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7 ways to make your next family trip easier

7 Packing Travel Hacks for Families


7 Family Packing Travel Hacks

Summer is upon us and that usually means a family trip, whether it’s to visit family, a day at a beach or even a road trip. We’ve survived and thrived many family trips through the years, balancing our kids different ages and personalities and baggage, and through our pitfalls, mishaps and backaches from carrying way too many bags, we have learned some clever ways to deal with packing for a family trip. Here are the top 7 family packing travel hacks to make your summer family trips a little easier:

  1.  For airport travel: Track your bags with style.  All bags tend to look alike on the baggage carousel. So unless you have a pink and purple polka dotted suitcase with faux zebra fur trimmed handles, you need a quick and clever way to identify your bags. I heard about tying a ribbon around your bag (Pinterest, I think) and thought, what a clever idea- until I saw everyone else tying ribbons around their bags. So forget the normal red and blues and find a spool of something unique: like blue and green plaid or lace trim. Then use the same ribbon for the rest of your bags to match and tie a double knot of color around the handles. Chances are it is easier to find that purple and pink polka dot design on ribbons (or even washi tape) than an entire suitcase–cheaper too!
  2. Multi-stay travel hack: I used to let everyone have their own bag and drag them all to each place we stayed- hah, not anymore! Save your back and pack per place, not person. In other words, staying a night in a hotel in Gatlinburg? Put the next day’s clothes in one bag. Use a fabric grocery bag to carry night clothes and a small cooler or train case for toothbrushes, makeup and other toiletries. Next 2 nights in Cherokee? Pack a second bag with two days worth of changes, and just carry that, the train case of necessities and nightwear. Leave the rest in your car (make sure you lock your car trunk!) Discreetly label your bags for the cities if your bags look alike. I wrote on paper and tucked it inside of each bag. And after the first night (or two stay), bag one becomes the laundry bag!
  3. Pack the ultimate swim bag. Yeah, our family outings always seem to revolve around water, so a swim bag is essential. Years ago I would carry all of our swim gear in plastic shopping bags and admired the cute multi-pocketed bags my friends had, wondering where on earth they had found them. I finally got up the courage to ask. One mom told me she re-purposed an old diaper bag as her beach bag, others told me they picked theirs up at Walmart or Target. Multi pocket bags seem to work best, with handy places to stuff chilled water bottles and suntan lotion and car keys. Always pack a couple of plastic shopping bags (or gallon Ziploc bags) to carry away wet swim suits and all of those seashells that inevitably end up under your watch.
  4. The entertainment bag (a.k.a. the lifesaver). Believe it or not, the world does not always revolve around electronics. There have been many of times that we have been in electronic free, no-WiFi zones and even power outages. Our electronic devices won’t even work in some mountain regions and smart phones are reduced to nothing more than a camera. It’s always a good idea to keep an emergency travel bag- or if you are like us and have delayed electronics in your young child’s life, this is the ultimate lifesaver! What to pack for fun in transit? Here are some ideas: A deck of cards for those impromptu games of Gin Rummy, War, Go Fish or even the old Matching Game. Other card games like UNO. Now that Adult Coloring Books are all the rage, it’s easy to find coloring books everywhere and on every subject imaginable and instead of packing crayons (they melt in high heat in the car and leave an awful mess), try gel markers or colored pencils- but remember to bring a pencil sharpener for the pencils! Ad-Lib books are always a favorite with our kids. They are great for helping kids get their adjectives and adverbs straight as well, and you can pick them up at the Dollar store. For older kids, try crossword/word search or Sudoku – also at Dollar stores. Small sketch books & pencils for doodling, Tic-Tac Toe and the Fox in Box games (also great for any budding artists). Don’t forget books. For younger kids, bed time stories are just as important away on vacay as they are at home. When my kids were little, I would always add a Hot Wheel car or two and a toy figurine or two (Dollar store again). Decide on what your child likes and what you can all do to amuse yourselves on a long journey.
  5. The food bag. Just as important as the entertainment bag- maybe more so. Keep it near the adult or adult passenger! I made the error of leaving our food bag in the back once and our girls stuffed themselves with granola bars and other snacks along the drive (and they were very sneaky and quiet about it too!) They were too full to eat dinner and we had no snacks left for the rest of our trip! Lesson learned. Food bag ideas will differ according to child ages and family preferences, of course, but if you carry along cherries (like we have), make sure there are cups in which to spit those pits! Other items we have packed are bananas, apples, seedless grapes, homemade trail mix (separated into different Ziploc bags), and bags of cereal. We have even stopped at orchards to buy peaches, and the local farmers markets for other produce. It’s good, healthy food and also teaches your child about what is local and as with the orchard trees, the source of their food. As I have mentioned before, we often eat the hotel breakfast, have a nice lunch (cheaper than dinner) and snack out at dinner to save money, so a food bag is a road trip must!
  6. The First Aid kit. Why is it that this is the most forgotten item and yet it is a necessity when it is needed? I am guilty of being lax on this, until I had a wild Florida adventure with kids and one of them cut themselves and needed a bandage. You can buy these kits ready-made (any drugstore, Walmart or Target), or make your own. Use a child’s pencil box for a DIY first-aid kit and fill it with assorted band-aids, antiseptic wipes, Neo-sporan, super-glue (wait-what?) for those really bad cuts. Not hardware store super-glue, but the medical kind. They actually sell a super-glue for gluing together wounds & gashes. We live far from a hospital, so we keep some here for dire emergencies. Look in the section by the band aids in your local store.  Decide what medicines your family uses,( ie aspirin/acetaminophen/Benadryl/epi-pen) to stock your kit. The sample section in stores sometimes have single packets of those items. Great for your first-aid kit! If you do the essential oil thing, stock some of those too.
  7. Water. Water is essential. I’ve written several times that the cost of two bottles of water in a theme park usually equals the cost of a 24 pack of water. You do the math. We take a case of water on trips- Stock a cooler with ice and fill with water bottles. Refill when necessary.  Or keep bottles chilled overnight in the fridge for your  next day road trip. Water is a necessity. Keep hydrated on your travels. Unfortunately, you can’t bring  your water bottles on those airplanes- TSA rules, not mine, so save the water packing for driving trips.

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  1. //

    Great advice! I especially like the one about having destination bags.

    1. //

      That one has saved so much back pain! Glad you liked it, Justin. Happy travels!

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