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Our Packing System

For a farm family, we do a lot of traveling.  Jim and I put a focus on this because we want our children to realize that the world is a much bigger place than the small hometown in which they live.

As you can imagine, it’s a bit chaotic getting a family of ten on the road.  But we’ve gotten quite good at it because we’ve put several systems in place.  I’ve learned that it is best to pack right before we are ready to leave.  Packing things ahead of time often leads to items being forgotten.  My biggest job is to make sure all the laundry is done the day before we are scheduled to leave and that the Beast is cleaned out.

Depending on the trip, we will start packing anywhere from 1-3 hours ahead of time.  And with our packing systems in place, it doesn’t cause me any stress at all to pack because I don’t have to worry about forgetting things.


There are four key systems that are involved in our packing for vacation.

System 1: The Individual Packing List.  Jim gives each person a printed packing list a few days before we leave.  He has a few templates (e.g. winter vs summer) and then he modifies it based on the weather, how long we will be gone, and if we will have a washer and dryer available to us.

In June, we made a three day trip to New York City to see the Hamilton on Broadway.  This was the first time we took no suitcases and each only had a carry-on bag.  The individual packing list looked like this:

  • 1  jeans
  • 1 shorts
  • 3 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 jacket or sweatshirt
  • 3 underwear
  • 3 socks
  • 1 pajamas
  • toothbrush
  • tooth powder
  • soap
  • brush or comb
  • glasses (if needed)
  • drivers license
  • cell phone and charger

The children knew they had to get all of that into their carry-on bag and then they could fit whatever extra stuff (books, toys, journals, Bibles) they wanted.  Colter actually got flagged by TSA because he had brought 8 packs of cards with him and they wanted to know what those “brick shaped” items were.

Carry On Luggage

The children all check off the list as they pack it and turn the list back to Jim.  So far, none of the children have ever forgotten anything on the list.

System 2: The Family Packing List.  Jim has a series of family packing lists depending on where we are going and what we are doing.  These are lists he has modified over the years.

I won’t give you the whole list for the vacation we are currently on, but it looks in part like this:

  • laundry soap
  • phone chargers
  • fitbit chargers
  • knife block
  • large pot and lid
  • large colander
  • 3 cutting boards
  • rice cooker
  • crockpot
  • suntan lotion
  • boogie boards
  • frisbees
  • croquet set
  • shovels and sand castle equipment
  • cooler
  • hand weights
  • family medicine bag (aspirin, tylenol, nyquil, peptol bismol, sudafed, bandaids, arnica salve, jewelweed salve, comfrey salve, benadryl, feminine products)

For this vacation, we are renting a house and we’ve learned from experience that they never have what we need to cook dinner for a large family.  As a result, we bring a lot of our own kitchen supplies.  We also take this list with us so we know what needs to come back home with us.

Canvas Bag

The family medicine bag is something I have learned to just keep stocked and packed.  Every time we come home from a trip, the family medicine bag and individual toiletry bags are restocked with what is needed.  I also keep an eye on expiration dates and rotate anything if needed.

System 3: Notification List.  This is the list that we leave at home on the the kitchen counter.  It has all the contact information for everything that has ever been needed.  This includes contact numbers for us, the vet, our contractor, key Goat Milk Stuff suppliers, employees, and local friends. It also has the codes to the security system and what to do if it goes off plus any other information that might be needed.

System 4: Before We Leave List.  I wish I had a better name for this, but it is everything that needs to happen before we leave.  It also has the desired departure time as well as the “drop dead” time we need to leave if we are flying instead of driving. It looks like this:

  • Adjust thermostats
  • Empty all garbage cans
  • Empty refrigerator
  • Clean all toilets and put a cap full of bleach in each toilet
  • Check washing machine and dryer to make sure they are both empty and water turned off
  • Oil wooden cutting boards

The important thing to remember is that our lists are kept online.  They are not written on paper and thrown away. Every time we go on vacation, we update the lists for things we want to bring next time or items we no longer need.   So they are constantly being updated as our family learns, grows, and changes.

For example, we are staying this year at the house we rented last year.  Jim updated his list to include a hammer and something to block the window with.  He is bringing the hammer because there were several nails that were sticking up on the porch.  The window in our bedroom also had terrible curtains on it.  Since the outside light would shine on our faces and make it hard to fall asleep, he made a note of something he wants to bring to block the light.

It takes Jim maybe 5-10 minutes to update the lists for the current trip we are planning and print them out.  We can go from nothing packed to fully packed and the Beast loaded with little concern that we are forgetting anything in under an hour.  The children are responsible for bringing the items in their Individual Packing List to the Beast and making sure they are loaded.  One of the older boys usually oversees loading the rest.

When the children were little, we would buddy each younger child up with an older child.  The older child was responsible for making sure both of their lists were packed.

Luggage for 10

I am a big believer that spending a little time organizing will save you tons of money and time down the line.  Even if you don’t travel a lot, this is a very simple system that you can put into place.  I’ve mentioned before that I love Google Drive for these kind of documents.  I don’t worry about the security of them and I can find them from any computer or phone.

So, that’s how we pack an entire family of ten and get us on the road in a relatively short amount of time.  Are you good at packing up for a trip?  Or does it cause you a lot of stress?




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