You really can take it with you when you go. At least, you can when you go on a vacation. I learned this the hard way during our first Florida family winter-spring vacation. I saw people on the plane with babies and preschoolers, diaper bags, bottles, strollers, juice boxes, car seats, and more. I was in awe–or maybe it was shock. Here are some thoughts on a simplified vacation.

Simple living didn't save us that vacation when it was time to rent a car. Next time, we seriously considered getting a bigger vehicle even though the kids are past diapers and strollers. I discovered it doesn't simplify a vacation to spend half of it in the rental car parking lot trying to figure out how to make all our stuff fit. I struggled with storage enough in my older home. Who needed that on vacation?

Unfortunately, Frustrations Come With Us…

On vacation, I saw people consoling whining kids and crying babies. I saw grown-ups snapping at or arguing with each other in Orlando's finest theme parks. It was reality, but it made me sad. I guess you really do take it all with you on vacation–the physical clutter, the mental clutter, and the emotional clutter. All of it gets to come along.

Don’t Overpack!

It isn't a simple vacation if a family over packs. We didn't need fourteen days of socks because we wore our sandals a lot of the time. The sandals were good equipment with excellent foot support. I also vowed never to use my zippered beach bag again for a carry-on after the strap made a permanent dent in my lower neck muscles during those long airport walks. Good equipment, whether it is quality footwear or decent luggage, is important. I looked enviously at the other adults who used backpacks with padded shoulder straps for carry-ons.

I, "Ms. Organized," also managed to lock the keys inside our rental car at the miniature golf course in Clearwater. One hour and thirty dollars later, one might ask, "why bother?" Vacations put you at the whim of weather, traffic, crowds, hotels, and restaurants, just to name a few potential disappointments. To prevent that, get two sets of car keys if you can, and research hotels, restaurants, and activities on www.tripadvisor.com and other travel websites.

Vacation was a learning experience. I made a mental note to update the warm-weather packing list I had created on the computer. Why re-invent the wheel every time you travel? My friend Mary taught me to keep a vacation packing list and a vacation preparation to-do list on my computer. Besides, having these lists on the computer tells the Universe that I might dare to vacation again.

Vacations don't fix or simplify anything, especially since we drag all our baggage, even simplified baggage, with us anyway. Vacations require lots of planning, preparation, and extra work. There is no guarantee that just because we take a vacation it will be a good one.

And yet…if you offered me a chance to go again, I would accept in a heartbeat! Vacations, good, bad, or indifferent, are a break from the routine. Who knew our whole family could walk fifty miles per day? (We even parasailed and rode wave runners on a dolphin tour, and I survived a roller coaster with seven inversions.)

Vacations reflect family values. I guess I should have trusted ours a little more. We tend to enjoy nature walks and quiet places away from crowds. One year we did the Orlando theme park trip but combined it with several days on the gulf afterwards. On the last day of vacation, I asked my kids which part of the trip they enjoyed more. They both said they preferred the beach! Maybe we should have trusted that our kids would share our values and would have been happy to reduce the quantity of theme parks. Or, maybe it was a life experience we wanted them to have anyway.

On the flip side back home, I was grateful for a somewhat simplified life. Reduced clutter, ingrained habits, and routines helped us get prepared for our vacation and these habits also helped us get "unburied" that first week back from vacation. Simple living didn't let us side step either transition, but it helped reduce the pain–a little.

A vacation also gives you a fresh perspective on how you want to live. It can trigger some early spring cleaning and an openness to new ideas that you didn’t have before your trip. I will lose much of the stuff in my life as I downsize, but no one can take vacation experiences away from my family, or me, once we have them. I am grateful for the family vacation memories, and I am eager to try more.


Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.