Friday, March 27, 2009

Packing for Vacation

After we went to the cabin for Christmas, Angie asked for a post on ideas for packing for this kind of trip. We all know that packing for any kind of trip takes lots of planning and organization! But, to go somewhere like this and join up with other family members or friends - takes an additional element of prep because you don't want to spend all your time running out to get things you find you'll need!

My Mom did most of the work in preparing for our Christmas at the cabin. We needed Christmas gifts, decorations, activities, food and more. And, we had three families arriving from all over and then going up to the cabin together. Lots to coordinate!

Here are a few observations from either what I took/prepared or what I saw my Mom do!

* Call ahead: if you're going to a place that has its own website, make sure to read it thoroughly so you know what to expect when you get there. If you have questions on specific items being available, make sure to call. We wondered if there would be a high chair available or even a Christmas tree - a quick call answered our questions.

* Ask around: if you happen to know someone who has stayed the same place before - ask what things they wish they would have taken or which things were provided. A co-worker of my mom's had been to that cabin before and she was a good source of information on what we could expect to find.

* Make an idea list: Are there certain activities you want to do while you are away? We wanted to decorate cookies, play games and go sledding. These all involved certain supplies - so simply add these things to a list or have a space in your home set aside to "gather" items before you go. If you need to ask other travelers to bring certain items, you can make a note next to the item about who you asked to bring which item. My Mom had created an activity basket for the littles which had craft supplies, coloring books, crayons, etc...

* Make a menu: My Mom did an amazing job at this one! She had a paper with each day and then all the meals that day including snacks. Then, as we were packing - we just checked the items off and put them in a box or the cooler so we knew we had it all. I've also done this when we've gone to the family condo in Florida. I don't want to be running out to buy ingredients as it takes away from our vacation and is harder to stay on a budget that way.

* Plan to be resourceful: The chances are that you will forget something! We found that we were without salt and pepper and just learned to do without! We also discovered there was no ice - the ice maker wasn't working and there were no trays. A quick call to the park ranger sent someone our way who wasn't able to fix the ice maker but went and got us some trays and we had ice! Sometimes, it pays to ask! When I wanted to come up with some kind of table decoration - we had two taper candles but no candle holders. A quick search and we found two mugs and some sugar - it served the purpose! Just be willing to look outside the box!

The more thought you can put into your time away and what your expectations and hopes are for the time, the more organized you can be in taking the things you'll need to make your time go more smoothly! We wanted to enjoy being together, make memories and relax!

Please chime in! Have you taken a family trip to a destination away from someone's home? How did you prepare for your trip?

10 comments:

angela said...

Every year we go to our cabin in Ontario. Not only are we not at someone's home, or near a store, we are on a little island alone. There is NO running out to the store. I like to be sure to make out detailed menus with all the ingredients listed and check them off as I pack. I do anything I can ahead of time. For example, if biscuits are on the menu, I mix up as much of the recipe as I can, and put it in a ziplock bag with the directions written on it. Also I don't like to take more than I need. For example, if mac & cheese is on the menu, I only take how much macaroni I need, not an entire box. Because freezer space is limited, I like to do as many pantry meals as I can. I also plan my meals with fresh meat according to how well the meat keeps. For example chicken is served before ham steak, because chicken will spoil quicker.
I like to do much of packing ahead of time, so I am not just throwing extras in at the last minute that I won't need. I also like to have a plastic tub or box where I can gather things that I will need, often a couple weeks ahead of time. AND I ALWAYS have an ongoing list. I love lists.
I hope this helps a least a little.

Patty said...

I agree with making a list; we usually place our list on the fridge and add to it as we think of items that will be needed. Then on the day we leave I go over the list two or three times checking off everything that has been packed or loaded into the explorer.

Each person also has a personal bag for holding books or toys that is kept next to them and I also pack a snack bag filled with assorted “clean food”, paper towels and an empty plastic bag or two for trash or car sickness.

Once we are on the road we usually discuss things that were packed and stop along the way if we forgot something important.

