Helpful ideas for getting packed - on time - for family vacations

It's going to be a great trip, a chance to spend time with the family, but all that getting ready! How will you ever be able to leave before noon? We found a great strategy that gets us an early start from our house.

The day beforem the trip we pack the car and clean the house. That evening, after supper, we pretend we are leaving right that minute - is there anything left to do?

Check the list: small pillows in the car for naps? Kids' books, crayons, drawing pads and notebooks in a satchel on the back seat? Maps, sightseeing information and paperbacks in packets under the front seat? Cash and checks in wallet and purse? Traveler's checks and their numbers in suitcases? Band-aids, pins, kleenex, extra pens, napkins in glove compartment? Wet washcloths in plastic bag under front seat? Suitcases and packages in trunk? Address book packed?

Assured that all is in readiness, we check the house. Is it secured and could we get in the car and go now? Everything locked, turned on or off, emptied, vacuumed, in place? Does each room look the way we'd want it to on our return? Plenty of detergent for doing the inevitable wash when we get back? Dry, frozen, or canned food ready for one or two meals on hand for easy preparation after our homecoming?

Are we washed, with clothes suitable for the trip, extra sweater each, comfortable shoes, change of garments for tots?

Now, instead of getting into the car, we put our traveling clothes, not on us , but on the nightstand, and we crawl into bed for a good night's sleep.

Alarms are set for one hour earlier than normal. Then when we are awakened, all we do is slip on our clothes, make the beds, and get right in the car. With this early start, it's a delight to drive off knowing we're leaving a perfectly ordered house, and that about an hour down the road we'll be stopping for a nice hot restaurant breakfast! (We even brush teeth and wash faces at the restaurant while waiting for our order.)

If possible, it's best to come home a day in advance of the return to work and school. But if necessity dictates and you know your return will be late, you can prepare for this in advance too.

Have all school and work clothes, from the skin out to the coats, laid out on each person's dresser. (By doing this beforem you leave, you won't get home from a two-week trip at midnight and be faced with doing the wash because no one has clean school socks.)

Also before leaving, set the table for the breakfast you'll be having the next morning. Be sure that it's an easy one to fix, like frozen waffles that heat in the toaster and canned juice. Have even the toaster and the can of juice set out and ready.

After supper on the last leg of your trip home, wash children's faces in the restaurant and put pajamas on them in the car so they'll be ready to pop right in bed when you finally pull into your own driveway. If you've planned it right, you shouldn't even have to unpack the car until the next day when you've had some sleep and can face the whole thing brightly.

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