Seems like most of us put packing off to the last minute! I know this by the frantic Facebook posts you all share the night before you head out to the vacation of a lifetime. When you think of all the hours you spent earning the money on a vacation, plus the planning to get off work, finishing classes/errands/obligations on time, buying everything needed, not to mention all it takes to decide on the right place to sleep, where to eat and what entertainment you're planning on enjoying, you're being ridiculous. I'm just going to say it - ridiculous! Why?
- Packing at the last minute means the last thing you do is highly stressful and puts you in a bad mood right before your trip. You know what I'm talking about, snippy!
- You're going to forget something! You'll spend more on it when you get there - yes, even if you're there with a car. If it's not extra dollars you spend, it'll be extra time you spend robbing yourself of the hours of enjoyment you've paid to be in "vacation mode."
- Packing can be FUN! Yes, I mean it. It can be so much fun!!
- Planning ahead will save you some serious cash!
- Last minute craziness is messy. You'll leave a messy house, which won't make your return very happy. You'll end up with a messy car - and this is completely and 100% preventable!
- You'll (accidentally) leave yourself open to security risks.
- You'll neglect purchases that would add value to your vacation.
See! This is obviously not a good plan. Let's make your trip a GREAT one with some serious Packing Hacks!
Did you say Packing Can be FUN?
Heck, Yeah I did!
We've traveled as a family for over 18 years, now. We've taken babies, toddlers, preschoolers, older kids & now we have three teens tagging along. Over the years, we've only found one way to make packing fun - by separating it into small, more do-able chores & combining it with family activities (and sometimes just mom and dad activities) to look forward to along the way.
I recommend you download this page to use as a guide. Keep it on your phone, in your computer or pad & follow it to make packing fun! Here are the details, step by step.
Plan Ahead - Make A Countdown & Select Your Bags - Before you begin your packing, you need to check out your luggage, cooler and any other storage items you may be using to transport your stuff from home to fun. At the same time, explore pinterest for simple (or elaborate, if you're Pinterest-y) countdown ideas. Many years, we sat down and made simple paper chains for each kid. They loved tearing off a circle each day.
4 Weeks Ahead - Make Shirts & Pack Your "Trip" Bag - Time to visit Pinterest again! Or, hey. If you're like me this may be a "buy matching shirts at the Disney Store" moment, but both work! At the same time, pick up items for your trip bag. Your trip bag should hold items like umbrellas, pain reliever, ponchos, band-aids, rubber bands, duct tape, safety pins, bobby pins, Disney pins if you collect those... This is the bag that holds items you won't be using between now and then but you'll be very happy you remembered while you're there.
3 Weeks Ahead - Plan Magic + Goodies & Start Packing Treats - Refer to the section just below this one to plan, make & buy items that are low cost/high magic. This is the time to make a plan and start doing!
2 Weeks Ahead - Start Your Movie Marathon & Pack Your Documents - Most of Disney's Attractions and shows are built around their most beloved movies. From the LIttle Mermaid to Pirates of the Caribbean, Beauty & the Beast to Avatar, start making movie time a part of your regular family time. Visiting Universal Orlando Resort? Time for Harry Potter, Minions & Superheroes! At the same time, you'll gather documents, printables, itineraries as both hard copies and into your phone(s). I also recommend you gather change for your tolls at this time, especially if you're heading to Florida!
1 Week Ahead - Practice and Play & Pack A Day each Day - Is this confusing? What I mean is, Practice and Play out what you're doing, where you're going and all the fun you'll be having! This is a great time to check out YouTube videos of attractions you're looking forward to, talking about your plans, checking out menus, maybe showing the family some of the goodies you'll be using and wearing! Most importantly, it's time to start packing at least the same amount of time you're staying. If you're staying 7 days, start packing 7 days ahead of time. Figure out at least one full outfit for everyone each day & pack it. This gives you time to do wash that was hiding behind that kid's bed or under a chair, buy socks and new undies & maybe find out Jr. (or dad!) really did outgrow those shirts & needs new ones.
The Night Before - Sit and Cuddle & Pack your Electronics - The best thing you can do for your family tonight is share couch time, snuggle time, close time. Make sure to eat a family meal, if you can. Stop and take a deep breath together and set the tone for relaxing and rejuvenating. Before you go to bed, pack your electronics - chargers, cords, a strip or two, phones, pads, fitbits....make a list and check it off as you pack and do the whole thing again as you pack to return from your trip. Chargers are the most frequently forgotten item for all vacationers!
The morning of - It's time to stop, pray and head out the door. I put this reminder in here, because whatever your faith or routine is, remembering to put it in your day will keep your family in a much better place throughout your vacation. Before you go, don't forget all those toiletries still in the bathroom!
Time to make some Magic (and save some cash!)
Pack the FUN!
Make your own Disney t-shirts, Print pages and sew them together for an autograph book, Make your own countdown! This is how crafty people can make magic and save cash. You know what I don't enjoy doing? You guessed it. Crafts! I grew up in a craft-like-crazy home and now I'm done! How do I make magic & save cash?
