It’s been a tough Toronto winter, and if your family is one of the lucky ones heading out on a March break vacation, you are likely already visualizing yourself at your destination. But packing for an entire family can be a real chore — especially if you leave it to the last minute.
Family travel expert Andrea Traynor said she’s perfected the art of family packing, and with her five tips, she promises to save you time, money and stress.
1. Have at least a loose idea of your itinerary ahead of time so you know if you need things like swim shoes and prescription scuba goggles for underwater adventures or ice skates and helmets if you are choosing a cold-climate vacation destination.
2. Pack in outfits. This is the single most important part of packing effectively. Start by pulling out everything you think you might want and edit down from there. Allow each person one outfit for each day of your trip, plus one extra.
“So if you’re going away for five days, you get six outfits,” Traynor said. Don’t forget to try everything on before it gets packed to be sure it all fits the way you want.
3. Favour multitaskers and compact items. Whether it’s a piece of clothing that can be more than one thing (e.g. a tunic over leggings on the plane in Canada that turns into a sleeveless dress before you deplane in the tropics), a bra that can be worn in eight configurations, underwear designed for travel, shoes that fold, or skincare/makeup products that come in travel sizes and/or do more than one thing — look for things that mean you can pack less stuff.
4. Use a carry-on and pack lightly. One carry-on per person is usually sufficient for a week-long getaway, especially if you’re going to a warm climate. Packing in carry-on when flying saves time and money.
“It takes a little bit of practice … but everybody can do it, and I’ve been away for much longer than a week and packed everything I need into a carry-on and a personal item,” Traynor said. “At the other end, when you get off the plane, you’re not waiting with hundreds of other people to get all of your stuff off those conveyor belts.”
Another bonus? You’ll save the $25-35 extra charge per suitcase that most airlines charge.
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5. Enough with the shoes. People tend to take too many shoes on vacation. Limit yourself to three pairs max (e.g. running shoes, heels, sandals) and choose after you’ve edited your outfits. Same goes for your little ones.
“Kids do not need more than three pairs of shoes, and wear your heaviest pair on the plane if you want to save a little bit of extra room,” Traynor said.
Finally, if we are talking about several hours on a plane with kids, parents need to consider things to keep their children busy. Colouring and stickers are usually fine for around 15 minutes, but parents may need to bust out an iPad or tablet, too.
Traynor recommends bringing an extra power bank to charge your device in case the plane doesn’t have a charging socket. Also, it’s a good idea to bring child headphones since they usually have a built-in volume limit and are made to fit on smaller heads. The earplugs some airlines offer for a fee won’t always be a good a fit inside little ears.