Saturday, May 23, 2009

How Do You Manage Packing For a Trip?

As the years have gone on, getting everything you need in one place to go somewhere has become increasingly difficult. The more children, the more stuff.
How do you keep track of all of it!?

For me, lists are indispensable. Figure out how many outfits you need per child. Think through all of the situations that you'll be in and be sure to include any of the special items you'll need like a dressier outfit or swimsuits. Write it down. I make a list of the items down the left side of the paper and the children's names at the top with boxes to check off when I get their specific item in the suitcase or bag. (To be honest, many times I just pack laundry baskets if we are going camping or on a road trip.)

The liberal use of gallon sized Ziplock bags is highly recommended. Take each outfit: The diaper or underwear, the dress, the onesie, the tights, the hair accessories, everything in the bag. Zip it up and label it with the child's name using a Sharpie marker. This saves headaches and lots of time while you are away from home. No more searching through a suitcase, or worse, multiple suitcases for what you are looking for. Your children will be able to grab their bag with out up turning piles of nicely folded and organized clothes. When they get so big that their clothes don't fit in a gallon bag anymore, do this same thing with plastic grocery bags, just tie at the top but be sure to label or you'll be searching through 20 different Safeway bags!

Have you ever considered taking half of the clothes you need? For our upcoming eight day trip, I've made sure that each person has four outfits packed and we reserved a hotel half way through our vacation that has laundry facilities. A few quarters spent makes your load half as heavy. Don't forget to pack a tall sized kitchen garbage bag in your suitcase for your dirty laundry to go in every day, this will save you from your dirty clothes getting mixed in with the clean stuff.

Food can be a huge expense on any trip. Thinking ahead can save you so much money! For a few weeks prior to your get away date watch for sales and coupons for convenience snack foods. Look for boxes of crackers, cookies, cereal bars, etc. Even if you don't normally buy these things, pick them up for the trip. It will save you the $20 expense of Dad stopping at the convenience store in the middle of the night on a long drive. Another option you might consider is only booking at hotels with free breakfasts. Have everyone fill up before leaving in the mornings. Then, eat some packed snacks or something light from the grocery store at midday. Eat an early dinner out, this makes for only one restaurant meal, saving you so much.

Another food related tip, don't plan on opening a big back of pretzels and everyone grabbing a handful, especially if you have toddlers. Spend a dollar and buy some snack sized Ziplock bags (really, I mean the off brand from the dollar store). I try to pack everything ahead of time in them. It makes it so easy just to hand back as many as you have snackers in the back seat. More in the tummy and less ground in to your carpets.

Activities on long trips can be very inexpensive. Don't be tempted to wait until the last minute and run to Target or Walmart and load up on coloring books and travel games. It adds up fast. If you know you'll be taking a trip (and who doesn't eventually?), keep an eye out at garage sales and discount bins all year for things that you can take with you. "New" books from Goodwill are a big hit with my children. If you have one or two that have a problem with motion sickness, be sure to reserve some books on tape at the library. Chances are you can go on line and look through all they have to offer. A CD player with earphones is all you need to bring. I still have lots of collections on tape (Our Story Hour, Odyssey, Jonathan Park) and have recently invested in a portable battery operated cassette player before they aren't sold anymore (I found one at Radio Shack). With that and a four dollar double earphone jack from Walmart, two children can share a story and batteries.

With a little planning and forethought trips with children can be enjoyable. Try your best to be prepared in most situations. Everyone will have a better time.


mama-aya said...

Ooh! Great ideas. I already do a graph-thing for packing, with the number of each item for each person, but the ziplocs for each outfit- I love it!
Have a great trip! You're going to my favorite place, so you must enjoy it for me, too!

Rachel said...

Guess what? We are going to Europe this summer (Norway, England and France)! Your post is timely. I remember you talking about the Ziploc's for clothes and was just telling Oystein that I want to do this for our trip. TFS Have a great trip!

Anonymous said...

Have a GREAT time. I can't wait to hear about your adventure.


His Talmidat said...

LOve this! Thank you. Makes the idea of a long trip sound enjoyable :0)

Anonymous said...

Great tips - love the ziploc idea for kids - next time we travel we will have our first little one with us, one may not be a big deal but I can immagine that when there are 2 or more it becomes chaotic in the case. We just came back from a trip and I thought of dozens of money-saving things (mostly retrospectively!) I have made a note for future reference and I even thought up a few child-related things, ubt your ideas are great as they come from experiance.