Taking the entire family on a relaxing trip can sometimes be anything but relaxing. What with the hassles of airline travel combined with the stress of hotels and itineraries, vacations can start to seem like more trouble than they're worth. Proper packing ensures that you're ready for anything that might come up, and makes your time away much more enjoyable.
The first thing to consider when packing for a vacation is, of course, what you need to pack -- and this will be based on where you're headed. Climates vary greatly by region, so you're going to need to do some research in order to know what kind of weather to expect at the time of year during which you're traveling.
The main thing to remember when choosing clothes for you or the kids is that no matter where you're going, weather changes. Even a warm destination experiences cool mornings and rainy days. Make sure to devote a small part of your suitcase space to a few extra jackets or sweaters, as well as warm socks and shoes. A simple way to avoid being caught unprepared for weather changes is to pack layers. A few tank tops and tee shirts, mixed in with a couple of long-sleeved tops and a sweater or two, will prepare you for most temperature shifts that may occur.
How Much to Pack
Many people have a problem packing the right amount of clothing. It's easy to get overwhelmed during the packing process and, rather than choose between two items of clothing, just pack them both. Avoid doing this whenever possible. It is creating unnecessary stress by making your luggage heavier and your choices more complicated.
A good plan of attack is to consider how many days you're going to be on vacation, and provide enough socks and underwear so that everyone has two pairs available a day. You may not need these extras, but they don't take up much space in your luggage and if the occasion arises, you'll be awfully glad to have them. When packing other items of clothing, such as tops, pants and skirts, try to pack things you can wear for more than one day without having to wash. Jeans for you and the kids, plus a few no-wrinkle tops, can get you through just about any situation. If you're planning a formal night out, bring formal clothes that don't need ironing or special care. Or consider packing a nice scarf or tie that can be used to "dress up" a casual outfit so that the pieces can do double duty in a nice restaurant.
Avoid Lost Luggage Problem
Nobody likes to think about the possibility that their luggage will be lost or delayed, but it certainly happens. Don't let it spoil your vacation because you weren't prepared for it. Regardless of how far you're flying, you should take a few precautions when packing in case your checked bags don't arrive at the same time you do. That way you won't waste days of your vacation worrying about getting the things that you need, and you won't have to spend extra money buying them at expensive convenience stores or hotels.
Your main defense is to pack your essentials in your carry-on. This can be difficult to do, especially if you're traveling with small children and you have to fill the carry-on with books and activities to keep them occupied during the flight. Nevertheless, it's essential to find a little extra space for changes of underclothes, your toothbrushes, and other things you won't want to spend money replacing once you arrive. Do keep in mind that current airline safety restrictions have put limits on certain materials in carry-on bags, such as liquids and gels (this includes toothpaste and deodorant). It's easiest if you avoid carrying these items in your carry-on; if you do decide to pack them, check the regulations and make sure to follow the rules to ensure an easy check-in.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should always carry on anything expensive or personal such as credit cards, cell phones, personal organizers, and laptop computers. Try to imagine arriving at your destination and not having your luggage there. What would you do? What would you need to get through the time until the bags arrive? Make a list of the essential items, and bring as many as possible onto the plane with you in your carry-ons.
General Packing Tips
These tips are designed to facilitate the packing process and make the entire trip (as well as the preparation time) far less stressful. Keep these ideas in mind when preparing for your next family vacation:
1. Start a packing checklist. Days before you begin packing for the trip, make a list of all the items you can think of that you'll need to take with you. Keep the list with you and write down random things as they pop into your head. Chances are you'll remember things at the strangest times, and then forget them again if you don't write them down. Keeping a list greatly lessens the chances of forgetting something important.
2. Get everyone involved. If you're traveling with children that are old enough to have a preference, let them help you choose clothing and toys to bring on the trip. Maybe the little one is attached to her Elmo doll or her purple sweater. Bringing those items along will make the vacation more fun and comfortable for her. Having kids help pack can also ease them into the idea of the vacation and make the actual travel time much less stressful. Finally, if your kids are old enough, don't discount the fact that they can actually be very helpful in packing their own suitcases, and save you a lot of time!
3. Don't carry full-sized bath and hygiene products. Purchase small squeeze bottles instead (you can find them in any department store's travel aisle) and fill them with the shampoo, conditioner, baby oil, and lotion you'll need on the trip. Packing large bottles consumes unnecessary space and creates a huge hassle. Close the bottles tightly and store them in zippered plastic bags to avoid leakage. You can even throw can even throw the bottles away when they're empty (they're usually under a dollar in cost), and this saves you the hassle of having to bring them home again. It also leaves more room for souvenirs in your suitcase!
Regardless of where you're traveling on your next family vacation, packing correctly can make the entire trip more enjoyable. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare beforehand, think through your packing decisions thoroughly, and try to prepare for anything that might come up. You'll be surprised at how much more enjoyable a vacation free of packing stress can be.