When getting ready for a trip, there are so many things to remember! Here are the things that make my mental to do list, in addition to packing my suitcase.
Taking care of food at home
Before we leave, and especially if we’re going to be gone for more than a few days, I try to use up as much of our perishable food as possible. There are a few ways to go about this.
Eat it. This is the easiest one – just eat up as much as possible, even if that means having some weird leftover combo meals at the end.
Preserve it. This might mean prepping foods, like chopping onions for the freezer, making apple pie filling mix or applesauce with extra apples, or turning odds and ends of fruit into smoothie packs. My preferred method is freezing things, because that’s the easiest, but canning and dehydrating are options too.
Last day is the “eat whatever is left” meal plan. On one of our more recent trips, our dinner the night before we left was “roasted everything that was left” (potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicken, onion, pepper). It was a combination of a few recipes I normally make. We also have a leftovers buffet sometimes if we have several different meals in the fridge.
Food for during the trip
Snacks bag. I pack a reusable grocery bag with packaged and bagged up snacks that are easy to hand out in the car. I’ll also pack some small bowls or containers to pass out larger snacks, like trail mix or crackers. Nothing too messy, and some special treats for the road.
Hotel breakfasts or bring along muffins/granola. We try to find hotels that offer breakfasts, but if they don’t or if I’m not sure if they’ll have gluten free options, I’ll also make a batch of muffins or granola and bring those along. We can also eat these for snacks if we end up having plenty of breakfast options.
Grocery store lunches. Feeding our family at a restaurant adds up fast, so we like to do grocery store lunches. We’ll buy a bag of rolls, some deli meat and cheese, and a bag of chips, plus we let each kid pick a piece of fruit, and we have an easy picnic lunch. We also sometimes just do lunchables for the kids and packaged salads for the adults. It depends on what we can find. Either way, the grocery store lunch saves us a ton of money and we get to have a fun little picnic mid-road trip.
One restaurant meal per day. When we’re traveling, we usually plan on eating out for one meal per day. Again, this keeps our costs low, but still gives us a chance to enjoy some yummy vacation food. I try to look ahead of time to find gluten free options.
Food for after the trip
You’ve finally made it home, and started unloading everyone’s suitcases and dirty laundry. You open the fridge and…nothing’s there, because you used it all up before you left. Do you really want to go grocery shopping?
I try to have one day’s worth of meals available for when we get back. My usual is a batch of chicken fajitas in the freezer for dinner, which I’ll serve over rice if we didn’t have tortillas that could make it that long (although you can freeze those too). For breakfast, we can make oatmeal, and for lunch, tomato soup (mostly pantry staples, plus onion and carrots I froze before the trip). It’s super simple food, but it gives me some breathing room before I have to go to the store.
Food is my biggest thing to consider before a trip, but I also try to get a few fun things ready for the kids to do in the car.
For our big road trip last summer, I got the kids each a clipboard, and new markers and crayons. I printed coloring pages, as well as grabbed coloring books and mad libs. New colors are always exciting, and the clipboards give them a hard surface to color on.
They also bring a stuffed animal and a toy or two in their own backpacks, and a favorite book or two. If they have any extra space in there, they can pick a few smaller items, but in general that’s what we go with.
We also have the ability to play movies in one of our minivans, so we do have that as an option, but we try to hold off on that until the afternoon so that we’re not just defaulting to screens all day.
All the Little Things
Aside from that, there are a few little things to consider before a trip. Do you need to hold mail? If you’re going to be gone more than a few days, you might. Do you need to refill prescriptions, return library books, or pay bills before you leave? Do you have any business stuff to work ahead on so you can relax on vacation? These may not all apply to you, but they’re things to consider before travel.
Large family tip: if you need to find hotel rooms that fit a whole bunch of people in one room, try Six Suitcase Travel. They list hotels that have larger rooms/suites for 6+ people and we’ve always been able to find enough beds and sofas to sleep on in one room for our family of seven.
Packing the Suitcases
I let my kids have some say in which clothes they bring, but I’m the one who currently does the packing. I have the kids bring me a certain number of items at a time (5 shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, your swimsuit), and stack them on my bed. Each kid has a gallon ziploc bag for their socks and undies, which keeps them easier to find. Once I have everyone’s clothes, I pack the biggest suitcase we own, and so far, everything fits. If we have the option of doing laundry where we’re going, I’ll pack enough to get us through half of the trip.
The night before we leave, the kids pack backpacks and put their clothes on the couch for travel day. They’re so excited to get going, and this gives them a place to put their things so they’re all ready. It’s kind of like finding their Christmas stockings on the couch on Christmas morning. They’re seriously that excited!
By that time, I’m excited too, because I have everything ready to go at home so we can have a fun vacation.