The Unmumsy Mum – A Guide to Holiday Packing

As someone who is generally rather disorganised when it comes to family planning (I’m talking about the coordination of our family’s schedule here, not our contraceptive choices), I have certainly been forced to up my game on the holiday packing front.

At home, I rarely find myself panicking that I have forgotten to pack crucial items for a trip to the park or a morning at soft play because I can always pop back to pick up some baby wipes or nip into the nearest shop for an emergency snack. The same cannot be said on holiday where there are a great many things you simply cannot ‘pop back’ for when you’ve just touched down in another country.

I will most certainly forget something crucial, like Stinky Pig-Pig

When gearing up for our holiday, I can’t help but imagine the horror of settling into our seats on the plane only to realise with a creeping sense of dread that Stinky Pig-Pig, our toddler’s favourite soft toy, is about to be left one thousand miles behind on the kitchen counter. I am aware that writing this blog is probably the biggest jinx ever and that now I’ve claimed to be uncharacteristically efficient at holiday packing I will almost certainly forget something crucial, like Stinky Pig-Pig or one of my children, the next time we jet off somewhere, but I’ve decided to risk it.

Don’t forget bedtime nappies

I am not about to tell you how you should pack for a family holiday because a) all families are different, and, b) it would be incredibly patronising of me to offer a ‘how-to guide’ when I am sure most people are far more capable than I am at putting things in a suitcase (although a word to my husband, if you’re reading this: it does help to either fold or roll the items of clothing before they go in the suitcase as the stuff-it-all-in ‘bargain bin’ approach does essentially reduce our total outfit quota). Instead, I’m simply going to tell you how I pack for our family holidays and hope that this isn’t the single most boring piece of online content you’ve ever read. If you read no further than here, don’t forget bedtime nappies (if you have a child who is out of nappies in the day but still wears a pull-up nappy at night) as these pant/nappy hybrids are not readily available in all foreign supermarkets.

Divide up each family member’s clothing between several cases 

There is something my mum used to do when packing our family’s suitcases that became so ‘the norm’ for us growing up that I just assumed every family did the same. Chats with my husband and other parents more recently, however, have informed me that this isn’t necessarily the case yet I still can’t consider going on holiday without doing it! So, every time we have suitcases to be checked in as hold baggage, I divide up each family member’s clothing between several cases. If we are checking in four cases, for example, I’ll pack each of those cases to include a number of essential garments for each family member.

I think my mum must have had a fear of luggage going missing and perhaps dividing up all our items across several cases was the only way to maintain some control. Whatever her reasoning it makes sense, I think, because if we were to lose an entire case or even two cases at the other end we would still have an outfit or two each. I’m sure my husband thinks I take it too far when I start splitting up our swimwear, the aforementioned bedtime nappies and all essential toiletries between cases but I can tell you now the day one of our cases doesn’t show up on the baggage reclaim carousel I’ll be wearing my finest I-told-you-so face.

Start by writing a ‘to pack’ list 

Before dividing up all our gear, I start by writing a ‘to pack’ list which I chop into sections to include those items that need to be kept out for our hand luggage or day bags. The hand luggage list first and foremost includes the important holiday docs we’ll need to travel and though I’m pretty sure passports are the first thing people double-check when they’re heading out the front door at stupid o’clock, it’s easy to overlook some of the other stuff (hands held up we were that family who hadn’t checked in online and printed boarding passes when we went to France with the airline who sound a bit like Bryan Hair, which resulted in us incurring additional charges, so don’t do that!).

Fully charged electronic devices

Other useful stuff we always consider printing/packing/making a note of includes our holiday insurance policy details, our European Health Insurance cards (where applicable) and our driving license/s for car hire. After these docs, the next most important hand luggage items are all those things that will keep the children happy/quiet on the plane (magazines, books, snacks and fully charged electronic devices).

You can never pack too much sun-cream!

I like to highlight and double-underline any items that we simply could not live without for a week: contact lenses and glasses, Stinky Pig-Pig, any current medication etc. Clothes are generally the one thing I don’t spend ages agonising over because I always think that as long as we have a few changes of outfit each, including layers to cater for any unexpected changes in the weather, that we’ll probably be all right. If we’re heading somewhere hot the boys’ clothes can easily be washed in the sink and hung out to dry on the balcony, too (a small packet of washing powder is never a bad idea).

The holidays we have been on so far have taught us that we can never pack too much sun-cream (though if you’re happy to pay over the odds for it when you’re there it is usually readily available). We’ve also found that a lightweight beach bag to take to and from the pool, ideally with a zip compartment inside to store the room key, is useful, as is a bin liner or laundry bag to keep the dirty washing separate from any clean clothes we don’t get around to wearing. (And yes, I do divide up each of our dirty washing piles between the cases on the way back, old habits die hard).

I’ve realised while writing this post that I actually quite enjoy packing for holiday and the associated order it requires. If only I could roll out the same level of organisation to the other areas of family life, eh?

Click here to read more invaluable holiday advice from The Unmumsy Mum

Click here for a complete baby and toddler holiday packing list

Sarah Turner
Sarah Turner

Sarah Turner aka Unmumsy Mum is a wonderful friend, Sunday Times bestselling author, blogger, freelance writer and inspiring mum of three boys; Henry, Jude and Wilf.

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