The problem with getting away from it all-is that you have to take some of it with you. The key to stress free packing is to remember that you are not going to the moon. There will be a Walmart or grocery where you vacation to replace most forgotten items. For convenience, it's always great to have your favorites with you.
Lotions and Potions: I pack a toiletry bag that never gets unpacked. It has been fine tuned over the years and the contents get refilled when I return home each time. Starting at the top of my head and working down, I think of the products I use to get ready each day--Shampoo/conditioner, moisturizer, makeup, q-tips, lip balm, toothpaste and so on down the body to my toe nail polish.
Save the day: Using the same process I think about maladies that could ruin a good time--Ibuprofen, antihistamine (pills and cream),decongestant, sunscreen, aloe, bandages, antibiotic cream, anti-diarrhea, antacid, motion sickness tablets and any personal medicines you need.
What to Wear:Kids will want souvenirs anyway so buy t-shirts a size larger and let it be their vacation jammies. I taught my children very young how to pack for a trip. First, they counted out enough underwear for each day and one extra and laid them across their bed or floor. Next, they place a shirt on top, followed by shorts, and then socks if needed. Each pile went into a ziploc bag and into the suitcase. Add an extra pair of jeans, beach shoes, tennis shoes, sandals and a jacket and they were ready. Toss in a large ziploc bag or a pillow case and you can sow laundry as you go.
Whistle while you wait- There is a portion of any vacation that makes you wait. Time at the airport or in the car is more tolerable if you are prepared. I always pack granola bars in each kid's backpack as well as my own. Delays can make meals irregular and a bite to eat can make everyone happier. Music, puzzles, small games, cards, yahtzee dice, and books will break up the time when you are tired of "I spy".
Memories- The best idea we ever tried was taking a spiral bound art pad as a travel journal. We decorated the cover by using old brochures or maps and sealed them with clear contact paper. Each child had a glue stick in their backpack (in a baggie) and used it to glue those lobby brochures of sites we had seen into the art pad. I encouraged them to draw and write to help remember what we had done later. The bags from their suitcases could hold treasures like seashells till we got home.
Unplug, relax, and enjoy!