Family Vacation; Packing and Traveling Tips and Tricks

Organization, travel, vacation, kids, family
(The following post may contain affiliate links by which if a purchase should be made directly through that link this blog will benefit- you are under no obligation to do so, but if you should we greatly thank you.)

Family vacations mean different things to different people. To some it may mean boarding a cruise ship to others it may mean an at home stay cation. What does a vacation look like to you?

Growing up our family vacations never quite looked the same- some years our vacation was spent visiting grandparents “Up North” which to those who do not live in Michigan that is pretty much anything 2+ hours north of your home. Sometimes our family vacations meant cruises, beaches, Disney, or where ever my sister and I had a dance competition that particular year. 

What I have learned over the years is a family vacation basically is the same regardless of its location. It is time spent seeing and doing things we normally don’t have time to do. It is about being intentional and making memories with those we love most-our family. The busyness of life and the overwhelming responsibilities at the work place both steal our time- keeping us from doing the things we so deeply desire. 

Whether your able to take that vacation of your dreams or simply enjoy a few days off from the daily grind- I want to encourage you to rejuvenate your spirit, breathe deeply, and embrace the slowness that a vacation has to offer. 

Now, raising a family of my own our current form of vacation has taken on an entirely new form- one that consists of long weekends spent away on the lake. Just as raising my small tribe of gluten free kids has taught me a thing or two so has packing for a family of six week after week. 

Travel, vacation, packing, organization, boating, camping

Family Vacations; Packing and Traveling Tips and Tricks From A Mom of Four

I pack 1 summer outfit per kid per day plus an additional 2-3 just in-case. I like to fold the shirts with the pants so that my kids know exactly what shirt and pant sets go together. I have also found rolling them up together works great and saves on packing space

I let my kids help pack their clothes but I will not leave the final decision solely in their hands.

Since the weather on the lake can be quite unpredictable at times I pack 1/2 the amount of warm clothes (pants, hoodies, and long-sleeve outfits) as I did short sleeve outfits.

I try to see that each of my kids has a minimum of 3 (4 is preferred) suits; one for wearing, one for drying, and one back up because that sand can get out of control.

When we are gone for a long weekend everyone gets one pair of summer shoes (flip flops, Crocs, Tevas, etc.) and one pair of tennis shoes. That is it.

When packing I pack one entire child at a time and promptly place his/her belongings into our extra large zipper duffel bag. We have a duffel bag for the girls, boys, and us depending on the length of stay I can sometimes pack all of the kids clothes together as they are still quite tiny.                            

If you are boating, camping, or packing food to take along on vacation always pack clothing items on a different day. I typically pack clothes 2 days before we leave, leaving one day for last minute shopping/errands, and a day for food prep.

Since we basically stay at the same place week after week we keep many of our necessity toiletries on the boat. Toilet paper, tooth brushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, first aid supplies, etc. it all stays there- so that is a huge time savor in itself. I pack it once at the beginning of the season and then refill as needed. 

Every family member has a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and basically double of any necessity item. This just makes life a lot easier when it comes to packing. If we are going somewhere whether it is a day, night, or week everyone knows to grab their travel items (which  are usually already in small travel sized bag or simply on hand in a different color than the items typically kept at home).

I bring a pack of diapers, pull ups, and wipes and simply leave them aboard. The day-before we head home I do an inventory of necessary items to bring the next time we are out- I keep a running checklist on my phone for a quick reference. 

There are a few basics I always keep handy; tea tree oil for those pesky mosquitoes, plenty of band-aids because my kids think they are like stickers, Calendula cream, and a tiny tub of coconut oil

Since we have so many food allergies and sensitivities in our home from gluten to nightshade intolerance eating out is most readily out of the question. Not to mention if we are on the lake our nearby restaurant and food options are quite limited. So planning food for my crew of six takes some serious planning. Even if your family doesn’t have countless food allergies like ours some of these tips might just save you a few bucks. 

