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Pack light -- there's less to lose

October 05, 2003|Eileen Ogintz | Special to The Times

DEBBIE ASSINI is a brave mom.

The former New Zealander, who now lives in Atlanta, plans to change planes with her husband and kids 13 times on their upcoming six-week trip to Australia and New Zealand.

That's why Assini is limiting her family to one carry-on bag and one small backpack each. What to take is a dilemma, "since we leave in November and will hit warmer weather," she said.

It's amazing how we can make do with so little while we're on the road. We don't need to pack for every contingency or every fashion whim, because there will be stores nearby and places to wash clothes.

"Pack light" is an especially important mantra these days, with airlines charging passengers for overweight and oversized bags.

To prevent misunderstandings, go to your airline's Web site and look for details about baggage restrictions.

To help Assini, I turned to champion packer and family-travel author Laura Sutherland for advice.

"Everything should be somewhat dark -- green, gray, black or navy -- so it won't show dirt," Sutherland said.

Ever since my family and I got stuck in the rain midway up a mountain while wearing sweatshirts and jeans, I've been a big fan of quick-dry fabrics. That means fleece instead of heavy cotton. Persuade your kids to leave their bulky jeans at home and pack quick-dry pants that zip off into shorts. Check outdoor-gear stores and visit the Web sites for companies such as Campmor,, Patagonia, and Eastern Mountain Sports,

Sutherland said that the Assinis should take two of everything -- pants, shorts, short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts -- and take at least five changes of underwear and socks. Throw in a bathing suit, rain jacket, fleece sweatshirt, something dressier, waterproof sandals, sneakers, toiletries, medicines, sunglasses, schoolwork and CD players. She also advises using resealable bags for such things as first-aid items.

Sometimes carry-on bags aren't enough, especially if you're taking a small child or two. Invest in wheeled bags for each person who can wheel his or her own. If you let each child have his own "space," you cut down on arguments.

Taking the Kids appears monthly. Write to Eileen Ogintz at

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