Every winter we take a week’s vacation in a warmer climate. (Or at least we try to – our last vacation was to Florida and it barely cracked 21°C.) We have been taking these trips since my youngest was three years old, so that’s six years of trying to get us organized for trips around working full time. It can be hard to avoid last minute packing when you’re a working parent household.
The good news is, it can be done. And as your children get older, it gets easier. Their amount of luggage does have to increase with the size of their clothes, but eventually they can take on some of the responsibility of what they’re bringing with them. But while they’re young a lot of the work falls on the parents to get packing!
How do I avoid last minute packing while working five days a week?
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Use laundry time.
Instead of putting the clean and folded clothes back in each child’s room, start a “pile.” Leave out items you know the kids don’t NEED for the next however many days, but would happily wear in warmer climates.
This is how I start off our packing – as much as a two weeks in advance. My girls wear weird things at weird times, so if Emma wore shorts over tights, when I see those shorts coming out of the laundry, I snag them for packing so she can’t wear them again. Same with summer pajamas or “favourite” socks.
The drawback to this tip is “where do I keep the pile?” For me it moves around a lot, but it always ends up on top of my dresser until it’s too large and keeps falling apart. Then it’s time to get the luggage out.
Make the kids do it.
My girls are tweens now, and they actually have their own clothing preferences. Now it’s their job to pick out shorts and t-shirts they want to wear when we’re away. This makes my life easier, and they only have themselves to blame when they forgot a favourite sweater.
I do run interference with this. I don’t let them bring too many of each item, and I will veto things that I know they will never wear, or are not weather-appropriate.
I ask them to choose X number of shirts and shorts, a smaller number of long pants and sweaters, and a lot of underwear and socks. These will go on my “pile” from the laundry days until I’m ready to actually get packing.
When at-home time is limited, this is key. A month before we go I make sure I know where the luggage is, and that we have what we need for our “bathroom bag.” Adding items to our weekly shopping list is the easiest way for me to stock up on what we need.
By pulling the luggage from the closet (and leaving it in my way) I am constantly reminded that we need to get on our packing. And that I need to get nagging everyone else!
Keep your passports and other important docs together in a safe place.
Keeping your documents in the same place will help avoid the “what did we do with the passports?” conversation. We use a fire safe – we keep our important documents (and our Disney bands) together in this model. I keep it in our closet so I don’t have to go shuffling around in the basement wondering what I did with it!
When it’s time to get your travel affairs in order, simply pull out your “safe keeping” box and you have all the documents you need to get travelling. I know this really helps us stay organized for booking travel and getting our packing sorted out.
How often do you take vacations with your family? Are there ways to avoid last minute packing that you would you add to this list? I am always looking for new and innovative ways to manage my time better, so leave a comment with the ways you get your packing done while being a working parent.