Hadley said...

You are so organized! We are heading out for a week long vacation this summer, the first for just our little family (we normally only go with extended family for this long)...I will definitely be bookmarking this post!

Please stop by my blog, you have an award :)

angie said...

Thanks, Monica, for following up with this post. It was very helpful with specific information.
We are going to travel more than anticipated this summer. My son is going to be on a tournament soccer team, so every game is a long distance. We plan to make many of the trips into mini-vacations. In order to make the trips frugal, it will require some pre-planning.
I will refer back to your post, for sure.

Mom said...

Monica, it was fun to read through this list of how we prepared for our cabin stay at Christmas -- just another reminder of the fun time we had and the new memories we made (including cooking without salt and pepper!) :) Love you, Mom

Melody said...

We are on a family vacation right now and heading home tomorrow morning.

I believe the list is VERY important. I had a running list in my head but didn't take the time to write it down. I forgot to bring my socks and my hair ties. :)

I did make a list of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that would travel easy. I would suggest that if more than one person is bringing food that you coordinate this. We ended up with a lot of similar things.

I also agree with Patty on having a personal bag for each person for books and toys. I also stopped by the Target dollar spot and got some cheap games/books/coloring books for them to have on the road.

Besides reading the website I would also suggest getting the vacation guide for the area you will be in. I also googled cheap things to do where we were going.

Susannah said...

Several years ago we moved houses two days after Christmas. Rather than set our Christmas decorations that we would just have to move and pack before Christmas, we did not decorate our old house and went to a cabin in the GA mountains for that Christmas. It is one of our most memorable! We stopped on the way and got a tree from a stand that was about to close -- later realized the tree had been spray painted green! Oh well.

We did pack our stockings to hang on the fireplace and the gifts in black plastic trash bags so our 3 littles would not see them. We also packed craft supplies and made every decoration on the tree! We made recycled ornaments out of tp rolls, jar lids, etc. Construction paper chain. Popcorn and cranberry garland. Shrinky-dink ornaments. Yarn doll angels and gods' eye ornaments. Popsicle sticks and glitter made lovely stars. We have most of these still.

My kids still want to do that again, so one day I hope to take the plunge. It was the best Christmas!

*carrie* said...

Yes, Mom did a great job with this and we had a wonderful time!

Mrs. K said...

We have a little chalet about three hours from us that we like to stay at. I am in agreement with many of the comments already made. I usually make a menu and then ask each family to bring one of the recipes. Or even just a general outline - Monday is Mexican, Tuesday is Italian, etc. I make as much at home as I can, fry up hamburger meat, assemble casseroles (and freeze, then they can thaw on the ride and you don't have to worry so much about the temperature of the cooler).

Zebu said...

Hi Monica,

Your idea to call ahead is a great one. I thought that I was being resourceful by looking up hostels online before we took our anniversary trip last July. We thought that we would save money by staying at these rather than hotels, and there seemed to be several on our travel route.

The first one eluded us, as we drove for a VERY long time in a large metropolis. We finally found it, but a couple of things happened that made me think that maybe we weren’t supposed to stay there, so we ended up at a hotel that night.

The next hostels, in the next state over, turned out to no longer be hostels at all! One had turned into a small hotel, and the other two were who-knows-what. The information on the web site for those was obviously out of date. On top of that, it was the Fourth of July, and there wasn’t a room to be found. On top of that, we started having car troubles and so were without a room and without very reliable transportation. It all worked out, but a couple of quick phone calls would have saved quite a bit of time and some frustration.

Mrs. K, I like your idea of preparing and freezing before hand. I remember my little German grandparents. The three sisters would cook the food for the trip, so that they would not have to buy food out. They would cook up fried chicken, kuchan, pies, and all sorts of yummy German food. Then, they along with the three men folk would all load up into a four-door sedan and take off for a several-hundred-mile trip. It doesn’t sound very comfortable to me—those little German people were pretty plump! ;) But, how wonderful that they were that frugal and loved each other that much to make the sacrifices that they did.