20 Travel Hacks That Will Change the Way You Pack and Prepare for Your Next Family Trip

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Jessica Bowers is the voice behind Suitcases & Sippy Cups, a chronicling of the experiences of her and her family across the world.

Traveling is one of the best ways to make memories for your family, but so many people avoid it because of the hassles of packing and preparing. These ingenious travel hacks will change the way you pack and prepare for your next trip, so you can just focus on the fun.

1 ⋅ Before you even travel, plan to ship any souvenirs or bulky purchases back home via a shipping company. Most souvenir shops will be happy to wrap and ship your purchase and will even get it into the mail for you, so it’ll be waiting when you arrive home.

2 ⋅ Get kids involved in making their own memories by encouraging them to take their own pictures and create a journal highlighting their trip. Travel journals can be purchased or even printed before you go. Be sure to save those hotel lobby brochures and maps; they make great scrapbook materials for kids to add to their journal as they travel.

3 ⋅ Pack lighter for your next family trip by ordering your daily needs online—like diapers, baby food, granola bars and paper goods—and having them shipped to your destination. This is especially useful when you’re staying in a rental home or cabin and want to stock up without going to the store.

4 ⋅ For neater and more thoughtful packing, sort your clothes into outfits and wrap each outfit in a layer of tissue paper before placing it in your suitcase. Making outfits while you pack will keep you from over-packing, and when you arrive, the tissue-paper packets of clothes can be neatly transferred to drawers.

5 ⋅ Cut a piece of cardboard about the size of an index card to wrap cords and headphones around to keep them from tangling. This is a lifesaver for families with multiple cords for multiple devices.

6 ⋅ Wrap trousers or other garments you don’t want to crease around a cardboard mailing tube to keep the wrinkles away. As a bonus, you can fill the inside of the mailing tube with scarves, socks or underwear to use all the available space.

7 ⋅ Old sunglasses cases can be reused to store chargers and headphones to keep them from ending up tangled in the bottom of your bag.

8 ⋅ Be an airport hero: stick a small electric power strip in your carry-on bag to charge your devices during layovers. Outlets are usually such a premium, so it pays to extend the power options when you can, particularly if you have multiple devices.

9 ⋅ Always, always bring a stash of plastic bags. The uses are endless: store wet or dirty clothes, keep your toiletries from exploding all over your suitcase, protect your phone from sand while you are at the beach, etc.

10 ⋅ Plastic wrap turns any cup into a spill-proof cup. Simply press the wrap around the edge of the glass and punch a hole through the center. This is a lifesaver when you lose your sippy on a long-haul flight.

11 ⋅ The secret to success for any trip, whether by plane or car, is to be prepared with plenty of activities. Hit the dollar store to stock up on card games, puzzles, coloring books, art supplies or other games that’ll keep kids busy for at least a few miles. Add to the fun by wrapping activities in plain brown paper so that kids feel like they’re getting a special present.

12 ⋅ Extra baggage fees can really add up, particularly if you’re traveling with oversized or bulky items. Save the stress at the ticket counter and the potential damaged bags by shipping your gear to your location ahead of time.

13 ⋅ Make a paper countdown chain to help kids visualize the days until an upcoming vacation or the hours that need to pass for a road trip. When roadtripping, write a fun activity on the back of each paper strip to give kids something to look forward to as the miles pass.

14 ⋅ Mailing postcards or letters back home to yourself is a fun way for kids to remember the vacation even after they’re back home. Pick up some stamps and envelopes before your trip and stick them in your bag. As you visit museums or other tourist attractions, buy a postcard and send it to your home address. Kids will love getting mail—even from themselves—and will particularly enjoy seeing the post markings from places that they’ve visited.

15 ⋅ Overpriced souvenirs are one travel item that causes major problems for families. Kids love them; parents don’t want to pay the premium price. A great way to save money and prevent arguments is to ship a carry-on-sized souvenir to your hotel before you arrive. Even with shipping costs, you still save big when you don’t have to pay for the amusement-park markup.

16 ⋅ Scan your passport, identification card, itinerary and any other important travel documents. Email yourself a digital copy for safe keeping, but also print two paper copies—one to keep with you at all times and an additional copy to put in your luggage. If your bag or purse is stolen, and your phone is in the bag, you’ll be glad you have that paper copy in your luggage.

17 ⋅ When traveling with jewelry, string your necklaces and bracelets through a drinking straw before placing them in a bag to keep them from getting tangled.

18 ⋅ To keep kids safe while traveling, write your name and number on a business card or piece of paper and place it in their pocket. Even young children can learn to show the piece of paper to a policeman or other trustworthy adult if they are lost. Even better, if you’re staying in a hotel, grab a business card from the front desk and write your name and number on the back. Then, should your child be separated from you, they’ll have a number to call and an address.

19 ⋅ Don’t bring your big, expensive stroller when traveling. First of all, bulky strollers are in danger of getting damaged in transit, and they often don’t fit in rental cars and are unwieldy to maneuver in subways and on other public transportation. Instead, bring an inexpensive and small umbrella stroller.

20 ⋅ Make every trip easier by printing a master packing list to keep with your luggage. Add any items you forgot from the last trip to the list to be sure that the next time you pack, you have everything you need for a successful vacation.