You've got a destination in mind, gas in the tank, and a family ready for fun. Now it's time to pack. Use these guidelines to get started and you'll be out the door and on the road in no time.
- Enlist the help of your kids. Teach your children valuable organizational skills by letting them pack their own items. It will ease your load and foster self-reliance and self-responsibility in your children.
To help them get started, create a checklist. Older children can handle a checklist independently while younger children may need verbal cues such as, "Now go get two pairs of pants."
Consider getting each child his own duffle bag or backpack for his clothes, hairbrush, toiletries, and small stuffed animal or toy. Be sure to double check what the children pack to ensure no one ends up crying about not having enough socks or underwear!
- Clothing. Kids get wet, messy, and dirty. So bring at least one extra shirt, pair of pants, shorts, socks, and underwear per child. Bring a solid stick stain remover for little spots and spills.
Be a minimalist when packing for you. Bring neutral mix-and-match clothes that work double-time for days and nights out. Try to bring a single pair of shoes, and a second pair of flip-flops or slippers.
Going to the beach? Bring two bathing suits per person--one for the morning splash and another for the afternoon. There's nothing more uncomfortable than putting on a wet, cold, sandy suit.
- Toiletries. For a weekend getaway, travel size toothpaste, shampoo, and lotion will be sufficient. If you prefer a different brand than the few offered in travel size, buy small plastic bottles and fill them with your own.
- Snacks. Don't be surprised to hear, "I'm hungry!" two blocks after you pull out of the driveway. So be prepared with healthy snacks that offer maximum satisfaction and minimal mess. Juice boxes, mini water bottles, pretzels, raisins and other dried fruits, baby carrots and celery sticks, gummies, snack crackers, and trail mix are all crowd pleasers. Have a plastic bag on hand to collect the trash.
- Age-appropriate items. If you're traveling with a baby, pack must-haves like a portable playpen with crib insert, food items, and plenty of clean-up cloths. Children will enjoy travel-size games, art sets, books, and other toys for the journey. Create a "travel survival pack" by printing out pages from Travel Games for Families and Kids. Remember a variety of music and read-aloud story CDs for the ride.
- Consider temperature ranges and weather changes. Pack layers for different daytime and nighttime temperatures. Plan ahead for unexpected weather changes such as a sudden rainstorm, windy conditions, or cool evenings. Always bring a sweatshirt and jacket.
- Things to do. Include home preparations in your checklist. Are the plants watered? Are the pets cared for? Do family members and neighbors know how and where to reach you? Walk through your home for a final check before leaving.
Most important, remember to focus on fun. You can always buy what you forgot to pack. Now lock up and head out for a family weekend of fun.