Category Archives: Little Life Hacks

First Class Goodie Bags!

Airline amenity kits! (Image from

Airline amenity kits! (Image from

A friend of mine flies frequently for work and she gave me a United Airlines goodie bag…and I’m in heaven. I have never flown first class and I had no idea such little treats existed. They are called “amenity kits,” apparently, and they are my spirit object.

This isn’t my photo, but here’s a good shot of the case I got:

Image from

Image from

Look at all the fun goodies packed into that little case!

  1. Eye mask
  2. Socks
  3. Mints (in a packet)
  4. Hand sanitizer gel
  5. Ear plugs (in a packet)
  6. Philosophy lip balm
  7. Philosophy facial cleanser towelette
  8. Philosophy lotion
  9. Toothpaste
  10. Flosser
  11. Toothbrush with case
  12. Comb
  13. Tissues
  14. Pen (but my hand-me-down kit didn’t have one)

The case itself is really good, too—it has a mesh pocket side, an opaque pocket side, a smooth zipper, etc.

Squee! This little bag hits on all my tingly buttons:

  • I love miniature things (that toothpaste!).
  • I love kits—a set of things gathered, prepared, and ready to go to tackle a specific task.
  • I love feeling prepared.
  • I love bags, boxes, etc. with organizational nooks and crannies.
  • I love good free stuff (well, “free” with the price of an airline ticket).
  • I love it when everything coordinates in style and color.
  • I love good branding (stupid but true).
  • I love trying “fancy” brands of makeup and skincare products (I’m not a huge fan of Philosophy, though—their stuff is often full of random chemicals and a lot of perfume).

These amenity kits totally seem like the adult version of birthday party goodie bags!

Anyway, I Googled around and, as it turns out, I’m not the only one who is smitten with these little kits. There’s a market for them on eBay! Also, an article on gives an airline-by-airline breakdown and review of amenity kits. I might have spent way too long clicking on all the links and comparing kits. Some airlines use very high-end products and some airlines try to reflect their home country or culture in kit style, materials, or products. Also, there’s often a difference between first class kits and business class kits. (I didn’t even realize there was a difference between first class and business class…I thought it was the same thing…) Also, several airlines make their amenity bags in such a way as to do double duty as iPad cases, wallets, clutches, etc.

Sigh. Back in steerage, we don’t even get a snack anymore. I wonder what else I’m missing out on?

P.S. – In a similar vein, I just gave several of these as Christmas gifts.

P.P.S. – LightbyCoco, my girl crush, makes herself similar kits when she travels—an airplane kit and a toiletries kit.

P.P.P.S. – Here are some more good kit round-ups:

Travel Debrief – What To Do AGAIN Next Time

After my Christmas vacation to visit family across the country, I made note of some things to do differently when planning and packing for my next trip. Overall, though, I think I did a pretty good job of packing lightly and planning thoughtfully.

Here’s a few things I would do again for my next big trip:

Bring a tablet. I have a Kindle Fire and I really enjoyed having it with me over Christmas. I used it for all the expected activities–reading books, browsing the Internet, paying bills. It was nice to not have to borrow my host’s home computer, and it was great to be able to read the backlit screen on dim planes without using the glaring overhead light.

Bring a backup power source. I have an older cell phone with a weak battery, so I brought along two extra battery packs. These were great to have on hand for long flights, day trips, etc.

Pack a small “capsule” wardrobe centered on one color scheme. I don’t have a big wardrobe to begin with, and I buy way too many black tops, so this was pretty easy for me. I was also staying with family members at their home, so I knew I could do laundry at least once during the week. I considered the weather when packing and I tried to be realistic about my needs (i.e., would I really need dressy clothes? Nope!). Even though I packed pretty light (light for me, at least), I still brought a few things I didn’t wear–or didn’t wear enough–to justify bringing them. These items included knee-high boots, two scarves, a denim jacket, a third tank top, and a third pair of sleep/lounge pants.

