Is it just me, or is the idea of packing for your holidays much more appealing than the reality of actually doing it?
Here’s my confession:
Despite taking the opportunity to travel as much as my bank account (and annual leave) will allow, I’m still a mad stress-head when it comes to packing. But I have to say it does get easier and less fraught every time you do it. Though to be honest, just when I thought I had my packing down pat, I had a baby and the panic started all over again.
Now, it’s not helpful to start the process of going on holiday by crying over a pile of stuff and a suitcase. Nor is it necessary. And as I prepare for Holiday Baby’s sixth trip outside the UK, it’s safe to say I reckon I know what I’m doing. Finally.
So when the lovely folk at Matalan asked me for my top family packing tips, I jumped at the chance. And if the thought of packing for a family holiday abroad sends you into the kind of spin that would put a 4 wheeler suitcase to shame, here are my top 5 tips.
#1 Prepare First. Then Pack
I’m going away in a couple of weeks – cue wardrobe assessments for everyone. Sound technical? It’s not. It just means I’ll be sorting what I think we need clothes wise, editing down, then washing and ironing whatever needs a refresh (in the North of England, our summer gear doesn’t get much wear outside of the annual sunshine holiday).
Once I’ve done that, I keep it all separate in the wardrobe so that when the day before departure arrives, I know everything’s there and ready to be packed. Headache saved.
#2 Avoid the “Just in Case” Mentality
Don’t feel the need to pack for every eventuality when you’re going on holiday. Take the weather – we’ve all seen it rain on our summer hols, me included. But will I be packing an umbrella and raincoat just in case it happens again? Hell no. If the worst happens, I’ll just figure it out when I’m there. Same goes for fancy shmancy clothes. I’m not packing a posh frock just in case Tom Hiddleston sacks Taylor Swift off and finds himself on the same Greek island as me. Yes, I know it’s an extreme scenario, but you get the point. (Oh, and sorry husband, but, well – Loki).
Anyway, this type of packing insanity reaches new levels when you’re travelling with a family. The “just in case” scenarios can be never-ending if you don’t appreciate the difference between being prepared, and frankly, being ridiculous. So why waste valuable suitcase space for something you only might need? It’s just not worth it. And if there are shops where you’re going (very likely), you’ll be just fine.
#3 Use Packing Cubes
Oh cubes of joy! How did I live before you? Honestly, using packing cubes has changed the way I travel. For example, on a city break when we might take a 15kg bag between three of us, we now each have our own cube (a big one each for mum and dad and a medium for the little’un).
If everything is beautifully rolled (and if you’re not rolling, you not packing in my opinion), all you need to do is lift out the items that need hanging, and then pop the cube on a shelf in the wardrobe. When you’re heading home, just do a bit of rearranging and separate anything that hasn’t been worn into its own cube so it doesn’t get mixed up with the dirty washing.
Of course you can make them work for you however you want (undies and socks in their own cube is also a good’un), but they always mean a more organised suitcase, which means less stress for this travelling mum.
#4 Don’t Take Too Many Toiletries
Again, it’s all about saving space. Will your hair fall out if you buy shampoo and conditioner from an unfamiliar supermarket? Unlikely. You might have to skip your usual choice, but the chances are there’ll be a brand there that you recognise, so don’t worry.
You’ll have more space for clothes and much less chance of a nasty leak from an unwieldy toilet bag if it’s not stuffed to its limits with your entire bathroom cabinet. The same goes for baby essentials like wipes and nappies if you need them. You really don’t need to pack enough for the whole trip, and then some.
#5 Check in Your Luggage
I cant be bothered trying to stick to hand luggage restrictions now we’re a travelling family. I know there are some of you out there who do it (take a bow!), but really, I’d sooner only have to contend with what I actually need for the flight when we’re on a plane.
Amongst other things, it makes it easy to get my hands on the spare clothes I take for the journey. Extra clothes, you say? Well, let’s look at the justification: Pee all over me on the way to Barcelona? Check. Poo incident flying back from Bremen? Check. You won’t be sorry if you pack extra outfits for travel. And you should still have plenty of room in your hand baggage for all those other bits and bobs you might want to whip out in-flight like tablet computers and toys.
If you check your cases in, you might pay more for hold luggage, but I honestly think it’s worth it not to be weighed down. Carrying an almost two year old is enough of a job without our entire trip’s worth of gear shoved into a cabin bag.
If you want to check out some more tips for packing, there are some great tailored checklists here for almost any type of trip you’re planning to take.