1) Pack light – I don’t care how you do it, but find a way to limit what you take. If you need to lay it out, then edit, do that. My rule of thumb is usually, 2 or 3 shirts (long or short sleeve depending on season), 1 pair pants (again depends on season), 2 pair of shorts (again seasonal), a maxi dress, undergarments, a swimsuit, workout clothes, socks, shoes, flip flops (or sandals), a light cardigan or raincoat (if the weather calls for it) and comfortable walking shoes (that can be dressed up if needed). Repeat for each child.
2) Use Packing Cubes – I love these things! I pack one for each kid. They are zippered soft sided luggage pieces that go inside your big luggage. I take them out at each destination, use what we need, then re-pack, and put them back where they belong. Super easy for sorting and keeping everyone’s clothes separate!
3) A few days before you leave, set your clocks ahead an hour or two Sounds crazy, but it works. We usually start during the “witching hours”, say 5:00, and fast forward your clock to 6:00 a couple of days before, the next day, we fast forward a couple of hours ahead, so you are closer to your destination time zone. We also start waking them up earlier. It works, I swear. Try it, the kids won’t miss that extra hour on the clock. Just be sure to change all the clocks in the house (and hide your iPhone!).
4) Get your kids excited about the destination– This can take on many forms and start as soon as you know your destination. In the past, we have enrolled our kids in French and Italian classes, purchased French and Spanish bingo games, watched travel shows and DVDs, and the easiest of all, checked out books from our local library to get us ready for our adventure. I have a separate page titled “Books” with some good fictional reads to get you and your kids started.
5) Don’t lug along those heavy car seats- About three summers ago, we were faced with a choice: haul three bulky car seats to France, or pay close to $200 to rent them for the duration of our trip. I started to research “inflatable car seats” on my husband’s suggestion. Wouldn’t you know it, there was a company based out of Ireland that manufactured these awesome little things. They were safety approved for use in Europe, so I sent off my money, and “voila!”, I received three bright purple inflatable booster seats in the mail. Check them out at http://www.bubblebum.co. They are extremely handy, you blow them up with your mouth, and deflate them with your hands when not in use. I call that pure genius! They are now USA safety approved and we now use them state side as well.
6) Always bring lots of Ziplocs, napkins, baby wipes, and recyclable grocery store trash bags-This is non-negotiable for any family that has a child with motion sickness issues (as do we). We learned this lesson the hard way on a six hour road trip through the windy roads of France. We literally stopped ten times and used over 15 plastic bags. A lesson we do not ever want to repeat! Ziplocs can be used for so many things. Wet clothes or bathing suits, keeping toothbrushes separate, packing left over food, the list goes on and on. Napkins and baby wipes are good for cleaning up anything and everything. The grocery store bags can even be used as an extra carry on for the plane ride home. It is always good to be prepared.
7) Stay somewhere with a washer (and dryer if possible)-If you can find a place to stay that has a washing machine, you can pack fewer clothes. Sure you will have to do some work on vacation, but it will save you money on checked bags since you will be able to bring fewer clothes.
8) Have your children carry identification at all times-Children will wander away. It is in their nature. Prepare them giving them identification necklaces with photo pockets that can carry their photo, your phone number, and the business card of your hotel.