Family vacations are so rewarding! It truly fills my heart to know that I’m making memories with my family in new places – places we’ll remember forever. Looking back on family vacations – I now understand how much preparation my parents must have put into them to make them happen! And, for all of that, I’m even more grateful for that time today. Packing for my three kids is getting a bit easier with time but there are still a few things I am sure to do before every Pronger family outing to ensure that we’re all (and by we’re all I mean ME!) a bit happier, more peaceful, and well-prepared for our adventure.
Making Our List: Checking It Twice
Depending on where we’re going and how long we plan to be there, I try to consider anything that we could potentially need well before the packing process begins. I’m not an over planner, I love spontaneity, but my idea of spontaneity does not include 11:20 pm trips to the drug store because someone forgot their sensitive toothpaste. Planning well before the trips allows us to fully embrace the moments while we’re there without worrying about the necessities – like fresh underwear.
Phase One: Packing
I’ve got a notebook at the ready for each trip where I can jot down memories and special moments we’ve had as a family. These notes are what help me remember the best (and worst) of our outings and share them on the blog later! At the back of the notebook I make a page or so for each kid – and have them start pulling the items that they need. Giving them each a list and trusting them (during the first round) to grab what’s needed and pack it themselves helps them gain independence, consider what’s needed, and be held accountable for whether or not they’ve got what they need. Of course, I help my youngest out a bit more during this first round but I’ve found that this step is getting a bit easier for every trip.
Phase Two: Review
During my second phase of packing, I visit each kid’s bag with the list and the packer to review what’s inside and what still needs to be there. Showing them what’s acceptable and what still needs to be added, I feel, teaches them more than if I grab the items and stuff and their bag just magically appears ready for them at our destination! After everyone has their bags packed and sitting near their doors it’s time for toiletries, accessories, and snacks!
Phase 3: Toiletries
I’ve found that regardless of where we’re going and if the kids have their own individual bathrooms or not, it’s easiest to dedicate a bag just for their toiletries. They can all add what they think they need, plus what’s essential right here. This checked bag is home to body sprays, Beauty Counter sunscreen line, hair products, toothpaste, and the works! Knowing that any toiletry for all three kids should be found in this one bag helps me keep track of what made it to our destination and what was left on the bathroom counter.
Phase 4: Accessories
None of my children are packing an inordinate amount of fashion accessories just yet – but I do like to have a large bag that’s for anything besides clothes + the essentials. Shoes, cell phone chargers, books, special pillows or blankets, whatever the latest gaming craze is – it all lives right here. We make extra arrangements for any larger items like sports equipment or choose to rent or purchase that when we get there if we need to travel light.
Phase 5: Food and Drinks
My kids are still “kids” so they’re not quite swigging kombucha and snacking on pepitas regularly. That being said, they still love healthy snacks and I try to make sure that at least 80% of what they’re eating and drinking on the road isn’t totally indulgent “junk.” I have a few easily portable recipes that we take just about anywhere we go. If I haven’t had time to pack the snack bag with everything we love, I try to visit a store as soon as we arrive to stock up on items that are healthy and delicious – it is vacation after all!
Planning ahead for our trips and starting the packing process as early as possible helps me to still be able to enjoy it. If I’m stuffing suitcases and fighting zippers at 3am before a 6am flight – I’m not a happy camper! Teaching the kids to be responsible for their items starts with showing them what they need and why. Like anything… practice makes perfect… so I suppose we’ll need to plan a few more trips!
How do you pack for your family?