What’s more fun than packing for an entire family for a week away from home? What’s that you say, pretty much anything? Yup, that sounds about right.
Never fear, though. We have tips to help save your sanity so packing doesn’t feel like detention instead of the start of a fun school break.
While we can’t help you decide which of the three blue T-shirts sitting on your bed is the right one to take on vacation, we can offer guidance on how to decide what to bring and how to fit it all in — without taking the whole house or ending up with a jumble of clothing that resembles the last crumbs in a bag of chips.
These tips will make packing for spring break with your kids as easy as child’s play. Ready? Let’s go!
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Do your homework
Stop. Do not put anything in your bag until you’ve checked three things:
First, the weather at your destination. Knowing the actual temperatures (and not just what you hope they’ll be) can help you edit out the “just in case” clothes and only pack what you need.
Next, check the website of your hotel (or vacation rental) to see what in-room amenities it offers. Many family-friendly properties provide everything from highchairs and Pack ‘n Plays to bottle warmers and baby-proofing kits — and everything in between. If they have it, don’t bring it (and that goes for hair dryers, irons and toiletries, too).
Finally, check local rental and delivery options at your destination. Can you get baby food and diapers delivered from Peapod when you arrive? Is there a company that will bring a double stroller right to your door? Lighten your packing load by taking advantage of these opportunities.
Write it down
Wait, it’s still not time to put anything in your bag. Instead, go grab a pad and paper. Now list what you’ll need to bring for each person in the family who can’t pack for themselves. Writing down what you need, instead of randomly grabbing items out of the drawer, will stop an overflow of items from hitting your suitcase. Remember, the goal here is to keep things simple and sane. That starts with streamlined packing.
Related: Your guide to packing for toddlers
Show and tell
No parent has ever complained about having too little to carry or bags that were too light. So before you pack everything on your list, lay it out on the bed or dresser so you can see what you have. Duplicates or triplicates showing up? Winnow them out. The hotel already provides something on your list? Jettison it. And while you’re at it, add some stain sticks and individual packs of detergent to your bag for quick wash-ups so you can get multiple wears out of items.
Plastic makes perfect
One word to make packing easier: plastic. First up, plastic dry cleaning bags. If you’re bringing any items you’re worried will wrinkle — sundresses, button-down shirts, linen pants — hang each item, then slip a dry cleaning bag over the top. Wrinkling is caused by friction. The plastic bag creates a layer of air that stops friction … and wrinkling. You can include several items in one bag, but don’t overstuff them. You don’t need to put the plastic-covered clothing in a garment bag. Simply fold the bags in half or thirds and add them to the top of your bag. Bingo — no wrinkles.
Now grab some Ziploc bags from the kitchen. Use these to follow the 3-1-1 rule (3.4-ounce products that fill one, one-quart bag) if you’re flying and plan to carry on toiletries. Also, use a baggie for any children’s item that seems messy (Play-Doh and crayons, check) or has tiny pieces that can get lost. For checked toiletries, add some leakage protection by popping sunscreen and other goopy products into baggies, too.
Stop, drop and roll
If you’re worried about bag space, lean into rolling your clothing instead of folding. (Here’s how to fold a T-shirt: Lay shirts flat, fold arms in and then across each other, then fold the body in half lengthwise, creating a long rectangle which you can then roll from top to bottom.) Rolled items can be tucked up against each other in your bag to create rows of rolls. Or utilize packing cubes that will compress the rolled items to create more room in your bag. Cubes are also a good way to portion out clothing for each family member.
Cross-pack checked bags
OK, now it’s time to pack. But there’s one more thing to do before you put your items into suitcases, and that’s to mix up your piles, or cubes, of clothes for kids and parents. Cross-packing means putting some of each person’s items into each suitcase. In other words, we’re not going to put all of the kid stuff in one bag and all of the adult stuff in another. By mixing items in each suitcase, you’ll be covered in case one bag gets delayed or goes missing and still have clothing for everyone to get by for a few days.
Stay calm and carry on
Baby can’t sleep without a binky? Little ones have to cuddle with a special stuffie to relax? Those items should be in your carry-on at all times, not checked luggage. Also in your carry-on: all medicines, glasses/contacts and charging cords. Add in a change of clothes for small children (and ideally a clean shirt for you, too, because accidents happen). Also note that it’s OK to bring baby food, formula and filled bottles through security per Transportation Security Administration rules. Leave irreplaceable jewelry or high-value items at home so you don’t need to worry about or keep track of them.
There, that’s it. You’re packed; enjoy spring break!
Featured photo by 10,000 Hours/Getty Images.