – on our very first vacation -without even meaning to.  ha!!

It all began on our very first vacation after we got married.  We went to St. Louis, MO and while shopping that that ‘perfect souvenir’ I saw a Christmas ornament of the Arch over the St. Louis skyline. What A Wonderful Idea!!  – Being newly married, we didn’t have a lot of Christmas ornaments, so I bought it.  Our ‘tradition’ had begun…quite by ‘chance’…  🙂   That Christmas, our St. Louis ornament got a prized position on our first Christmas tree.  🙂 🙂  We were hooked!!!   From there came Walt Disney World…and Yellowstone, Tetons, Florida Keys, Grand Canyon, Boston,  and the list goes on and on over the last 26 years.  We’ve purchased an ornament (or several) on every vacation and our tree has ‘filled up’ quickly.

Old North Church, Boston, MA



In fact, there’s even 2 ornaments our children purchased on their vacations with their grandparents WITHOUT us.  🙂   (ON THEIR OWN, without prompting from us, they made the decision to buy an ornament…  🙂  )  Our oldest has already taken her ornament to her new home (and tree).  Our 2nd will do the same in a few years.  Those are THEIR memories.

WHY do I love this idea?  It’s a ‘remembrance that will NEVER become outdated.  It doesn’t gather dust because it’s not out year round.  It comes out once a year and we ‘delight’ in that time. If you could hear our conversations during our tree decorating evening, you would hear things like  “Do you remember that day when so-n-so  did such-n-such on that vacation?”  or “Oh My, do you remember what Dad said when we walked into _____?”  and the conversations go on and on.  Decorating the tree is always fun for every family – but these ornaments add a whole other dimension to OUR evening.

The Biltmore

The Biltmore


Walt Disney World 1990






We’ve found recently that dated ornaments are best for us as we have ‘repeated’ several vacations.  My husband and I went to Yellowstone in 1991 as a young couple then we took the whole family back in 2011.  We have ornaments from both trips.   We went to Walt Disney World before we had kids  in 1990, then took our children in 2006.  The dated  ornaments differentiate between these ‘repeated’ trips.  Same destinations…VERY different memories!!!    🙂

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta  2014


As you’re beginning to think about your next vacation – (it’s never too early…)  give this idea some consideration.  🙂

Merry Christmas To All and To All a Good Night!  🙂


Dollar Store ‘Finds’ for the Frugal Traveler

Photo Credit: Nicholas Eckhart on Flickr CC Lic.

Every frugal traveler should include a trip to the Dollar store as they prepare for their vacation.  I was there today…actually looking for a fingernail file and started snapping photos of some of the ‘finds’ I’ve purchased for our travels in the past – and recommended on this blog.  I drew some interesting looks from the manager until I explained what I was doing….  I can only imagine what other customers thought.  haha!  Oh well!!  🙂

Though many of these things can be purchased at Walmart, Target….Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc…  what I’m referring to are the stores that sell everything for $1 — Dollar Tree, The Dollar Store, Deals, etc…

If you’re going on a cruise, check out  Dollar Store ‘Finds’ Specifically For Cruises 


This is the BEST place to get travel size containers for cosmetics, shampoo & conditioner,  crèmes, etc…  🙂

travel size bottles


These TSA approved containers have lids that are ‘secure’ so you don’t worry about leakage.  However, for worry-proof, pack them in Ziploc bags from……You guessed it!!!  The Dollar store…for $1  🙂




travel size containers


These containers come in 10 packs –  .10 each!!  Use these for anything small (earrings, Advil/Tylenol, wax earplugs,  etc…) that won’t leak as they have snap-on lids.  



travel size containers

Another option:  A 6-pack for $1   These lids seem a little more secure….