First, off I really do use the simple savvy meal planning kit– when it comes to traveling there are a few sheets that come in especially handy; the week at a glance, the grocery store builder, and breakfast/lunch planning sheet just to name a few. 

Typically, I will plan an entire days worth of meals at a time (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks). I will fill out my week at a glance sheet and then transfer any necessary items to buy  onto my grocery list builder. Since we eat many of the same meals on the go (hamburgers, grilled pizza’s, pancakes, chicken salad) I do not need a recipe- I simply, know them by heart and the ingredients needed. 

We have fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster, grill, and oven access on the boat so it is hardly roughing it- therefore, I meal plan very similar as I would if I were home. However, our fridge, freezer, and oven space are on a much smaller scale- so, I typically do a bit of pre-prep work in advance; for example-

If we are going to have chicken salad- I will pre-chop cooked chicken and freeze it in a quart freezer ziplock bags until the day of its final assemble. 

If we are having shish-kabobs the day before we leave I will pre-cut and add my Greek dressing marinade to a gallon ziplock bag so that it is ready when we are. (be sure to double bag to prevent leaking)

Basically, I try to do as much of the “dirty” work in advance as possible. In my book that means handling raw meat. 

When it comes to kids snacks those are all accounted for on my planning sheets so I am never left ill prepared when my little ones are hungry for their normal 10:00AM snack. We reuse snack bowls- every child has a different color and that is theirs for the day.

There are a couple “on the go” cooking tools I truly could never live without- the slow cooker and electric griddle. The slow cooker has so many uses from cooking whole chickens in a hotel room while you are venturing about all day long to an easy chili dog dinner while out on the lake- a slow cooker is worth its weight in gold. An electric griddle is just plain handy, if you have never used one you are missing out. It is the easiest way to make fried eggs for a large crowd or in my case a large family. An electric griddle is also super convenient for grilled sandwiches, pancakes, and of coarse my favorite- it doesn’t take up a ton of storage space. 

Are your wheels turning- I hope so- yes, I’m telling you that you should bring your slow cooker on your next road trip it could save you a lot of time and money. 

Every child has a Sigg bottle that we use as their travel cup- we refill them as needed with gallons of distillers water. My kids drink a very limited amount of juice but for those special occasions we do bring along juice boxes. Pinterest is great for a plethora of ideas but lets be real- when it comes to travel and road trips with small children it really is not the time to pull out all the stops with fancy fruit platters. Fruit is fruit and they will be just as happy that you brought some along so don’t stress yourself out.

Kid Entertainment

There is no doubt whether you are heading out on a long road trip, going to be sitting for hours at an airport, or like myself in constant search of that perfect quiet time activity- there are a few items I never leave home without;
coloring books and crayons
Audiobooks (borrow from the library)
Books (plenty of books)
Since, we travel to the same location week after week there are some items that never leave the lake;  
Games (Old Maid, Spot It, Tenzie, and Uno Attack just to name a few)
A few small trucks
Glow Sticks
Various Sensory Bin Supplies (a dish tub, mixed beans, rice, etc.) I store all sensory bin materials in a gallon ziplock bag for easy storage.

So, in a nut shell that is how I manage to pack for my crew of six- no matter if we are going to be gone for a long or short period of time- packing is packing. It takes a plan, motivation, and a lot of work but in the end the memories that are made make it all worth it. 

What are some of your best kept packing secrets?

Tea Tree Oil and 10+ Uses For It

Essential oils have become quite the craze these days. It seems like every where I turn someone is buying them, using them, or researching them for a whole slew of things. I personally use them- not on a regular basis- and, no particular brand. However, one essential oil that I have used for quite sometime is tea tree oil. I probably love it just as much as I do coconut oil. Well, maybe not that much but a really close second. Tea tree oil is inexpensive, versatile, and convenient- who knows you might just learn something new in this post. 

health, wellness, body care, tea tree

What is tea tree oil anyways?

