Throughout the years, I've done my share of packing for family trips---sometimes for only 5 of us, sometimes for as many as 8 of us. I will say it has gotten easier since no one needs diapers, strollers, high chairs, and pack & plays anymore. Somehow I managed to not forget too much in my sleep-deprived state back then, but I wouldn't want to do that again. On those car trips, I spent most of the time sitting beside a toddler or infant in the back of the minivan or SUV singing songs from Barney or reading Goodnight Moon over and over again. Even so, most of my babies fussed and screamed in their car seats because all they really wanted was to be held and nursed. Anyway, vacations are now a breeze, relatively speaking. But I still have to spend most of a day doing laundry, making a list, packing the suitcases, and then getting really creative at making room for everything in the back of the vehicle. Even with a luggage carrier strapped to the top, we still inevitably end up with backpacks and tote bags in our laps or under our feet. This summer, our two teenagers went ahead of us and packed for themselves with only a little advice from me. So the photo above is just stuff for 5 of us for a 6 day trip.
This is what I've learned to do through the years:
First, I make a list of every possible thing I can think of that we will need. I often make a more general checklist that I give to the older children so they can pack their own stuff and just cross off items as they're put in their bags. I also have a list of everything I need to take care of in the days leading up to traveling: paying bills, using up food, getting people to take care of our animals, mowing the lawn, and anything else that's important. I also keep a shorter list on the refrigerator for the morning we leave: take out the trash, make sure toilets are flushed, wash up any dishes, turn things off, lock windows and doors, etc. I just can't feel at ease without my lists.
When I'm ready to start packing, I think of all the places we'll be going over the course of our trip, and I plan for all kinds of weather. Then I lay out everything on the bed for one person at a time. I aim for tops and bottoms that can be interchanged because you never know when you're going to have drinks (or worse things) spilled on you.
For our most recent trip, I planned for outings to museums, the zoo, the beach, shopping, dinners in restaurants, Church, sporting events, and lots of walking.
I've recently begun rolling most of our clothing instead of folding it before placing it in the suitcases. This really does take up far less space and remains wrinkle-free for the most part. Other than a blouse and a long sundress, these are all of my clothes that were on our king-sized bed in the photos above. You can see there is still plenty of room for my husband's belongings with room to spare. I did pack our shoes in separate bags.
Once our suitcase was filled, I simply repeated this process with each of our younger children. Other than fishing gear and some snacks, everything we needed fit in the top photo. I really prefer using dufflebags or large tote bags instead of suitcases because they are so much more pliable, but since we needed the luggage carrier to fit all the sleeping bags anyway, I used the bulky suitcases. I can't imagine how it will be someday to only pack for the two of us. I think we could possibly fit everything in one of my beach bags.
Safe summer travels to you all!