Who's ready to hit the road?! I love a good trip as much as the next gal, but planning and packing for it? Well, that can be a struggle! Lucky for you, I'm sharing my best tips along with a free printable packing list!

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Whether we're packing up for a long weekend at the cabin or prepping for a holiday trip to see the family, it takes a lot of effort to get everyone ready! With eight kids and two enormous puppies, traveling requires a ton of gear and a to-do list about a mile long.

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By now, I consider myself somewhat of a packing pro, so I'm excited to impart a little knowledge. Yes, traveling with kids can be one of the most stressful, expensive, and chaotic parts of parenthood, but this printable packing list just might save your sanity! We have figured out some tricks that make traveling quicker, easier, and of course, cheaper. Are you ready?!


WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU START PACKING: HUNT FOR DEALS!

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In my opinion, the most important part of traveling is what happens BEFORE you even leave your driveway. Here are some tips for seamless and effective trip preparation:

  • Be “Book Smart” – When you book a hotel room, flight, rental car, or whatever it is, don't just accept that you'll “have to” pay top dollar! Sure, you'll pay more on July 4th or Christmas than a random week in February, but there are always ways to save, so don't accept the first price you find! How can you save? Well, keep reading!
  • Save Money on Flights – Use sites like airfare watchdog to notify you of killer deals. Have a rewards credit card? Cash in those points for a free flight! Put the money you save on your flights towards something else on your trip!
  • Find Hotel Deals – Always book your hotel rooms online rather than doing it over the phone – online rates are almost ALWAYS cheaper, especially through sites like Booking.com (used it recently, loved it). If you see a lower rate on a deal site for a Hilton-owned hotel, call the hotel directly and they will price-match, plus give you an extra 25% off that stay!
  • Rental Car Hacks – If you have a Costco membership, you can rent a car through them for a steal! Check out discount sites like carrentals.com, too. Or, if you're flying, you can bundle the car rental with your flight and save up to 35%!

Those tips alone can save you hundreds of dollars on your next family trip. Not too shabby, eh? Now that you know how to score some sweet deals, let's talk about the next step in prepping for that big trip. Dunn….dunn…dunn… Packing time!


START PACKING EARLY + GRAB THIS FREE PRINTABLE PACKING LIST

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Being organized will make all the difference between having an enjoyable vacation and a chaotic one! Here's my #1 tip: make lots of lists. Grocery lists. Packing lists. “What to clean around the house before you go” lists. Write things down because I promise…you will forget things otherwise.

We have created a free packing checklist printable for you to help keep you organized! You can print one for each member of the family, and we even included a box to cross an item off before you leave…and to check again when you pack up to go home. No more leaving things behind!

Packing Checklist, from Fun Cheap or Free

While you're making those lists, don't forget to take care of non-trip related tasks around the house!


TOP TRIP PREP TO-DO LIST ITEMS

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Okay, as you're making those lists and checking them twice, don't forget to do these things before you hit the road:

  • Clean the Car – Use a daily deal site to score a deal or clean it out yourself. I can't stand to travel in a crusty car, so I try to do that in advance. Get an oil change if you need to. Oh, and make sure you check out our best car hacks, so you've got everything you need!
  • Make Arrangements with Neighbors – Find someone to pick up the mail, watch for packages, take garbage cans to the curb, watch for suspicious activity, water the plants, etc. And if you're not taking your pets with you, don't forget to arrange a dog and/or house sitter as far in advance as you can.
  • Clean out the Fridge – I use up all I can the week of our trip and don't do any grocery shopping (we make do, or do without!), then I freeze anything left behind. If it can't be frozen, I pass it off to neighbors.
  • Empty the Garbage – There's nothing like a stinky banana peel sitting in your garbage for 8 days to welcome you home…
  • Pull the Suitcases Out Early – I pull out suitcases and start doing laundry on Monday. Find out more about how we pack for vacation with kids!
  • Start Gathering Entertainment for the Kids – In addition to suitcases, I keep buckets, bins, or baskets handy to toss stuff in throughout the week. We've got ideas galore about what to bring to keep those kiddos busy, so check out these tips for surviving a road trip with kids.
  • Arrange for Cleanings – I love to arrange for cleaning ladies and carpet cleaners to come while we're gone! I leave the checks/house keys with a neighbor who lets them in and locks up when they're gone. It's absolutely INCREDIBLE to come home to a spotless house. Plus, it gives a week for our carpets to dry fully before we walk all over them. This is definitely something that we work into our vacation/trip budget because it's totally worth it!

I'm telling you. That cleaning tip is life-changing! Hands down. As you're budgeting and saving for your trip, set aside a few extra bucks each month and treat yourself to a clean house after your next vacation!


GET YOUR FREE PRINTABLE PACKING LIST

We have created a free travel to-do list printable to help you organize yourself before your trip.

Travel To-Do List Printable, from Fun Cheap or Free

Access this printable HERE and be amazed at just how nice it is to come home to a clean house!

Remember, the most important part of your trip is what happens BEFORE you even leave! So take the time to do it right, start early, and your trip will be smooth as silk…and just as enjoyable.

Do you have any tried and true travel prep tips to share? Leave me a comment below and spill the deets!

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Looking for more hacks, tips, and tricks?

Safe travels!

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