Adapt your ‘quality’ to what you plan to use it for….



travel size medications

Travel sized medication bottles.  I think I’m more ‘in love’ with the size of the bottles than anything.  We have long ago used all the meds in our travel size bottles, but keep refilling them with ‘new’ meds each vacation.    I even combine several meds of varying shapes/colors into one bottle to save space.  NOTE:  If you do this, realize that medication has expiration dates.  We make a point to use all the meds in a bottle when we return home…but refill with new meds for the next trip.  I don’t rebuy the bottles…but the medication is ALWAYS ‘new’ on every trip.


medication containers

For those on a regular medication or vitamin regiment, these pill organizers are great.  There are options to fit everyone’s schedule.  Just keep looking until you find one that meets YOUR needs.

pill organizer - 3x/day


I really like THIS one for 3x/day vitamin or medication schedule.   OR use this large container for the whole family…dedicate a row…or rows…to each person and keep everyone’s meds in the same container.

Here’s a Hack:  Use these (any size) for ANY small items you need to keep track of…earrings…rings…ear plugs…


ice packsWe use these for lunches.  When we fly, we take a small collapsible insulated bag in the suitcase along with one (or 2) of these.  Most hotel rooms have a mini-fridge with a small ‘freezer’  section for freezing.


plastic bags


If you’ve read many of my posts, you know we take plastic bags on all vacations.  You just never know when you’ll need one.  On our last trip, my bracelet broke….I gathered all the beads together in a bag and brought it home to re-string.  The uses are endless!!  🙂


All you will need is 2-3 bags of various sizes, NOT entire boxes.  🙂

ear plugs

Ear plugs come in handy quite often – flights, hotels, cruises.  This set comes with a small container for storage once the package is opened.  I have two of these!




Duct tapeDuct Tape – Again, if you’ve read many of my posts you know we ALWAYS take a bit of duct tape on trips – and usually use it for something.  I  recommend wrapping 2-3 feet around a pencil stub instead of taking the whole roll. These rolls at Dollar Tree were very small if you wanted to take the whole thing….  Regardless of how you do it, this roll is $1!


Dollar Stores are a GREAT place to find items to keep the kids occupied on any trip…flight or road trip.  There’s everything from puzzle books to paperback classics (books) to stickers/sticker books to inexpensive plastic toys that won’t cause stress if they’re lost en route.

Puzzle books and Workbooks:flashcards, workbooks

 Workbooks for preschoolers – when they still think this sort of thing is fun!  🙂

…..Coloring or Activity Books

puzzle booksactivity, coloring and puzzle books











Stickers and Sticker books:sticker books and stickers

 stickers for the kids




paperback classics



Paperback Classics:



Toys at the Dollar Store



Small toys – plastic and cheap!!  You won’t worry if they’re lost  🙂



cheap washcloths for freshening up on flights


Washcloths for that flight.  Take these (DRY) in a plastic bag – If you need to clean up a mess – or freshen up, ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water (or cool water??).  This is better than taking the nice washcloths from home and risk them getting lost.

flavored water packets


These are nice – everyone can have their favorite drink flavor – for MUCH less $$ than sodas.


Some might have an aversion to purchasing food from the Dollar Store but I have found many things to be the same brands as the grocery stores/discounters sell.  I always check the expiration dates and occasionally find items “close’ to expiration, but have never found anything actually expired. Because I’m usually shopping the week before we travel, the close expiration date isn’t a problem.

high protein snacks Snacks – Trail Mix varieties:  I don’t actually buy these as we make our own, but for those who prefer to purchase them, here they are for $1.


snack-individual sizes

Other snack options….all individually wrapped.  These are great for grabbing before a day on the beach or in an amusement park…or going on a hike or tour.

packages of peanuts

variety of snack crackers from Dollar store



cookies from Dollar Store

Cookies in smaller quantities.  Though we don’t purchase the Trail mixes, we DO really like these cookies – (The fig newtons are as good as the name brand imho)   OK…I’ll admit it…..I buy these on a regular basis – not just on vacations. The small size makes it easier to ‘justify’ the purchase….  🙂


smaller sizes for weekend getaways

If you’re staying in a place with a kitchen/cooking facility, these smaller size mixes are great for making a dessert for one evening – without  having to deal with remainder.



travel size peanut butterPeanut Butter!  Our snack of choice – It’s protein and my family LOVES it.  Dollar Tree has both the “To Go’ packs which are great for flights.  (Food is so expensive at the airport or on the plane and  TSA restricts what you can bring with you.)   We either use it as a dip for celery, etc…or bring some crackers and a plastic SPOON ( can’t bring a knife through  security….).

