Although family travel is, of course, a good thing for those fortunate enough to take one regularly, make no mistake – a lack of preparation can turn a potentially great outing into a nightmare. It was much easier to plan for these things when it was just the two of you; but now that you’ve got the loves of your life in the nest, there are many more things to keep track of. As with most things, a strategy is the mother of preparation.
Plan Expenditures Beforehand
Although this might be obvious, we cannot stress enough how important it is to specifically set aside money for the gifts and souvenirs that you and the kids might pick up while on vacation. This is much easier to do if your family has already gone on many vacations in the past so that you already have an overall tally of individual expenditures. If not, then there’s no better time than to put together a short list now. Make envelopes with their cash in it, and make it clear that in no uncertain terms will they be receiving more – the fountain’s tapped.
Have Snacks in Your Carry-On Luggage
If there’s one thing that’s overpriced no matter where in the world you go, it’s the airport snack. Whether you’re talking about candy bars at quadruple the convenience store price, or fast food joints with restaurant costs, it doesn’t pay to buy food there unless it’s an emergency. Additionally, gone are the days when airlines gave out free snacks multiple times throughout a long flight; cut-backs have hit them hard – which means, of course, that the costs are funneled down to the consumer. Your best bet is to invest in an insulated pack with a collapsible feature; this can hold healthy sandwiches and fruits for quite some time.
Pack Like a Pro
The first element of this is to buy packing cubes or their equivalent. Make sure all food is in Ziploc bags; even the ones that already come pre-packaged in plastic. Have separate, air-tight compartments or containers for underwear and socks, and learn how to roll your clothes into the suitcase instead of folding them. The former has been proven to save space, as well as keep them in better shape for prolonged storage. If you and the family take vacations several times a year, you might want to consider investing in a commercial organizer outfit and best carry-on luggage.
Lastly, if you can spare the extra space and suitcase, take an extra one along – this will be exclusively for dirty or used clothing that, for whatever reason, cannot be laundered during your vacation. Have large plastic zipper bags for separating these further.
This deserves a section all to itself. For starters, everyone should have a small case for USB cords and a power bank. As for the children, encourage them to download a few apps that can work offline; just in case there are issues with internet connectivity during your family vacation. It’s a good idea to take along a couple of non-tech toys, too, unless they are old enough not to care about frivolous entertainment and can do fine with reading. And whatever you do – don’t forget the wireless headphones! For peace of mind and a manageable environment, headphones are worth their weight in gold.
Years of experience with family travel has taught us that cross-packing can be a life-saver. You rarely need it, since suitcases don’t get lost or misplaced in transit often for the average person; but should it happen, one person will be without some rather essential items meant to entertain during transit and downtime. By cross-packing, everyone will have something from each other, or backups of select items.
Get a list of hotel numbers, local fire and police stations, etc. On this notebook, which can be digital as well as on paper, have the numbers to rental agencies, checklists, house-sitter, and anything else that you can think of. Everyone should have a copy of this list in their packs. If anyone gets lost, it should be relatively easy to catch up. This is more for families with older teenage children that might want to part from the pack a bit for any side quests during the family vacation.
The trick to organization is maintenance. By incorporating a consistent schedule of ensuring everything is in its proper place, you never need to find an entire day to clean again. Get your family into the habit; give the children small tasks like keeping their unworn clothes stacked in their closets, and washing their dishes after use. By doing a multitude of little things consistently, you find that you are always organized. Ultimately, this also makes packing for travel a pain-free experience.