We are packing to take a family vacation next week. We are driving about five hours and staying at a nice resort on a lake in Missouri. We are making lists and trying to be sure we don’t forget to pack anything important. I think we do this every time we go on vacation. We used to keep a list for camping trips that we used over and over, but I guess it is not as easy to do that for a trip. So, I thought I’d share what I think are the top 13 things you absolutely must take on vacation.
Hopefully, this will save you some time and heartache the next time you pull out the suitcases and begin packing. These are in no particular order. The items below just made the list in my mind! Also, I left out the absolute obvious like clothes, toiletries and fresh underwear!
1. A good digital camera.
You know there are going to be Kodak moments on your trip and a digital camera is the best way to capture them for posterity. If you don’t have one, you might take a look at the Digital Photography School for some tips before running out to buy one. We take a simple point-and-shoot camera to snap the quick pics that are so fun to look at years later. Also, don’t forget extra batteries!
2. Portable DVD player with car adapter.
As I said, we are driving five hours to our destination with our two daughters in the back seat. Our portable DVD player is a lifesaver for occupying the kids. We plan to rent some DVDs from Redbox before we leave and then return them in the city where we are staying. This way we’ll have fresh movies for the kiddos going and coming home!
3. A good book or magazine.
Actually, I’m taking both. I am reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott which so far is very good. I also plan to take some back issues of National Geographic Adventure to read. I love reading. It helps me relax which makes it a perfect activity on vacation.
4. Effective sunscreen (not all of them work!)
I highly recommend taking a look at The 2008 List Of Safe And Effective Sunscreens to be sure what you are using is good stuff. This is especially important for children because a bad sunburn will ruin everyone’s fun. Sunscreens are not all created equal and some of the most popular brands like Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena are some of the worst to use.
5. Your favorite sunglasses.
Whether you’re driving or laying by the pool, you are going to want some eye protection. Of course, you also want to be stylish as well. Who wants to look geeky on vacation? As I’ve mentioned before, I bought some cheap sunglasses recently and I’ll be taking them along, but you might want to check out the Top Hot Sunglasses of Summer 2008. Either way, don’t leave these necessities behind!
6. Extra swimsuit and flip-flops for the pool.
We plan to spend a lot of time playing at the pool on our trip. I like to take more than one swimsuit. It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes for a swimsuit to dry when you are on vacation. There is nothing worse than putting on a cold, wet swimsuit each morning. By alternating, I usually avoid this issue. It is also important to bring some good flip-flops to protect your feet from the scorching concrete and sharp rocks on the way to the pool.
7. A cap or hat.
For the final layer of protection against the sun, I always take a cap to wear. On vacation, you see people wearing all kinds of hats. Being away from home seems to give people the license to wear their freakiest head gear. For me, I prefer a simple baseball cap. The brim provides shade for the eyes and the cap itself protects my head from the direct rays of the sun.
8. Mobile phone and PDA.
I might be opening myself up for criticism by including the mobile phone and PDA on my list. For many, this is a way of bringing work with them on vacation. You control freaks out there just can’t seem to let go and trust others to get the job done.
However, I find these devices handy for other reasons. My Blackberry Curve includes GPS capability. This combined with Google Maps Mobile gives me a low-cost method to find my way around to quickly locate restaurants and the like in unfamiliar areas. In addition, the phone is a great safety device in the event of a breakdown alongside the interstate.
9. Needed medicine and prescriptions.
Vacations take us out of our habit patterns. As a result, it is easy to overlook packing necessary items like medicines and prescriptions. Replacing these at your destination can be a big hassle and could possibly cost you some money if you aren’t able to find a pharmacy in your insurance network. Doing without necessary drugs can be a definite health risk. Always be sure to pack all necessary medicines and prescriptions in airtight zipper bags to protect them while traveling.
10. Your preferred tourist guide information and maps.
Researching your destination in advance and taking along some good guides are a fantastic way to reduce stress and maximize your enjoyment. Of course, the Internet is a wonderful resource for this type of information and most of what you need can be obtained for free. You just have to remember to pack what you print.
11. Hand sanitizer and wipes.
Especially with kids, hand sanitizer and wipes are indispensable travel items. If you are a mom, then you probably already have these in your purse or diaper bag, but for us dads, this is worth a reminder. As many of you know, wipes come in extremely handy for cleaning up after melting ice cream cones or the well enjoyed chocolate bar. Hand sanitizer protects against various germs one can pick up in bathrooms along the way.
12. An extra bag.
Isn’t it funny how what you took on vacation never seems to fit back into the same number of bags when you are ready to go home? Of course, we usually acquire a few souvenirs along the way that adds to the heft. I recommend packing a good size duffel bag in your suitcase to make packing up to come home all that much easier. Duffels take up minimal in your suitcase and have ample space for new treasures. They are the perfect extra bag to take along!
13. Plenty of bug spray.
No one wants to be bothered on vacation with a bunch of itching bug bites. In this case, a tad of prevention truly is worth a ton of cure. I suggest taking along plenty of bug spray and use it liberally while outdoors. This will help ensure a worry-free and pleasant trip for everyone!
I hope it all fits in the trunk!
Packing everything that is needed to take a family of four on vacation piles up. I tend to be a minimalist, but as a father, I’ve learned that it is better to be prepared for everything rather than pay the price later for something that was forgotten. I hope my list helps you pack all you’ll need to thoroughly enjoy every minute of your next vacation!
What did I forget? Leave a comment and let me know!