The small jars were great for taking to Hawaii.  Groceries are so expensive on the Islands and we wanted to bring as much with us as we could.  This size was perfect for a week.

travel size mayo/jelly/syrup
These are more ‘finds’ we took to Hawaii.  Again the small size meant we could use it all before flying back home.  It was really nice to pay $1 for each one rather than the $4-$6 they charged at the grocery stores on the islands.  As you can see…these are name brands.



These  accordion files will keep paperwork, tickets, confirmations, etc… organized (yes, I DO print some things…its just easier to handle paper when going through security lines than phone/ipad, etc… )

Not pictured, but they also have awesome PLASTIC folders for these same items..if that’s what you prefer.  They won’t get torn up as quickly as cardboard/paper folders.


heavy duty aluminum foil


If you’re vacationing in the wide outdoors, this HEAVY DUTY foil will be great for making Hobo Meals.  Get it for $1!!!  🙂 🙂


OTHER ITEMS (not pictured)

  • PAPER!!!  Dollar Tree is a cavernous hole for a paper addict such as myself.  I LOVE the sticky notes in all sizes and colors…and pads…notebooks…Everything my little paper-addicted heart could want is there…for $1
  • Then…there’s paper’s best friend…the colored pens!!!  🙂  Packs of 4 – or 6 for $1.
  • carabiners – large ones for $1…or smaller ones in packs of 2/$1.
  • Shower caps to cover shoes when you pack…to keep clothes clean’er’….
  • Mesh laundry bags – great for that return trip home.

There you have it!  With a trip to the Dollar Tree…  (and a few dollars)  you can have a lot of things to make your travel easier, less stressful and certainly less expensive.

Happy Shopping!



Travel Tips for Flights Part 1

PHoto Credit: Dave Subelack ON FLickr CC Lic.



  • PACK LIGHT:  With baggage fees as they are, packing lightly saves money.  Consider taking fewer clothes and doing laundry on your trip…coordinate colors so your can mix and match to form multiple outfits.  Take travel size items when possible.  On a recent trip to Hawaii, we took 5 flights (including inter-island flights). Our total baggage fees/bag were $151.  I quickly saw the value of compact packing!!!
  • Cross-Pack:  When packing multiple suitcases for a family, put items for each family member in each suitcase.  Airlines handle a LOT of luggage every day and the vast majority of it gets to its destination; however, if you do happen to be one of those unlucky ones, having items for all family members in each suitcase minimizes the impact of a misdirected suitcase on your family. You may not have exactly the item you WANT, but at least every family member will have SOMETHING to wear while you wait for your missing bag to be delivered.
  • Take a photo ON YOUR PHONE of the contents of your suitcase AND your closed suitcase — before leaving home.  This will be invaluable if your luggage is lost.  Not only can it help to ID your suitcase (the airline will want to know what your suitcase looks like)  but will also help with the claim filing process if it never reappears.

    This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person's official duties.

    Photo Credit: US Navy Public domain.

  • Put a business card (name/cell no./address)  and a copy of your itinerary on top of your clothing inside EACH suitcase.  This will be the ‘last resort’ to get your bag back to you if the name tag is torn off or lost.


