Jul 13 2011
Vacation time is almost here, and while for my husband vacation means throwing a few clothes into suitcases and getting behind the wheel, for me it means a lot of time spent planning and packing. Over the years, I’ve become more adept at it so that it’s less of a last-minute panic session and more of a slow-and-steady endeavor. Here’s how I do it; maybe some of these tips will work for you.
- Make your lists . . . and check them twice. 2-3 weeks before we leave, I start jotting things down on a notepad on my desk. I know we won’t forget the basics like clothes, but any little odds and ends that I want to have along go on the list. Camera battery charger, Bananagrams, ice cream bucket and towel (for just in case) all go on the list so I don’t forget them.
- Let the kids help. Once they start reading (sooner if siblings will help), my kids choose their own vacation clothes. I give them each a list like this: 10 shorts, 10 short-sleeve shirts, 2 pajamas, 10 underwear, 1 pants, 1 sweatshirt. They each put their own clothes in a laundry basket, and then I set to pairing up the clothes so that they match reasonably well.
- Watch the forecast. 10-day forecasts are marvelous, and I begin packing in earnest as soon as most of our trip fits into that window. The forecast can give me a decent idea of whether we’ll be wearing shorts or sweatshirts or needing umbrellas for most of our trip.
- It’s a vacation, not a beauty contest. When we hit the road, I operate under the assumption that most of the people we meet will never see us again. While I want my family to be clean and well-groomed, vacation for us is not the time to break out our fanciest clothes. Unless we have a special occasion like a wedding to attend, each person is restricted to one pair of comfortable walking shoes (plus flip-flops for the pool). Clothes must be comfortable and pack well, because I don’t iron, especially when on vacation. We keep accessories to a minimum. I really don’t think the museum docents or park rangers will notice if we’re dressed in just the basics.
- Pack by the day, not by the person. If each of us packed our own suitcase, we’d lug six big suitcases plus a laptop bag into each and every hotel. Instead, I pack smaller bags for each stop along the way. A small pilot case can hold two nights’ worth of clothes for the six of us; we use duffel bags for one-night stays. The things we need every night, like pajamas and toiletries, go into another suitcase, and I pack one bag with extras: a change of clothes in case someone gets sick or filthy, plus something for just in case the weather changes. For this trip, the forecast is upper 80′s and 90′s for the whole week, so our primary clothes are shorts and t-shirts, but we each have a pair of pants and a sweatshirt in the extras bag. I mark the bags with small tags that indicate the day and city we’ll be in, so each night we just have to grab the right bag, the pajama bag, and the laptop and swimsuits if we’ll be needing them.
- Have a bag of toiletries packed at all times. I used to forget the simple things, like my toothbrush or hairspray. A few years ago, I bought a hanging toiletry bag and I just keep an extra set of everything in there. Combs, shampoo, makeup basics, etc. stay in this bag at all times. If I want to add extra things, I can, but at least the basics are always covered. This has also come in handy when we’ve had unexpected hospital stays.
- Pile it up. Much to my husband’s chagrin, the last week before vacation involves piles of stuff somewhere in the house. I find a clear spot in our bedroom or the living room and start stashing everything that’s ready to go. Bags with snacks for the car, laptop case, and swimsuits can be packed several days ahead of time. Suitcases go in the same location when they’re packed. When we load up the car, we know we have everything when that spot is clear.
- Let the kids choose their entertainment. With the exception of their “vacation books,” which I labor over because the kids request them for each trip, I let my kids decide what to bring along in the car. To avoid bringing the entire menagerie of stuffed animals or the dolls and all their accessories, each child is limited to a small briefcase which they can fill with whatever they want, plus a binder that includes their vacation books, paper, crayons, markers, and pencils. In addition, I’ve loaded up my iPod with audio books, and I always have a deck of cards along for in case we have an unexpected wait somewhere.
- Charging cables stay in the car. After trips where I’ve forgotten a charging cable of some sort, I now keep car chargers for each type of connection in each of our vehicles. Now all of our nooks, phones, iPods, and other devices can be charged on the go no matter which vehicle we’re traveling in.
So, that’s it. The pressure of packing and remembering everything for a family of six used to make my pre-vacation days miserable, but now that I have things organized, I do a bit each day so that it goes smoothly when it’s time to pack up the car.
Do you have any roadtrip packing tips you’d like to share?