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Vacation Packing Tips

Updated on December 4, 2014

Packing all the outfits needed for an entire family can often be complete chaos, while having the perfect outfit can truly make or break a vacation! Packing right and remembering all the best accessories can make the trip great! As a single mother of 3, it was important to get it all and get it all right while keeping it together within limited space. Whether you are flying or driving, your space is at a premium! A few simple supplies and a little preparation is all it takes to make vacation a hit for all!

Set out all the pieces to an outfit.  Here I have a sundress, cropped sweater, dressy flip flops, bracelet group and earrings.
Set out all the pieces to an outfit. Here I have a sundress, cropped sweater, dressy flip flops, bracelet group and earrings. | Source
Pack each element in its own bag to keep it all together!
Pack each element in its own bag to keep it all together! | Source
Pack entire outfit together and you can make a day's dressing simple and a trip relaxing!
Pack entire outfit together and you can make a day's dressing simple and a trip relaxing! | Source

Photo and Text Copyright 2011 Deborah M. Carey Updated 2013, 2014.

Well Planned is Well Packed

First things first! Take some time and make a list. Yes, a list can make all the difference. While you already know it is important to plan travel arrangements, it is just as important to plan outfits. Start with the number of days you will be gone. Then, observe each child. How many outfits are worn in a day? Does one child wear three while another only wears one. That's an important fact. If a child needs three outfits a day, you will need to be prepared to accommodate that need. One possible help for this is that many hotels have laundry service or a laundry area located in or near the hotel. This is a great amenity for a family.

Next, think about each person you are packing for and jot down outfit combinations. Packing may have to be done at the last minute for the children, (or for you) so turning to a list will be a relief! This will also help you to remember to pack that cute outfit that Aunt Kay sent as a birthday present! Be sure to include such items as shoes, jewelry and hair accessories. Planning ahead will mean less "forgotten item" purchases along the trip as well! It's a win, win situation.

Check the weather next! When you take a moment to check the weather of where you will be vacationing for the days you will be there, you can prepare accordingly. If it will be rainy and you are not prepared for can be a big glitch that could easily have been avoided! Plan outfits for the weather where you are going, rather than for where you are at the moment. It just makes sense! Be aware that weather changes, so even though the forecast is for cool, cloudy weather....pack a sundress or shorts!

When it comes time to actually pack for the trip, be sure to plan a different suitcase for those essential nighttime items. This will be the only suitcase you will have to drag out of the car when you arrive at an overnight travel stop along a road trip. It also be the one you will grab when finally arriving at your destination when flying. This suitcase will have pajamas, make-up, medicines, spare underwear and extra diapers. A clean top or outfit will also be welcome if using the suitcase mid-trip. When flying, be sure to take this bag as a carry-on, taking appropriate care for packaging items for airport security. It is understandable that 3 ounces of shampoo is nowhere near enough for an entire family, but most hotels have those items available in the rooms. You can pack the larger bottle, in a baggie, in your checked luggage. In a pinch, the 3 ounces will get you by until you can get more. That lost luggage potential leaves me always wanting to prepare for the worst. If I have my makeup and jammies.....I'm good! Babies need diapers and their snuggle buddy for anyone to be able to rest. Choose these items for the carry-on.

If at all possible, plan a different suitcase for each person. If you need an outfit for Dillon, you don't want to dig through everyone's outfits to find one for him. If he has his own suitcase, it is possible for Dillon to grab an outfit himself! Mark each child's suitcase with either a distinct tag, a ribbon on the handle or a specific bag color! Let them pick their color or tag and they will always know which one is theirs. If you follow the next few steps your child will have everything at his fingertips and will be able to change himself quickly and easily while you finish your make-up! If separate suitcases are not an option, use colored sharpies to put a special mark on each child's outfits. For our trips, Dillon had blue stars, Dustin had green turtles and Dalaina had red hearts. If they can read, simply put their names. Colors and shapes are essential for small children. If they don't yet know their colors, then shapes are great. I learned the hard way to use a sharpie. Regular markers WILL bleed. Now....IF you follow my advice below...everything will be in a baggie and it won't be a problem, but just in case....use a sharpie! You will be glad you did!

Purchase enough snack size, one gallon size and two gallon size zip-top baggies to put a minimum of one outfit per day per person. It may seem like a lot originally, but it has been a life saver for me! The snack size bags are great for slipping jewelry into and tucking into the shoes for the outfit. Place the shoes and bag of jewelry into a gallon size baggie (depending on your shoe size and heels). Next place outfit along with shoe and jewelry bag into a two gallon size baggie. Be sure to gently squeeze out all the added air from each bag before placing into the next. I also tuck clean underwear in with each outfit, but NOT going there here!! In keeping the outfit together, if I have a special purse I just CANNOT leave at home, then I tuck the entire outfit into the purse (if large enough) or tuck the purse in with the outfit. Then I place outfits in a row for each day of the trip. Beginning with the last day of the trip I pack backwards, with the last day's outfit going into the suitcase first. IF you have shoes that will go with several outfits, then pack them with the first outfit you will wear them with and then they will be handy for following day's outfit. Children often wear their favorite shoes...only. Pack extras ANYWAY! Sometimes mud happens. Toileting accidents can happen too! An extra pair can make everyone's life much more pleasant! An advantage, if they do will be thrilled to have those baggies to pack them into to take back home!

In addition, make sure to pack a dress up outfit and a swimming suit for each person. You just never know what might happen. We went tenting in the mountains, got rained out, stayed in a hotel with a pool and went out for a lovely dinner. I was THRILLED to have that swimsuit and dress along! It made the rain a small trauma! Just because I had the one extra outfit!

One small, and probably my favorite, tip is to pack surprises. I often packed little "treats" into the extra outfits. When Dustin learned I had packed a page of stickers in the extra outfit bag, he wouldn't protest changing out of his favorite camo T-shirt which had gotten dirty. A new bedtime story packed in the overnight bag encourages tired children to bathe and put on pajamas in spite of all the excitement of the day. Treats can be as simple as money in an outfit pocket for a shopping day, a new hair bow, or even new superhero underwear. Remember to pack them for the grownups too! I look forward to the new shoes or jewelry I bought to freshen an outfit for a trip! Gramma didn't complain when I gave her a new bracelet to go with her outfit for the zoo!

Last, but definitely not least, is the event of packing for the trip back home. I loved the ability to pack all the dirty underwear, dirty shoes, and clothes into those empty baggies! The clean clothes could be in the same suitcase and still be worn when we got home! I also packed those souvenirs we purchased into the appropriate bags for each child. That simple trick kept the boys out of Dalaina's things! They were each able to grab their own bags and go play while I unpacked and started laundry! Another Last tip: purchase a fun little treat for that exact purpose! I bought a special toy on the trip to give them when we arrived home. It seems to wipe away the tiredness and gives me time to get everything settled back into where it belongs. This truly is my FAVORITE tip!!

A few simple vacation packing tips can make this one-time chore a quick and efficient step in planning for your trip. It means more time for rest and relaxation for you. Children are much happier since they don't have to wait as long! Happier children and more relaxation make a better vacation! Go ahead, make reservations, start your list, and enjoy your trip!

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    • prektjr.dc profile imageAUTHOR

      Debbie Carey 

      7 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      I learned the hard way! One time I wore killer boots and wished I had packed better! Thanks for the encouragement and comments!

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      7 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Terrific ideas to help save some time and frustration, great hub earning you both a vote-up and useful.

    • PiaC profile image


      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      The advice on packing for kids is really valuable! Tucking in treats in their clothes is such a wonderful tip. Thanks for this Hub.


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