When I was a kid I thought that Spring Cleaning was just something they did in cartoons or that my grama talked about. We didn’t do that in our house, or at least that I realized. Now, as a dad I totally get it and we totally do it, particularly to keep ourselves organized with so much travel in our schedule. Our big spring cleaning happens on the first sunny Saturday of the year (in Seattle that falls in April) We’ve perfected purging the house and know how to Spring Clean for easy travel prep and for our family’s health. And we have more travel prep tips too!
Do you know how to Spring Clean properly to be sure that you’re both preventing future clutter and setting up your family for health and safety? Please, sit back with your coffee and a notepad and let us help you. The “how to Spring Clean” is crazy helpful when you consider prepping for Spring Break and summer travel, but then especially important when it comes to getting rid of medications and things you’ll find in the medicine cabinet, so pay special attention.
Note: we’ve been partnering with Know Your OTCs this year to share our tips for family safety when it comes to over the counter medications, household and personal products, prescriptions and more. The goal with our sharing is to empower other parents (and non-parents too) to take steps to ensure their family’s health and safety through the year.
What you'll find...
- Top Tips for reducing stress before and after travel
- Tip 1: Spring Clean your house before leaving on a trip
- Tip 2: Family travel planning with to-do/packing lists
- Tip 3: Accept help before your family travel trip
- Tip 4: Wear different clothes than normal
- Tip 5: Be okay with forgetting something
- Tip 6: unpack after travel like you’re leaving on another trip
Top Tips for reducing stress before and after travel
I was talking to a friend the other day who said that she likes to travel but it’s the prep for just getting herself out the door that is stressful. She said that she tries to pack and get her life in order but it all just doesn’t work out and then she goes and comes back and it’s just as stressful to return. Why is that? What’s different about how we go on vacation vs others? I figured it out. When you’ve been doing family travel for a while you work out a system to make life easier. For us, it’s the Spring Cleaning we do all throughout the year (and some other things too).
There’s no reason that getting ready to relax and have fun should be unpleasant, right? Here are our top tips to make leaving for a trip easier and to take the stress out of family travel, as well as our most trusted resources for ensuring Spring Cleaning is handled in the most safe way possible (thinking about what’s in the bathroom cupboards and such). And be sure to share any tips you have below in the comments, as I’m sure we all have those things we do before leaving that could help out other people too!
Tip 1: Spring Clean your house before leaving on a trip
When we know that we’re going to be gone for a while and will be getting home late, we’re sure to purge the house of unwanted clutter. This means that a week or two before we go we are carving out time to Spring Clean everything from the kids’ dressers and swapping out clothes they’ve grown out of to cleaning out the freezer. We also will ALWAYS reorganize closets and cupboards to be sure we can find everything we need for our travel.
Tip: check out our article on packing safety tips to be sure that you’re packing for travel in a way that keeps sharps and medications away from the kids, supervised or not.
We do this way in advance of our travel dates, but that can’t happen for everyone. In the same conversation with the same friend as before, she mentioned that she gets stressed because she’s packing and repacking and looking for things so much that her house is a mess when she’s done, and that makes coming home stressful.
Solution: if you’re packed even just a half day before you have to go, you can spend an hour or two picking up around the house and making it feel clean and tidy, which is super easy if you’ve already done your Spring Clean. If you have the time, go for the gusto and change your sheets and leave mints on the kids’ pillows, but don’t stress it. I can honestly say that leaving for a trip with a spotless house truly does feel the best, but as long as it’s clean and you don’t come home to stale dishes in the sink and clothes all over the place, you’ll feel good.
How do you make the pre-travel Spring Clean-up easy?
The big Spring Clean doesn’t have to be stressful and difficult. Here are the steps to do once each season to ensure you’re staying ahead of the clutter and mess:
- choose a big area, a medium room, a closet and a cupboard to clean
- start with the smallest space and organize it, purging the unwanted items (recycle/upcycle when able) and expired medications
- move onto the next size space up, accomplishing more and more
- the last space to Spring Clean should be your largest goal area that will give you the biggest “wow” factor once cleaned. This should also give you a big smile when you return home from traveling and see how awesome you did with your Spring Cleaning!
Safe Disposal of Medications and Personal Products
For the smaller spaces, such as a kitchen cabinet or a bathroom closet, be sure that you’re handling personal products and expired medications with care. That’s right: prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications actually have expiration dates. And despite somebody telling you once that you can just flush old pills down the toilet, that’s not right. There are three different ways to safely dispose of expired/unwanted medications and OTC products.
- In-home disposal – mix the medication/product with something unpalateable (used coffee grounds maybe), seal it in a baggy, throw it out in the trash
- Local disposal programs – check with your local pharmacy or drug store if they can accept the old medications for proper disposal
- Community take-back days – the DEA or law enforcement may host local events to take back medications that need to be disposed of (inquire locally or on DEA/LE website)
When you’re doing your spring cleaning, check the label on the bottles you may find. Be sure to be safe and smart as your purge your medicine cabinets for the safety of your family, your septic system, and the earth.