Tea Tree Oil, is also known as Melaleuca alternifoliais- it is not something new, in fact it has been around for quite sometime- however, its many uses and benefits are just now becoming widely known to the general public. The oil itself is extracted from a plant native to Australia. 

Tea tree oil should never be ingested and should only be used a topically. When you think of tea tree oil think along the lines of skin, healing, antiseptic, and anti-fungal properties. 


10+ Uses for tea tree Oil

Cloth Diapers-
A few drops added to a load of dirty cloth diapers will help eliminate odors and help fight bacterial growth. This was in fact my first introduction to tea tree oil and remains one of my most common uses for it.

All Purpose Cleaner-
1 New or unused clean spray bottle
1-2 tsp of tea tree oil
and the rest water
Spray on counters, toilets, and most any hard surface for a natural disinfectant. You might want to try in a small area to test and make sure it will not ruin the surface- do no use on wood surfaces. 

Stop Bugging Me 
It is gentle enough to use directly on your skin as a natural bug repellant and as an anti-itching remedy

Skin Tag Removal
Using a Q-tip apply a small amount on a skin tag 2-3 times a day- when my son was just under a year old a tea tree oil solution was used to help treat his molescum. 

Breath Easy
A few drops added to a pot of boiling water or a humidifier can help you breathe better- relieving asthma, allergy, and other cold virus breathing conditions. 

Ear Ache 
Mixing a solution of 1 drop tea tree oil and 1 tsp. olive oil- I like to soak a cotton ball and insert in the ear until the pain is gone. *

Air Freshener/ Eliminate Odors
Remember that all purpose cleaner above- using that same solution you can spray carpets and pet beds for a fresh clean scent- bonus in the pet beds it will help keep fleas away. 

Treat Acne
Are you suffering from an annoying acne outbreak- try dabbing those pesky pimples with a bit of tea tree oil.

Hair and scalp treatment
Add a few drops to your shampoo bottle to help break down product build up- and leave your hair shiny clean without the access residue most shampoos can leave behind. 

Pest Control
House hold pests including ants dislike tea tree oil- a few drops at the point of entry will deter the little stinkers from invading your space.

Do you use essential oils? Do you use tea tree oil; what for?

*Remember I am not a medical doctor nor would I ever claim to be one- with any and all medical advice I recommend speaking with your own medical doctor or vet first and foremost. I simply share my own personal experiences with such things and will never give individual medical advise. 

DIY Fruit and Veggie Wash; and Free Printable Label

DIY Fruit and Veggie Wash
It is no secret at this point that I love all things country!

Our recent move from the city to the country already has me trying all kinds of “new things” from raising baby chicks to planting a countless numbers of seeds for our soon to be garden. That is if/when the weather reaches above 50 degrees….I know it’s coming (eventually) 😉

Whether you grown your own fruits and veggies, purchase from a farmers market, or the local grocery store your produce requires a good washing before consumption.

Today I’m (re)sharing one of my long time favorite recipes —

You will need;

1 empty spray bottle (a rinsed out previously used one works great as long as there were no harmful chemicals in it first or check your local dollar store)
1 C water
1 C vinegar
2 Tbs. Baking Soda
2 Tbs. Lemon Juice
How To; 
Mix the water and vinegar together in a liquid measuring cup.
Add the 2 T baking soda to the bottom of the water bottle
Using the funnel gradually pour the vinegar/water mixture into the water bottle.
Add lemon juice
Gently swirl the bottle around releasing all gasses
When washing fruit or veggies simply spray with prepared wash and let sit 5 minutes.
Gently rub/scrub produce and rinse under cool water.
Don’t forget to print your free “Fruit and Veggie Wash Label“….
Fruit, Veggie, Natural, Cleaner, Home, DIY
Original Post Appeared at
Joining Pennyloveprojects and Bye, Comparison for the”Feature Friday” Linkparty – so be sure to stop by and say “Hi” for some great DIY inspirations!