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10 tips for staying organized before, during, and after vacation

I’m not someone who travels much. This is partly because I’m a homebody, but mostly because vacationing stresses me out. I don’t like to pack, I don’t like living out of a suitcase, and I don’t like making decisions about what to take with me and what to leave at home. Adjusting my housework routines the week before and after (to prep and then play catch up) also brings on some anxious feelings for me.

In the recent months, I’ve set up some systems and purchased some products that have helped me when it comes to packing for a vacation. I still have lots to learn about how to “pack light” but let me share a few things that have helped me to enjoy vacations more. Afterall - getaways should help to relieve stress, NOT bring it on!

(photo credit: TO & FRO BAGS)

Tip #1: Keep all of your luggage together so it can be found in the same place when you’re ready to pack. Items that get used ONLY when you travel should also be kept with your luggage. For example: my neck pillow, packing cubes, and laundry bags stay inside of my luggage. In my family, the older kids that can pack themselves keep their own suitcase/travel bags up high in their closets. My bedroom closet holds my luggage as well as all the bags that get used to pack essentials for the family like towels, sheets, toiletries, etc. - since I am the person that handles that kind of packing.

Tip #2: Store luggage wisely by putting the smaller items inside of the larger items... and if you have travel bags or suitcases that haven’t been used in years ... get rid of them!

Tip #3: Treat your travel products (toiletries) like any other groceries in your home: keep a supply ready for use, and replenish when you’re running low. This way, you’re ready to pack everything you need, without having to run to the store or pack a full-size shampoo & conditioner set (for example).

Tip #4: Keep a list in your computer of the things you always need to pack. As you remember additional items, you can edit the list. Print it out before each trip so you can keep track of everything and make notes as you think of specific items you need for that trip (that you might not need for other trips). I like to print a copy of the packing list for each of my kids that are capable of packing themselves. Having a printed list is nice to look over before loading up the car ... as sometimes we pack the day before a trip but leave toothbrushes, pillows, makeup etc out for use the next morning.

Tip #5: Packing cubes are a necessity for travel. I don’t know how I went so many years without owning a set! They make packing easier, they keep everything organized during your trip (and act as drawers if you don’t have shelves or a dresser at your destination to unload your clothes), and they simplify the unpacking process as well. Anything left in the cubes after your vacation can be unloaded into your dresser drawers or on shelves easily when you get back home. Assuming you have an organized system at home, the packing cubes can act as a temporary / mobile extension of that system! I can live out of categorized packing cubes but I can’t handle digging through a suitcase full of ALL my stuff dumped in together!

Tip #6: If you use several small bags for storing makeup and toiletries, clear bags might simplify your morning and nighttime routines while on vacation. If you've ever found yourself opening up bag after bag to find which one you put your deodorant in, you probably know what I mean. It helps to see what is inside each bag. I like using these zippered vinyl & mesh pouches from The Container Store (and they can actually be used for storing many things besides just toiletries)!

Tip #7: I’ve seen several products made specifically for packing jewelry, but I’ve found that using a pill organizer is my favorite way to store small earrings when I travel.

Tip #8: When scheduling vacation time, I try to leave the day before a vacation and the day after pretty open. I don’t like to fill those days with any appointments or places I have to be. I wash ALL the laundry the day before a trip. I like to get that completely finished before packing my clothes. That way I can pack without having to wait on anything that needs washed or dried. I also get my house as clean as possible (depending on the time I have available) the day before vacation starts. That way, coming home isn’t so bad. I always know that coming home from vacation means loads of laundry - so if my house is clean, and my schedule is clear - I have less reasons to stress! One other thing I typically do on the day after getting back home - is pick up groceries.

My clean laundry room represents ALL laundry being done at once. This usually only happens for me on the day before vacation!

Tip #9: Speaking of groceries, I have a method for that in relation to traveling! When meal planning, I try to plan for eating leftovers and any other perishable foods the last few days before a vacation starts. This cuts down on the amount of produce, bread, or other perishable items I’d have to throw out before leaving home. It also saves me money on groceries that last week before traveling - which is a great way to keep extra money in my bank account for the vacation! As far as coming home to a house without groceries: try to plan for an easy meal that day, using food from your pantry or freezer. I like to meal plan and order my groceries on the drive home from vacations, so that they’re ready for me to pick up later that same day or the following morning. Packing your grocery list in a special place (car glove box, for example) makes it easy to remember what groceries need replenished when you get home.

This is what my fridge looked like a few days before our most recent trip. It looks pretty clean & kind of empty - that's because our meals were made up of food we needed to use up before leaving town for a week.

Tip #10: My last tip for vacation prepping - is to enlist help from your children! The last few “housekeeping” tips I shared are obviously more do-able and practical when family members can chip in and help!

Notice that none of these tips had anything to do with packing light. I still struggle with that one! Any tips YOU can share with me on that topic would be appreciated!


(You can find packing cubes from TO & FRO by visiting their instagram account @toandfrobags)

(picture credit: TO & FRO BAGS)

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