Vacation Folio (Binder)

familyVacationStackedCarClipArt[1]Yes, around here even our vacations are hyper-organized! While we always leave room for spontaneous fun (I DO NOT plan every minute) having all the paperwork and information about the vacation in an easily accessible folio helps me to relax and enjoy the trip.

Start with a 1/2 inch 3-ring binder or an expandable folio file. I prefer the folio or a binder that can be secured closed (think Trapper Keeper). You will need clear plastic protective sleeves for all your documents. (I like these that have colored edges so I can classify documents by type using the colors.)

Start by creating a vacation itinerary with each days driving or flight plan, address and phone number of where you will stay each night, what you will be doing that day (i.e. For a non-travel day, list that you will be at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on that day) and any reservation confirmation numbers that pertain to that day. Print this out and put it into a sheet protector. This should be the first page of your folio.

Print out all reservation (hotels, dinners, etc) and flight and/or rental car information. Print copies of anything you have pre-purchased (amusement park tickets, photo packages, etc). Put each reservation into a separate sheet protector. If you use the sheet protectors with colored edges, use one color for each location OR use one color for all hotel info, another for all dining info, etc.

Research your destination and travel route. Print out any information about interesting stops, rest areas, etc. and then put them in sheet protectors and file so that they follow your route (an interesting place to see on travel day two comes before a restaurant you want to eat at on travel day 7).

Next type up current health and medical information for each family member (1 sheet per person). Use the linked form or make a list of current prescriptions and pharmacy information, doctor who prescribed it, and any other relevant medical conditions. Print this and keep it in your folio.

Be sure to include a copy of your car’s insurance and registration in a sheet protector in your folio. Also add in a list of important phone numbers (you never know when you might need an actual list in an emergency. Don’t just rely on a phone.). Include a map that covers your trip route. GPS isn’t always reliable and you don’t want to be lost someplace unknown without a map. We also keep several empty sleeves for adding brochures and other things we pick up along our route. Stick a Sharpie marker, a pen, and a small role of duck tape in the folio. We have used all of these at unexpected times on trips.

Finish off your folio with DVDs for the kids (if you have a computer or DVD player for the car) and keep them safe using 3-ring DVD sleeves. Include a couple that you enjoy too, as you are likely to hear them playing in the car!

Now your vacation folio is complete. Keep this in the front seat with you and bring it into hotels. Enjoy your vacation knowing you have all the information you need right at your fingertips!

Camping Wash Stand

PVC Dishwashing StationGrowing up my family camped a lot. We are starting to camp with our kiddos now and looking for things that can make longer camping trips easier and more fun. This camping wash stand definitely will make washing dishes – or even clothes – easier. No more bending over a picnic table, you can customize this stand to be whatever height you prefer. Made entirely of PVC, this light-weight construction can be assembled and reassembled on sight, saving space when packing.

Here are the plans for the PVC Washing Station and other PVC camping accessories.



Photo from Joanne on

Saturday Project: Map Artwork

map-frames-0811mld107418_vertWhen I was a kid my grandparents had a map hanging in their family room and my grandma had drawn basic routes of all their world travels on the map. I used to love to trace their trips and dream about the places I would travel when I grew up.

Now that our family has traveled and lived in various places in the US and around the world, I decided I wanted to have a map of our travels too. As I was looking for a way to dress up a map besides just drawing in pen the trip routes on it I came across a pin on Pinterest that directed me to a Martha Stewart project for making map artwork. This difference here is that the trip routes are sewn into the map. I loved it. So this weekend’s project is to make a map of all our travels – with the routes actually sewn onto the map.

I can’t wait to see all our trips on one map!

Beat the Back-to-School Blues

Many moms suffer from a case of the Back-to-School blues as kids head off to school this time of year. (I was never one of those moms!) Even if you aren’t so sad to see the kids head back to school, or if you home school and the kids don’t leave you, this time of year always brings change and often a bit of sadness at the passing of summer. Here are some ideas to keep your mind off the end of summer:

#1. Start planning next year’s vacation! No, it isn’t too early. Daydreaming about the possibilities and beginning to make plans will give you something to look forward to doing. Read Vacation Planning Tips for info and ideas on why now is the time to start.

