Packing for a Walt Disney World vacation often seems like a rather easy task. However, I’ve discovered that the adage that the last 10 percent of a project takes 90 percent of the time rings true time after time when packing up my family of four for a week-long road trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Packing always required much more time than I expected and, as a result, I ended up spending that last night before hitting the road rushing around and stressed out.
Here is the day-by-day plan I now use to make packing for a family vacation to Disney World easy, stress-free, and completed with plenty of time to spare.
7 days out – Create A Catch-All Location
We always leave for Disney World on a Saturday, so this step applies to the previous weekend. I gather up all the suitcases and bags, open them and line them along a wall in my bedroom. There, they provide an easy catch-all location for anything that needs to come with us to Mickey’s place.
Throughout the next week, I’ll toss items in the bags as I stumble upon them around the house as long as I know we won’t be needing them before we leave. Nothing is organized at this point, but collecting as much as I can before packing officially begins saves me from running around the house too much when it’s time to start gathering everything on my packing list later in the week.
Speaking of which, I have a master packing list saved that I print at this point and check off as items are they land in the bags.
4-5 days out – Pack Toiletries, Park Bag, and Swimming Supplies
I take care of the “little things” that most often tripped me up in the end before – that last 10 percent that always seems to take the most time. This is my toiletry bag, Disney park backpack, and swim gear that is stuck way up high somewhere in the boys’ closet in the pool bag that we long packed away when the summer swim season ended.
I aim to get everything packed now except for clothing and food.
3 days out – Wash Clothes and Pack the Kids Bags
All clothes get washed and dried today. I work from home so it’s easy to keep the loads going all day long but I would start this sooner if I only had evenings.
In the evening, I give the boys their packing orders – the number of pairs of socks and underwear, their most comfortable shorts and jeans, and their Disney and Star Wars shirts. I expect them to give me too many tops and bottoms so that I can determine exactly what to pack after consulting the weather forecast. Choosing from this subset of their full wardrobe saves me time from sifting through their closet myself. Yes, they’re old enough to do ALL of their packing themselves, but I like to be a little hands-on so that I don’t discover they mistakenly packed 2 shirts and 7 shorts once we’ve arrived at Disney World! After I’ve finished selecting their trip clothes, they return the excess to their closet.
I also begin collecting the food. We drive to Disney World and pack a lunch for that first driving day so our food packing list includes one lunch, car snacks, a few park snacks (usually just a few granola bars), and some breakfast food to eat in the room every morning.
2 days out – Pack Mom’s Bags and Finish Packing Food
Packing should be complete tonight. I always aim to be finished two nights before we leave so that if anything does appear unexpectedly the night before, there’s plenty of time to finish packing and not be stressed.
I pack my clothes and necessities today. That’s one of those tasks that seems like it will take 90% of the time because it takes about 90% of the suitcase space, but goes by rather quickly!
There will be last-minute items to pack that are used every day, like my iPhone and my son’s retainer, so I make a list of those few final items to check and double check before we walk out the door.
The boys’ task is to collect all the entertainment they want in the car – books, paper and pencils, games, etc. We don’t bring electronics on trips to Disney World because the drive is short enough that they can handle two days in the car without video games. I make sure my podcast list is up to date and all episodes have downloaded to my phone to save on data usage once we’re on the road.
I finish packing the food, placing all the refrigerated items together so that I easily grab them out of the fridge we leave to put them in the cooler on the morning we leave.
1 day out – Last-Minute Packing and Chill!
All of the packed bags are placed by the front door of the house where they are easily accessible to load into the car in the morning.
If I’ve forgotten to pack anything, it gets packed. Otherwise, I’m free to spend a quiet evening with my kids before our big trip!
All of the bags by the front door are packed into the car. I review my “last minute items” list and pack up the cooler with the items I set aside in the fridge.
After a small breakfast (we’re too excited to eat too much!), we’re ready to hit the road!