It may seem tedious, but it works for us. It's extremely rare that we forget something important. Having to run around Northern Ontario buying things we already have at home doesn't seem like a fun way to spend a vacation!
Here is an example of this year's spreadsheet (still in the works):
|COTTAGE LIST 2011|
|MOM & DAD||BIG-A||LIL-J||MISC|
|swimwear||ladybug pillow||baby monitor||bedtime books for boys|
|alarm clock||Ace doll||diapers/wipes||small lego tub|
|daily meds||pull ups||facecloths||colouring stuff|
|first aid kit||Big-A bodywash||Lil-J shampoo||board games|
|advil||5 x shorts / t's||Lil-J soap||play pool|
|boys meds||2xpants/long shirts||2 stuffed toys||life jackets|
|sweater each||swim shorts / |
|Lil-J food||laptop / ipod / chargers|
|water shoes||1 hoody sweater||cream (face & body)||portable dvd player|
|water shoes||5 x shorts / t-shirts||movies|
|2xpants / long shirts||DS & games|
|2 x pj's (short & long)||car drawing boards for boys|
|swim shorts / white t's||sun hats|
|1 hoody sweater||bananagrams/bingo|
I even make a list for meal plans. When other family members are at the cottage too, it's makes it easier to split up meals. This way we know what food to bring, what food to buy, and what day we're cooking.
If your child is old enough, have him/her write or type up their own list, even down to specific bedtime toys or books or car games/toys that they want to bring. This will help to avoid last-minute additions to suitcases and will quicken the packing process. It will also help to teach them responsibility. Give them a limit - 4 books and 2 bedtime toys. Let them make a decision on what they will bring.
The great thing about using a list to pack for a trip is that you also have a guide when packing to go home. Leaving things behind at a cottage is far worse than leaving things behind at home! Bring an extra copy of the list with you and check items off as you pack them up.
Vacation is fun, and should be stress-free. Packing and unpacking can be a hassle, so why not make life easier and use a list to help? It will help to keep things organized, and will help to avoid lost or forgotten items.