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It’s hard enough to keep your family organized at home. Hitting the road makes it even more challenging when you add in frequent stops, hotel stays and nonstop activities. But with a little pre-planning and a few family-tested tips, you can keep the chaos to a minimum. Here’s what to bring on your next vacation, what to leave at home and how to pack up the family roadster to help ensure smooth travels.

RELATED: 6 family-friendly trips to take over Memorial Day

Pack with a Minimalist Mindset

Waiting until the last minute to pack is a surefire way to forget something important like clean underwear or the charger for your phone. You’re also more likely to over pack, so get started as early as possible.

One week or more before departure, start a “Don’t Forget to Pack” list and add to it as you think of things, including anything needed for planned activities. Check the weather forecast for your destination before packing and double-check it again the day before.
Bring clothing that is versatile. Select outfits that you can dress up or down and layer, as well as separates that you can wear as part of more than one outfit. Leave behind clothes you never wear at home; you probably won’t wear them on vacation, either. You should also leave valuable jewelry at home as a safety precaution.

Here’s a nifty trick for packing children’s clothing: Assemble small bundles that make up a complete outfit. If your children are very small, you can place each outfit inside a gallon-sized re-sealable bag and write your child’s name on it.

Organize the Junk in the Trunk

Whether you’re hitting the road in a minivan, SUV or sedan, you’re going to need plenty of room for suitcases and other gear. Clean out your trunk before loading it up for your vacation.

Just because you can bring more when traveling by car doesn’t mean you should. Consider limiting each family member to one suitcase for clothing. What else will you be bringing along? A cooler, perhaps? Beach gear? Bicycle helmets? Organize all these extras in cube storage baskets with handles that make it easy to grab and go. Or, invest in a folding car trunk organizer—a handy item to have for both vacation and everyday use.

ALSO: Fuel your trip with Orbitz Rewards—it’s free to join!

BYO Food and Beverages

The cost of eating out quickly adds up. A big advantage to taking a road trip with your family versus flying is that you can save hundreds of dollars over the course of your vacation by bringing some of your own food and beverages or purchasing them from a supermarket at your destination.

Bringing food and drinks not only saves money, but it’s also far more convenient to reach into a bag or cooler for a snack or cold drink than to stop at a restaurant along the drive. Consider packing cereals, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, veggies, nuts, granola bars and even microwave popcorn. Keep prepackaged and non-refrigerated snacks in a small, open storage bin in the backseat for easy access in the car. You can easily grab the bin and take it with you when you head into your hotel.

Be Prepared

Pack a small first aid kit just in case. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen, aloe vera (to treat the inevitable sunburn) and mosquito repellent. Reusable shopping bags double as beach bags and dirty laundry bags. If you plan to do laundry while you’re away, fill a small plastic zippered bag with detergent pods and another with fabric dryer sheets and toss it in your luggage.

While GPS will get you where you’re going, a paper map makes it easier to plan your entire route. Free mapping services are available to AAA and other automobile club members. The other option is to buy a good road map and use a highlighting pen to mark your intended route. Plus, paper maps often point out picnic areas and rest stops you otherwise might have missed.
Happy travels!

Author of several best-selling books on decluttering Donna Smallin Kuper is a professional organizer who writes for The Home Depot. Donna will help you organize your car in preparation for a long road trip, by using organizing accessories such as storage cubes and plastic bags.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Family, Types of Travel

Donna Smallin Kuper | Home Depot

Donna Smallin Kuper | Home Depot

Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper is the author of a dozen best-selling books on uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and simplifying life. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna is often quoted by the media, in Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple and Woman's Day.

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