My #1 Secret to Taking Last Minute Getaways with My Family of Five

HOW TO PACK YOUR KIDS FOR A VACATION IN MINUTES (AND STILL HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED!)

After several newsletters about important topics like maximizing your workday, getting a grip on email stress, and making more time for your family, I thought it was time to write about something a little more fun, TRAVEL! 

A little background about me and travel - it is my favorite thing in the world! It’s why I work. I’m constantly planning the next adventure and no day is more exciting than when my new issue of Travel and Leisure arrives in my mailbox. For me, travel has been far greater an education than anything I’ve received formally. 

To be honest, I worried about how having children would affect traveling for Brian and me. If I don’t have a wedding on a weekend, quite often we like to go on a little getaway. We don’t go anyplace too far or too expensive, just a couple hours away, a little escape. I remember the first time we decided to do this with Stella and how incredibly long it took me to pack for her. Then, I had the boys and suddenly a night away required a lot of packing. I didn’t want to lose our sense of adventure and I didn’t want to give into the “it’s just too hard to do right now with the kids being so little” mentality, so I figured out how to make traveling with the kids (whether the getaway is pre planned or spur of the moment) manageable, therefore, more doable!

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Just like with my work, when something takes way longer than I think it should, I create a system to streamline the process.  Packing for my children for a getaway took exponentially longer than I thought it should, so I came up with a system to make it easier.  Now my family and I are able to go on last-minute getaways because it only takes me minutes to pack.  Here's what I do:

  1. Duffel bag:  I purchased a duffel bag for each kid. (You can see in the first image on this post the actual bags I use for each of my kids.  They come in lots of different colors and patterns.  Here is a link!) Duffel bags are great for travel because they are lightweight, easy to carry, and I can access all the items in it easily. They are perfect for road trips, weekend getaways, and over-nighters.
    Another tip:  When we all fly somewhere together I use one suitcase to pack all three duffel bags in, allowing me to check on one bag vs. three.

  2. Toiletry bag:  In addition to the duffel bag. I also purchased a toiletry bag for each kid. (Here's a link!) I went to the drugstore and made a one-time purchase to stock each individual toiletry bag with items they would need on an overnight trip. I purchased THREE of the following items:  

    • Travel size shampoo

    • Travel size soap

    • Travel size toothpaste

    • Toothbrush

    • Hair brush

    • Tylenol

    • Cough medicine

    • Bandaids

    • A couple of bath toys (bath crayons are a huge hit with my kids and they don’t take up a lot of space!)

    • Ponytail holders (for Stella’s bag)

  3. Wet/Dry bag:  Finally, I purchased a wet/dry bag, such a convenient little pouch! (Here's a link!).  Here’s what I keep stocked in it:

For Stella

  • Underwear

  • Pull-ups

  • Wipes

  • A swimsuit (don’t we all remember the joys of a hotel pool as a child?!)

For Perry + Zeke:

  • Diapers

  • Wipes

  • A swimsuit

  • Swim diapers

What’s inside each duffel bag:

  • The fully stocked toiletry bag

  • The wet/dry bag (packed and ready!)

  • A t shirt (can be used as a swim cover up OR as backup pajamas)

  • Flip flops (super cheap ones that can be used to wear to the pool, if needed)

  • Two sets of pajamas (because whether the trip is long or short, I can make it work with two sets of pajamas)

  • Two pair of socks

  • Two gallon ziploc bags

  • Two quart ziplock bags (I was given this genius travel packing tip about 15 years ago and now I don’t go anywhere without ziplock bags. You have no idea why at the time, but there is always a reason why you need a ziplock bag when you’re away and I’m always thankful I have them!)

I keep each duffel bag packed and ready to go in each of their closets with the above items in it. Then, when it’s time to pack for a trip, I only have to pack three things:  clothes, shoes, and their lovey (the little comfort item they sleep with).

Whether one or all three children are staying with grandma, we decide to take a last minute overnight getaway, or we are going on a week long vacation, packing is now much more enjoyable. I went from spending hours packing all the kids bags to now spending only a few minutes. I’m all about what I can do now to make the future easier. This simple system took me one afternoon to prep. It cost me a little money to get the toiletry bags stocked, but it was well worth it! This simple system has allowed our family of five to fully enjoy more time away without all the hassle and stress of packing.

PS - I love this process so much! I would often find myself saying, “I need to do this for myself!” A couple months ago I celebrated a birthday and my husband gave me a beautiful duffel bag.   It's now in my closet with a stocked toiletry bag and a few other essentials, ready for the next adventure!

What do you do to incorporate travel into yours and your children's lives?  Do you have any tips on making traveling with kids more streamlined? I'd love to hear your ideas/thoughts in the comment section below! 

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Welcome to the blog

Hi! I'm Jessica Zimmerman, top wedding planner and floral designer.

Born and raised in Arkansas, I’m a proud wife and mama to a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twin boys. A true believer in freedom, flexibility (and of course, incredible flowers), I’m wholly devoted to creating a life I love to live every single day–not just on the weekends. From travel to business to weddings, this blog is full of features designed to inspire other busy mamas (and businesswomen) to make a living from their passion without giving up their lives.

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