I’ve always wanted to be one of those women who could throw a toothbrush and a spare pair of pants into a handbag and just go somewhere. I’m not. Packing sends my anxiety to new, heady levels. This has only been exacerbated by having children.

Now it’s as least 3.5 times as stressful, as I’m packing for 3.5 people (the .5 being my husband, who can pack clothes but obviously can’t locate sun hats, trunks or towels without assistance – and certainly doesn’t consider the ins and outs of travelling with, clothing, feeding and entertaining two small children in a strange place and climate for seven whole days).

Fortunately I’ve developed a foolproof system, and I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide for other anxious packers in 171 easy steps.

  1. At least one month in advance of holiday, start compiling lists. Lots of lists.
  2. Wrestle suitcases out of loft, as husband/partner will continue to put it off as it’s ‘too early’ to start packing.
  3. Assemble on spare bed.
  4. Dust.
  5. Try to persuade cat suitcases are not a new cat bed.
  6. Start assembling essentials for each person in piles.
  7. Have protracted and traditional argument with husband about what will and won’t fit in the car.
  8. Wrestle big suitcase back into loft with passive aggressive huffing.
  9. Attempt to fit beach towels into small suitcase.
  10. Show husband suitcase full to the brim with only towels.
  11. Make him wrestle big suitcase out of loft.
  12. Look smug.
  13. Debate the pros and cons of taking the buggy vs taking the sling. Come to no conclusions.
  14. Repeat over next three weeks.
  15. Search entire house for sun cream.
  16. Find sun cream in tool box or other random location.
  17. Read article on FB about the dangers of out-of-date sun cream.
  18. Discard sun cream.
  19. Purchase new sun creams for all family (UVB and UVA) at shockingly extortionate prices – significantly eating into holiday spending money. 
  20. Add sun hats to pile, even though none of your children will keep them on for more than 30 seconds, due to rare but near fatal (presumed from the screaming) allergy.
  21. Remove hats frequently for fleeting glimpses of British sun.
  22. Develop constant fear you will forget them.
  23. Ambitiously purchase baby sunglasses, because sun protection allergy definitely won’t extend to eyewear. Definitely.
  24. Remove cat from suitcase.
  25. Argue with larger child about why they cannot wear their favourite item of clothing (which has never been favoured before) as it’s been packed for holiday.
  26. Yes, you know they can see it in one of the piles on the spare bed.
  27. Put fingers in ears and sing ‘La la la’ to drown out incessant whining.
  28. Give in and plan a billion more more holiday washes. Fuck it.
  29. Ask larger child to pick some toys to take with them.
  30. Explain that not all toys will fit in suitcase.
  31. Ask, very calmly, why we might need 5 babies, 7 barbies, Tinkerbell and co, plus 37 stuffed toys for one week in a villa.
  32. Repeat step 31 x infinity.
  33. Secretly rationalise toys in the dead of night.
  34. Get caught out by child who is running daily inventory of toy pile.
  35. Explain that the nylon Elsa dress and cloak may not be suitable beach wear.
  36. Remove cat from suitcase.
  37. Open wine.
  38. Pack medical kit for emergencies.
  39. Debate whether to take Calpol and/or Nurofen.
  40. Take both.
  41. Pack the thermometer.
  42. Order extra ear hats for thermometer from internet (you have never needed these before but you never know).
  43. Realise new ear hats are inexplicably the wrong size.
  44. Remove cat from suitcase.
  45. Get caught packing medical kit and then get asked for princess plasters incessantly for four days, for mythical injuries.
  46. Pack night light.
  47. Congratulate self about remembering a night light.
  48. Research universal plug adaptors for your destination.
  49. Discover none are compatible with your night light, or monitor.
  50. Remove cat from suitcase.
  51. Pack an outfit for each child for each day.
  52. Plus beachwear x3 (wash one / wear one / dry one, as child will not let slightly clammy lycra near its person).
  53. Add extra evening and beach outfits.
  54. Add jumpers, just in case of post pool or evening chill.
  55. Pack more vests, in case air conditioning is mental.
  56. Scrap enormous pile and start again.
  57. Be extra strict with necessities.
  58. End up with the same pile.
  59. Remove cat from suitcase.
  60. Pack sun tent.
  61. Realise sun tent is not as compact as you had hoped.
  62. Dither over how many nappies/swim nappies to take.
  63. Explain to husband that you understand they have shops in other countries, and babies. And nappies.
  64. Explain to husband in graphic detail the results of a poonami disaster if you run short. In terms of a) washing, b) grossness, and c) your own mental health.
  65. Take out some nappies.
  66. Wake up in the middle of the night in a panic.
  67. Restore nappies.
  68. Attack top layer of clothes in suitcase with sticky roller to remove cat hair.
  69. Pack three packets of wipes.
  70. Remove two.
  71. Add two more packets.
  72. Remove cat from suitcase.
  73. Explain to husband that it is not your job to keep track of his swimming trunks.
  74. Ransack house for swimming trunks.
  75. Force husband to shops to buy new swimming trunks.
  76. Find original swimming trunks three days later stuffed in baby’s vest drawer.
  77. Remember you have yet to pack books, crayons and rainy day entertainment.
