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Packing for an upcoming trip can be a burden, especially when you have children on board. There are so many different things you need to take with you! Packing for a trip can get exhausting even before we actually leave the house. We are getting ready to take a trip to Florida next week, so I thought I would share with you my system for stress-free packing. Hopefully this list will help you on your next vacation, whether it be a road-trip, a flight across country or maybe even to another country.

Start a packing list:
I find it especially helpful to keep a list on the computer of things we need when we vacation. I started this years ago when we were packing for Florida and I wasn’t sure what we needed to take. To make a long-story short, I took way too much, and have learned greatly from that experience. I wrote down everything we used on the trip, and keep that list on our computer at all times. Whether you travel to the same or different locations each year, you will find a list invaluable.

We keep one list for summer and one for winter, since we usually travel around those times. We include the following on our lists: clothing (obviously!); travel documents (tickets, reservations, travel directions), electronic devices and chargers (camera, phone, ipods, gameboy); medications/vitamins; toiletries/beauty; foods; supermarket shopping lists (this is a must-have when we rent a home somewhere); baby supplies & equipment (diapers, formula, stroller); kids’ activities bag for car, restaurant or plane (coloring books, stickers, word finds etc.); important contact phone numbers.

Kids & Packing: I always limit children to one backpack of “stuff.” We also encourage them to carry and be responsible for their own backpack. One suggestion I have it to limit the number of items they can take (ie: 3 small toys, 2 electronic devices) and we limit the size of the items (obviously they need to be able to fit inside their backpack). Another tip is to encourage them to write down and include in their backpack a list of their belongings. This is especially helpful when you leave your destination, so that you can make sure everyone has all of their belongings. Even parents can leave things behind (like my keys a few years ago!). It’s important to know exactly what the kids are taking with them so you don’t wind up searching for “missing” things that are actually home safely in their rooms!

Print Clothing Check Lists: This one is a biggie in my book–We print our clothing lists for everyone to use as a packing check list. For example, you might give older children a print out of your Winter or Summer clothing list so they can learn to pack independently. Keep the list simple and general, but include specific amounts. (For example: 4 pairs of underwear, 5 long sleeve shirts, 1 pair of pajamas, 4 pairs of socks, etc. etc…) Have children check off these items as they place them in a neat pile. It is highly recommended that you double check their selections and for any missing items before packing them into luggage.

Keep a “FINAL” To Do List: I don’t know about you, but the morning we leave for vacation, I’m scrambing around the house trying to get everything done. It’s important to keep a check list of the things you need to complete before you leave, such as: throwing out the trash in ALL rooms; turning on the house alarm; putting on light timers; locking windows and doors and turning down the heat. Don’t forget items which should be done in advance such as stopping the mail & newspaper or advising a trusted neighbor of your vacation plans and contact numbers.

Create a Vacation Binder:
We do this for all of our vacations now. We store important information in this binder that keeps our trip running smoothly–it also helps as a great guide for next time. We keep travel documents (tickets, reservation numbers, etc); contact phone numbers (hotel, rental car, travel agent, pediatrician, neighbor); driving directions and maps; and an extra copy of what we brought on vacation–so we can double check everything before we leave. For road trips, it is helpful to include some loose paper to record trip details. I always have it handy and write down little things that the kids say or things that we do, that we might forget years from now. When I get home, I type up what I wrote and print it out for our vacation photo album. It’s neat to remember those things years from now.

Here are some final words of advice…

Whatever you do, don’t leave packing until the last minute. The man in our household (hint hint sweetie) always does this. It drives me bananas! I am always asking him to pack, and he waits until the night before we leave to do so. In this case, sometimes it’s isn’t practical to think everything will get done, but do your packing and the kids packing ahead of time. 🙂 The last minute rush only puts more pressure on you right before the big day, and who wants pressure right before they go on vacation?

One other tip–save the lists you make! You won’t want to remake them each year, and who has time for that? Keep them in a safe place such as your computer and make back-up copies so they are available for next time.

What do you do to make packing for trips stress-free? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Never stop learning,

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