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When Packing, Forget the Kitchen Sink

You'll be returning home, so don't schlep everything you own along with you

Over the next three months, Americans will stuff, smoosh, and sit on 460 million suitcases.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, Americans will pack for approximately 230 million trips.

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As summer creeps in, a few helpful tips may promote a more harmonious packing - and therefore vacation - experience.

Vacation often entails travel, travel includes packing, and packing is frequently synonymous with utter chaos, especially when kids are involved.

Evelyn Kanter, a New York consumer travel expert, has some helpful ideas for packing: "The key to a successful vacation is to only pack what you will actually use, what will make your life easier and your vacation smoother."

To begin with, individual plastic bags can compartmentalize a younger child's daily wardrobe within the suitcase. This not only saves precious beach time with predetermined outfits, but the bags also serve as tightlocked laundry bags in case all three meals should inevitably manifest themselves on their clothing.

Ms. Kanter also recommends that children pack their own little bag or backpack with a few of their favorite toys, books, and games that they can be responsible for in the car or hotel room.

Parents should also remember to bring a few favorite snacks - preferably those that won't melt, drip, or squish. Armed with peanuts, raisins, or trail mix, parents can ward off hunger pangs and save time and pennies in the process.

Disposable cameras are strongly suggested by Kanter in order to minimize the concern of damage or theft and the inconvenience of lugging around weighty equipment.

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Prepaid phone cards from AT&T and other companies are a convenient way to allocate spending and prevent disasters if credit cards are lost: They hold from $5.25 to $21 worth of calls, so any loss is relatively minor.

Kanter advises vacationers to "think ahead to what will lessen your load, both in worry and in weight ... carry traveler's checks and if you need a place to store money, try airtight plastic film cases."

Here are a few helpful tips when packing for your vacation:

* Conserve energy by lightening your luggage - no need to pack your entire life!

* Stick to packing a few colors that work well together, and bring only those clothes you know you will wear.

* Luggage with wheels makes the going much easier.

* Always label luggage, outside and inside, with all important information.

* Mark your bags with a bright ribbon or colored luggage strap to identify them quickly and accurately.

* Pack an extension cord for your electrical convenience in hotel rooms.

* If traveling out of the country, make copies of the first page of your passport and pack a copy in several pieces of luggage, or distribute them with those you're traveling with.

* Travel novelties such as the combined iron/hair-dryer-in-one can save packing space.

* Pack all liquids in plastic bottles. Replace any glass containers with plastic ones. Glass is not only breakable, it's heavy. Squeeze a little air out of the bottle and the vacuum effect will keep spills from ruining your luggage and belongings.

* Prepare a family toiletry kit - keep items everyone uses together.

Americans are notorious for overpacking. Don't be miserable with unwieldy and unnecessary belongings that detract from a well-deserved vacation: pack efficiently.

Keep it light, keep it simple, and you'll get the most out of your summer vacation.

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