Spring Break is right around the corner.
Are you off on a family spring break adventure?
Are you ready?
Preparing for a family vacation can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be! With a little advanced preparation and thought, packing for your trip can be stress free.
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Spring Break “Need” List
Once your travel plans have been made the next helpful step is to make a list of items that you need for your trip. Take stock of what you have at home, and then make a list of items you need to purchase.
- Going somewhere sunny and warm? Check to make sure that everyone has flip flops, swimsuits, sunglasses and cover ups that fit.
- Gearing up to fight the crowds at Disneyland? Ensure that everyone has comfortable walking shoes and a backpack or fanny pack (yes, those have made a comeback).
- Cooler spring break destinations may require you to purchase rain jackets, umbrellas or even a few extra sweaters. Double check to make sure items you currently have still fit.
Making these checklists ahead of time will save you money. You’ll have more time to search and shop sales. You also won’t be scrambling at the last minute to find the items you need.
Over Christmas my husband decided to take my daughter skiing for a day. The night before I discovered that her snow boots didn’t fit, her ski pants didn’t fit, and her ski jacket didn’t fit. Luckily she is almost as tall as me, so although everything was a little big, she was able to use my winter weather gear.
I had just assumed everything from last year still fit her, but I was wrong. Lesson learned. Always check those closets well in advance of your vacation!
Write a Spring Break Packing List
Ever arrived at your destination only to realize that you forgot your shoes, or even worse, your passport?
In addition to making a list of things you need to purchase for your spring break vacation, make a list of all of the things each person needs to take with them. I write one, my kids write theirs, and I leave my husband to fend for himself. Which is why he has forgotten things on occasion.
I keep all of my lists in my small notebook so that my kids can access it if necessary. Sometimes they like to double check their lists with mine. It is also nice to have my packing lists all in one place so I can refer back to them prior to future trips.
Divide and Conquer
Raise your hand if you are the sole individual responsible for packing for family vacations. Yup, that used to be me too.
But here is the thing. It was stressing me out big time. Packing for myself and my three children was a lot of work. My husband does a lot around here, but packing for our kids is not one of them.
And because I am attempting to raise my children to be responsible, well functioning adults, I started asking them to do their own packing.
I know what you are thinking. This can go horribly wrong. Yes it can. But think of how accomplished your kids will feel once they can master this skill on their own.
My older two (13 and 11) have been packing for themselves for several years now. They write their own lists and pack their own suitcases. I do check in with them for a last minute list buddy check, and occasionally write down items they will need on my list. Things that will be harder to track down once we are at our destination such as retainers, medicine, their favorite swim goggles, etc.
Last time we went away for a weekend I walked into my four year old’s room and she had packed her own suitcase. And my friends, she pretty much nailed it. Here is what was in her bag:
- 5 dresses
- 2 pairs of pants
- 1 skirt
- 2 shirts
- 2 pairs of pajamas
- 10 pairs of underwear
- 8 tights
- 1 blanket
- 1 stuffed animal
She even had everything in her set of packing cubes. I was blown away.
Obviously I make lists for her and help her pack. But I do involve her in the process, allowing her to pick which tops to bring, which pjs, etc.
Remember your kids want to help! Especially those little ones.
Tackle Your Laundry
I feel like I am always running around last minute trying to finish the laundry. One kid wants to bring his favorite t shirt, another her favorite leggings. Which they always seem to wear in the days before we leave. Despite my numerous warnings of “if you wear something today, it is not going on our trip…”
Finish laundering any clothing that you are taking on your spring break vacation several days ahead of time. This will leave you plenty of time for packing those suitcases.
Which leads into my next tip…
Start Packing Early
Do not, I repeat do not, start packing the night before a big spring break vacation.
That may have worked pre-kids, but it is practically impossible to do now. You will have interruptions during the packing process. Something unexpected will pop up, like ants invading your pantry (that happened to us recently) and it will only add to the stress levels.
Pull out those suitcases several days to a week in advance, depending on the length of your trip. I like to pack one person a day. This allows me time to complete my regular daily tasks, and I don’t feel like the entire day is spent packing. Packing in advance also gives me time to help my older children review their bags.
Take some extra time to organize a backpack or bag of goodies to keep your kids occupied on the car ride or flight. When flying with my preschooler, I like to purchase a few new toys, books or small, managable art projects or sticker activities. I also take along some of her favorite travel games, books, toys etc. from home.
One trick you can try is to have something new to occupy your child for every hour they are on a flight/in a car. Younger children may even need to switch things up more frequently.
My older kids are responsible for their own backpacks, but I do require them to bring at least one chapter book. If your children are younger, ask them to help pick out a few items to take, but throw in some surprises as well. I usually keep the surprises in my bag and pull them out as necessary.
When we travel, my rules for screen time go out the window. Use those ipads, movie screens, and other electronics! I also loosen up my rules on snacks. Fruit snacks are pretty much one of my least favorite things on the planet, but I will buy them for my kids when we travel. They somehow have magic powers that can completely curb a tantrum by my four year old on an airplane. I do make sure they have a variety of healthy snacks to choose from as well.
We eat pretty healthy around here most of the time. I’ve become a pro at meal planning, which really helps in that process. None of us do well if we eat every meal out on vacation, so most of our accommodations are rental homes or condos. This allows us the freedom to cook some of our own meals.
I know this isn’t for everyone. Many of my friends go on vacation and don’t want to cook at all. I totally respect that. But if you like doing some of your own cooking on vacation, here are a few of my prep tips:
- Meal plan before you leave for spring break. This way you can bring your chosen recipes with you.
- Plan simple meals. You are on vacation!
- Going on a road trip? Make sure you have a list of snacks to pack for the car. Taking along a small cooler also gives you the freedom to pack a wider variety of snacks or even lunch items.
- Set aside time when you reach your destination for a quick trip to the grocery store. If you are staying in a rental, take note of any staple ingredients they may or may not have in the home such as spices, oils, coffee, etc.
Also, the night before you leave for spring break vacation is not the time to cook a big dinner. Go super simple, like sandwiches or leftovers. One less thing to deal with and one less mess to clean up!
Spring Break Packing Essentials
Here are a few of my favorite tried and true packing tools:
- Packing cubes—Want more room in your suitcase? Try these functional packing cubes! They come in tons of colors so everyone in your family can have their own.
- Toiletry bags—This hanging toiletry bag has become a staple in my vacation packing. It holds all of my face/shower/hair products. There are lots of little pockets on the inside to keep things organzied. You can also hang the bag up from a hook or bar, which I love because it clears up counter space. My son has this simple toiletry bag and my oldest daughter has a bag similar to this one. The price point is a little higher, but the bags are fantastic quality. As with all of her PB Teen bags, she has had it for years and it is still in great shape.
- Suitcases—Everyone in our family has their own. I find that while it creates more pieces to haul around, it keeps us better organized than sharing suitcases would. My oldest both have these bags in different patterns/sizes and my youngest has one from Target similar to this one.
Now if I could just find someone to pack for me…
What are some of your best spring break packing tips?