  • Use a ribbon/luggage strap to ID your suitcase:  This is not a new idea to most travelers, but I take it a step further.  Do NOT choose red…or yellow… or blue. Those are very popular colors….so is not very ‘distinguising’ as you try to figure out WHICH ‘black suitcase with red ribbon’ is yours.  Instead, choose an unusual color or pattern (orange & yellow polkadots, Candy canes, little black and white kittens….you get the idea)   🙂 Get unusual ribbon at fabric or craft stores or find full rolls on clearance racks.  🙂  Recently, we have begun using luggage straps – ours is NEON GREEN!  🙂  Red just doesn’t distinguish things much.  🙂
  • Bring An Extra Bag:  If you think you might make purchases that will take significant space for your return flight, take an extra folded bag/duffle in  your suitcase.  If you need that extra space, you’ll be glad you brought it.
  • Attach MORE Than One Name/Address Card to Each Bag:  When filling out airline name tags at check-in, grab TWO per bag.  It will take more time, but if one is torn off in transit, you’ll be REALLY glad you attached an extra.  Another option is to purchase a vinyl luggage tag.  One that I’ve found that I really like is at Favors by Serendipity.  They cost $2.50-$3 ea and they have a pocket to put not only your contact information but your travel itinerary as well.  If traveling, you want your luggage delivered to you at your hotel etc rather than to your front porch while you’re vacationing without your clothes.  🙂
  • Take an empty water bottle through security:   …and fill with water on the other

    side.  (liquids can’t go through security)  The pressurized air on the airplane is extremely dehydrating –and you need to be hydrating.  My preference is the Brita bottles with a filter in the lid.


  • Take a dry wash cloth (or two) in a Ziploc bag in your carry on bag.  Before landing, ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water (or cool water??) to wet the cloth and freshen up.  This is great if traveling with cheap washcloths for freshening up on flightschildren who may need a ‘clean up’ at some point during the flight.   The damp cloth goes back into the Ziplock bag, then can be rinsed out (or washed with bar soap/shampoo) in the hotel and hung to dry.  Return to the bag and it’s ready for your return flight.  Some people like moist towelletes or baby wipes for this, but I’ve always preferred actual wash cloths as they are more durable for cleaning up messes.  You can purchase cheap washcloths from Dollar Tree – 2 pack for $1.  You don’t have to bring your nice cloths from home…and these won’t get mixed up with the white washcloths at the hotel.   🙂
  • Decongestants or Saline:  This may be a controversial subject, but decongestants taken before flying (non-drowsy formulas) will help with the stuffiness produced by the dry air on the airplane….and might help if you have problems with your ears and the air pressure at take off and landing.  A less invasive idea is to use Saline mist (just salt-water).


Holiday Travel Tips (Driving or Flying)

Traveling during the holidays can possibly be the most stressful of all travel experiences.  There are so MANY travelers during that short 4-7 day time span and the complications weather can bring can be a recipe for stress.

I always say that PREPARATION is the #1 stress ‘alleviator’….and with that in mind, here’s a few tips to decrease the stress of holiday travel, whether at the airport or on your drive.

1.  Make reservations early.  Because of the high volume of travelers during a very small window of time, prices are higher.  (Law of Supply & Demand)  The earlier you make your reservation, the better deal you will probably find.  As soon as your holiday plans are finalized, make those flight or rental car reservations. Review  Finding Bargains on Rental Cars for tricks on getting the BEST rate on these. Hotel reservations for drivers should probably be made 2-3 wks in advance unless you are traveling through a very busy area.

2.  Plan flights to minimize the effects of weather (i.e. delays, cancellations, etc…).  If possible,  choose a flight with a layover in a city that gets minimal or no winter weather (Houston, Phoenix, LA, etc…)  The drawback to this  (you HAD to know there is no perfect solution)  is that if that city DOES get winter weather, they will be LESS equipped to deal with it than a northern city, but I still think your chances are better in the south.

3.  If driving, have 2 routes (or more??) mapped out.  Make your choice based on the weather forecasts.  Let someone know the route you are taking and be sure to call them if you change that route for any reason.

4. Weather apps can be very helpful when traveling, especially for drivers.  As wonderful as accuweather or 1weather may be, I actually prefer apps from local news stations en route to my destination.  The information is more ‘location specific’ and therefore (imho) more accurate.  If you don’t have a GPS that gives traffic information, you can get that info from local news station apps as well.

