Professional Organizer Allison Weigensberg shares her top organization tips for the challenging “under the sink” space on Montreal’s Global TV.Read More
Do you get completely stressed and anxious during the lead up to an awesome vacation? (FYI, I have both hands up over here!)
While family trips and vacations are meant to help you relax and give you a much needed break from everyday life, the time leading up to that trip can be full of worry and mini (or major) freak outs.
As a mom of three little ones that travels multiple times a year I totally get it. That is why I decided to put together this list of travel and packing tips designed to keep anxiety at bay and allow you to fully enjoy your vacation!
Stop Stressing, You’re Going To Forget Something
While the following tips are meant to help you prepare, you need to take a breath and acknowledge the fact that you will forget something, someone will cry because of it and it also won’t be the end of the world.
Invest In Packing Cubes
This is my number one tip when asked about traveling (solo or with kids). I have never had anyone come back to me and tell me that they regret using packing cubes. They are basically magic little dividers that go into your suitcase and allow you to pack and unpack with ease. Oh, and when you use them roll your clothes. Trust me, it’ll save you space and wrinkles.
Plan For The Unexpected
I always have a change of clothes for myself and the kids in our carry on. I bring enough to get us through a couple of days in case the unthinkable happens and our luggage doesn't make it to the destination. Obviously this depends on where you’re going but for our upcoming beach vacation I would be sure to include: bathing suits, sandals, extra clothes (ESPECIALLY underwear), sun hats, toothbrushes and toothpaste and any daily meds.
Pack An Airplane Go-Bag
I know that your instinct is to bring a million snacks and activities onto the plane to keep you and your children occupied and out of the hangry zone, but in reality once you are sitting in your seat it won’t necessarily be accessible to you. Pack a small kit/bag/packing cube within your carry-on that has only the essentials. Make sure that you can easily keep it at your feet or in the seat pocket in front of you. This way if the seatbelt sign is on for a while you can still get to your stuff. Basically, bring enough to get you through an hour or so with no tears. I will generally use packing cubes and large plastic baggies to organize my carry-on but within that I will set aside one cube/baggie that I will pull out once I am settled on the plane. Typically in mine you would find: my phone, earphones, one magazine OR book, mints or gum, lip balm, hand cream, one snack and water. For my kids: Ipad, headphones, take-off treat (gum or candy), coloring/activity book and a few markers/crayons, water, and a few snacks. I also make sure to have some wipes accessible, both to wipe my kids’ hands and the hard surfaces around us.
Organize Your Cords And Electronics
Our phones and tablets are travel essentials. But they won’t do you much good if your battery dies or you can’t find your headphones. I have this nifty travel case that allows me to make sure that all our chargers are in reach and not tangled. If you don’t have or want a travel case you can use cord ties, or even rubber bands to keep your cords tangle free and then just place them in a clear plastic baggie to keep them together.
Download Before You Go
While we’re on the electronics topic don’t forget to download shows, movies and music to your device before you head out on vacation. I know it seems kind of obvious but you’d be surprised how many people forget and end up killing their data to do it while on the road. I would have some seriously bored (and subsequently annoying) kids if it weren’t for Netflix. We always make sure to download enough movies and shows to get them through the trip.
Keep Travel Documents Together
Nothing will get you a dirty look faster than when you hold up the line of anxious travelers as you search your bags for your airline tickets or passports. Save yourself some stress and pick up a passport holder for you and your family. I keep all of our passports in there, one inside the next, all open to our picture page. I also keep any other necessary ID cards there, along with some money for the airport/taxi, etc, airline tickets and any other relevant travel documentation. This passport holder always goes into the same spot in my travel bag so i don’t have a panic attack about where it went. If you have a hard time remembering which pocket/bag you keep it in say it out loud or tell a travel buddy.
Choose Neutral Colors And Don’t Overpack
I know how tempting it can be to bring every article of clothing you own so that you have choices. But the truth is that you won’t wear even a fraction of it. How many times did you return from a trip only to realize that the majority of what you packed remained untouched?
