Easily the worst part of a family outdoor adventure is getting the kids and all the gear out of the house and on the road early enough to see daylight when you get there.
It gets easier as the children get older, but not much. Sorry to say, I’ve arrived at a destination only to turn back because we had everything we needed but one of the kids forgot to put on shoes. Argh!
Our level of preparation varies according to the type of trip, and the age of the children. When the kids were younger, I didn’t have to pack much because I always kept the car stocked with snacks, drinks, paper towels, diaper wipes, a first aid kit, books, coloring supplies, clothes and footwear suitable for changing weather, and blankets. Now, I’ve reduced the official car inventory to just the first aid kit.
This means that for an outdoor day trip, we all have to pitch in to pack everything we need. I’ve found that the easiest, most efficient way to help the kids get packed is to provide them with a packing list.
One major time saver is to type up a generic packing list that you can customize like this ski trip packing list. When we have to pack for a long road trip, or activities that require specific gear, I just print out a list for each child and let them do their own packing. Of course, with the younger child, I still double check that all the items make it into the bag.
Myrna, of Tangerine Times, also recommends keeping gear bags packed and ready to go. Our family has multiple gear bags, tailored for the sport du jour such as fencing, but we each have one basic bag per season.
During the winter, we each have a ski bag that carries our accessories for most cold weather sports, including snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and outdoor ice skating. The actual sports equipment is stored separately as it doesn’t fit into these bags. However, these are also hung with the gear bags on the garage walls, ready to go. Also, the coats, pants, and snow boots get worn daily so they are kept in the mud room.
The rest of the year, we replace the ski bags with hiking backpacks and mesh totes that hold swim gear.
Unofficially, a lot of our gear resides in a jumble in the back of my car, but at least the kids are no longer forgetting their shoes.
Sandra Foyt | Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @SandraFoyt.