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Stress-free vacation packing

Nina Spitzer is a SheKnows.com columnist and a freelance writer living in sunny Cave Creek, Arizona.

Vacation packing checklist

The "P" word is a dirty word at our house. The "P" word is" "Packing!" Inevitably, I always wait until the last minute to begin this dreaded chore. You too? Here's a few tips to make packing for the next vacation stress-free!

Woman with Luggage

Over the years, my husband has learned the sight of me dragging out the suitcase is his cue to split. During the ordeal that takes a couple of hours, I try on a variety of clothes to see which I like better and what goes with what. All sorts of tops, shorts, slacks, dresses and shoes spew from my closet into and onto every corner of the bedroom. It's not a pretty sight! 

I hate packing. It's hard enough deciding what I want to wear today, let alone what I want to wear for the next two weeks.

For my husband, on the other hand, packing is a ten-minute side-bar of tossing three t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, and some underwear (oh, yes, and a swimsuit) into a duffel bag along with his sundry kit. This is the same whether we're headed out for the weekend or three weeks in Europe. Is there something wrong with this picture or is it the Mars/Venus thing?

Making a vacation checklist

Start by creating a master list that can work with any vacation. After all, camping, drive trip, ski trip, beach vacation, all require the same basics. Save your list on your home computer so it will be ready to print off the next time you need it. 

No matter where you go, your master list will probably require the following sub-lists:

  • Personal Items (make-up, sundries, hair products, prescriptions)
    Pack just essentials. Anything you might forget can be purchased at the other end. Use Ziploc bags, just in case items open in flight.
  • Clothes
    Check online for the anticipated seasonal weather for the vacation spot. "Mix and match" tops and bottoms for easier packing and more outfit flexibility.
  • Shoes
    Shoes kill space, so pack as few as possible. Pack each pair in a recycled grocery bag so as not to soil other clothes.
  • Accessories  (jewelry, belts, purses, scarves)
    Go with basic "Mix and match" and try to take only costume jewelry. Expensive bling may disappear, no matter how secure the hotel may seem.
  • Office supplies (guidebooks, maps, pens, paperbacks, magazines)
    These can get heavy, so just plan for the absolute necessities.
  • Travel binder (copies of reservations, passports, itinerary, etc)
    Choose a brightly colored 1/2 inch plastic binder to keep the vacation itinerary, along with copies of lodging reservations, passports, car rental reservations, charge card phone numbers and account numbers (in case of loss or theft), addresses for postcards, and other pertinent vacation information. This binder should go in the carry-on bag.
  • Technology (camera, iPod/MP3 player, phone, GPS, etc)
    Be sure to pack the necessary chargers, batteries, cables and power cords for each item. Foreign travel may need a power converter, as well.
  • Special diet foods (gluten free, sugar free, lactose free)
    Only pack food items that cannot be purchased at the destination.
  • Carry-on bag
    Suitcases do get lost. This bag should include all basic items needed for a day or two, including a change of clothes and medications. Also include the travel binder, special diet foods for traveling, maps and guidebooks. Contact lens wearers should remember to toss in a lens container, solution and a pair of eyeglasses.

Items in each sub-list should include a variety of possibilities of what might be packed in that category. Not all items will apply to every type of vacation. When you print off the list, highlight only the items that actually apply to your trip, and then check each off the list once you've pulled them out for packing.

Stress-free Packing Time Line

•    14 days before – Type up the vacation checklist.
•    13 days before – Check online for the anticipated seasonal weather for your vacation spot.
•    12 days before – Start working on the vacation checklist.
•    10 days before – Head to the store for last minute items.
•    7 days before – Launder items needing to be packed.
•    4 days before – Pack any final items on the checklist.
•    2 days before – Done. Congratulations!

On your list, get set, go!

Hopefully, you've stayed true to your goal and everything is packed (stress-free) by a day or two before vacation. What a sigh of relief! You can sit with your feet up and sip a cup of coffee, while your other half runs through his ten minutes packing dance, most likely forget something! Gee, maybe he should have made a checklist!

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International travel with babies and toddlers
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