Pare down products. My penchant for Birchbox and mailbox freebies really comes in handy when it’s time to travel–I have lots of sample-sized goodies on hand. I eliminated duplicates (no need for one lip balm in my purse and one in my makeup bag, for example) and streamlined everything to fit into two bags–a small makeup bag of dry items and a quart-sized bag of mini liquids.

Schedule in a day off at home before heading back to school or work. I got home late on Saturday night and didn’t have to be at work until Monday morning, so Sunday was a day to “recover” from my vacation and prepare to re-enter the “real world.” I slept late, snuggled my cats, unpacked a few essentials, straightened up the house a little, and read. Ahh.

Vacation was great, but it’s nice to be home. 🙂

Travel Debrief – What To Do Differently Next Time

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I traveled across the country to celebrate with family and had a great time. Per the inspiring advice of Light by Coco, I tried to be a smart, light packer, and I think I did a pretty good job. There’s always room for improvement, though, and next time I would do a few things differently.

On my next big plane trip, I plan to:

Pack more undies. Underwear were the limiting factor in my travel wardrobe. Next time, I would swap out some extra sleepwear for more undies, which would give me more flexibility in my laundry schedule.

Take a small, rolling suitcase. I brought a big cloth duffel bag on my trip and regretted it. It was heavy and bulky and the thin straps cut into my shoulder. I love exploring airports but my big ol’ bag was a major drag. Next time, I’m buying a small suitcase with wheels that turn a full 360 degrees, or I’m paying to check my bag. I want to be light and free in the airport so I can comfortably eat, shop, etc.

Rent a car. Yes, it would have been expensive, especially after paying for plane tickets, but it would have been worth it. After a few days of staying in someone’s house and sitting in the backseat of their car, I started to feel dependent and child-like and constricted, which drives me nuts. I would have loved having my own car so I could explore the city on my own schedule, take a day trip to a major nearby attraction that I really wanted to see, and escape the family and house for a while. Renting a car would be a relatively small extra cost that would maximize both my enjoyment and the larger investment of the plane tickets!

Carry a crossbody bag or backpack. I brought along my regular tote bag that I carry daily as a purse, which was okay, but I think I would have enjoyed a different bag more–something with more structure and built-in organization pockets.

Wear a watch. I kept needing to check the time and hated digging for my phone each time.

Label all bags. This is a no-brainer, but I forgot to do it. Next time, I would use plastic zip ties and luggage tags with privacy covers, and I would prepare two sets of inserts–one to use on the way to my vacation destination and one to use on the way home. I would include my name, address, phone number, and email address.

Can’t wait for my next trip!

Gift for You – Customizable Packing List!

She's making a list...and checking it twice...

She’s making a list…and checking it twice…

Yay!  The holidays are finally here, and that means many of us will travel near and far to celebrate with family and friends.

Are you planning a trip?  If so, download my customizable Packing List.  Use it as is or easily edit it in Microsoft Word to fit your own needs.  I like to print a copy and keep it near my bags as I pack so I don’t forget anything.


P.S. – My Happy Street penguin neighborhood reached Level 3 yesterday!

My Happy Street penguin neighborhood!

My penguin neighborhood!


Quick Guide to Fun Freebies by Mail!

Yesterday was a great day for freebies by mail!

Yesterday was a great day for freebies by mail!

I love getting mail. Checking the mail is often the highlight of my day…and not just because I have an online shopping problem. 😉 A good mail day is just like a mini Christmas or birthday!

It’s no wonder, then, that I’ve gotten hooked on finding free samples. There are dedicated blogs and sites that scout out and advertise the best free samples available, and there are marketing companies that partner with big brands to distribute samples on their behalf. I started following some of these freebie blogs and signing up for offers a few months ago, and now I get something fun in the mail almost every day. Yesterday, for example, I got two cans of Gerber baby formula, a hardback children’s picture book (Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses!), and a small sample of body lotion. I plan to donate the baby formula to a food bank, send the book to my little cousin, and use the body lotion myself!

Here’s a quick guide if you’re interested in getting freebies, too:

Where Should I Look?

