Guide to Being Organized for Your Family Vacation

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Family vacation are a mixed bag. You love them…and you love them to be over! We kicked off the summer this year with a major camping trip – 9 days of camping in a trailer with 7 people. Was I crazy to attempt such a feat? Absolutely! Despite the mayhem, however, those crazy nights where no one sleeps and all of the hikes when you don’t think you’ll make it down the mountain are the stuff memories are made of. And in between all the catastrophes are the funny and touching moments that make all of the work and hassle worth it.

But packing for such a trip? Nightmare. Coming home? Even worse. Being organized when you pack and while you travel is a must, and that calls for some Happy Gal Love. So enjoy these tips. They are your key to getting out the door with your good mood in tact, and enjoying yourself while you’re there.

  • Type up your packing list and save it on your computer.  How many times over the years have you made lists of all the different equipment you take to the lake, for the bathroom, or on a hike? Make this the last time, and re-use the list each time you pack. Add to it as you discover new needs, and permanently delete from the list other items that you never use. This is a no-brainer, and makes packing a lot less daunting.
  • Create a central place for all travel-related information. Start a note on your iPhone, a new document on your computer, or a file for hard-copies for everything you’ll need to know – reservation numbers, phone numbers, addresses, dates, maps, packing lists, menus, etc.
  • Print all the above information and put it in a binder to take with you. I can’t tell you helpful that was this trip! We stayed in 5 different campgrounds on this particular trip, and I had all of the information I needed at my fingertips. My binder even included our camping menu, park brochures and activity ideas for the kids. I didn’t waste a second searching for papers or information throughout the entire 9-day stretch.
  • Pre-cook every possible meal if you will be cooking on your trip. Call me high maintenance, but I just kind of like cooking with running water and electricity. In my Camping Recipes post , I shared with you several recipes that can be precooked and then frozen. What a lot of time and effort this saved me on my trip! Meals were ready quickly, clean up was a cinch, and I was still able to eat healthy. This made everyone involved a whole lot happier.
  • Invest in a traveling hygeine bag. The day I did this, I became a new woman. I’m totally serious. Having hair supplies, shampoos, toothbrushes and toothpaste, ibuprofin, finger nail clippers and the like pre-packed is a little gift that keeps on giving each time I pack for a vacation.
  • Utilize Ziplock Baggies. Ever had hairspray or shampoo leak in your bag? You only have to learn that lesson once. Anything that can drip or leak always belongs in a ziplock bag. (I have a love-affair with Ziplock bags. See my post on organizing your refrigerator for more Ziplock tips.)
  • Packing Zone. Designate a certain space in your home to be the receptacle for all packing supplies you begin to gather as you prepare for your trip.
  • Pack Light. Less is more, people! Think about all of those extra bags you’ll have to take, things you’ll have to keep track of, and everything you’ll have to put away again when you get home. Enough said.
  • Leave Room for Souveniers. Fresh on my mind is the trip in which we had to buy an extra bag to bring home all of the junk we bought. Don’t do that. Buy less, and think ahead to create room for the selected treasures you bring back with you.
  • Pre-pack the hiking backpack, the pool bag, or any other activity that requires supplies. I don’t know about you, but the thought of assembling sunscreen, chapstick, snacks, water, bug repellent, first aid kit, and other items each time we had to go on a hike began to get overwhelming after the second or third time. Same thing with the pool. Packing your hiking pack before you ever leave on your trip allows you to hit the trail with ease. You’ll just have to replenish the perishables after each activity
  • Dirty Clothes Bag. Nothing is worse than coming home with unused clean clothes mixed in with the dirty ones. Pack a bag or two for dirty clothes, and when you come home your laundry will already be sorted.

A few tips for while you’re vacationing:

  • Establish zones for important things. Someone always needs a bandaid, some chapstick, a charger, or a pen.Give these kinds of items a home away from home by establishing a permanent spot for these important things.
  • Put Things Away When You’re Done Using Them. I feel like your mother as I say that! But this will keep your space uncluttered, and it will make finding them the next time you want to use them so much easier.
  • Departure Checklist. There are those things that can put a pit in your stomach if you lose them…I’m talking keys, wallet, phone, sunglasses, and camera. Have a specific spot in your purse or bag for each of these, and get in the habit of checking that you have each one before you leave the hotel or car, and be sure that they are with you as you return.

One Big Fat Bonus Tip for Unpacking:

  • Schedule an unpacking day in your trip. Return home a day early or take an extra day off of work. Use that day to unpack completely, get caught up on laundry and mail, and attend to those other details that transpired while you were away. This is my best-kept secret for organized traveling. All of the vacation R&R can quickly dissipate when you have to simultaneously jump back into real life AND wrap up the vacation tasks all in one day.

Now it’s your turn. I’ve shared my tips. What has helped you?

Related Posts: Organize Your Refrigerator, Healthy, Easy Camping Recipes, 5 Perfect Vacation Workouts


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