5. Pack your carry on with items you would need for an extended ‘stay’ in an airport.  (It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it)   Pack an extra change of clothes, toothbrush/paste, hair brush, AND some protein snacks and empty water bottles. I always take snacks in my carry on, but if traveling in winter, I bring a little more than I normally would. An inflatable pillow is a nice item to have on any long flight, but becomes INVALUABLE during a night spent in an airport.

6.  If driving, make sure there is WATER and protein snacks in your car.  WATER is probably the most important item as it is not readily available on the side of the road. 🙂  Don’t forget it!  I’m reminded of a blizzard in our area a few years ago that left travelers lined up for miles on the interstate for 36-48 hrs. because of multiple jack-knifed semis. (The local news stations sent out helicopters to view and film the sight.) Have blankets, gloves and basic tools in your car as well.  I’ve even been known to throw a roll of toilet paper into the trunk…  You may laugh, but I wonder what those people did sitting out on the interstate for 2 days in that blizzard.  🙂 🙂

7. Flying at Christmas with gifts/packages can add to airline baggage fees.  If you will have a significant number of large or bulky gifts, remember that Southwest and Jet Blue Airlines have no baggage fees.  Otherwise, you might want to compare shipping costs to baggage fees.  ONE MORE NOTE: Take all of this into consideration AS YOU’RE SHOPPING if you know you’ll be flying. (Now THERE’S an argument for gift cards!  ha)   Also remember that you will probably be flying HOME with gifts as well….and hope everyone else was thinking about this too…. haha!

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

8. Keep an optimistic attitude. Everyone is trying to do the same thing as you are.  It’s as important to every other traveler to make it home as it is for you.   The airlines are doing their best to get you to your destination – even working the holiday so you can travel.  A little kindness goes a LLLLOOONNNGGG way!!!  Arrive at the airport early.  Expect long lines and waits.  Expect crying children.  Comply with the requirements of TSA so as not to bring their attention to you, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and basically just be polite.  It will improve your outlook AND your treatment most of the time.

Yes, travel during the holidays is stressful, but you CAN take some steps to lessen the stress on you and yours.   Happy Traveling!!  🙂

Staying Healthy On Vacation


Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on”

Have you ever experienced this? It’s the 4th day of your long-anticipated vacation.  You have big plans for the day. You’re finally going on the hike you’ve been “building up” since the vacation planning began. It’s the REASON you chose this destination. As you’re loading the last of the things into the car before heading to the trailhead, a child says “I don’t feel good….” You immediately KNOW the day is NOT going to go as planned….

Staying healthy while traveling:

Vacations should be memory making events…all about fun, rest and family time. Unfortunately, high fat meals, over exposure to sun, and fun in the outdoors can sometimes leave you feeling worse than you did before you left.

What can you do to increase chances for that healthy and happy vacation you dreamt about?

Before You Leave...

  • Boost Your Immune System:  
    • Probiotics counteract the effects of fast (greasy) foods we tend to eat when traveling. Start them several days BEFORE your trip so they can build up in your digestive tract.
    • Photo Credit: Mush on Flickr CC Lic.

      Vitamin C – These come in pills or chewables, but the most effective form (imho) is powder form – added to water. (more quickly absorbed into the system) I like Emergen-C –NOW available at Walmart!  🙂

  • Increase fiber intake::  A high fiber diet keeps toxins from building up in your system – and toxins ‘stored’ in the system leads to ‘irritability’, ‘fussiness’ and in my experience, ‘whining’ in children (and adults).  Keeping everyone ‘regular’ can improve EVERYONE’S trip.  🙂
  • Bring basic meds with you:

Here’s a general list of things we bring when we travel, but I modify it based on where we’re going and who is traveling with us.

  • antacid
  • antidiarrheal
  • pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil, etc…)
  • antibiotic ointment
  • antihistamine
  • hydrocortisone creme
  • Benadryl crème
  • This is what our ‘medication’ bag looked like on a recent trip – small and compact, but contained everything we needed for that particular trip.

    sanitizing wipes

  • bandages/band aids
  • personal  prescription medications. (liquid MEDICATION of more than 3 oz. can be carried on a plane).