Choose items that you can mix and match fairly easily and that are easy to re-wear. Unless items are obviously soiled you can wear them a few times between washes. Check out this list from Good Housekeeping:
While we’re chatting about what to pack let’s get realistic about shoes. You DO NOT need a million pairs of shoes, you don’t even need five pairs for that matter. Pack one pair of comfy walking shoes, one pair of dressier shoes (you can even do one pair or flats and heels if you must) and one pair of weather appropriate shoes (winter boots, sandals, rain boots, etc). Shoes are bulky, so pare it down.
Tame Your Toiletries
Do not bring a full sized bottle of shampoo for a weekend getaway. Use travel-sized products or transfer your products into smaller containers. Take a mental note of about how much hair product, face wash, wipes and diapers you use in the weeks leading up to your trip and pack only what you need plus an extra 20% or so. Especially if you can buy what you need at your destination relatively inexpensively if you run out. I have even had clients ship items ahead of time or pre-order from Amazon to their destination.
Make A List (but don’t go nuts)
I don't find it particularly useful to make a detailed list of every item I need to pack. What I do find helpful is to make a note of things that I normally wouldn’t bring on a trip. For instance I won’t write down that I need to pack underwear but I will add pool floatie and goggles as it is not as intuitive for me. I use Anylist as my shopping list already, so I simply make another list for when we travel.
Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute
I like to gather things slowly as I think of them so that I’m not scrambling at the last minute. Try putting a bin or laundry basket aside and filling it with items you need to pack leading up to your trip. This way it’s all in one place and ready to be packed, there's nothing worse than running around the morning of and looking frantically for your stuff!
Be Organized At Your Destination
I never travel without my drawer organizers. But I don’t use them for drawers! I use these magical little boxes to keep toiletries and loose items neat and together in the hotel. They fold down to practically nothing, so are super easy to pack but have amazing structure so can keep everything in place while you travel.
Happy (Organized) Travelling!
Are you looking for more packing and travel resources? Check out the links below
It’s been a little hectic around here lately. Since our return from our yearly family vacation in Mexico my brain has not wanted to switch back into writing mode. To give myself a little jumpstart (and tbh to outsource an item on my very full plate!) I asked my husband to do a guest post on what an absolute joy it must be to live with me! So read on as Ben makes his writing debut on my blog and gives a little insight into how a marriage between organization and disorganization works (and I swear I only edited it for grammar and spelling!)
Allison and I met during my second year at University of Toronto. I was 19 and at the absolute height of man-cave, could-not-care-less-about-my-appearance (or-my-surroundings) pre-adulthood. Her new roommate was a friend of mine, so she came over to meet me and my other (equally-grimy) roommates. I had not shaved in a week and we literally had Maxim pictures taped to the wall as decoration. The kitchen was piled high with dirty dishes and I used an unzipped sleeping bag as a comforter. What I’m trying to say is that I was an obvious catch.
Jokes aside if you have followed my wife’s writing at all you would know this does not sound like the beginning of a life-long love story. Yet something drew us to each other and ever since we’ve had a push and pull between her organized ways and my well-meaning but less than stellar abilities in that area. Twelve years and three kids later I continue to do my best to think like she does, but it can be a struggle.
This is why I think the job of a Professional Organizer is so important. She has been able to implement processes in our house that I can actually follow and that have improved both the organization of our household and our ability to interact as a couple.
That said, in this post I wanted to talk a little bit about how the DISorganized mind can benefit from this mindset and how her suggestions help clarify things for me even when I don’t get it 100 percent right.
One of the reasons Allison started her business stemmed from a common argument we were having a few years ago. I don't remember the specific issue but it is not really relevant. I suspect it was because I had taken something (like the salad spinner) out and didn’t put it back in the right place. For my disorganized mind, I just didn’t remember where I had taken it from and found some spot where it seemed to fit. Her organized mind couldn’t understand how I had forgotten where something went that I had just used a few minutes earlier (fair!). In the course of the dispute I said something to the effect of “You have to understand not everyone’s mind works this way.” This is true. I don’t walk into a room and see the things that are out of place. If it is actively MESSY I will notice this but if a pan is not with the other pans it won’t bother me. The thing is, I’ve learned that my life is easier when everything IS in place (wink,wink).
