I love travel, but I dread packing and preparing for vacations. It's a lot of work to prepare a family to leave home for a few days or more, and in my family, most of that responsibility is mine.
A few years ago, I discovered a simple solution that made the packing process easier: a checklist.
We were planning a two-week trip to a family reunion in a state park in Washington State. On that trip, we brought sheets, towels, board games, sand toys, and even a shower curtain.
I made a checklist of all those things because we would probably have walked out the door without half of them if I had to rely on my memory alone. I saved that list in Microsoft Word and edited it when it was time to prepare for the next vacation.
Some of the items on my checklist remain the same for every vacation, but others change, depending on our destination. My packing list for a cruise that includes air travel is different from a road trip to Disneyland – snorkels on one, princess dress for my daughter on the other – unless it's a Disney cruise and then fitting all that stuff in a suitcase is the trickiest part.
Having a checklist has made the packing process much less stressful for me because I don't worry as much about what I am forgetting.We still forget things occasionally and sometimes make a run to the store to purchase items we didn't anticipate – like pool noodles and camp chairs on a recent trip – but that's the exception, not the rule.
I usually look over my list a couple of weeks before a vacation and update it with the items that will make this trip great.That gives me an idea of what needs to be purchased.
I add to the list as needed until a few days before the trip, then I print and start assembling. I continue to scribble all over the list as I cross items off or remember new things to add.
The second page of the list are things that we need to do before we leave the house, like return library books, hold the mail, and adjust the thermostat.
As we become more experienced travelers, I find that I don't always need the list for weekend getaways, or travel to familiar destinations, but I expect to use my list for years to come because it takes the stress out of all those details of preparing for a family vacation.
Here is a general version of my vacation packing list in Word and PDF formats. You are welcome to use, edit or copy this list for your own needs as long as it is for your private, non-commercial use only.