I purchased a travel size bottle of pain reliever years ago and have continued to re-fill it every vacation since then. I use or replace the pills in the bottle  regularly as meds DO have an expiration date, but the bottle is reused year after year.  You may notice from the pic that I combine several meds (of different colors, shapes) into 1 bottle. 


While You’re Away…

  • Stay active. This keeps your blood moving and body functioning as it should.
  • File:Fruit & vegs assortment.jpg

    Photo Credit; Oleary’s on Wikipedia; By Olearys (Frutas e Vegetais) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    Indulge — to a point.   Pick one meal a day to splurge, but avoid continual over-indulging.  Include fresh fruit and vegetables into everyone’s DAILY diet. Adequate fiber helps with regularity (and therefore, disposition…ha)  A little bit of sugar is ‘fun’….too much leaves everyone feeling ‘blah’.
  • Protect yourself:  
    • Suncreen of SPF 30 or higher
    • EFFECTIVE insect repellant if traveling in an area where you might be exposed to ticks.  Regularly check everyone for ticks if exposure is a possibility.
  • Use Hand Sanitizer:  Purchase these in small containers and keep it easily accessible – in a purse, picnic basket, flight carry on, etc….
  • Restrooms: No matter how well they are cleaned/maintained, these are a congregating place for germs.  Touch as little as possible and teach your children to do the same.  Use the paper towel from drying your hands to open the door when you leave.  🙂

    Photo Credit: Allan on Flickr CC Lic.

    Lastly…and possibly the MOST IMPORTANT –  

  • Drink plenty of WATER: It flushes the body of toxins and impurities.




Here’s wishing you a happy and HEALTHY vacation!!!  🙂

Packing Tips to Save Space and Money

empty suitcaseIf you’re flying, it’s all about keeping baggage fees to a minimum and making your trek through the airport as stress-free as possible.

If you’re driving, it’s all about making sure everything fits in the car and there’s no undue weight to decrease gas mileage.

Most people over-pack….  Case in point, I think I spent a great deal of the time I was raising babies and toddlers over-packing the diaper bag!!! With every trip I take, I’m becoming a lighter and lighter packer.  🙂  This brings me a great sense of accomplishment!

GUIDING PRINCIPLE:  Ask Yourself:  What’s the worst thing that will happen if I don’t bring this item?  If the answer is ‘I would die or suffer unbelievable pain’, then by all means, BRING IT.  If the answer is not  ‘I would die or suffer unbelievable pain’, then consider NOT bringing it.  That formula has worked pretty well for us the last few years as I’ve tried to pare down our luggage on trips.

Here’s a few more packing tips:

  • Even when packing for a 10-12 day trip, we pack 5-6 days of clothes.  Doing laundry is NOT difficult!! (I use 2-3 machines at once and get it done in an hour)   Traveling with multiple suitcases IS difficult!!!
  • Choose a color pallet of 2 basic colors and 1-2 pieces in an accent color  (possibly 1 shirt and 1 scarf or statement necklace)  Everything goes together.  You can get by with 3-4 bottoms,  5-6 tops, a jacket  and a few accessories.  From that, you can put together multiple outfits with nothing ‘repeated’.  🙂
  • “Roll clothes” as you pack them.  I had never really believed this, even though many people said it.  THEN, I tested it!!  Amazing!!!

    Photo Credit: Diane Cordell CC Lic.

    Rolling clothes really does take less room in the suitcase. CAUTION:  Don’t do this with clothes that wrinkle easily.  In fact, unless you have a very good reason to take that easily wrinkled item, it’s probably best left at home!! (imho)  In our suitcases, some things are rolled, others aren’t…it conserves a little space.

  • Use the straps in your suitcase to compress items.
  • If flying, weigh your bag before leaving home. Luggage scales aren’t that expensive, but you don’t have to have one.  Use your bathroom scale. Weigh yourself…then hold the suitcase and weigh again. Subtract the two numbers and you’ll have the weight of the bag. When we’re doing this, I keep the suitcase under 47#  to allow for differences in scales.



