Planning: The Key To A Successful Trip

Our packing list generated on  Quip . We like using Quip because it allows collaborative editing.

Our packing list generated on Quip. We like using Quip because it allows collaborative editing.

We travel so much that planning a trip has almost been second nature like planning a gathering or meal. It is a very involved process but one you can easily do especially if you're excited about it! Planning some important details in advance can save you a lot of money and time while still allowing you to enjoy your trip.

So let's begin!

One of the keys to having a successful trip is to develop good plans. Below you'll find different lists that have been helpful for our family.

When working on your master list of family needs and items, you'll be able to see whether you have sufficient clothing, space, or food for specific dietary needs. One advantage I love about making a Master Plan (that is flexible and has back-up plans) is that I can relax a lot more. We also feel free to spend money on a meal at a grocery store like Whole Foods or Chipotle since we've brought along and/or are preparing many meals while we're on our trip.

The Basic Packing List

The Basic Packing List (or Checklist) is basically everything that you intend on bringing with you. This can also include things that you still need to buy while properly marking it as such.

One of the great things we love about making a checklist is that it helps us to work faster when we get close to departure time. Others can also help. They will have the tools they need to carry out those plans well sometimes without much supervision.

Another great benefit is that when you leave your lodging or hotel room on the day of departure, you'll know that you didn't leave anything important behind. This Packing List, which includes items bought, will ensure you will not forget everything you've brought, bought, and received. If you brought gifts along and have given them away, you'll see the extra cargo room you just made as well!

Whether we're traveling to spend time with family, friends, house hunt for a rental, or attend a special event, it helps our family to plan out the following basic things:

  1. The basics
  2. Spares
  3. Fun, educational, and productive items for the trip
  4. Emergency supplies
  5. Cameras or other electronic equipment
  6. When applicable (gifts)

Feel free to swap these items around to do what's helpful for your family! This is just an example one of the Basic Checklists we'll make. Our bare bones last-minute list is a Packing List according to person and hygiene needs.

For some trips we'll even pack suitcases and duffel bags according to Day and Need (like toiletry bag).

The Logistics Sheet (or Itinerary)

Once I have my Basic Checklist I know that we can pack smoothly without wondering or thinking we left something at home that we would need. Not only does it help us relax but it helps us to be able to remove any unnecessary items from our luggages or car if we just don't have the space.

Having a Basic Checklist also allows us to develop other plans around it. Be creative and see what works for your family!

I like to make a somewhat rough Travel Itinerary. I sometimes draft a temporary Travel Itinerary before I can efficiently complete our Basic Checklist.

Seeing my plan mapped out on paper and/or one of our electronic devices allows us to see if we'll be needing a set of clothes and nice pair of shoes to attend church service or sometimes two if there's a wedding on a separate day. We'll also be able to see if we need warmer or cooler clothes and if we'll be at indoor or outdoor events.

Would it be wet and cold? Does that toddler need a spare jacket? Is there a laundry facility or way to wash something if absolutely necessary or our length of stay is more than a few days long?

Here are the stages I like to base our Travel Itinerary off of:

  • Before the trip
  • The day of departure
  • On the way to our destination
  • At our destination
  • Departing for home
  • Back home

From this list I can develop an even finer detailed list on the "At Our Destination" section. This is where weddings, house hunting, conferences, etc. mostly fit in. Sometimes this Travel Itinerary can grow if you have multiple stops and goals.

Planning this way ensures that you have basic logistics covered and can adapt for last-minute changes and fun adventures! You'll know if you have enough clothes to spare or food to last another day or two.

The Food Plan (or Meal Plan)

Lastly, one of my favorite things to plan is our meals. I get excited to find ways to have our family eat healthily while still saving money.


I love being able to save as much money on food by preparing some ahead of time and taking food to prepare so that we can spend that money on other things. Traveling is expensive so any ways that we can cut down on costs makes our family happier.

Also since we have specific food needs and like feeling healthy and energetic, we enjoy making a good food plan. It feels nice to treat ourselves for a meal or two (or more) at Whole Foods, Chipotle, natural grocery store, or restaurant.

When it comes to planning out our Food Plan, I enjoy doing research and investing in good products that not only can be used during our long trips but also on other outings as well. These can be for taking food with us when we go grocery shopping and run errands together, have Family Fun Day on the road, or take a meal to eat after church service at the building or elsewhere.

These lists can seem overwhelming to make but they're really a lot of fun to do especially when you plan them in advance. Even if we're house hunting very soon, Lord willing, planning it this way makes it seem like a vacation! Everyone in our family gets excited to accomplish this goal together.

One of the benefits of making a Food Plan ahead of time is being able to see if we'll be extremely tight with money. This will help us to get by with leftovers at home on days when there's not a lot of meat to eat for dinner. We eat like kings, by the way, in this household so our children don't starve. It just means we'll find other sources of protein or something more filling such as beans, extra nuts, or filling up on yummy homemade organic broths.

Since it's been cold lately, I've been enjoying cooking batches of organic chicken and grass-fed bone broths in our crockpots. This makes it seem like we have a yummy restaurant or deli ready at our disposal!

These broths have not only saved us a lot of money but have also added a lot of flavor to our meals and cooking. These delicious broths have been extremely nourishing and satisfying. They are a treat to add with our meals even up to three times a day. If we don't add them directly to our bowls, we'll drink them up in a separate cup.


Whatever your travel plans are, help yourself and your family to enjoy your trip while saving money too by planning. Remember, saving money and cutting down on costs is like making money! You'll have more to spend.

Start with anything, even with a Basic Packing Checklist, and you'll be glad you did!

Question: Do you make checklists and itineraries for your family's travels?