Tip 2: Family travel planning with to-do/packing lists
In our everyday life we have to-do lists, but they’re simple things like wash dishes, feed cats, vacuum sand out of the car… As we prep for a trip, about two weeks out we add to our daily to-do lists. Two weeks out is the key. With this much time, you’re able to check and double check things off your list, and since you’ll have been Spring Cleaning, you’ll probably already have been locating a lot of the travel items you need to pack.
You can even procrastinate a bit, and since you’ve got a list and have been conscious of what you need to do, when you buckle down to complete it, it’ll be a breeze.
Here’s an example of a 2 Weeks Out list for actionable items and things to locate:
Suitcases – remove old luggage transfer tags and be sure the pieces are sturdy for travel
Toiletries – evaluate what you have in travel size and get rid of expired medications (see above)
House sitter – secure someone to look after things and provide clear yet simple instructions
Stock up on pet food – have back up pet food available for your house sitter
Clear phone and camera memory – because nothing says sadness like the dreaded “memory full” message when kids are being cute
Create departure plan – think about things like what ferry you need to catch, when traffic is the worst, when kids might nap in the car, where you’ll be leaving your car if you’re flying
With the list as just a big picture and not every minute detail, you’ll feel like you’re accomplishing things and won’t stress as your last day home approaches. Within these categories/tasks you will have more details, but you don’t need to think about ALL of those things at once. The big-picture list is key.
Tip: if you don’t know how to ask somebody to house-sit or think it’s an imposition, there are people who do it professionally or just enjoy a break from their own home. One of our favorite blogs, Sell All Your Stuff, has a great list of resources for making life and travel easier, including house sitting service links.
Tip 3: Accept help before your family travel trip
If you’re prepping to head to Europe for two weeks and somebody says “Do you need anything?” be honest. If they are offering help, take it. Good ways to accept help and not feel awkward about it are by allowing somebody to fetch things for you that would require an errand. I know that if my mom says that she can grab something from the store for us that I forgot to get, I’m taking her up on it.
If I don’t have to pack up the kids, drive to the store, get them into a shopping cart, shop… I’m going to be a lot less stressed and have more time to do other things. Also, for some people, this gives them a chance to feel good about being helpful, so ACCEPT HELP and make somebody’s day. 🙂
Tip: if somebody offers to watch the kids or wants to have a play date, DO IT. Family travel packing and prep goes much faster when little people aren’t involved, particularly if you’re still in the Spring Cleaning phase of prepping for a trip.
Tip 4: Wear different clothes than normal
What? Really? Why would that be helpful? Simple, people put off packing because there are things that they’ll need up until the last day at home. If you’re okay wearing different clothes on vacation or before, you won’t need to stress about collecting up your everyday items at the last minute. Same goes for toiletries and medications.
Our kids pick out their toothbrushes and soap days before we’re ready to go. Their regular ones will still be chilling in the bathroom. Same with their clothes and shoes. They’ll be bringing different ones than they prefer to wear every day, and that’s totally okay.
Tip: the reverse of this is also true. Wear different clothes than normal before your trip so the ones you love can be clean and packed, particularly if you have a particular look that you’re known for, like a full Indiana Jones outfit or something.
Tip 5: Be okay with forgetting something
Whirling about the house the night before an early flight does no good for anybody. Do a good job putting your stuff together in advance. If you’ve forgotten something, chances are that it’s not terribly integral to the success of your trip. If you feel that it is once you’re at your destination, go explore the area and find a comparable substitute.
Example: we went camping not too long ago and forgot jackets (#parentingfail). It was warm out, so at our convenience we found some fun, inexpensive sweatshirts. The kids needed new ones anyway. Instead of stressing out about it and driving two hours back home, we got to enjoy time as a family in the woods and didn’t break the bank with the quick-fix the next day.
Tip: we’ve learned that packing (for a road trip) with clear bins helps us see what we’ve packed but keeps things organized if we need to shuffle through stuff. Clear bins are great for camping or snack storage.
Tip 6: unpack after travel like you’re leaving on another trip
That may sound ridiculous but when you return home from traveling, you don’t really want to unpack. You want to fall into your bed and not move until a child attacks you needing food. Once you’re home, unpack your clothes and necessary personal items (again, check out our packing safety article) but then the random things you use only when you’re traveling, let them remain with your luggage or in your vehicle. A great example of this is sunny weather equipment that you won’t use until your next tropical trip, such as snorkeling gear or travel sized sunblock.
Storage idea: just like with packing for road trips and camping with clear bins, this is a great way to store other travel gear when you’re home. You can protect the gear, prevent clutter that you’ll end up addressing during Spring Cleaning, and you’re setting yourself up for success when it’s time for your next trip.
We are constantly doing big family travel trips and little weekend getaways. These top tips totally make family travel so much easier and ensure that we’re not stressed. I think that’s the big take-away here: prep for travel in a way that you’re not stressing either before or after the trip. Do your quarterly Spring Clean to keep yourself in a positive, organized state of mind. Oh, and one more thing to remember… Have fun when you travel!!!
What other hacks get you out the door without freaking out? Share your own top tips in the comments!
And want to pin this for later when you’re stressing out and need to remember the value of Spring Cleaning and organizing your travel world? Go for it!!!
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”