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Family Travel Guide: Pack Like A Pro

There is nothing more overwhelming than procrastinating about packing up for a family trip. Whether you’re going for four days or two weeks, it’s stressful. I’ve done a TON of traveling, both on my own, with my husband, and now with kids so have gotten fairly good at packing. When I was on maternity leave with Zach, we went back to Vancouver four times, to Ottawa three times, and to Mexico. Danny and I also went to Mont Tremblant with just the twins back in September. However, I’m a notorious overpacked (I’m working on it). Since we have our first flight as a family of five this week, I thought I’d share some tried and tested packing tips:

  1. Make a list. I always make a list for each family member of the items we each need so I don’t forget anything. Especially since it’s winter right now, there are some items, such as snow boots, toques, mitts, etc., which we wouldn’t normally need.
  2. Packing cubes. A friend of mine (thanks Karen!) introduced me to these about a year ago, and at first I thought they were space wasters and unnecessary. I bought some this year to try out on our trip to Mont Tremblant, and they were LIFE CHANGING. It’s super easy to organize all your pants, shirts, dresses, etc. into each cube. When you arrive at your destination, you just take out each cube and put it in a dresser, or wherever you’re storing your clothes, and everything stays folded and organized. I loved them so much I bought some for the whole family – in different colours of course!  
  3. Capsule Wardrobe. Try to limit your clothes to a colour group that all goes together with accessories that coordinate with everything. This makes putting together an outfit quick and easy.
  4. Kids Outfits. I feel like I stress over what my kids are going to wear on vacation more than what I’m going to wear. I just read a great packing tip on Twinivisty which suggested organizing your kids outfits, including coordinating and/or matching twin outfits, into large Ziploc bags. That way you just grab a Ziploc bag and you know you have a complete outfit ready to go. You can even write on the outside of the bag if you want to label whats in it, or who it’s for.               
  5. Toiletries. I have small reusable containers for shampoo, conditioner, and soap so I don’t need to pack large bottles. If you’re like me, you have a TON of makeup. Try to limit it to what you’re really going to use as it takes up so much space. If you don’t normally flat iron your hair, chances are you won’t on vacation so leave it at home.
  6. Shoes. I have a tendency to overpack shoes. They take up sooo much space, so I’m really working on limiting my shoes to practical pairs I’ll actually use. Same goes for kids. If they have a favourite pair of runners, bring those. Don’t attempt to try out a new pair for the first time while away. If your toddler is anything like mine, they won’t want to wear the new pair!
  7. Laundry. If you’re going somewhere you can do laundry, pack a collapsable laundry basket. We brought one to Mexico and it was great. We didn’t have dirty clothes all over the room or mixing in with our clean clothes.
  8. Carry on bags. I like to pack a full outfit for each family member in our carry on bag. Kids tend to spill drinks on planes, or there may be an unfortunate diaper explosion. Don’t get stuck without something clean for everyone to wear, or if your suitcase gets lost, you’ll at least have an outfit for the next day. I also pack a thermometer, children’s Tylenol, Benadryl, and disposable bibs in our carry on just in case. 
  9. Day of list. I always make a list the night before we leave of all the little things I can only pack after everyone is awake. Electronic chargers, white noise machines, special blankets, etc. Last thing you want is for your kid to ask for their special animal at bedtime and you realized you forgot it at home.
  10. Activities. One carry on bag should be dedicated to activities for the kiddos, or if your kids are old enough, each can have their own small backpack with activities. If your kids are old enough, let them pack this bag.
  11. Extra empty reusable shopping bags. We use car seat bags when we check ours under the plane, so we need something to carry them in once the car seats are out at our destination. I always have a large empty bag stuffed in the outside pocket of our large bag. It will always come in handy.
  12. Rent baby items. When we went to Mexico, I found a baby rental company that delivered a bunch of toys and a box of diapers right to our hotel. They were there waiting for us when we arrived. Packing 100 diapers would be ridiculous, as would trying to find a store once you’ve arrived at your destination. It’s worth the extra money!
  13. Last but not least – take a deep breath and relax. You’re going on vacation!

You can buy the packing cubes in my photos on Amazon HERE