My favorite freebie sites are* and*. These sites are updated multiple times a day with reputable sample offers. I haven’t had any trouble with the offers advertised and vetted by these sites (i.e., no email spam, no increased junk snail mail, etc.). I’ve also created an account at

What Can I Get for Free?

Here’s a partial list of the things I’ve gotten from these freebie sites…I can’t remember them all!

shampoo, conditioner, body wash, magazine subscriptions, children’s books, skincare product samples, nail polish, snack bars, vitamins, hair treatments (oils, masks), stickers, hand and body lotion, pet food and treats, small stuffed animals, wet wipes (for adults and babies!), feminine hygiene products, makeup, perfume (card samples and an occasional vial!), printed duct tape, chocolate milk mix, tea, coffee, K-cups, baby formula, cabinet safety latches, diapers…

But Is It Good Stuff?

Definitely! Here’s a sampling of the brands (and magazine titles) I’ve received:

Dove, Garnier, Sinful Colors, Skinnygirl, Martha Stewart, Glamour, Meow Mix, Snuggle, Huggies, Kotex, Duck Tape, Atkins, Nestle Quik, YogiTea, Starbucks, Lipton, Bigelow, Keurig, Gevalia, Working Mother, Forbes, OK!, Fancy Feast, Eucerin, American Crew, Mr. Sketch, The New Yorker, Gerber…

What Do You Do With It All?

The bulk of the free samples I receive are beauty-related items. I divide them into three containers–a small bag of items I plan to try/use, a pierced plastic bin (in the shower) of bath-related items I plan to use, and a large bag of items I plan to give as gifts or donate. Most of the beauty-related stuff arrives in foil packets, but a surprising amount comes in small bottles and tubes.

Samples can be used for:

  • Charitable donations (food banks, shelters)
  • Air travel (most samples arrive in TSA-approved sizes and formats!)
  • On-the-go supplies (stash them in your purse, car, gym bag, locker, backpack, desk, etc.)
  • “Grab bag” gifts for teens and tweens
  • Stocking stuffers
  • Supplies for overnight guests
  • Little surprises in mailed letters to friends

Tips and Tricks

Here’s a few suggestions for successful freebie-ing!

Check the sites at least once a day. Several sites have social media accounts or text programs, too, that you can follow for real time alerts for high-end or popular samples that will disappear quickly.

Be patient. It usually takes 4-8 weeks for most samples to arrive. That’s why it’s important to visit the freebie sites every day. Once you get the ball rolling, you can receive several free samples each week!

Create a new, free email account to dedicate to your sample requests. You don’t want to clog your main account(s) with request confirmation notices or marketing email.

Don’t sell out your friends. The occasional sample request form will ask you to provide names and email addresses for your friends—don’t do it. I don’t give out anyone’s information besides my own, or I give generic information and placeholders that will be obvious to the company, like If I can’t figure out a way to sidestep the questions without compromising anyone, I don’t request the freebie.

Don’t sell out yourself. Some companies ask for your demographic information in exchange for a sample (like your birthday, salary, family size, etc.). If you don’t feel comfortable sharing certain information, or can’t sidestep the request in a responsible way, stop there and don’t complete the form. It’s not worth it. You could always try emailing the company directly and asking for the sample, too.

Opt out of further communications. Most freebie request forms give you the chance to opt in or out of the company’s newsletters, advertisements, and marketing materials. I always opt out where I can, unless I’m interested in learning more about the company.

Unsubscribe from unwanted email as soon as you get it. It only takes a few seconds and will save you time in the long run! Most emails have an unsubscribe link at the very bottom.

Program your smart phone with text shortcuts. This makes on-the-go form completion faster and easier. I’ve created a text shortcut for my email address, for example, and just that one little trick makes filling out tiny forms on a tiny screen much, much more pleasant.

Have fun!  🙂

* These sites also report on sweepstakes and high-value coupons! I don’t have the patience for either, though. 🙂 Also, I’m not affiliated in any way with any of the sites, companies, or brands mentioned in this post. I just enjoy the freebies!