#2. Project time! From Organizing with the Number Three, check out item #4 for tips to find 20 hours a month to give toward whatever projects you identify as most important to you.

#3. Me time. No, it isn’t selfish to take care of yourself. Read through Me Time and give yourself permission to take good care of YOU – physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially.

How do you beat the end-of-summer, back-t0-school blues? Submit your tip or share in the comments.

Efficient Packing for Trip

As we prepare for vacation, cramming 5 people into a Corolla for 25 hours plus all our stuff, I am all about getting packed as efficiently as possible. When we moved to and from Taiwan we packed in large Space Bags (great for moves or long trips). So we are applying that same idea in smaller scale for our vacation.

Lay out everyone’s clothes by outfit. Include underwear, socks, and hair accessories or hats. Select 1-3 pairs of shoes that will work with various outfits. We typically bring tennis shoes, sandals, and flip-flops. Place each day’s outfit into a one-gallon (or quart for smaller kids) zipper-bag and seal. If you are really serious, you can even suck the air out of the bags to make them flat and even smaller. We also pack one bag with 2 sets of pajamas, and an extra bag for each person with spare underwear, bras, and socks.

Bonus – dirty clothes go right into the zipper bag, keeping things in the suitcase separate and making it easy to pack back up.

For what to pack, check out the Master Packing List. For how to get it all in the car, and what to do on the way, check out Road Trip Tips.

Countdown Calendar

Kids at our house get really anxious about 2 weeks before anything “big” happens. A lot of our life in the last 2 years has meant we didn’t have more than 2 weeks notice for big things (like our moves to and out of Taiwan but as we settle into a calmer life back in the US we are once again planning things well in advance. After discussing with Little Man (who is 4) for the ten-thousandth time that our trip west to visit Meemaw & Granddad was still 2 weeks away, I had a brilliant (ok, maybe not brilliant but creative) idea to create a countdown calendar for the two kiddos who seemed to need the reminder of how many days left. Now, every day when they ask if it is time to go on our trip, they go to their calendar and either mark or the day, or tear off the tab for the day.

These calendars can easily be made in any document program (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Pages, Numbers, or Keynote or similar) and customized with picture relating to whatever you are counting down toward. Now my kids ask once, I tell them to check their calendar, and the mark off the current day, then they don’t ask again until the next day. I wish I had thought of this sooner!

Road Trip Tips

At the end of July we will pack 5 people, including 3 kids, and a dog into a Corolla and head cross-country from the East Coast to Nebraska to visit family for several weeks. Yes, we are crazy. Yes, we have heard everyone tell us how crazy we are. But, we own a Corolla (we are a one-car family) so that is what we have to pack everyone and everything into for the trip.

To be honest, I am starting to stress a bit over this trip. We can barely drive to the beach that is 40 minutes away without someone poking someone or the kids getting in each other’s “space”, which is pretty hard not to do with three kids (including one in a booster seat) across the back of a small car.

While this isn’t our first road trip (we have always been drivers), and not even our first in a Corolla (in Taiwan we packed 6 people into one to drive 6 hours to the best resort area on the island), this is our longest trip in such a small space. Once again, I believe that organization will help conquer my stress, and create a more pleasant experience for everyone. Here are some of my favorite road trip tips, especially for small spaces!

#1. Plan your route. We have planned our entire trip west with hotel reservations, possible bathroom and fuel stops, and interesting things to see and do along the way. Because our return dates are flexible, we did not make hotel reservations for the journey home. However, we have listed out possible hotel stops, based on driving times and things we want to see along the way.

#2. Add time. It will take longer than you expect. People will need more stops than you think. For every 5 hours on the road, add 30 minutes to your travel time.

#3. Pack light! We are packing for only 4 outfits of clothes, one set of pajamas, and one swim suit per person. We can wash things at each stop or our final destination. We use this Master Packing List to help us decide what we need to pack. We don’t take a lot of extra shoes – one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals or flip-flops per person. We just take the basics. Everyone does not need their own computer or beach towel (unless you are camping and then that is a whole different packing experience).

