I’m sure you remember the days when you literally threw a few outfits in a suitcase. Tossed in toiletries, a swimsuit, sunscreen, and a couple of pairs of shoes. Hey presto! You were ready for vacation. Fast forward a few years and a couple of kids and preparing for vacation is anything but easy.
Right now you may be sitting at home scratching your head, wondering where to begin. Those drawers full of clothes seem daunting. Filling those suitcases seems insurmountable. The first rule of thumb is to calm down. Take a breath. The second rule of thumb is to make a list of the absolute essentials. These are items that are not only must-haves, but can’t live without items. Essential items are those items that you would have a hard time replacing if you forgot them. If you take a certain medication, calling in an Rx refill while on vacation and then trekking to an all-night pharmacy is not the way you want your vacation to start. So make a list. For my family, our essential items are:
- glasses or contact lenses
- medications (place all meds in a large ziploc bag. I write the name of the person who takes the medication on the lid of each bottle with a Sharpie marker.)
- special food items (if the baby will only drink a certain brand of formula or the toddler will only eat a certain snack, be sure to pack plenty.)
Once you have your list of essential items, you can move on to deciding what you need to bring on vacation. From personal experience, I am more relaxed and focused on packing once I have placed all the essential must-have items in the suitcases because I know that all other items can be bought once we arrive if necessary.
Let’s break the vacation prep down in to easy-to-do steps:
a. How should you pack?
Before you decide on which suitcases to bring, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you flying? Does the airline allow you to check bags for free? Will everyone need to carry their own suitcase on board the aircraft? At what age, is your child able to carry/pull her own suitcase?
- Are you driving? How big is your vehicle? How much storage space do you have?
- How many days will you be on vacation?
- How many people are you packing for?
- Does everyone need his own suitcase?
- For babies/toddlers: What equipment do you need? Can you rent a crib or playyard when you get there? Do you need a single stroller, double stroller, or can you make do with an umbrella stroller?
b. What should you pack?
- Summer — shorts, t-shirts, swimsuits, flip flops, sneakers, underwear, and coverups for day. Dressy outfits and shoes for night. Don’t forget sunscreen for the day and a sweatshirt for cool evenings. Optional: sports equipment, body boards, or beach chairs.
- Autumn/Spring — pants and shirts, shorts and t-shirts, sweaters and jackets, sandals and sneakers. Dressy clothes for evenings.
- Winter — pants, shirts, sweaters, shoes, boots, underwear, socks, and jackets for the day. Dressy outfits and shoes for night. Optional items: ski clothes, outdoor sports wear, snow boots.
c. Things to do on the journey.
- Pack a backpack for each person, including adults, babies, and toddlers. Throw in a couple of books; a blank notebook and pen; a stuffed animal or two for the little kids; handheld games with headphones for big kids; iPods and tablets for everyone; and an assortment of little toys for tiny hands.
- In the car: A DVD player and one DVD for every 1.5 hours of driving. Alternate DVD watching with other nonscreen activities. While it is comforting and certainly quiet to have kids watch movies in the car, you will want to let your kids have time to read books, color, draw, doodle, daydream, watch the scenery go by, and even sing a few songs. Also, pack a cooler of drinks and snacks.
- On the plane: Bring a backpack for each child. Before you board the plane, buy a drink and a snack for each family member. For little ones, pour drinks in to sippie cups. Avoid messy or sticky food.
2. Before you leave home
a. Cancel the mail. You can either put in a stop mail order at your local post office or cancel online.
b. Arrange for someone to pet sit or water your plants.
c. Throw out all food/drinks that will expire while you are on vacation. Is there anything worse than returning home to rancid milk in the fridge?
With your suitcases packed and your home prepped, you can go on your vacation and enjoy yourself!