Preparing for Vacation (With Toddlers)

I am a huge procrastinator. Sometimes it bites me in the butt.

For 25 years my family has gone to the same resort in Lake Chelan during the summer. Last year, my husband and I decided to do something different this summer and take our little family to the San Juan Islands. The months flew by and neither of us made a reservation. We waited too long. Pretty stupid to wait to book a place that sells out a year in advance.

Lucky for us, my parents have room for us to join them in Lake Chelan.Laughing at ducksIt was a bit of a last minute decision to go, and now that we’ve committed, we are so excited! We’re going to leave a day early and drive to the nearby town Wenatchee, to visit some friends.

Several years ago, pre-kids, my husband and I left early for Chelan with plans to stay in Wenatchee for two nights. When we got there, everything was booked. We ended up staying at a cheap, skeezy motel. That was fine for the two of us, but it’s not ok with two kids. I already booked a nice room at a reputable hotel. See, I’m learning.

Since I have several days to prepare for our trip, I thought I would get started now, rather than waiting to do everything the day before we leave. That inevitably leaves my husband and me stressed out and pissy with each other. Nobody needs that at the start of a vacation.

So, here are some things I’m going to do at my leisure to prepare for our trip.

1. Transportation

Our destination is a five hour drive. We need to check the tire pressure and make sure our car doesn’t need an oil change. I’m also going to clean the entire thing out to leave plenty of room for everything we get to take with us. (Which always ends up being way more than you expect!)

Whenever I clean the car, I take two bags with me. One for trash, and another for all the kid stuff. It makes it quick and easy to clear everything out. If I feel so inclined, or if its needed (which it always is), I will vacuum.

If you’re traveling with your littles on an airplane this summer, check out this post from one of my favorite blogs, Parenting from the Heart Blog. We haven’t braved air travel with our kids yet, we’re too chicken. Alana shares some great tips that make it a little less scary.

2. The water/sand toys

I have a “staging area” where I’m keeping all of our water/sand toys, beach towels, and other sun paraphernalia. We don’t generally use them at home, so the kids won’t miss them if they’re not at their disposal.Standing in water3. Big Items

Thankfully we only have two big items to take this year. We have one pack in play (last year we took two), and the double stroller. I was toying with the idea of taking the single stroller, Lord knows my girl is old enough to walk, but she gets tired easily. We like to go on a long walk every morning by the lake and it would be nice if my girl had the option to join us.

4. The House

We’re only going to be away for four days but we have a few things that need to be attended to while we’re gone. First, we have two cats. Even though they are extremely independent, they still need to eat. Next, we have our garden that will need watering. We’re  fortunate to have family close by that are willing to watch over our house.

The day before we leave, my husband and I are going to clean. Nothing major, but we’ll be sure all food is put away, the dishes are clean, toys are picked up, etc. There is nothing worse than coming home from a nice relaxing vacation to a counter top covered in sugar ants. And that smell coming from your fridge? You may as well just toss that Tupperware, there is no saving it. I know both scenarios all too well.

5. Clothes

I pack clothes last. I’ve tried packing them early and end up having to search through the suitcases for something. And I make a mess in the process.

We take two suitcases. One for my husband and son to share, and one for my daughter and me to share. The kids’ clothes are little, so they don’t take up as much space. I usually take two outfits per day, per person, but we still end up doing a load or two of laundry while we’re there.

I pack each person’s toiletries in plastic bags. My husband and I each get a gallon sized bag for our stuff. Toiletries The kids each get a sandwich bag for their toothbrush.

6. Food

As I mentioned earlier, this is a five hour road trip. While we’ll stop along the way for food, it will also be nice to have snacks handy in the car. We’ll get mostly non-perishables, but for the perishable stuff, I have a GetBacktoBasix Fridge-to-go lunch box. It’s an insulated lunch box with an ice pack that keeps food cool for up to eight hours. It has proven to be quite useful for my husband’s lunches, so I know we’ll be set.**

fridge to gofridgetogoOnce we get to our destination, we’ll do the real food shopping. We go out to eat once or twice a day, but the rest of the time, we pack lunches and snacks to eat by the lake.Father and son bonding7. Time to Pack the Car!

This is my favorite part! The day before we leave, we’ll pack our car to the gills with everything we’re taking, just short of the food.

Do you like Tetris? I liked it as much as the next guy, but what I really love, is the real life version of the game. I love packing things into a car. I like to see how much I can get in there and how much room I can leave for extras. Weird? Maybe. I’m not much help moving boxes or furniture, but I can certainly help coordinate what goes where in the truck for your next big move.

In the car, we’ll put the large items in first. Next comes the suitcases, boxes, or other solid items. Then the toys and fun-in- the-sun extras-they’ll fit between the nooks and cranny’s of the larger stuff. And of course the food goes last-because we need easy access at all times.

I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of last minute things to do, but at least I’ll be more prepared than I usually am!ToddlersDo you have any packing hacks that makes traveling with toddlers easier that you’d like to share? I’m always open to new ideas! 

**Disclosure-I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.

**This post contains affiliate links which means if you make a purchase through the link, at no extra cost to you, I will make a percentage of the sale.

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11 Comments

  • Reply Kimberly

    I’ve never seen the Fridge To Go before. Looks perfect for road trip snacks!

    July 17, 2015 at 6:49 am
  • Reply Sue Parke

    Wow, it looks beautiful there! I feel like packing even just for a weekend getaway takes a lot. I’m always torn which toys and books to bring etc, and I always end up packing way too much. I hope you can to San Juan at some point, it’s amazing! Have a great trip! I look forward to reading all about it 🙂

    July 17, 2015 at 7:01 am
  • Reply Natasha

    Even if we leave for a weekend, I’d swear our van is packed like we are leaving for a month! I call it a clown car, because it is just jam packed like crazy! Good tips!

    July 17, 2015 at 11:21 am
  • Reply Shelah

    Thanks for the packing tips. A well organized trip makes things go so much more smoothly. The Fridge to go looks like a great addition to our travel supplies.

    July 19, 2015 at 8:25 am
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Sure! It’s so true! I used to be so disorganized. I feel like the kids are forcing me into developing organizational skills. It has been really great!

      July 19, 2015 at 8:52 pm
  • Reply Alana

    I love the fridge-to-go lunch box! It’s genius! Go figure, there is a summer destination spot that is a favourite of ours that looks very similar to yours and is 5 hours east from Vancouver. We actually got married there and the rolling, dessert-like hills in your photos are almost the same. Like you, I’m a night before clothes packer for the exact same reason. My mother in-law has always been able to pack days in advance and I know I stress her out by not doing the same. But it actually leads to disorganization in my case. Hope your whole fam has an amazing time!!!! xo

    July 19, 2015 at 4:42 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      It’s been really nice to have! Of course there is! What a beautiful backdrop for a wedding!! I would be completely disorganized too if I did it too far in advance. This time we actually ended up doing it the morning of-I knew a few things would be last minute!! It doesn’t help that my husband AND I were sick all day yesterday. But we are on vacation now and we will have fun!!

      July 19, 2015 at 8:50 pm
  • Reply CourtneyLynne

    Great vacation tips!!! So important to have snacks while on the road! Snacks have saved me so many times on road trips!

    July 19, 2015 at 8:46 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Thanks! Me too! Every half hour my daughter is always, “mommy, I’m hungry!!”

      July 19, 2015 at 8:50 pm
  • Reply Melissa

    I always put the toiletries in a plastic bag too! Hope you have a great trip.

    July 20, 2015 at 7:17 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Its so nice to have them all together. And if something spills, its contained. 😀 Thanks!!

      July 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

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