Traveling to see family? Maybe leave these items at your destination

The older I get, the less tolerant I am of the miles that separate the members of my family. My wife and kids live with me, but my extended family is far-flung indeed. I’m here in Massachusetts while my parents are in Florida and my sisters live with their families in New York and Pennsylvania. We get together as often as possible, though scheduling and cost still make our gatherings more rare than I’d like.

Spending time together often means flying. I’ve written about flying before, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here. However, I will share a tip for keeping things easy while you pack, at the airport and once you’ve arrived.

Each of the family members I mention are host to some of my belongings. They have agreed, and we have in return, to care for a few things that make traveling to see each other even easier and more organized. Some choices are obvious, while others are not. The following are suggestions for how you can reduce the amount of stuff you have to pack and have to schlep across the country, as well as keep from forgetting the items entirely, when going to visit family.


This one is pretty obvious. TSA restrictions affect these items, so I avoid carrying them on planes and leave a set at my parents’ house, etc. Despite the silly name, I’ve assembled a “Dopp kit” that covers most of the basics, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, floss, travel-sized soap and shampoo, and finally a razor, blades, and some shaving cream. And all of these items are in a nice bag.

You can get as fancy (pictured above) or economical as you prefer. The bag isn’t completely necessary, of course, but I like to make it easy for my hosts to put my stuff away when I’m not around. No sense in adding clutter to their lives.


This one could be tricky, as clothes are bulky and we don’t want to create a storage nightmare for our generous hosts. Instead of keeping a full wardrobe remotely, I store just a few things like a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, some t-shirts and what my mom calls “lounge pants.” I still have to pack some clothes, but not as much as I would otherwise.

Here’s a tip: leave neutral colors at your destination. That way you don’t have to try to coordinate your packing with items that are in another state.

Small electronics

I admit to being a gadget addict. For me, “fear” can be defined as no Wi-Fi or a dead battery. So, I keep a cable and wall adapter to charge my iPhone at my parents’ house. Both are very small and can be tucked away in a tiny drawer. As someone who has forgotten to pack a cable and who has left one behind, I really enjoy the peace of mind that I get knowing my charging needs will be covered while I’m in the Sunshine State.

Here’s a tip about electronics. The TSA requires smartphones and tablets to be powered up enough to be turned on at the gate, should an agent want to. If you’re leaving a charger at home knowing there’s one at your destination, make sure that phone has enough juice to run between home and the security gate.

Finally, here are a few that are destination-specific. I keep a tube of sunblock at my parents’ home in sunny Florida, because my son has some weird eczema thing going on and needs special sunblock. It’s easiest to just buy it there and leave it instead of constantly transporting travel-size bottles of the stuff. Finally, I keep a charged subway pass at my sister’s New York City apartment. One less thing for me to forget.

As the travel season approaches, I hope this makes things a bit easier for you, assuming your hosts are okay with this arrangement.

9 Comments for “Traveling to see family? Maybe leave these items at your destination”

  1. posted by Claire on

    Since shoes are so cumbersome to pack into a suitcase for flying, we have left an extra pair of shoes at the in-laws as well.

  2. posted by CindyP on

    I think you are leaving quite a bit of stuff at your parents home.. You keep saying “it’s small” but as anyone who has ever packed a bag knows, all that small stuff adds up. It sounds to me like you have filled up a small drawer with your belongings. I guess if you are there a lot it would make sense, but if this is all for once or twice a year, I don’t think I’d be as graceful as your relatives seem to be about storing your things.

  3. posted by Lisa Sharp on

    I’m so glad to see that someone else does this too! We travel to my parents home in Savannah, Georgia (we’re in Atlanta) every few months. We don’t have to hassle with flying but repacking the same stuff (and inevitably forgetting something) got really old a few years back so I just asked my parents if we could leave a whole set of toiletries and kids toys at their house. It makes traveling so much nicer! (And of course it’s a small amount of stuff–I didn’t want to clutter up their house!!)

  4. posted by Kasey Coff on

    This is a great idea. It’s not an inconvenience as long your hosts have a spare drawer or can store a box or small suitcase for you. We travel between Europe and the US a couple of times a year, and with the ever-tightening luggage restrictions knowing some basics are already “on the other side” is reassuring. If you arrive jet-lagged, the last thing you want to do is go shopping for something you forgot. And nobody wants to pay the overage costs when a suitcase weighs too much, or have a toiletry confiscated because the bottle is too big. Great tips in this article – thank you!!!

  5. posted by anonymous on

    One thing I’ve done while travelling is to mail items to and from my destination, and carry-on only what I would need going to-and-from the airports.

    This was a long time ago, before the extra baggage fees, so it was more expensive than carrying the baggage with me. But it made getting through the airport, even pre-9/11, a lot easier.

  6. posted by Li on

    I have to agree with Cindy P. This sounds like a great way for you to unclutter but…if I were the one storing your things, I don’t think I’d be too thrilled.

  7. posted by Suzy K on

    Mom & I went to visit her brother & I convinced her that mailing our meds and such ahead to him made more sense than keeping everything in original containers in accordance with TSA regulations. I keep my “dopp kit” prepared for the next trip with the basics and stuff that I’ve forgotten to take on previous trips & a list of other stuff I need to add. I also have a go bag in the car for winter emergencies. (work may require me to stay on site in bad weather)

  8. posted by Allison on

    I don’t really understand what’s so difficult about putting your toiletries in your checked luggage? My bag even came with a zippered heavy-duty plastic pouch for the unlikely event something leaks (which hasn’t happened to me in years). I wouldn’t want to clutter up my hosts’ houses with my stuff, but parents and in-laws always have full-size shampoo, soaps, etc that we are welcome to use, so we just pack the more personal things like toothbrushes and deodorant. I would only consider leaving clothes if I was visiting many times a year, and even then… that’s what your luggage is FOR. Just do a load of laundry if you want to pack less.

  9. posted by Laetitia on

    Considering that certain chemical products (shampoo, sunscreen etc.) can go ‘off’ as it ages, you’d be wanting to leave only a very small bottle (so that you don’t mind the loss if it’s unusable on the next visit) of product or be visiting on a very frequent basis, no? Unless it’s a super-special product (in which case, maybe take a small amount back and forth) wouldn’t it be easier to use the same stuff as the host uses (maybe make a contribution to the cost of a bottle)?

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