Traveling with a Large Family – Part 1: The Preparation Timeline

Since we just got back from Yellowstone, and I have traveling fresh on my mind, I thought I’d write about my “travel packet” that goes into my planner. It’s very helpful when planning a vacation with many children.  🙂

Every time we go on a trip, I take notes about what worked well and what didn’t work so well.  Then the next time we’re planning a trip, I pull those notes out and make “better” plans.  So after a few years of this, I feel like I should pass on some of what I’ve learned, and maybe it will help someone else! 

1.  The first thing I do is make a list of everything that needs to be done.  I use a previous list, or a master list.  So keep whatever list you’re currently working on, and save it for next year in a file folder labeled “Vacations” or “Traveling” or whatever you’ll remember.  OR, I like to put mine in my “May” folder (I have a folder for each month right on my desk) so that I’m reminded in May to start thinking early about our vacation. 

2.  Sort those tasks into somewhat equal sized groups AND divide them by the number of days you have left–minus one.  I try to pretend we’re leaving a day early so that all the stuff I didn’t have time to do can be done on that “extra” day. 

So my timeline/calendar might go something like this…

Two weeks before: 

  • Plan menu, start buying non-perishable food items and collect them in one location (I usually use a cardboard box or some grocery sacks)
  • Plan clothes based on weather predictions and our activities.  I plan by color, short-sleeved or long-sleeved, and shorts or pants.  (Have one outfit for everyone of the “opposite-weather” clothes in a separate duffle bag or suitcase in case the weather is completely different than you were expecting; it makes it easier to change clothes while still on the road.)
  • Start making meals to freeze.

One week before:

  • All frozen meals made by five days before the trip.
  • All non-perishables packed four days before the trip.
  • All laundry done by three days before the trip.
  • Start collecting travel toiletries (and meds) in one location three days before so you can see what you need to purchase or “re-bottle.”
  • Start collecting clothes in an out-of-the-way spot three days before the trip, or do it all two days before.
  • All clothes in suitcases and duffle bags two days before.  (When I wait until the last day, I always regret it!)

Next time . . . Planning the Menu

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