Ah, vacation! The word alone elicits joy. Sunny skies, palm trees, white-sand beaches, or maybe your version includes snow-capped mountains and high adventure. It takes our minds on a journey when we dream about our next escape!
At Grace in the Race, we know all too well, however, that travel can also elicit anxiety. Let’s consider the logistics swimming around in your mind: You’ll need to have that dreaded conversation with your boss to schedule time off of work, cancel sports practices, postpone the mail delivery, find someone to water the plants and care for the pets, research the destination, book activities and excursions, make dinner reservations, book flights and a rental car, and go shopping for “vacation clothes” – because all of a sudden nothing in your closet will do. Then there’s the anticipation of packing. Compound that by the number of children you have and your head starts spinning. Ooh, and then when you should be packing, you decide to clean every inch of your house, including that closet in the basement that’s packed to the gills with stuff that no one ever uses, because ANYTHING seems more enticing than packing. But, then you finally pull out the suitcases and . . . proceed to try on every article of clothing in your closet in search of the perfect combination of items (which you’ve already decided doesn’t exist. That’s why you went shopping, after all!) You rationalize this act in the name of being thorough but it only results in you packing your suitcase well beyond capacity.
Sound inviting? Nope. Cancel it. We’re staying home.
Wait! Don’t throw in the towel. Just get organized. Here are five tips for doing just that:
1. Make a plan! Start by creating a TRAVEL folder on your computer
We like Google Drive because it’s easy to share with the whole family, or with friends if you are traveling with companions. First, create a folder in the Drive and name it Travel. Then, create sub-folders for each trip you take, titling the sub-folder with the Trip Name of the destination and the travel dates (see below). You’ll also want to make a folder called Travel Templates. This is where your master lists will go. We have two Travel Templates in step 2 that you can download below: a trip planning checklist called: trip notes and a packing checklist.
2. Download our editable TRIP NOTES and PACKING LIST
Click here to download the GracePace Trip Planner and the GracePace Packing List. Save them in your Travel Templates folder. Make a copy of these templates each time you want to customize them to a specific trip and save that copy in the corresponding folder titled with the trip name and date.
Use the Trip Planner to brainstorm all of the things you need to do in preparation for your trip. Instead of a headache from trying to remember all you need to do, you now have an organized list that you can save and reuse for each trip.
Use the Packing List to customize and compartmentalize each trip. The benefit of compartmentalizing your packing list is that it helps you stay organized and streamline the packing process, making the whole experience more efficient and less daunting. You’ll have the ability to edit the packing list as you see fit.
3. Use packing cubes to save space and stay organized while you travel
Packing cubes are a game-changer. Have you heard of them? Do you use them? Do you love them? In case you’re not familiar, they are these thin, zippered bags that allow you to organize your packing and maximize space. In the beginning, I was skeptical. I didn’t see how the cubes could possibly save me that much space in my suitcase; especially considering that I’d be literally packing more stuff with the addition of the cubes themselves. Let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised.
Bonus tip: I roll all of my clothes sushi-style to fit nicely into the cubes!
Even my kids love their packing cubes. Because their suitcases are better organized – socks and undies in one cube, PJs in another, swimsuits in yet another, etc. – they don’t need to go digging through their stuff, creating a huge mess, they simply reach for the appropriate cube.
A side-note on kids and packing: Teach your kids to pack for themselves. They are capable of it at a very young age. If they can count, they can pack, though being able to read is helpful too. When I make my packing list, I note on the list how many of each item is needed based on the number of days we’re traveling. With really young kids, you could use images instead of words, like in this example from ishouldbemoppingthefloors.com (click the link for this FREE printable checklist.)
My kids use their lists to pack all of the items they need (4 – t-shirts, 5 pairs of undies, etc.). When they were younger, I had them lay it all out on their beds. Then, I used their lists to double-check that they indeed got everything. I packed their cubes and ultimately their suitcases, but it was a huge time saver to have them pull everything out first. Plus, they were selecting the items they wanted which meant no surprises and no arguments when it came time to get dressed on vacation. Now, at ages ten and twelve, they’ve been packing themselves without my help for years. Trust that they can do it!
I ultimately bought this set of packing cubes from Ebags in four different colors – one for each member of my family. They have received over 5,000 five-star reviews. So, don’t take my word for it, head over there and read for yourself! These are also linked in our favorites page, in case you need to refer back to them later.
4. Use an app like Evernote to house your final trip details
I started doing this just last summer when I traveled to Dallas for a conference. The app is free! I simply set up a new ‘note’ in Evernote titled with the destination and travel dates of my trip. I then took screenshots of my flight confirmation, hotel reservation, tickets for the conference, parking pass for the convention center, dinner reservations and miscellaneous local attractions. I attached them to the note and had everything in one spot on my phone. It saved me from having to find multiple email confirmations sprinkled throughout my inbox and from having to bounce around between multiple apps to find things. Everything was accessible within seconds.
5. Prepare for re-entry
Though I’ve gotten better at it, getting back to reality is hard for me EVERY TIME. There’s got to be some psychological thing that happens in the post-vacation brain. I’m sure it’s a result of getting so far off my routine while on vacation. I struggle to face reality on that first day back. I don’t feel motivated to unpack. I don’t want to deal with all the laundry we brought home from the trip. I don’t want to cook. It sometimes takes me a week to work my way back into pre-vacation mode. And so I’ve learned to prepare for the return:
- I always clean my house before we travel. It’s immediately uplifting to walk into a clean house.
- I also make sure I have a workout on the calendar for the very next day. It’s so easy to not go back to your workout schedule if you don’t jump right back in!
- I make a grocery list and meal plan for the return week on the way home knowing that we’re going home to an empty refrigerator. Finally, I set up a grocery delivery knowing that I won’t feel like going back out once we’re finally home. I plan it so that it’s waiting on the porch when we arrive.
- In order to make it easier to take on the laundry, we pack all of the dirty clothes in one suitcase for the trip home. We identify that bag/suitcase on day one of our travel so as the clothes get dirty, they immediately go in there, like a hamper. When we arrive home and unload the car, that suitcase gets left in the laundry room and clean clothes get taken to bedrooms to be put away . . . within a few days . . . because that’s grace.
Vacationing is supposed to be a stress-reducer, so we need to do what we can to keep it that way! How do you prepare for a trip (and for re-entry)? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below! If you’re traveling soon, enjoy an extended reprieve from the race – you’ve earned it!