Over the years, lots of friends have asked me how I pack for our trips, mainly, what do we have to have, and what can we leave behind. Well, my answer is always: It depends. Our big (huge) trip to Guatemala a few years back was completely different than, say, a long weekend in Maine. Whether or not we're flying to a destination, and of course, the duration of the trip, all affect how I determine what we'll bring and what we won't.
TIP: Pack whole outfits rather than random articles of clothing, and include one for both hotter and colder weather than you anticipate.
We estimated about eight hours in the car to get to DC. We were off both times, over two on the way down, but only one on the way home (and that was because of all the hurl stops along the highway spanning the six states). Lovely, I know. Sorry.
Each person gets a bag or backpack to keep with them on the plane or, in this case, in the car. Everyone carries an extra change of clothing and some fun things to pass the time. Now that our children are older they have some snacks, too; but I did not relinquish control over the snacks when they were young because they'd just gobble everything up in record time and then not feel well. (A few friends loved my little headband/hair bow set up because they didn't get all smooshed en route and then I had a place to store them when we settled in. Go me. ha ha - It's simply a cheapo plastic container enclosed in a zippered baggie. Genius, right?)
Another way I save space is to pack multiple people's clothing into the same suitcase. Kids' clothes don't take up tons of space, and especially when traveling by plane, it's crucial to divvy up clothes in case one bag gets lost. Plus, it's easy to stash away packs of cards like this, which come in handy for needed downtime.
Another essential for us is to bring our own pillowcases. We never did this when I was a kid, but since I've been married and a Mom, it's a must. It's comforting and it means that no one fights over whose pillow belongs to whom (ie, who drooled/breathed/snotted/snored on that white hotel or rental pillow I think is mine...yikes!). Win win. And when you're all sick, this felt like the difference between making it out alive and not. I'm not even kidding.
TIP: Bring a small, flat nightlight or two for the hotel room or rental to help with late-night trips to the bathroom. (We often bring along a flashlight, too.)
Plastic baggies are your best friend while traveling the friendly albeit super-strict skies, and are still rather handy for the car. We stick to carry-ons as much as possible, but for extended trips, we obviously need more of, well, everything. For road trips like this one to DC, I pack whatever full-sized bottles have half or less left in them, and then I can simply toss them and not be bothered with them on the way home. (I also roll up a few spare plastic baggies to put inside these baggies so I'll have extras for snacks if we plan on buying food once we get to a place.)
TIP: Use those small plastic potion containers for holding earrings and other jewelry.
Below is my set-up for the car, which includes an emergency mini-medical kit; these items are placed in baggies in our luggage when we travel by plane. We all know what the essentials are, but for clarity's sake, here are mine: pain relievers (children and adult); cold & flu meds; personal, ahem, items and flushable wipes, and tissues. That package on the lower right is the ever-so-cool laundry...the name escapes me right now, of course!..the toss it in the washer and then the dryer sheet thing. They are THE perfect solution when we're renting a house or condo with a washing machine, which translates to: less laundry to pack!
TIP: If you'll be swimming, don't forget ear plugs or drops.
TIP: Bring along a pen, notepad, and a Sharpie pen for last-minute labeling...it could save you!
For lengthy car rides, I load the trunk with drinks and snacks. We alternate between audiobooks, movies, and favorite CD's for a couple hours, then stop for a quick break, when we dole out some of the goods.
We also get the wiggles out with a super speedy round of cross training moves, which makes even the grumpiest of travelers break out at least a little smile. I put on my drill sergeant face and shout out orders: fifteen jumping jacks, go go go, ten knee lifts, move it move it move it, etc etc. Gets 'em every time.
TIP: Pack a large, sturdy tote with snacks and then you'll have a perfect bag for carrying towels, pool/beach toys, sunscreen, whatever!, once you reach your destination.
This is probably not a novel idea to anyone but me, but since we were heading out at dark o'clock (4 AM), I wanted to have something kind of light and healthy for later in the morning. Like a fruit salad in a cup. They've been selling these in supermarkets for decades, but this is the first time I thought to make my own. Duh. (I used a rubber band to "hold" the fork and the baggie over the top.)
FYI: I found this to be the best way to package Ants on a Log, aka celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, which I'd never thought of before, either. No more sticky, peanut buttery plastic wrapper or tin foil- it was great!
Another tip I rely on when we're hotel bound is this: label individual plastic cups with a Sharpie pen. I cannot even begin to tell you how much this mattered on this most recent trip. Invaluable. We don't have to keep track of glasses or bottles of soda, juice, powerade, water...anything!... because of having our own cups. Typing that out, it sounds really rather dumb, but it made our time in the hotel suite so much better and easier, which is true even when we aren't fighting over the bathroom.
I hope these were helpful to read. Traveling with kids is no joke! But it's so worth it, even when stomach bugs come along. We still had many wonderful moments together as a family, and there were important lessons learned- and relearned- in patience, kindness, and perseverance. Happy travels! Please share a tip in the comments if you have one- I love to hear how other families hit the road! =)
I've also been working on some new sewing tutorials & tips, so I'll have those listed on the Rose & Ruffle blog soon. There's a little update there featuring some new items in my shop if you want to take a peek...