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Vacay Packing List

Summer has officially started, and vacations are looming large. The perfect summer vacay for me includes beach time, cocktails on a deck, hiking, breweries, and outlet shopping. And, of course, lots and lots of shellfish. But, before any vacation, there is the stress and dread of packing. As a mom, I’m not just packing for myself; I usually pack for my girls, and car snacks, and activities, and groceries, maybe a cooler with essentials, plus swimming gear. It’s a lot. So, for this year’s trip, I made packing categories to help organize myself and avoid becoming overwhelmed. The whole “eat the elephant one bite at a time” approach.

First up, swimsuits. This category includes bathing suits, sandals and water shoes, hats and sunglasses, a few pool toys and flotation devices, and sunscreen and cover-ups. And don’t forget towels. For beach trips, this requires multiples of some items. I like to go for two suits per person minimum when visiting the shore. For only one or two planned pool days, one of each for everyone is sufficient; however, I am a fan of packing backups just in case. You may also have to make some new purchases from this list, in fact any of these lists, as kids’ feet just keep growing. Of course, if swimming is not on your itinerary, you can skip the majority of the items in this grouping. However, I question your judgment. How can swimming not be part of a summer vacation?

Next up, sleep and loungewear. These can be interchangeable as we often tend to sleep in sweats about as much as we hang around the house in PJs. These clothes are also what you’ll wear to the continental breakfast or even a morning stroll to a market or around the campfire. I like the idea of setting aside certain casual wear pieces specifically for travel versus packing my everyday items. For example, I have a matching pajama set I usually only wear on vacation. For kids, I try to pack their least-worn-looking nighties and sweatshirts. The idea is comfortable but still somewhat presentable.

On the flip side is activewear. I don’t just mean workout clothes in this category, but street clothes or what you’ll wear when you’re out and about. This can consist of standard shorts and t-shirts, as well as activity-specific pieces, like sun-protective clothing or matching T-shirts for the family reunion. You’ll want to aim for as much functionality as fits your trip. For hotter climates, which, let’s face it, is all climates here lately, pack sweat-wicking, lighter-colored fabrics with loose weaves to reflect the heat. If you’re sightseeing, pack proper shoes and durable socks for everyone. Pack layer-able pieces for chilly AC if you’ll be in and out of museums, stores, or cafes. If you’ll be in the mountains, pack outerwear and such.

All of the above categories are based on practicality, but what is a summer getaway without some flights of fancy? For that, we have the “vacation clothes” category. These are the fun clothes you may have impulsively bought just in case you might go somewhere someday. Think a tropical-print caftan for Hilton Head, a sparkly skirt for Las Vegas, and that backless jumpsuit for a girls’ trip. I have a particular pine tree-printed sweatshirt that I basically only wear when I visit Colorado. These are the clothes with themes or may be a bit out of the ordinary. Basically, these are the clothes to have fun in. Definitely group dressy clothes here for any dinner dates or if your trip includes a fancy event like a wedding or class reunion.

The next category gets down to the nitty-gritty and always trips me up. Toiletries and sundries. It’s always the small things that cause the most stress. There are the basics like shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, soaps, toothpaste/toothbrush, and those usually have travel-size options that may already live in pockets of your luggage. For our family, we also include body lotion and detangling spray in our list of basics. Then there are medication, prescriptions, of course, and things handy to have, like Tylenol for headaches, cold medicine for sniffles, MiraLAX for you know what, Pepto Bismal for the other, you know what. I’m always worried about going overboard and, at the same time, not sufficiently anticipating follies. It really depends on your trip. Obviously, it’s smart to bring calamine lotion if you’ll be in the woods and Dramamine if you’ll be on the ocean.

After medication comes makeup. Vacation makeup should be as minimal as possible. Unless you’re attending a wedding or trying to make a former classmate jealous, keep the ultra-glam at home. You’ll likely not run into anyone you know, so a standard “5-minute” face is all that is needed. However, even though you’re escaping the humdrum of your day-to-day life, you still want to pack all of your daily skincare products. Again, depending on your destination, you may want to throw in a few hydrating sheet masks or hair serums to prevent damage from the sun, sand, sea, or chlorine.

The next two categories are foods and activities. These have sub-sections like snacks, drinks, premade meals, ingredients, etc. For activities, this can include everything from books to crafts, to stuffies to gear like tents and kayaks. For the gear of it all, I leave that to my husband, and we split up the food category. Activities are where the girls contribute the most, deciding for themselves how they want to be entertained.

Lastly, technology. Chargers, tablets, e-readers, phones, earbuds, etc. Again, I leave this to my husband; I just make sure to have my own devices in order. Most of the time, this is what works for my family and me, but it’s still a big stressor prepping for vacation. I usually end up running back and forth to the car with last-minute items right up until we leave. Wherever you’re headed, here’s to safe travels and all that is necessary getting packed.