How to increase organization, avoid over packing, and arm yourself for potential travel disasters

Any way you look at it, packing is a chore. A recurring entry on one’s to-do list that holds as much allure as emptying your child’s 3-day old gym bag. But, a vacation is on the books, so, pack you must.

Though every fiber in your body tells you to procrastinate, do not give in. Last minute packers are over-packers. Especially when you are packing for a family. To make the process more palatable, employ a piecemeal strategy. Here’s what to do: stage an out-of-the-way area for pre-packing a week before the trip. So, as you think of things: sunscreen, ski pants, energy bars, etc., you can toss them in a box or something comparable (I use a Container Store packing cube). Each day, take 15 minutes to conquer a small portion of this task. First do clothes. Make sure to check the 10-day weather forecast for your destination so you can pack accordingly. Next,  grooming items. These should always be packed within a sealed ziplock to prevent leakage. Medicines are important. Create a mini fix-it-all pharmacy kit stocked with products to alleviate ear pressure, sudden onset of a cold, cuts, allergies, mystery rashes and stomach aches. Snacks are an essential component of travel with kids. Stock up on easy-to-transport items. And, don’t forget to tuck a few “forbidden” foods (lollipops, candy, cookies) into your bag. Bribery material is critical to nip bad behavior in the bud.

Finally, always have a surprise on hand: a dot to dot coloring book, a new app or game downloaded, travel scrabble. When the delays happen- and they will- you want to be armed with whatever it takes to keep the kids engaged. The day before the trip, go back and take stock of your work. Are there too many pairs of shoes? Can one dress be worn a few different ways (yes, add accessories!) versus taking three dresses? Did you buy travel sized shampoos and lotions? Chances are, you can winnow down the amount of clothing. Finally, place the garments within a packing cube, a few per family member. These both compress clothing and keep everything organized. When you arrive at your destination, simply plop them in a drawer and let the fun begin.


    Lay the clothes out by category on the dining room table: undies, PJs, tops, bottoms dresses, hats, shoes to avoid duplication.
    Maximize organization and space with Packing Aids. I am a huge fan of Eagle Creek Packing Cubes.
  • MIX & MATCH (mom and teen girls)
    DO bring dresses and tops that can be worn in multiple ways by adding an accessory or a different jacket. DON’T bring a different pair of shoes for each outfit.
    NEVER pack full sized shampoos or lotions. They hog precious storage space. Either buy travel sizes or pour what you need into travel sized bottles.
    Don’t wait until the kids get hungry and cranky. Always have snacks- Granola bars, Instant Oatmeal, re-sealable dried fruit and nuts, apple sauce squeezies, carrots, and hard boiled eggs- on hand.
  • KEEP THEM BUSY: Bring toys, gadgets and activities to engage them through the hours of travel. Try the new Travel Scrabble
    Travel is trying on kids so bring the goods to ward off tantrums and encourage good behavior.
    Tootsie Rolls or Haribo Gold Gummie Bears
  • CREATE AN IN-TRANSIT PHARMACY: Have a zippered pouch with products that deal with any and all medical maladies:
    – Earplanes Air Pressure Discomfort Ear Plugs
    – Kids Motrin
    – Band Aids
    – Cortisone
    – Benadryl
    – Pepto for kids
    – Kids Advil
    Arm yourself against brazen germs (which yield vacation-ruining illness) lurking on every surface.
    – Potty Toppers
    – Tray Toppers for tray table
    – Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes


View the piece on Travel+Leisure here.