This is where my wife’s strategies have been incredibly effective. To use just one example of many; for years our tupperware drawer was a disaster. Mostly because I’m the one who usually cleans up after supper and I wouldn’t take care to “put like with like”. Allison took some time to set up the lids in a dish rack and put round, square and rectangular containers together. This made sense to me and was easy to follow. Now when I clean up from supper I don’t waste ten minutes trying to find the right lid for the container I need.
Slowly but surely I was able to see things that could be organized better. Even if I don’t know the best strategy I can make a suggestion and set her loose (one of the side-benefits of being married to a Professional Organizer is free organization. I pay her back by folding laundry and taking the kids to daycare).
I would by no means be able to move into the industry myself. My mind still doesn 't (and probably will never) fully work this way. But the benefits are real even for those who didn’t think it is important or thought they would never be able to maintain it. Allison has labelled so many bins and shelves in our house and I find it a relief, because I would genuinely stress if I didn’t know where something went. Now I know if I screw it up, it is clearly on me.
I bring other things to the table in our relationship and as with all things my conversion to organization is a work-in-progress. However the strategies she has written about and implemented in our household have had a real tangible benefit in our relationship and life in general.
As seen in Huffington Post
I love, love, love the holiday season, but I do not enjoy all the additional stuff it brings into my home. If you’re looking to spread the holiday cheer without adding clutter I put together some great alternatives to traditional gifts that you can find here.
However, if you are past that point and know that you, your kids, your dog and your gerbil will be receiving an insane amount of presents this year, you’re going to need a strategy to deal with all of those things without your home looking like a department store.
Trust me, I feel your pain. I know I’ve mentioned this before but since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas the amount of new items that find their way into my home can be a bit overwhelming. Especially with three kids in the mix.
One In One Out
Tough rule, I know. But it doesn’t matter how organized you are, if you have too much in your home you'll never be able to maintain it and it will always feel disorganized.
However this can be a great way to help your children learn the value of charity. I try to frame it that they are so lucky to be getting all these new toys, but other kids are not so lucky, so we pick some toys that we aren’t playing with anymore so that other kids can have a chance with them. Look in your area for places that will accept gently used toys and donate them.
Unfortunately you need to apply the same rule to the adults in the house; while that new scarf is super soft and beautiful I bet you have at least one in your collection that has either seen better days or that you don’t wear anymore. Get it out of there.
Put It Back
One of the most important steps in maintaining an organized space is to put it back. I go into it in more detail here but it is a step that can be easily overlooked during the holiday season. We are so excited to try on our new clothes or play that new video game or test out that new toy that before we know there is just stuff. Everywhere. Enjoy your the new additions but don’t let all of the excitement get the best of you. Once you’re done put it back.
Find A Home For It
This one goes hand in hand with the ‘put it back rule’, but sometimes it can be really hard to put something away if you don’t know where it goes. Find a spot that makes sense for you. Especially if this new item is something that you will use frequently in the coming weeks. You want a space for it that is accessible and works with your routine. This may require you to go through some of your existing stuff and declutter a bit. I know you want to use that fancy new mug with great mouth feel that you just received but if your cupboard is already bursting at the seams you won’t have a place to put it.
I can already hear the groans and gasps at this suggestion. As good as the gift giver's intention may have been, sometimes they just miss the mark. Think of the space in your home as valuable real estate. Why waste that space on something that you don’t want, need, or love?
There is nothing wrong with repurposing that gift for someone else. As long as you do it right:
Put a little post-it on the bottom of the gift with the name of who gave it to you
Only regift items that are in their original packaging and have not been opened
Only regift it to someone who you genuinely feel will appreciate it
Put it in a new gift bag/re-wrap it. Nothing says “I regifted this” like a ratty gift bag and crumpled tissue paper.
Tell the recipient. If you’re really feeling bad about regifting it then simply give it to someone that you feel would appreciate it and let them know where it came from. ‘My aunt Sally got my this beautiful coloring book, but it’s not really my thing. I thought you would enjoy using it’ Simple. Honest. Easy.
Donate it. If all else fails, get it out of your home and donate it.
Happy Holidays and Happy Organizing!