06 June 2011

How to make sure nothing gets left behind after vacation stays

Amazon: Melissa & Doug Trunki Sunny (Orange)Lindsay's systematic method for packing up at the end of vacation ensures favorite toys or blankets never get left behind:

We tend to rent or borrow vacation homes when we visit a location for more than a weekend and, with two kids, our stuff quickly spreads into every nook and cranny.  From experience, I know that whatever we accidentally leave behind ends up being the thing a kid uncontrollably desires on the way home. 

Here's how I make sure nothing gets forgotten when we pack up to leave:

First, I put the kids in front of the TV.  Nothing else keeps them in one spot like the television.

Next, I turn on every room light.  Once all the lights are on, I do a thorough room-by-room search for a stuff.

When a room is clear, I turn out the light and close the door.  

Once all the lights are out and doors are closed, I know I've hit every space.  Now, if something doesn't make it home with us, it wasn't for a lack of trying.

If your kids are old enough, I would add a step before the room-by-room inspection: have them pack their suitcases, or at least gather their stuff into a single corner. My motto: "always better when several brains work on a problem."

Do you have a system for packing up at the end of a vacation?

Related: When packing for a trip, "pack by numbers."

Your comments

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I have a very detailed packing list I use when I leave home for vacation. I bring that same list (check marks and all) on vacation and highlight the items as I pack them back up for home.

I was going to say the exact same thing Tonuala said!

Basically the same as the previous two commenters... when it's a big vacation, or we'll be gone for a long time, I have a spreadsheet in Excel that I use for packing, and I bring it along to check stuff back off when I'm getting ready to come home.

We give a small prize to anyone who can find an item we would have otherwise left behind. Provides for a very motivated search!

@pdxfoodmama nice one!
i usually do the list thing, but occasionally things manage to escape my list and are left behind.

Same thing - spread sheet with a column of items to pack and then a column for each member of the family plus an "other" section for add-ons. A check mark or number (for multiples of an item) for each thing packed and a line through the check when we pack to go back home.

Then, after I think I have everything I get someone to go through the space with fresh eyes. Like a packing-proofreader.

I think keeping things contained is the best way to deal with this for me. I would not deal well with a spreadsheet. So clothes go in drawers if we're there long enough. Dirty clothes immediately go back into suitcase, neatly folded. Toys have a central location. There's one ziploc baggie that holds dining supplies, etc. I love the lights on/off approach for doing a room sweep. However, I totally realize I'm lucky now because I only have *1* toddler and it's easy enough to keep track.

I must admit, we're slobs in a hotel room. But with that, we've never lost anything either. We make finding things a game. Everybody has to look under the beds, in the drawers, behind the toilet, etc. If you find something you get to throw it to the designated spot, usually in front of the door. Nobody makes any effort to put it where it goes, to keep it tidy, or worry about who left it where. Just grab and toss in a heap. On our last trip, one of the beds got pre-loaded with underwear so they could fly. You're on vacation, it's all okay. It makes cleaning up fun, and then everyone can fold and sort into the right places when it's all done.

I prefer to pack it all myself - too many hands and I loose track of what went in the suitcases. However, I ask everybody to empty drawers and cabinets and put their things on top of the beds (covers removed, as things tend to hide in folds). After I pack I ask everybody to revisit the rooms and check if any of our stuff is left behind. So far, this system has never failed us.

First, I put the kids in front of the TV. Nothing else keeps them in one spot like the television.

Next, I turn on every room light. Once all the lights are on, I do a thorough room-by-room search for a stuff.

When a room is clear, I turn out the light and close the door.

Once all the lights are out and doors are closed, I know I've hit every space. Now, if something doesn't make it home with us, it wasn't for a lack of trying.

If your kids are old enough, I would add a step before the room-by-room inspection: have them pack their suitcases, or at least gather their stuff into a single corner. My motto: "always better when several brains work on a problem."

Do you have a system for packing up at the end of a vacation?

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