Traveling with a Large Family – Part 4: Packing the Van

A major task in traveling is packing the van, so here are some things I’ve learned to make it run more smoothly.

FOOD is one of the biggest things to pack and, in the case of cold food, can’t be packed until the day we’re leaving.  So planning ahead helps us get out the door faster. 

So another page in my “travel-planning packet” has a column for each major food-category to go into the van:  Frozen Food in Cooler, Refrigerated Food in Cooler, Food in Bags (for the road), and Food in Boxes (for the cabin).  Then, using my menu, I list the foods needed for each meal in the appropriate column.  When it’s time to pack, I pack the food in the OPPOSITE order so that whatever we need is close to the top.  I try to pack the non-cooler food a few day ahead, since that’s one thing that doesn’t need to be last-minute.

 FRONT OF THE VAN – Here’s something I found VERY helpful for organizing the front seat of our van: magazine holders.  In fact, in our 12-passenger van, I put a bankers box between the two front seats, and it held four magazine holders perfectly!  This helped separate items like 1) Paper—receipt envelope, map envelope, pamphlets/brochures envelope, 2) My “entertainment”—a few magazines and books, 3) “Technology”—cameras, GPS unit, batteries, etc, and 4) My “pharmacy”—first aid type things.  I also discovered a while ago that flat, 3-hole-punched pencil holders work well to organize things AND keep them rigid enough to not fall all over the place as you begin to use things.  They also fit well into a bag or backpack.  (We used to just have a box between our seats, and while it started out organized, it was usually a jumbled mess by the end of the first day!)

TIP – Here’s something I just figured out this last trip:  On the day of departure, I should pack the coolers FIRST, while Scott gets himself ready.  THEN I can get myself ready while Scott packs the van (because he waits for the two coolers—the biggest items.)  This last departure, Scott had to wait for the coolers, and then the rest of us had to wait while he figured out the puzzle of getting everything in—it takes a LONG time!

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