Packing for a Family

This weekend we are going to visit Glenn’s grandparents. They live 4 hours away in Wisconsin so we will be spending Saturday night in a hotel. Packing for one night in a hotel used to take 5 minutes. Basically, some PJs and a toothbrush and you would be fine. Packing for one night in a hotel with a toddler is much different. All of Glenn’s family lives in Wisconsin and his family cabin is in Wisconsin so we do a decent amount of weekend travel.


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Can any other moms relate?

For Blake I like to use the mentality of “it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it” however I also don’t want to bring the entire contents of his room. The way I can do this without losing my mind is with packing lists. Now I know that doesn’t seem like a revolutionary idea, and it’s not. But for me, it’s a lifesaver and helps me not forget things.

I use OneNote to organize my life, so of course, I keep my packing lists in OneNote. I have been using this process for my own packing lists before Blake was born so I had some time to perfect the method to work for me. I keep Blake and my packing lists separately.

Here is the process I used to make Blake’s packing lists. Yes, I said lists, plural, but trust me. It’s worth it.

First I make a master packing list. Anything I could ever need on a trip for Blake. I googled packing list templates from mom experts, used my own master packing list and walking through our morning and evening routines in my head. I split up my list into categories to make it easier to use. I also add to this list. Every time when we are traveling and we find there is something I need and don’t have I add it to this list.


Once I had the master list I used this most times to pack. With OneNote, you can print the list or just use it on the iPad or iPhone. I do both depending. For this trip since we are only gone one night, I just used my iPad. For longer trips where I pack over a few days, I will usually print it out.

So I am packing using my master list, I just use this as a guide. Obviously going to Wisconsin in February I don’t need sunscreen. But the hotel has a pool so it was nice to have swim stuff on the list to remind me to bring that. I would have been in BIG trouble with a certain toddler if there was a pool and I didn’t bring him a swimsuit.

So I am packing, as I pack things I cross them off the list (duh). When I come to things that we don’t need for that trip I still cross them off. If I am using the list electronically you can just touch the checkbox and it will get checked. Then when I am done I just uncheck them all so I can use the list next time.


I also always have a “pack in the morning” list. So as I am going down my packing list there are things we need until right before we leave like the sound machine or Blake’s blanket. Rather than keeping the whole packing list out and having to search For the unchecked items, I prefer just having a short list of things to pack in the morning. The morning list is also usually a combo of mine, Glenn’s and Blake’s stuff we still need to pack.

I also have a few packing lists for trips we go on a lot. Blake has a cabin and a grandparents house packing list. I have a cabin and a work trip packing list. To make these I make a copy of the master packing list and remove the things I don’t need for that type of trip. When it’s a trip we do a lot it’s nice to have a shorter list, as well as we, know exactly what we need when we go there.


I have a very similar set up for my packing list. I have a master packing list, a cabin packing list, a work trip packing list and one day, if I ever get to go on a relaxing kid-free vacation again I would love to have a vacation packing list.

When I pack for myself I use the same method of packing, crossing everything off even if I don’t pack them and making a morning packing list.

I don’t have many actual suitcase packing tips, mostly because I have tried a bunch of them and most just seem harder than just packing. But I do have a few.

  1. I have a night time bag, basically all the things I want by my bed when traveling. These were the things I was always forgetting so this helps me not forget as well as it’s easy just to keep it on the nightstand in the hotel. In my bag are chapstick, hand lotion, ear plugs, a travel clock, an eye mask, unisom, my panic attack medication and a hair tie.
  2. Have a first aid kit. Mine is very basic, Advil, Tums, dayquil, nyquil, and band-aids. When traveling with Blake I basically pack out entire medicine cabinet (or so it feels), but when it is just me traveling for businesses I just want to have a few key items. I got this idea from my mom, she always had a first aid kit she brought on our road trips. I can still picture it in its blue Tupperware container. Mine is not that fancy but, A for Effort right?
  3. For work travel I always make sure to bring:
    1. An umbrella – ever sat in a business meeting with damp clothes, it sucks! Also, if you bring it you won’t need it – that’s a scientific fact, right?
    2. A few safety pins – why do conferences give name badges on lanyards that hang awkwardly right at boob height? Maybe it’s just me but I always pin my lanyard a little shorter so it doesn’t bounce around off my boobs as I walk. I have also used the safety pins to fix more wardrobe malfunctions than I would like to admit, the hem of dress pants, a necklace with a broken clasp, whatever happens on the road usually a safety pin can fix it.
    3. A water bottle – either to bring with you during the day to a conference or to keep water cold in the hotel room. I hate warm water so I usually bring a water bottle that keeps water cold for a long time. I can then fill it up with ice and water to keep in my room. For some reason, drinking water from the hotel sink freaks me out.
    4. A cardigan that matches all of my outfits – usually a black one. You could be at a conference in Arizona in July and they will still keep the conference rooms at 45 degrees.
  4. A charger pack. I stole this idea from my mom too. I usually remember my apple charger which works for my phone and iPad but I can’t tell you how many times my Kindle or Apple watch have died and I have been stuck without a charger. I have a little bag with each of these chargers as well as a USB wall adapter.

Hopefully, this will help making packing a little less painful. I am also willing to come and pack for anyone, I just require that you then bring me on vacation with you!



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