  78. Look at bulging suitcase and weep.
  79. Open more wine.
  80. Wrestle suitcase into bathroom scales to check weight.
  81. Remove three vests and pray.
  82. Weep some more.
  83. Consent to remove travel stair gate.
  84. Remember pool stuff in middle of night and set alarm reminder.
  85. Add goggles and floats to suitcase.
  86. You haven’t packed books for bedtime. These turn out to weigh more than gravity – all if it.
  87. Threaten to get cat put down.
  88. Attempt child friendly explanation of ‘putting down’.
  89. Explain to children that Mummy is just a bit stressed and didn’t mean it.
  90. Rescue cat from suddenly over-affectionate children and place out of grabby hand reach on top of suitcase.
  91. Ignore triumphant purring and try to shake suspicion this was part of cat’s nefarious master-plan to sleep on suitcase all along.
  92. Weigh suitcase again.
  93. Wonder how the fuck it gained 2kg over night.
  94. Remove randomly added toys.
  95. Ban everyone from the spare room on pain of death.
  96. Remind yourself not to kill husband who is asking two days before you leave when the last wash is going on.
  97. Remove cat from suitcase.
  98. Pack kid friendly cups, plates and cutlery.
  99. Pack the one shape of pasta your kids will consent to eat, for emergencies.
  100. Pack two jars of sacla pesto, also for emergencies, as your children can taste other brands without even fucking eating any.
  101. Put some shreddies into a sandwich bag, as it’s the baby’s favourite breakfast.
  102. Take some out.
  103. Put some more in.
  104. Painstakingly Count out 15 shreddies for each day.
  105. Try not to kill child when it insists on having the pink cup for lunch, which is packed, under the cock-wombling sun tent and medical kit.
  106. Remove cat from suitcase.
  107. Empty car CD holder and fill with DVDs.
  108. Not that one, as apparently you must watch it right now.
  109. Let baby put DVDs in and out of plastic sleeves as novel new game, that it will scream blue murder over if you attempt to halt.
  110. Fear DVDs now covered in fingerprints will not play in villa DVD player, or indeed anywhere else.
  111. Calculate cost of replacing all Disney films.
  112. Apply medicinal tea to calm palpitations.
  113. Locate wine for later.
  114. Try and distract baby with sun tent.
  115. Realise you can’t now fold sun tent back into a fucking circle, let alone fit it back into it’s arse-twonking bag.
  116. Weep.
  117. Subdue homicidal rage as husband asks why you’re getting so stressed about packing for a week’s holiday.
  118. Add 0.5 tog sleeping bag.
  119. Remember air conditioning.
  120. Add 1 tog sleeping bag.
  121. Add bed sheet in case cot mattress at villa is disgusting.
  122. Berate self for OCD. Remove sheet.
  123. Replace.
  124. Remove.
  125. Gather socks and muslins at random.
  126. Halve.
  127. Add one for luck. Of each.
  128. Maybe one more muslin.
  129. Pack washing powder, as may not be available in foreign parts, and child will not wear clothes if they ‘smell funny’.
  130. Consider fabric conditioner.
  131. Dismiss as ridiculous and possibly leaky.
  132. Cram toilet roll in front pocket.
  133. Remember the cagools, just in case of freak weather, and the horror of being stuck inside with children and not enough toys.
  134. Open more wine.
  135. Admit you may have become obsessed and overwrought about packing.
  136. Weep.
  137. Remove the fucking cat from the fucking suitcase.
  138. Dig out your own summer clothes.
  139. Try on.
  140. Realise everything is at least two sizes too small and not compatible with breastfeeding.
  141. Weep.
  142. Wine.
  143. Pack toiletries and make-up a week in advance, as the one thing you can fully control and achieve, and finally cross off your list.
  144. Become increasingly annoyed at having to rummage through toiletry bag for everything.
  145. Unpack it.
  146. Pack sandals and beach shoes for everyone.
  147. Add plastic bags for wet stuff.
  148. Remember travel change mat.
  149. Add fashionista huge beach bag.
  150. Remove as takes up too much room.
  151. Replace with Tesco bag for life. (Glam).
  152. Remove cat from suitcase and throw out of front door.
  153. Overhear larger child threatening to put the baby down.
  154. Experience remorse.
  155. Wine.
  156. Remember you have yet to face the challenge of packing the hand luggage and airplane entertainment.
  157. Weep
  158. Consider whether to take glo clock and decide it’s not essential.
  159. Wake up at 3am to pack chargers.
  160. Get woken again by child explaining that while the sun hasn’t yet come up, they just need to add a toy to the suitcase.
  161. Pack glo clock.
  162. Sit all children and self on seriously strained suitcase in order to do up.
  163. Listen to husband bitch about carrying suitcase downstairs, asking ‘what the fuck have you got in this thing?’
  164. Resist sharing detailed lists of exactly what you’ve got in there.
  165. Brace for the ‘it’s never going to go in the car’ speech.
  166. Suffer ‘what have I forgotten?’ paranoia all the way to the airport.
  167. Panic over whether stuff will fit in hire car at the other end.
  168. Abandon buggy in car and take sling. (One of three. Obvs.)
  169. Throw toddler style tantrum punching and kicking husband’s suitcase, in lieu of actual husband, when he inevitably asks at the airport, ‘what do you mean you didn’t pack the x?’
  170. Avoid the disapproving stares of other travellers for the rest of your journey.