My family is gearing up for an epic road trip this month, so I have travel on my mind. Are you traveling this summer? If yes, then say no to stressful packing. This year, bring just what you need and keep it all organized, too.
QUESTIONS TO THINK THROUGH BEFORE STARTING TO PACK
- How many days will we be away?
- Will I be able to do laundry?
- What types of activities will I be doing?
- Are there any special events on the itinerary?
- What’s the weather going to be like?
- Are we staying in one location or moving frequently?
- Will I be buying a lot of souvenirs?
The answers to these questions will give you a place to start. (And remember to start early; rushed packing is never a good idea!)
If you are going to be able to do laundry, you can bring fewer clothes. Plan to bring outfits for half the days you will be away and wash midway through your trip.
Even if you won’t have access to laundry, you may still be able to pack a little less. If you are going to be doing mostly indoor, social activities that won’t get you dirty or sweaty, plan to re-wear some of your clothes (like jeans) and pack 2-3 tops per pair. You can create a capsule wardrobe where pieces mix-and-match to save space.
If you will be attending a special event, make sure you have the clothing packed in a way that will reduce wrinkles, like in a dry cleaning bag or in a specialized hanging bag. Pack accessories together, so you make sure you have them all and can find them easily the night of the event.
Expecting bad weather? Plan to wear your outerwear when you travel to save some space in your suitcase. If you can’t, consider compression bags for bulky coats.
Keep luggage to a minimum if you are going to be switching up lodgings on a regular basis. If you can make it work, share a suitcase with another family member. Use colors to distinguish between each person’s belongings (packing cubes work well for this – see below).
It’s almost always a good idea to throw an extra, light-weight bag into your suitcase. One that folds up really tiny, but unfolds into a fairly substantial size can save you if you end up with a lot of dirty clothes to haul home or if you buy a few too many goodies on the trip and need to check an extra bag on the return flight.
PLAN YOUR APPROACH
There are a couple of different options when it comes time to actually start putting things in your bag.
PACK LIKE WITH LIKE
You can sort by like item (shirts in one packing cube, shorts in another, one for jewelry, one for undergarments and socks, etc.). This is a good option if you are bringing a capsule-style wardrobe for the vacation. Stick to a simple color palette and make sure everything works together.
PACK BY OUTFIT
Alternatively, you can plan your outfits for each day (or event) and pack them together. I always tell my kids when they are packing to think “from head to toe” (start with hats/hair and work your way down to socks/shoes). This trick works for adults, too!
If you choose this second option, put accessories and undergarments inside the larger pieces and roll it all up. This will allow you to get more than one outfit into a cube.
Either option will work for kids, too. You know them best. Think through how they operate in the morning and which one would make getting ready for the day easier. (Give them a quick demo on how to roll if you choose option 2.)
DEDICATED TRAVEL TOILETRY KITS
There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to realize that you forgot one (or more) of your toiletry items! Something you meant to throw in your bag after using it the morning you left never made it.
If you have the extra storage space in your bathroom (or another space in your home) consider keeping smaller versions of your every day use items in a kit that you can pack ahead of time. Make a list of everything you would take with you on vacation and next time you’re at the store, grab extras (toothbrush, hair brush, makeup, lotions, creams, contacts, etc.).
Then, the day you leave, you can get ready and walk out the door without worrying that you are forgetting something. It’s already in your suitcase! (AND you don’t have to worry about UNPACKING them when you get home, either.)
Some things you just can’t duplicate (medicines, glasses, medical/dental equipment, for example). Make yourself a sticky note and attach it to the mirror before your trip. The morning of, check off each item as you put it in your bag.
MY FAVORITE TRAVEL PRODUCTS
- Portable Charger – These are a must have when traveling. Can’t find an outlet? No worries! Just remember to give it some juice each night so you always have a backup power source with you.
- Retractable Charger – These are great because they don’t get tangled up in your bag or in the car/on the plane.
- Cord Organizer – Keeps all those pesky tech cords and supplies neatly organized. This is another item that you can pack duplicates in so you never have to worry about forgetting something!
- Toiletry Bag – This thing is huge! You can fit your toiletries and your kids’, too! It will hold full size options, but if you can find travel size minis it will go even further. No unpacking needed when you arrive, either. Just unzip and hang on the door hook for easy access to all of your items. Keep those counters clear! 🙂
- Zipper Pouches – We organize playrooms with these all the time. They are perfect for games! The best part? When you’re ready to travel, just grab and go! You’ve got everything you need.
- Photo Box – Not just for photos; this set is perfect for card games. Same concept as above. When traveling, quickly pull out the games you want, throw them in your backpack and go. (Bonus: You can also use the individual boxes to create airplane kits with headphones, gum, and sanitizing wipes!)
- Trtl Neck Pillow – This is hands down the most comfortable neck pillow I’ve tried. It comes in a Plus adjustable version, several colors, and a kids version.
- Packing Cubes – You will be shocked at how much you can get into one of these. Get a different color for each family member so you can share suitcases and cut down on the number you need to bring.
- Carry-on Toiletry Bags – With the way air travel has been lately, it’s a good idea to keep some essentials on hand when you fly. You never know when you’re going to get stuck somewhere unexpectedly overnight. And you may not have access to your checked luggage. Pop some basics in here (like deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste) and get through security like a pro!
Be sure to check out the special travel section of my Amazon Storefront. You can shop for all of the items included in this list there.
HELPING KIDS PACK
Part of summer for my family is taking time to teach the kids new skills. All of them involve a little hand holding in the beginning, and checklists are a great way to do that while still freeing yourself up.
To help you out, I’ve put together a packing checklist that you can print off for each of your kids. It will walk them through the types of things they need to think about before they start packing (how long you will be gone, the weather, if there will be any special activities on the trip that they need to prepare for, etc.).
They can then use that information to determine which items to bring and how many of each will be useful. I’ve left space for them to add trip- or kid-specific items at the bottom. (This is great for things like medical equipment, fancy outfits for a wedding, a gift they’ve made for someone you’ll be seeing, and the like.)
Just click on the image below to download the full-size version for printing. (You can even laminate this and keep it in a travel bin for reuse!)
It’s always a good idea to go over the contents of their backpacks and suitcases before leaving. Retain “veto power” and talk through why something may or may not be a good idea.
So many great packing lists exist for adults, too. I love this comprehensive one from Frommer’s.
Special Note for road trips and kids
Make sure you have a plan for car sickness. Keep sick bags within arms’ reach of each kid, plus extra bags, a change of clothes for each, and cleaning supplies in a bin in the back. (Remember that kids who are prone to sickness do better when they are looking up as you drive. Secure tablets to the seat in front of them instead of them holding them in their laps. Try audio books instead of Kindles or hard copies.)
As my family and I travel this summer, have no fear. My team is amazing and will be holding down the SxS fort while I am gone. (How lucky am I to be able to go knowing that everything will be left in such capable hands?!) So if you are thinking about getting your home organized before school starts up again, get on our calendar now. We are currently booking July/August jobs!
You can fill out the form on my contact page to get the process started.
Each of my career choices-wedding coordinator, event planner, and teacher — gave me the creative freedom to organize everyone and everything. I have always thrived on to-do lists, planners, and systems! Now, I lead a team of organizers to help me on my mission. Read more…