“The Nina is ready,” I recently said to my husband as we prepped our car and two kids for a long weekend out of town. “The Nina?” he questioned. “Fortunately we didn’t have to pack the Pinta and Santa Maria too,” I replied. With all the gear we had, it really did feel like we had just loaded an entire ship full of cargo. With some planning and these time-saving tips, packing can be less of a hassle. Read on to learn how to ease the burden of packing for your next family trip.
Create a packing list on your computer.
Then simply print out a copy each time you take a trip. You’ll save yourself time since you won’t be starting your list from scratch, and you won’t have to rely on your memory for all those little travel necessities that pile up. Post your list on the fridge a week or two in advance and add to it as you think of things that need to go with you, like those photos you’ve been meaning to mail to your sister.
Bonus: Take the list with you on your trip. When you’re ready to return home, use it to do a quick check of all your belongings to make sure you don’t leave anything behind.
Designate a “miscellaneous bag.”
Think about those small, last-minute items that seem to collect in the half hour before you manage to finally get out the door. Pick an appropriate sized bag for your family’s needs, whether it’s a large canvas tote, your favorite backpack, or just a plastic grocery bag. Put your miscellaneous bag on the kitchen counter or over the doorknob the day before you leave for your trip, and use it to gather all those sundry items.
Bonus: Empty the bag once you get in the car and use it for the trash that starts accumulating just moments after you pull out of the driveway.
Take a travel laundry bag along.
Or use a large shopping bag. Instead of putting dirty clothes back in the suitcase, toss them in the laundry bag and have all your kids do the same.
Bonus: Clean outfits stay clean. If you end up not wearing something while away, it can go right back into the dresser when you get home.
Always keep your toiletry bag packed.
Same goes for the kids. Rather than transferring the contents of your medicine cabinet and linen closet before each trip, buy multiples of bathroom products, including deodorants, toothpaste, soap, even razors and travel-sized bottles of contact lens solution. There will be less to toss in when it comes time to pack. Keep a sticky note in your bag to remind you of those items that you don’t have pre-packed, like jewelry, make-up and prescription medications.
Bonus: If you forget your child’s toothbrush at Grandma’s, you’ll still have one waiting at home.
Keep a few dryer sheets in your suitcases.
Lay them in between outfits or tuck them in each side of your bag for a fresh-from-the-dryer smell. By always keeping them in your suitcase, even after unpacking, this is one small luxury you won’t have to think about every time you take a trip.
Bonus: If you do laundry while on your trip, you’ll have fabric softener at your fingertips.
Take a packable bag along.
The best are the kind that fold up into a small pocket-sized pouch and can be kept in your purse or squeezed into an already-full carry-on. Load it up with the tidbits that inevitably and unavoidably gather along the way – gifts from Aunt Susan, crayons from restaurants, that cool pebble from your hike in the woods.
Bonus: Go green by keeping this bag in your purse or glove compartment and using it when you shop.
Whether it’s a weeklong vacation involving a flight and hotels, or just a weekend visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, these tips will lead to less sighing and fewer headaches the next time you go out of town.
By Kate Harold