9 Tips for Packing for Your Family Vacation

Packing for vacation is both fun (the anticipation!) and stressful (do I have everything I need?). My family has developed a system that has saved us a lot of time and simultaneously teaches my kids how to pack their own bags. (I have these visions of them packing for a business trip in the future and remembering how Mom taught them what to bring.) Here’s what we do to make sure packing runs smoothly.

  1. Make a list and divide it into sections, like Clothing, Health and Beauty, and Entertainment. Under each section, have a checkbox and the item. I made our list on Microsoft Word and I print out a fresh one with each trip. The bullets are open squares so I can check off each item as it goes in the suitcase. (If you don’t want to make your own list, there are dozens out there; here’s a sample from a fellow blogger.)


  1. Get the kids involved by asking them to sit down with you to decide what needs to be packed. Show them how much room they have in their bag and let them help prioritize (based on your activities and the weather) what types of clothes and other items they’ll need to bring.


  1. Have everyone pack their items in tandem. For example, I call out “shirts” and we all make a pile of the right number of shirts (for a short trip, we pack one per day plus an extra one). We go through each item on the list one by one and all of us get them out at the same time.


  1. Let the kids pick their own clothes, but tell them which ones have to stay home. My boys have a few t-shirts that are fine for bumming around at home in the summer, but not something I’d like to have pictures of them wearing on our family vacation. The more they get to pick themselves, though, the more interested they are in helping out.


  1. Pack your toothbrushes, makeup, etc., right after you use them on the day of your trip.


  1. Don’t bother with products you can do without, but make sure you bring what you might need and would have trouble replacing. I tend to skip my vitamins on a vacation because we often forget to take them anyway, but I bring my son’s prescription inhaler even though he rarely needs it because it would be a real hassle to try to fill a prescription while we’re away.


  1. Leave a little space in your bag to bring a souvenir home. My kids have the attitude that if their bag isn’t stuffed to the gills with clothes, that means they can fill in the extra space with toys or stuffed animals. Telling them we’ll be bringing home more than we came with heads that off.


  1. Don’t bring anything irreplaceable. If there’s a stuffed animal or blanket or other item that your kids are super attached to, tell them it will be better to keep it safe at home and allow them to bring something they like but wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose. It’s amazing how things disappear, even when you think you’ve checked all the dresser drawers and under the bed.


  1. Take a copy of your packing list with you and make sure you put back in your bags whatever you brought with you.


We’ve followed this method for several vacations now and the process works so well! The kids love getting ready for vacation because they get to help, and it takes a lot of pressure off me because I’m packing one bag instead of three. The other benefit is having extra eyes paying attention to make sure we’ve remembered what we need to bring.

Do you have a tip for packing your family for vacation? Leave it in the comments; I’d love to hear it!


If you like reading about families, please check out my novel Giving Myself Away, available now.


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[photo credit: “suitcases” by Aimee Ray]


Do you give your ex a Father’s Day gift?


The first few years after our divorce, I attempted to ignore Father’s Day as I dropped off the kids to spend the day with their dad. But as time has healed the pain of our failed marriage, I found myself wanting to acknowledge his continuing role in my life: the co-parent of our children.

I’ve decided to let go of things that disappoint me and celebra te what he means to the kids. They adore him and I believe that showing my appreciation boosts his confidence and shows our kids that they don’t have to fear they are “taking sides” by wholeheartedly and unreservedly loving their dad.

I am grateful that we are the kind of divorced parents who can peaceably go to parent-teacher night together, who can sit side by side at sports events, and who can talk without getting into the blame game.

Last year, I went through old pictures and made my ex a little photo album of our kids. He had very few baby photos because I seem to be the keeper of family history, so I knew it would be something he’d like. I felt I had reached a new place of acceptance that I could look at those photos without feeling angry, sad, wistful, or any other negative emotion. Instead, they reminded me that we had two beautiful babies who will always tie us together. We aren’t married anymore, but we will always be linked through our children, and maybe someday our grandchildren.

Now I can wish him Happy Father’s Day and mean it, and I can look for ways to let him know all year that I value his role in our children’s lives.

If you like reading about families, parenting, divorce and tough decisions, please check out my novel Giving Myself Away, available now.


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The Lonely Housewife


I get a taste each year of what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom because I’m a teacher and I’m off in the summer. My kids’ school schedules are different from mine, so I always have several days at home myself before they are also home for the break. “Sounds heavenly,” you might say. “Two weeks all to yourself!”

Well, I hate it. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat introverted. I got teased mercilessly as a kid for being quiet. But for the past seven years, I’ve worked in a career where I am with people from when I wake up until when I go to bed, and the abrupt shock of transitioning from that to a deadly quiet house is painful.

I used to think I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, but life circumstances proved me wrong. I’m not sure how I would have handled it, and now I can’t imagine not having my job, even though it means housework, cooking, shopping, and all of the other things that stay-at-home parents can do during the day are lumped on top of what I already do and have to be squeezed in on evenings and weekends.

Every morning during the school year is an organized blur as the kids and I have breakfast, make our lunches, get dressed, and pack the car by 7:18 a.m. Saying goodbye to them never feels like too much of a separation because I’m already thinking about work and they’re thinking about school and their friends. The day speeds by for all of us, and before we know it, I’m picking them up and we’re starting our equally busy evening routine.

This morning as I waved goodbye to the departing school bus and walked back home, I thought about how much easier it is to be the one leaving, rather than the one being left behind. Even though my kids are noisy and messy and we’re often doing our own separate things, it feels right when we’re all in the house together.

If you like to read about the choices moms make, please check out my novel, Giving Myself Away, available now in paperback and ebook.

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