Christmas Vacation: Save money by packing right and packing light

woman with packed luggage

Think Ahead And Avoid Paying More Down The Road


Halloween is almost here and not long after that Christmas vacation will arrive.

For some, Christmas vacation includes travelling far distances to celebrate with family and friends requiring you to not only pack up your belongings but presents you may be giving away as well.

Many students take advantage of the Christmas break to head home for the holidays only to return to school with a lot more to pack than what they headed home with.

If your travels include an airplane flight and your bags were already filled to the brim upon departure this could end up taking more money from your vacation budget and giving you more grief than you may be prepared for.

Many airlines including Westjet which is the airline I have the most experience flying with have lowered the number of checked bags that are included in your fare.

Westjet allows one checked bag per passenger (unless you fly with their Plus fare where a second bag is free) with a weight of 50 lbs or 23Kg per bag which is about standard for most airlines domestic or international flights.

With some planning and foresight when packing your bags you may be able to avoid fees associated with being overweight or needing to check an extra bag or suitcase.

Checking a second bag with Westjet costs $20-$23.00 with a third and fourth costing $50-$57.50 per bag.

Wow, the dollar signs just keep popping up and they don’t skimp on the cost either, they will bleed you dry if they can.

Overweight charges range from $50-$57.50 as well, being overweight and having extra bags to check, the airline may charge both fees for each bag.


Do yourself a favour and make a list


Looking back on my vacation with my kids this past summer I realized that we packed way too much when we went on vacations.

I justified the amount of belongings we brought with us by wanting to be prepared while travelling solo with two young children though there were multiple articles of clothing that never even left the suitcase.

By having a vacation travelling list not only will you be less likely to forget something you will need while away but it also gives you the chance to look at on paper what you plan to bring and re-evaluate whether you really need it all or not.

Keep in mind if you are staying with a friend or family or even if you will have access to a laundry mat, packing 1 weeks worth of clothes or maybe even less for a 2 week trip could get you by as you can do laundry while you are there.

This is something that you should ask and make sure is okay with your family members/friends ahead of time.


Think ahead


When packing your bags try to include space for any gifts and/or souvenirs that you may want to bring home with you. Leaving some space for the extras can avoid needing to pay for additional checked baggage, overweight, etc.

I know when I was a student and not having a lot of income to purchase multiple gifts I usually received more gifts at Christmas than I gave away.

If you are a struggling student you may find this will likely happen to you too so save room for all the extra goodies you might get.


 Travelling with kids


Travelling with young kids that require car seats, strollers, diapers and formula makes for a lot more stuff to pack.

Ask yourself these two questions….

  • What can we do without and leave behind?
  • What can be purchased upon arrival?

Do you need to pack 2 weeks worth of diapers or can you pack enough for the trip with a couple of extras in case and buy diapers when you reach your destination?

The same can be done with formula and baby food which would end up freeing space in your luggage.

Most airlines will thankfully transport car seats free of charge which is a blessing for most people.

Westjet will allow 2 free checked items such as a stroller and car seat for a child under the age of 2 travelling without a purchased fare and one checked item for any children over the age of 2 who require having their own seat purchased on the flight.


Packing your bags


How you pack your bags will be a factor in how much space you require for your belongings.

The following methods below can also be used if you need to re-pack your belongings differently to allow space to bring things acquired on your trip home with you.


Skip the folding and roll


Folding your clothes flat has proved many times for myself not to be the most efficient way to pack a suitcase. Rolling my clothes is something my mom has reminded me for years to do when packing and it has saved me a considerable amount of space.


how to fold and pack clothes


folding jeans to pack in luggage

Fold multiple articles of clothing together as you can see in the how-to pictures below that folding two pairs of jeans as one takes up less space

folding and packing jeans for luggagefolding and packing jeans for luggage

Vacuum storage bags such as Ziploc storage bags are great space savers though you will require a vacuum at your destination to re pack it. Though a vacuum may not always be accessible, this may be an option if staying with a friend or family member.

On our trip this summer even though it wasn’t Christmas and I rolled all our clothes we had more to pack to bring home than what we left with. Most of the space was taken up by souvenirs the kids wanted to bring home, gifts from family etc.