  • Pack shampoo, lotion, etc… in travel size bottles. Though you can purchase travel sizes of many products, I prefer to purchase travel size bottles from The Dollar Tree and fill them with my own ‘favorites’…or use the sample bottles that come in thetravel size bottles mail or are in hotel rooms.  It’s cheaper…and I get the products I want!  The bottles can then be reused on future vacations.   If you’re concerned about spillage or leaking, make a “bottle stopper” by placing a small piece of plastic (from a plastic shopping bag) inside the lid before closing it….OR simply put the bottles in a Ziploc bag (or do both).  You will probably have acquired a plastic bag at some point in your trip that can be used to ‘seal’ the bottles for your return trip.
  • A TicTac box will hold many different things…from bobby pins to stud earring to ???   Keep a few throughout the year, rinse them out and put them with your travel things.  When you begin packing, you WILL find uses for them.  If you don’t, throw them away then…   I always find a use for them.   🙂
  • Shoes: Because everyone in our family is tall and has feet on the bigger side, we MUST ‘restrict’ the number of  shoes each person brings. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is  1 pair good walking shoes (sneakers), 1 pair good walking sandals and 1 pair flip flops/water shoes for a beach destination or hiking shoes for a ‘hiking’ vacation per person. Even with this restriction, we’re still taking TWELVE pair of adult size shoes!! At least this formula keeps things from getting FAR out of hand and enables us to do most anything we want on a vacation with proper shoes.
  • Pack shoes along the outside edges of the suitcase to provide protection to more delicate items on the interior of the case (especially if flying).  Place delicate or breakable souvenirs INSIDE shoes for added protection.  Never put anything delicate or breakable along the edges or on the top or bottom….nestle them in the interior.
  • Don’t waste the space inside those shoes – Pack items like socks or underwear in there.
  • Place the heaviest items (typically shoes or toiletry bags) at the BOTTOM of the case.  This puts the weight at the bottom eliminating that ‘topple’ syndrome.
  • If we plan to do laundry, we always take laundry soap – to avoid paying the inflated prices at the laundromat.  I HIGHLY recommend the Pods/individual packets of soap.  Powdered soap need to be packed very securely (in a Ziploc bag THEN in a  plastic Rubbermaid, Glad or Dollar Tree version container because of the strong chemical smell. That smell permeates everything in the suitcase. We don’t mind our clothes smelling like laundry soap (haha) but on one vacation we arrived with our microwave popcorn, granola bars, Altoids, gum, etc   almost inedible because they absorbed the chemical smell and ‘tasted’ like soap. When the soap is contained, there’s no scent.

Photo Credit: Mandy Jansen on Flickr CC Lic.

The Main Point here is to pack light and pack tight. It saves you money. It saves you time.  It saves your back!  🙂


Travel Tips


Travel Tips 

  • Program phone numbers for the hotel(s), rental car company, airline, etc…  into your cell phone.   You never know when that information may be needed…safety, emergency, to change/cancel a reservation and it’s nice to have it easily accessible without having to look it up.

    File:Intel Atom Z2420 Smartphone Reference Design.png

    Photo Credit: wikimedia CC Lic.

  • Most people have probably already done this, but in case you haven’t…..  Put an ICE # ( In Case of Emergency #) in your phone.   If you are in an accident or otherwise unable to speak for yourself, police will check your phone for an ICE #  (in states where they are allowed to).  We actually CHANGE our ICE # when we go on vacation.  At home, we are each others’ emergency contact –   I am my husband’s….he is mine, and our kids list us as their emergency contact.  When we’re traveling together, we change that to another family member, (not traveling with us) then change it back when we get home.
  • To freshen suitcases – place a fabric softener sheet in the top of the suitcase.  Another option is to use the cologne/perfume papers that are included in magazines throughout the year.  (I keep an envelope in the closet with the suitcases to put these scented papers in. I grab a couple when packing.  Sometimes suitcases can develop a “smell” when closed up for long periods of time in the heat.  This counteracts that.  🙂
  • I have read to ROLL clothes whenpacking to save space.  Honestly, I doublted this could really make a difference.