#4. Pack smart! Organize your packed items by what you will use when. We have one backpack that contains all toiletries that we can grab to take into that night’s stop. We organize each days’ outfit, complete with socks and underwear, in a zipper bag. This way everyone has what they need for stops on the road. Plus we use the zipper bag to hold dirty clothes until we do laundry. For stops along the road we keep clothes for all 5 people in a small pilot’s case so that we don’t have to take a huge suitcase into a hotel and risk losing something.We don’t take pillows or blankets and each child is allowed to pack only one Lovie.

#5. Limit what you keep inside the car and have a place for everything. Here is what we keep inside our little car:

  • Each child has a small bin that fits in the back window behind their seat that they are allowed to fill with car activities (Color Wonders, paper, cards, iPod, DVD players, etc.).
  • Each child has a seatbelt snuggie that velcros around their seatbelt to hold an iPod or MP3 player or headphones. Click on the like for instructions to this great no-sew project.
  • GPS, AC power plug adaptor, and phone charger in the glove box
  • Trash bag in the console
  • Coin purse with change for tolls (check for tolls as you plan your route in #1) in the driver’s door pocket
  • Travel case of baby wipes, a pack of tissues, a clear toiletries bag with Bandaids, antibiotic cream, cough drops, children’s acetaminophen, Benadryl, Ibuprofen, and any medications needed during the day (inhalers for example) in the passenger door pocket
  • Small cooler bag with a drink for each person and snacks (fruit chews, granola bars etc.) in the back seat pocket (we keep ours in the passenger seat pocket because First Born sits behind that seat and she is most reliable to hand things out)
  • 3 ring binder tucked between the passenger seat and door that contains several DVDs for the kids in plastic sleeves, print-out of our itinerary, print-outs of any hotel reservation confirmations, information about any stops we plan to make, current health and medical information for each family member (1 sheet per person), a list of important phone numbers, a map, and our vehicle registration and insurance cards – all in protective plastic sleeves. We also keep several empty sleeves for adding brochures and other things we pick up along our route.
  • Camera – A must-have for all vacations! Don’t forget to document the journey. We have a camera that can take still photos or video, so we don’t need two cameras taking up space in the car

Remember that getting there is part of the trip. Do your best to make it fun. Take frequent stops and enjoy the journey!

Vacation Planning Tips

It is summer! So the time to plan next year’s vacation is now!

Yes – NEXT year’s vacation. To effectively plan and budget for vacations, you need to think ahead…at least 1 year. Here are some tips to get you going:

  1. Select your destination. Pick where you want to do. This will most likely determine your budget and the time of your travel.
  2. Check prices. Investigate the hotel, travel, activities etc. Do a mock reservation to get a general price guide.
  3. Set your budget. Once you have done the research on your vacation destination, set a realistic budget for your trip. This should be the number that you will not go over, including food, souvenirs, hotels, travel, etc. EVERYTHING!
  4. Set a savings plan. You know how much you will be spending and when you want to go. Figure out how much you need to put aside each paycheck between now and then to make it happen. Once you see this number you may want to adjust your travel dates to give you more time to save the money. Never go into debt for vacation! You don’t want to spend the next 20 years paying for a trip that is just a distant memory.
  5. Make your reservations at least 6 months out. You can often get discounts, upgrades, or the pick of the best rooms and amenities when you book in advance.

If you have done all this planning you will be able to sit back and enjoy your vacation…debt free!

TIP: When it is time to pack, check out the Master Packing List to help you get ready!

Saturday Project: Travel Toiletry Holder

When we travel, somehow someone always sticks a wet toothbrush and a half-open tube of toothpaste in the side of a bag and I end up cleaning up the mess when we get home. I was so excited to see this easy sewing idea for a travel toiletries holder. While you can buy ones that look like this on I got to thinking that I could make my own fairly easily. Here are the steps:

#1. Select a terrycloth wash cloth or hand towel. Size will be determined by what you want to keep in it. For us, we used a hand towel.

#2. Lay out the items that you want to put into the organizer. Toothbrush, travel toothpaste, comb, etc. on the towel and fold the bottom up to make one large pocket. Mark between each item to create several small pockets.

#3. Sew along your marks and the outside edges of the towel to create the pockets.

#4. Add a decorative ribbon to tie around your bundle when it is rolled up. Tack it down with a quick stitch in the middle. Make sure the ribbon is long enough to easily go around your bundle and tie.

#5. Embellish with buttons, fabric paint, etc. as desired.