I was fortunate to not have brought a carry-on bag for myself when leaving Ontario because I sure needed one to come home. Luckily I was able to pick up a relatively decent backpack for $5.00 at Wal-mart which allowed me to fill it up and use as my carry on.

More planning on my part and leaving some stuff behind next time will ensure I won’t run into this issue again.

Packing light and packing less may take a few vacations for you to realize what you can travel with and without so you don’t continually bring more with you than you need.

It is common for most people though especially when kids are involved to pack more than you will need for your trip so don’t fear you won’t have enough just plan packing wisely.

Taking the time to properly prepare and pack only the items that you will need will save some you some unnecessary headaches and more money out of your pocket when trying to return home.

Remember as well not to wrap presents you are travelling with as the airline will unwrap them all if your bags are opened for further screening.

This will also help save you money by not having to buy gift wrap twice.

Keep it simple and wrap them once you have arrived at your destination and enjoy your Christmas vacation.

How do you pack your bags to avoid extra fees at the airport?


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Katrina B

Author Bio: Katrina B

Katrina is a regular contributor for Canadian Budget Binder and is as passionate about personal finance as she is gardening. Katrina is a horticulture graduate with over 10 years experience with landscaping and greenhouse production. Her goal is to share her knowledge and experiences blogging about gardening and her continued passion for personal finance in hopes of motivating others. While being a single mom of two and an in-store merchandising representative for major retail shops she also runs her own Landscaping Services in Southwestern Ontario. If you would like to know more about her landscaping services simply email Mr.CBB at


  1. My mother in law told me about the rolling clothes for packing. At first I hesitated because I was thinking maybe it would get crumpled but after I saw her rolling the clothes I was very surprised for the extra space!

  2. Love that tip about rolling clothes instead of folding them. I’ve never thought to do that before! That must mean less creasing too? I also take the bare minimum for myself when I travel but for my daughter I seem to take far too much!

  3. Christine Weadick says:

    It’s been a lot of years since we climbed on board a plane but the two oldest have flown somewhere. The older boy was flown a couple of times when he was in the Reserves and he flew Air Canada Jazz. He usually had one checked bag and his back back for carry on. There are laundry facility’s in barracks so he was good there, he packed his uniforms and a day or worth of civvies, plus what he wore. He was caught in Halifax when Sept 11 happened, and found things were a little more security conscience on the return run.
    Our daughter flew to Winnipeg Manitoba, when she was 17 for a second language program and flew West Jet. She had 2 bags checked and a backpack carried on. Back in 2000 you could check 2 bags no charge. Good thing as she was gone 5 weeks!!
    You have some great tips for packing here!! I love the idea of those vac bags!!! Sure could have used those when we were visiting family when the kids were smaller!!! I always did the packing and trying to get 2-4 days worth for 5 people in one bag took doing!!,
    Thanks for the great article Katrina!!!,

  4. Rolling is a great tip. I work away a lot and I find rolling saves a lot of space, avoids creasing and is much quicker!

  5. Mary F. Campbell says:

    Also, I buy my airline tickets 11 months ahead…then I watch, once a week, for lower pricing. I book thru Alaska Airlines and use their travel wallet to hold my money when I cancel a ticket I booked online. I have saved us literally thousands of dollars by watching their available pricing. It’s not at all unusual for us to fly at least “2 for the price of 1” but sometimes I can get us on away on a North American vacation for less than $150 airfare return per person. For example…they have a $59 Halloween sale on right now. If we didn’t already have a weekend anniversary jaunt planned to Reno and Lake Taho a couple of weeks later…I’d jump on a flight! 😀

  6. Mary F. Campbell says:

    Good post Katrina! When Hubby and I travel, I only pack enough clothing to get us to the next location where I have access to either an ensuite laundry or a laundromat. Depending on the duration of the trip, I am starting to think long and hard whether I really need my laptop or could I survive with just my iPad. If it’s less than a week, the iPad will do. I can use the business center for the printing of our return boarding passes too … generally free. 🙂 There are definite advantages to having a camera around your neck rather than a laptop bag on your back… I see more and do more and to me that’s the whole point of the holiday! 😀

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