Inside the mind of a professional organizer: Plan and pack for summer fun

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Nothing beats a road trip to celebrate summer vacation.

Early in life, I learned the importance of a check list, household maintenance and planning for excitement away from home.

At 15, a friend and I traveled to Florida, without our parents, to invade my uncle’s house. It was then that I was introduced to a lack of preparation. Thankfully, we learn from experience.

At 17, I was off again to Mexico with my high school for a senior class trip.

Four days into a week of paradise, I found myself washing clothes in the sink and practicing naughty words in Spanish because I was unprepared, once again.

Family vacations can be stressful events for parents. It’s hard enough planning for oneself, let alone significant others, kids, pets and upkeep of daily home obligations.

With every road trip, our first physical action is packing.

Packing for a night or two away looks different for everyone.

Some individual’s packing skills are effortless, while many miss the mark by either under- or over-packing.

Our lists vary depending on:

• Where we’re going.

• How long we’ll be there.

• Planned activities.

• Ability and opportunity to pick up essentials on the road.

• What needs to be delegated around the house, while away.

Quick, common Midwest road trips include:

• Drive-in movie theaters.

• Beach day and river activities.

• Biking and hiking.

• Fishing, camping and canoeing.

• Sports outings.

• Miniature golf, golfing and driving range practice.

• Local produce farms, farmers markets and day-long attractions.

• Outdoor concerts, festivals, amusement parks and picnics.

Some activities require a few simple items, while preparing for others need all sorts of things. Regardless, a checklist is a confirmation we have our needed essentials to enjoy time away from home.

With any road trip, I suggest having a cooler and snacks to prevent lost time and unnecessary stops. The longer it takes to reach our destination, the more “are we there yet?” inquiries we’re likely to hear.

Planning for the unexpected also is something I suggest.

When packing physical items in your vehicle, space-consumption is key.

• Are you using (labeled) totes to group like items?

• Mid-sized totes makes loading and unloading vehicles easier.

• Grouping like items makes it easier to find what we are looking for.

• Travel bags for material items do not take up as much room.

• Dirty laundry.

• Damp towels.

• Pillows and blankets.

• Compact rolling carts make transportation of items from vehicle to destination easier on your body.

• Use Gallon Ziploc Bags to contain and identify smaller items.

• Bring along spare Tupperware for leftover food.

• Have a few essential cleaning supplies, including a wet rag, in the cooler for wiping sticky fingers.

When you are packing for any road trip, don’t forget to leave available space for items acquired along the way. If you go to an amusement park, remember to factor in the prizes won.

Most summer road trips are consistent. We tend to participate in similar outings and have learned a thing or two from past experiences.

Creating and maintaining a checklist for annual review can refresh your memory and help you to avoid repeat mistakes, while reminding you to focus on things that worked in your favor.

As you plan and live in the moment this summer, don’t forget to organize your photos.

Create a photo album online. This will allow easy access to download photos, or better yet, to print. Your effort will make it easy to find, reflect and share memories.

I hope summer allows you to tap into your favorite activities, explore new adventures and create new memories with loved ones.

Jessi Bushman is a professional organizer, member of the Iowa Professional Organizers Association and owner of Organizer Jessi in Dubuque. Visit her at

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