I love giving people gifts. I truly enjoy picking out just the right things, wrapping them in color-coordinated paper, and tying them up with fancy bows and name tags. I couldn’t imagine Christmas morning without the joy of watching my family unwrap presents. So, months in advance of our Christmas vacation, I began planning how I was going to get gifts, stockings, and wrapping supplies into my suitcase without going over the 50-pound weight limit and still have room for clothes. It wasn’t easy.

First, I had to select gifts that were small in size and low in weight so they could easily fit into my suitcase. Here’s what I came up with.

For my mom, I brought a tea towel we got for her in Bath, England, this summer, a Nebraska volleyball t-shirt, and her favorite perfume. The perfume set (Beautiful by Este Lauder) is something my step-dad had purchased every year for her at Christmas. Before he passed away a few years ago, he asked if we’d continue his tradition and get mom the Beautiful perfume she loved to wear. While we couldn’t see packing the large box set, it did come with a small travel-sized perfume, which I could easily pack without taking up much space.

For my mom, we brought a tea towel from our trip to Bath, England, last summer, a Nebraska volleyball shirt, and her favorite perfume. I pre-measured pieces of wrapping paper before we left, and brought tape and scissors in my suitcase.

For my mom, we brought a tea towel from our trip to Bath, England, last summer, a Nebraska volleyball shirt, and her favorite perfume. I pre-measured pieces of wrapping paper before we left, and brought tape and scissors in my suitcase.

Because you are encouraged by TSA to not wrap gifts that are in checked baggage, I laid out each gift and measured the exact amount of wrapping paper I would need for each item before we left. I also included a bow or ribbon and wrote out a name tag. Then, I just placed all of those items in a clear plastic freezer bag labeled with the name of the recipient, sucked out all the air, and packed it away.

For Meghan, we decided to get her a couple things she would need for her upcoming trip to England. We bought a her a new water bottle she requested, a travel safe toothbrush holder, and then decided to spoil her a bit with the perfume she’s been asking for for the past three years. Like mom’s gift, the perfume set was too big to bring along, so we wrapped the travel size perfume for the trip, and left the larger set at home.

For Meghan, we got a water bottle, a travel toothbrush holder, and the perfume she's asked for for the past three years. We also purchased a llama in her honor through World Vision.

For Meghan, we got a water bottle, a travel toothbrush holder, and the perfume she’s asked for for the past three years. We also purchased a share of a llama in her honor through World Vision.

Every year, we also purchase some kind of animal for a family in another country through World Vision. This year, we bought a share of a llama in her honor.

Meghan loved her Christmas gifts and was pleasantly surprised to get the perfume she really wanted (but would never buy for herself).

Meghan loved her Christmas gifts and was pleasantly surprised to get the perfume she really wanted (but would never buy for herself).

She loved everything and the water bottle came in really handy for packing all of the fluffy bows that I wanted to bring and needed to protect from getting squished.

The Contigo water bottle we got for Meg was a great place to store bows and ribbons for the trip.

The Contigo water bottle we got for Meg was a great place to store bows and ribbons for the trip.

It’s always a bit difficult to find the perfect gift for Steve. But this year, I had an idea back in June and wrote it down. The best part is … I remembered I had written something down five months later! On our last cruise, we took a mixology class where we learned the history of the cocktail and had a chance to craft some incredible drinks with professional bartenders. Steve loved it and has really enjoyed trying new recipes and honing his cocktail mixing skills. So, for Christmas, I got him a few new things for the bar, including a wooden muddler, a Japanese jigger, and a cocktail recipe book we’d used during our mixology class.

Steve got some new tools for his new cocktail making hobby, including a wooden muddler, a Japanese jigger, and a classic cocktail recipe book (or at least a picture of it).

Steve got some new tools for his new cocktail making hobby, including a wooden muddler, a Japanese jigger, and a classic cocktail recipe book (or at least a picture of it).

I found the book on Amazon but when it arrived, I realized it was much too heavy to include in my bag. Instead, I made a photocopy of the cover, included a note saying the book was back at home, and wrapped the paper in a small box I’d brought along. All three gifts were easy to pack and Steve loved these new bar accessories.

As for the stockings, I didn’t bring the handmade stockings we usually use at home, but did purchase four inexpensive felt stocking at Walmart before we left. I think they were $0.98 each and I added a felt initial for everyone.

These .98 cent stockings packed easily and were a fun surprise on Christmas morning.

These $0.98 stockings packed easily and were a fun surprise on Christmas morning.

I gathered some small stocking stuffers before we left and separated them in individual freezer bags for each person (including myself). I packed things like gum, mints, hair bands, Kleenex, lip balm, and a family favorite — scratch-off lottery tickets. I received some great gifts, as well. My mom got us two marble cheese plates we’d wanted and some other serving ware that we’d opened at home before our trip. Steve gave me the Magnolia Story book and some new makeup I’d wanted and Meg got me a new lined sketch book and an accessory for one of my favorite bags.

We had such a great morning on the ship opening presents and celebrating Christmas. While it took a little extra planning to get everything there, it definitely made for a Christmas to remember.

If you like these ideas, please PIN photos to Pinterest!

  • Steve writes: When I first set my eyes on the outside of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, I was unimpressed. In fact, I thought it was plain ugly. Construction continued, and I returned several times over the years, each time finding more to like about it. Finally, on a visit with Ann, the inside of the Cathedral was open for a visit. So we went inside.⁣
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Architect Antonin Gaudi's creation is brilliant. The way he uses stained glass to bring color to the stone inside, combined with the shadows created by the shape of the stone is breathtaking. Truly, this cathedral might be the most impressive one I've seen anywhere. This place should be on your bucket list. It's worth a trip to Barcelona to see it.
  • We've been going to the @PWMercantile for a couple of years now, especially since we bought a house in Pawhuska. Over that time, we've seen a number of changes both to the restaurant and to the merchandise they have in the store. But one item has remained constant: these turquoise beads.
  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
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We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
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Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
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We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
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If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
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@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
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Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
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Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
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We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
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While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
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Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
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Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
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Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
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@themusicmanbway

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