Impromptu trip to San Francisco with only 4 hours of notice? Sure, why not?

In our house, this kind of thing happens all the time. My husband and I went to Tahiti for 11 days with only 2 days notice. We went to London together with only a week’s notice. We left for a 24 hour drive to visit family with only 2 hours notice, with 4 kids in tow. I am sure we will have a few more crazy trips coming up soon!

After taking surprise vacations time and time again, I have learned a few things.


I know this sounds impossible but I have found that there ARE some things you can do in advance, just in case a surprise trip pops up. One main thing I do is have a basic packing list ready to go. I keep this on my Google Drive so that it is easy to find. Then just before each trip, I go online to update it based on the temperature and length of trip. There are a few basic things that never change, however, like makeup, toothbrush, deodorant, etc. With these things already on the list, I am less likely to forget something basic. Also while I am on the trip if there is something I have forgotten and know I will want next time, I go online and add it to the list. My list has a column for each family member. Plus I have a column for car stuff, snacks and backpacks. These columns will vary or not even be used depending on the method of travel.

Another plan ahead option is that I try to keep all of my travel stuff in one place while we are NOT traveling. When we take a long car ride I have an orange basket that I keep in my closet. I usually have my kids Nintendo DS, charger and games in there since we never use them outside of a trip. Also things like fun coloring books or small toys that my kids wont miss between trips. We also have a portable DVD player that I keep in there along with headphone splitters to help keep all my kids happy.


Again this probably sounds impossible when you have a big vacation at the last minute, but you have to keep breathing. Freaking out will only make things worse! You are more likely to forget something when you are frazzled and feeling overwhelmed than when you keep calm. I am also a huge fan of list making. If you end up with a day or two of time before the trip, then I suggest having a little scrap of paper with you at all times. This can be great for those random light-bulb-moments when you think of something you need or want to do before you go. Then you grab your little scrap and jot it down. Don’t lose that paper so you can remember to get it all done or in your suitcase or car!

Also a helpful thing to remember is that almost ANYWHERE you are heading you can buy what you need. All over the world people brush their teeth and wear bras and underwear. If you forget a charger you can always go buy a new one. This isn’t the most fun option since you will have that stuff at home, BUT at least you won’t have to do without. Or perhaps those few things you forgot are things you can do without.


If this is a family trip, or even if it is a last minute couples trip, get everyone working together to get it all done. Have your kids grabbing things from the list to pack. Have your kids pack for themselves (which can backfire, but they are the ones who suffer right?). Use those little people and your husband to wash laundry, wash the dishes, take out the trash or any other thing you need done before you go. Many hands makes light work, right?

What other tips do you have for those of us who pack and leave on last minute trips a lot!

Tammy is a master Jedi planner and organizer able to battle the fiercest traveling adventure for anyone. She is married to a traveling junky and has 5 kids and one on the way. In her spare time she plans vacations to build memories, strengthen families, and challenge companies. She can also be found running, reading, cooking or sleeping. (one of her favorite past times).