I shop Dollar Tree and other inexpensive locations for glow sticks, stickers, goodies for the road, beach balls & so much more! Some of our favorite everyday items over the years have been Mickey band-aids and Minion washcloths. When our kids were little, we only used those tablets that turn the tub water different colors when we were on a trip & the kids loved it!
Check out Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Target & other chain stores for Disney shirts. Let your kids pick out character undies for the first time, "just for our trip" when they need some, anyway. Shop in the off season if you plan ahead far enough - we get character swimsuits & off-season branded clothing.
Finally, you don't have to be crafty - other people are! From cute clothes to customized autograph books, you will find great stuff on Etsy!
Keep your car COMPLETELY clean!
We learned a trick many years ago and IT WAS AWESOME! We've used it in long trips in cars, vans and trucks and it's worth every minute of the prep time. You'll need to add this to the list of items you do in the days leading up to your trip & it may take you an hour or two, but that's still much less time than it would take to clean up the mess your family is bound to make on a road trip, after you return home.
- Black Garbage Bags or plastic sheeting (like you can buy in rolls for a tablecloth covering.)
- Cheap Sheets - both fitted and flat (great time to grab some at the dollar store, Big Lots or even a thrift store!)
- Duct tape or really good masking tape
- Good scissors, exacto knife & a table knife
- Big Safety Pins
- Old pairs of soft pants - like leggings.
Step One: Remove any removable seats. This makes it easier to lay coverings over the floor. Lay your plastic of choice, taping and tucking with your knife under edges and seams. Once you've got the plastic down, repeat with sheets. Cut holes as needed. If you can tuck around the edges and seams, it should stay taut during your trip. Don't abuse your car!
Step Two: Repeat with your car seats. If you have kid's car seats, take those out first & if you've removed whole seats temporarily, put them back in before you do this. Here is when you're using fitted sheets. It helps to use big Safety pins to hold the front fitted sheet to the back fitted sheet as you adjust. If you have littles, pin them on one side, then slide them over the chair the other way to protect wee fingers. Make sure to cut open holes to keep the seat belts in use. Reinstall car seats.
Step Three: Cut apart leggings and use them to cover the lengths of seat belts.
Step Four: Now it's time to PACK the CAR!
Drive far and wide, near and far! When you return, pull up the sheets and plastic & pitch the plastic and any sheets not worth washing and reusing next trip. Your car will look as good as new! It's amazing!! We've even vomit tested this process - Helpful Tip: A couple of extra sheets and backup leggings will work for round two and make the car smell better MUCH faster!
Security & Safety Made Easy!
And now it's time to interrupt your packing and planning with a safety reminder. 3D Travel is co-owned by David Scott, Firefighter/Paramedic of 22 years (so far) and he's tired of going on wrecks with children who are injured because they're not properly strapped in. You can permanently disable your child or even lose them by not choosing safety first.
Take the time. Make sure your car seats are installed and use them! Use them for all the recommended ages & weights, not just what the law allows.
And while we're here, a couple more items for the road! Keep those valuables out of sight. Never leave those kiddos alone in the car. Stay in well lit areas and choose good bathroom stops. Plan ahead and choose good hotels to stop in, read reviews or (even better) seek the help of your 3D Travel Agent!
Safety is Simple - don't take a chance!
Simple Tricks for the Road!
Packing Purchases worth the Price!
Finally, what isn't necessarily cheap but is totally worth it?
- Extra room in the suitcase - free on the way there but you'll fill it with goodies for the return home!
- Ziplock bags - even the BIG ones - to keep outfits separated on the way there, but much more importantly, to seal in the stinky socks and underwear while you're all stuck together in a hotel room.
- The extra swimsuit! Let one dry. Avoid mould and chilly body parts.
- TWO good pairs of walking shoes. Alternating shoes can make all the difference in your back, your knees and your feet.
- New underwear! Trust me, when I tell you that you don't realize your undies will abandon duty under your clothes and head south until you're walking around a park or ship. It's incredibly uncomfortable and absolutely avoidable by purchasing good underwear with fresh elastic.
- Speaking of embarassing moments under there - buy the body glide to avoid chub rub. Get the all day deodorant and maybe put it in your day bag to apply a second time. (Ask your family if that is necessary!) Buy what you need to make yourself & others comfortable.
- The pop up hamper - so nice to have a place to pitch clothes quickly so they don't gather on the floor.
- The good bag to carry around - one that fits you comfortably and holds your items with easy access.
- Wrinkle Releaser! Ironing on vacation? Just say no!
- Whatever it is YOU need to have a great trip! This is a big deal! Don't ruin it with small decisions you talk yourself out of. Buy it!
And now all you have left to do is take the best trip ever! I have no doubt you will! Anyone who takes the time to read this whole post is clearly ready to be part of planning the trip of a lifetime! And there are more road trip tips - just click on those cute cars below!
I'm uniquely qualified to write this series, as I spent hundreds of summer hours in my childhood as the lone child in the back of a series of vehicles owned by my father, a traveling salesman. I didn't visit many landmarks or theme parks, but I did see much of the nation's cities from that backseat & more cows than I could count. I learned to look forward to a stop off at Stuckey's and how to make new friends at the latest motel's swimming pool. Now, I can plan a road trip like no other - with many unique stops and a ton of built-in fun! I've finally learned to love Road Trippin'!