Just because school is back in session and work has kicked up into high gear, there’s no reason to give up on the idea of taking a family vacation this summer or fall. A well-timed weekend road trip could be the perfect antidote to the stresses we encounter when our daily schedules are jam packed.
However, if the idea of packing up for a weekend of “relaxation” stresses you out, it may be time to rethink your old habits. Packing up the family’s stuff doesn’t have to be a time for battling it out about what stays and what goes. Nor should it fall on one person to make it all happen.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when coming up with a strategy to pack up everything simply and quickly.
- Don’t overthink it. Once you have your destination selected, determine what type of clothing, accessories and gear will be necessary based on the location, activities and weather forecast. Write out a list of essentials to pack based on those specifications.
- Set some ground rules. Remind your family that your venture is just over a weekend. From there, set some limitations on how many outfits they will be allowed to pack. And, yes, if everyone is at least 4 or 5, they should be able to help with the process of packing and deciding what should remain behind. Schedule a brief meeting so everyone understands the expectations.
- Schedule packing 5 to 7 days in advance. Nothing stresses us out more than waiting until the last minute to do anything—even if it is something as simple as packing up a few suitcases. Set aside about 2 to 3 hours for the whole process—up to a week in advance. Consider packing on the same day that you’re doing laundry. Just start setting aside clothing to be packed.
- Take into consideration each family member’s preferences and needs. As parents, we don’t always understand our teens. By taking the time to think of things from their perspective, we can likely diminish some of the conflicts that occur just before our vacations. Consider the following categories, for example.
Toddlers: No matter how little, young children often come with many accessories. Make sure you pack an activity bag with small toys and games to occupy your child, but limit the number of favorite toys he can bring. You’ll also want to have snacks for your child. Baby carrots, granola bars and cups of applesauce are great options that don’t need refrigeration.
Young children: Sometimes kids think it’s important to pack all of their favorite clothes when traveling — even their favorite snowsuit and the swim trunks. While it can be good practice to get your child to start packing for trips, you’ll want to keep an eye on what your daughter is putting in her bag. An activity pack is essential for kids this age; be sure to include a variety of activities like coloring and reading to keep your child entertained. Snacks are a good idea for this age group, too.
Teens: If your teen is fashion-conscious, she likely will want to bring along a dozen outfits—plus accessories. Be sure to express the necessity of dressing for the occasion. If your family will spend time hiking, those flip-flops may not be worth bringing. Teenage girls often have the biggest struggle with over-packing. One way to help this problem out is to ask her to select outfits for each day instead of individual pieces. She might even enjoy planning out her outfits in advance. As far as activities for your teen, you may want to cave in and allow them to bring an electronic device and a couple of books.
Mom and Dad: As adults, we tend to be more reasonable. Limiting yourselves to a smaller bag might also make the packing process easier. If you have less room, you’ll be forced to decide what’s most important to bring. Grab a few books or magazines you haven’t gotten around to reading for long car rides.
Once you’ve packed and booked your hotel rooms, you’re ready to go. Try to put something on the itinerary for each member of the family to enjoy. Use smaller bags to conserve space and encourage everyone to bring less. Make sure you pack something to entertain every member of the family.
If this trip goes well, chances are you will be more willing to pack it up again and take a few more family-bonding getaways.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Paralog