Packing Hacks: How To Pack For A Family Holiday (Without Taking The Kitchen Sink)

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My name is Katie and I’m an overpacker. I couldn’t admit it for a long time but now I feel like I’m starting to nail packing, I’m coming to accept it.

(On a side note I’m also thrilled to learn via Googling when planning this blog that being an overpacker is an actual thing. I’m not alone in having this affliction. Hooray!)

 

I’ve always found packing off-the-scale stressful, even back in the simpler days when I was only packing for myself. I have recurring packing dreams in the run up to trips. The idea of having packed inadequately – needing something I could have brought and not having it – makes my stomach feel funny, and not in a good way.

 

Now I’m packing for four, and ‘spare time’ is a term so unfamiliar it may as well be in a foreign language, I’ve tried (and failed at) a bunch of things that had the promise to make packing less of an ordeal.

 

The last of these was Packing Well In Advance, which promised to at least take some of the heat out of the dreaded ‘evening before any big trip’ where I panic pack into the early hours. While relatively easy to do, this backfired for me when my inner overpacker started making normal, rational me doubt what I had and hadn’t already packed. I had started packing so far in advance that I ended up tearing the house apart at midnight the night before we flew looking for a rabbit comforter when it turned out I had packed the spare one the weekend before and forgotten all about it.

 

After this incident, I discovered Excel packing spreadsheet templates exist. Life made. I spent three pleasing and cathartic hours creating a master list (complete with tick boxes to prove to my inner-overpacker self that things have indeed been packed). It has sections for different types of trips – warm weather, winter, UK, self-catering. It’s changed my world. We spent three weeks in Italy and Spain recently and at no point did I get the nagging feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment in myself (I know this sounds crazy) of wishing we had something I had forgotten to pack.

 

pin packing hacks

 

As the babies grow the spreadsheet must evolve though. And while packing may be a calmer process the overpacking still needs work. So, I asked Mummy’s Gin Funders for their packing list hacks – here are their top tips:

 

Babies and toddlers

  • Gro Anywhere Blackout Blinds work wonders for little kids used to sleeping in very dark rooms, same goes for buggy snooze shades
  • Stickers and colouring pencils/crayons/pens can save a meal out when babies and toddlers get tetchy
  • A large muslin can double/triple/quadruple up as a myriad of things when travelling with a baby – from car window sun shade to towel to make-shift sun hat to mosquito net!
  • Swim nappies – they’re not widely available in lots of countries. But you don’t need that many as they dry quickly and are generally reusable (if not soiled!)
  • Cheap pound shop paddling pool for babies – put it in the shade under an umbrella and they can splash away
  • Stash of cheap toys and books wrapped as presents to produce at meltdown moments
  • Several books so you can keep them on rotation
  • UPF sunsuits for when swimming costumes are wet, or you just can’t cope with applying sun cream yet again
  • Talcum powder – it gets sand off easily

 

Kids

  • Carry a pen and paper – kids can play games, write letters and generally entertain themselves during some down time
  • Aerosol sun cream saves a lot of faff when you’re applying it to numerous bodies several times a day
  • iPad and headphones – a winner for keeping kids of all ages entertained whilst away (download in advance as lots of TV services like iPlayer and Amazon Prime don’t work outside of the UK)
  • A handful of Lego, a few men and a small vehicle in a little box
  • Games like Dobble, UNO and Happy Families
  • Squash to add to water to limit fizzy drinks
  • Where’s Wally and other books of that ilk can distract and occupy in challenging times

 

General hacks

  • Take your own water bottles – saves an absolute fortune buying bottles of water everywhere you go
  • Take a mini first aid kit with things like paracetamol, cough mixture, dioralyte, anti-histamine, plasters, insect bite cream, savlon, etc. No one wants to be walking the streets looking for a chemist in the middle of the night
  • Travel towels and even sarongs are great space-savers if you don’t have room for beach towels
  • Packing cubes have revolutionised my suitcase – you can fit a bit more in (they compress clothes) but mainly it means everything is organised so you’re not sorting through a million bits to find a sock!
  • Tupperware boxes for snacks smuggled from the breakfast buffet
  • A pack of sealable medium food freezer bags – useful for isolating yucky/dirty stuff from the rest of your packing
  • A reusable cup with a lid and straw to use in an all-inclusive – stops the mozzies!
  • You can do an online order with Boots to pick up at the airport after you’ve checked your bags and gone through security – helps you bypass luggage and liquid allowances so great for nappies, toiletries and food
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Katie is on a quest to bring all the things she is in her working life (organised, timely, well respected, listened to!) to her world beyond the office. So far, it's not working. Two children in and she has yet to get to a baby class before the first song has finished and her preschooler specialises in advanced selective hearing. And these are the least of her worries. Subjects she gets cross about on Twitter (@katie__holl) include, but are not limited to: toddlers, early gender stereotyping, and retailers seeing maternity and nursing clothes as a single category (she mans - womans? - the Can I Breastfeed In It Pinterest pinterest.co.uk/cibiiuk). She is obsessed with interior design hacks she'll never have time to implement, cake in all its wondrous guises and clothes with pockets.

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