    Photo Credit: Connie Ma on Flickr CC Lic.

    It seemed that an item of clothing will take up the same amount of space regardless of whether it’s folded, rolled (or wadded….)  🙂  So, on our last trip, I ‘tested’ it…packed by folding, then packed the same items with rolling.  Results:  The rolling DID take up less space.  hmm… It also wrinkled items significantly more.  MY CONCLUSION:  I will roll jeans, sweaters, and items that don’t wrinkle easily.  I’ll fold everything else.  I’m saving a little space….without having to iron everything when we arrive.  It’s a good compromise/solution, I think!  🙂

  • Leave a travel itinerary with a family member at home.  Include flight numbers and times, hotel/accommodation phone numbers, days when you will be out of cell  service range.  Note: I usually “translate” times to the time zone of the person receiving the itinerary so they don’t have to make that “adjustment”.  Make it as easy as possible to be “found” by those who care about you — in case your cell phone doesn’t work or gets lost….or God Forbid, something happens to you and your family.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you take with you…  Select them carefully…remembering which one you’ll need for the rental car if you’re relying on the card for insurance.  Leave this CC # with a TRUSTED person back home  – in code, of course (insert a predetermined series of numbers throughout the number to disguise it.  How?  Let’s say you graduated high school in 1989.  Add “89” into the number in 2 different places.   Your “trusted person” will know to remove the 89 to reveal the REAL number.   Use any number that is ‘important’ to you…or easily remembered by the person you’re giving this to.  Next, write down the phone numbers for reporting lost or stolen cards and put that # in a safe place.  Yes….I realize this number is available online or from other sources.  But honestly…if this happens to you, you’re going to be in a HURRY…and probably stressed and pressed for time.  ANYthing that makes your next steps easier will be a welcome thing.  
  • Credit cards are a better option for travel expenses than debit cards. They give you protection in case of loss or theft. Debit cards do not. While I typically don’t like to live on credit, in the case of travel, I ‘modify’ that opinion somewhat.
  • Photo Credit: Sean Neakums on Flickr CC Lic.

    Duct Tape:  Don’t leave home without it!  🙂  Yes, I’m serious!  I wrap 3-4 feet of duct tape around a pencil stub (No, we don’t take the whole roll…it’s huge)  and I will say, there has NEVER been a vacation that we haven’t used it.  Once it was to repair my son’s tennis shoe when we were in Grand Canyon (where they don’t sell tennis shoes).  Another time, it was to tape the back onto my husband’s phone when it broke.  Yet another time, it was to actually tape up a suitcase after the zipper broke the morning we were flying home.  That suitcase looked ridiculous, but it was OK.  Our only other option was to leave the bag and it’s contents in Boston.  Thank goodness for duct tape!!!  🙂

  • Most of our vacation meals are “DIY” 🙂  to keep costs to a minimum, however, when we DO eat out, we try to make it part of the ‘vacation experience’, not just something to eat.  If we’re in Sante Fe, NM, we go out for authentic Mexican food (different from the Tex-Mex we get at home). When we were in Wyoming, we had buffalo burgers and elk.  When we were in Boston, it was North Atlantic sea food…in Philadelphia, it was an authentic Philly Cheese steak. 🙂 When we were in Hawaii, it was native Hawaiian fare….in South Florida, it was Cuban food.  If we’re going to spend money eating out,  we want it to be a memorable experience.
  • Apps  or will give you weather reports for your destination as far as 10 days in advance.  However….recently I have begun searching for LOCAL TV station websites.  After more than one weather report that was WAY WAY off base, I’ve found information that’s a little ‘closer’ to accurate from the local news reports. (understanding that meteorology is not an exact science  ha)  Just search “Television stations in (town)”  You’ll find the ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.  Choose one and watch their weather report.  🙂  That information is often quite helpful…before zipping up that suitcase.

Happy Travels!