I hate packing.

Maybe it was a lot of moving when I was a kid, or packing for every-other-weekend-and-two-weeks-in-the-summer visits to my dad as a teen (loved the visits!).  Maybe it is years of travel for my job.  It could be plain, old-fashioned laziness, but whatever the reason, I hate packing.

I love to travel – which is good – since our closest parent lives 12 hours away and our furthest parents live 24 hours away, just counting driving hours.

With a large family, flying is pretty much out of the question, so we have the trip and the visit to consider when packing.  Pretty much anything over 15 hours driving requires an overnight stay somewhere along the way for us, but we avoid that whenever we can.

When we visit my family down south, it usually involves several days at each of three different locations – and this summer we spent an additional week in Houston at the PCA General Assembly (stopping to see the folks in Oklahoma and Texas while we were “in the neighborhood.” lol).

It takes a lot of packing.

Starting to Pack

Did I mention I hate packing?

Thankfully I learned a trick or two as a single gal traveling the globe for business and pleasure.  And several sweet friend who also travel by car with a large family taught me a few tricks.

So, here’s a bit of that wisdom, hopefully packed (pun intended) into a bullet points.

  • Pack the mama first.  I often forget this rule, and end up tired of decision making.  The result is either a suitcase for me packed with everything I own appropriate for the season or a few scrappy t-shirts and a pair of dress pants “just in case” but nothing geared for the places we’ll be.
  • Keep toiletries packed all the time.  OK, maybe it seems wasteful to have doubles of everything you use (or almost everything), but you are going to use all of that toothpaste at some point, right?  Having the toiletries bag packed with duplicates of what I actually use proves to be less expensive than packing from my daily supplies because I am less likely to forget something and need to buy an ounce of shampoo for $8 at the gas station because I forgot mine.  And those hotel razors with their single blade forged in the fires of Mordor… forget about it!  Refill all the bottles, cotton swabs, and floss before you put the bag away and it is one less thing to think through the next time.
  • Maintain a packing list with check boxes on the computer that you can print out and use every time.  Think once, execute the plan dozens of times.  It’s awesome!  Ours has little blanks between the checkmark and the item needed, we can fill in the quantity of items needed for any specific trip.
  • Pack by location rather than person.  Sure, we have carried nine suitcases, a pack-n-play, seven pillows, two backpacks, various computer and toiletry bags, and several forgotten pairs of shoes into a hotel for the night, but I always ask myself, WHY?  Be sure to keep a master list telling you which suitcases needed to be retrieved at any given place AND what items needed to be held out for a later part of the trip.
  • If you travel with pillows – use them to pack.  We slip pajamas and toiletries into the kids’ pillow cases so when we arrive late, they have one thing to carry to get from salutations to slumber.
  • If kids can count, they can pack.  Use them.  Delegate.  Inspect.  (We learned to inspect after arriving on one trip with one son who had no shorts and another who had no shirts.)
  • Pack laundry bags.  We acquired several laundry bags when they were required for our kids to go to camp one summer.  Now I just throw one in per stop and everyone can deposit their dirty clothes as we go.  I use my master list of things needed later in the trip to rescue the few items we will need to launder.
  • Pack swim suits, towels, and sunscreen in a separate bag.  Easy to carry. Easy to count.  Easy to corral wet things which need special attention.  (We actually do this at home, too.  Trips to the lake are as easy as “grab the bag and go.”)
  • Pack ziplocs of various sizes and a few plastic grocery bags.  I don’t know why you’ll need them, but I promise you’ll be glad.
  • Store sleeping bags inside suitcases so they are always handy when you are packing.  It saves space between trips, and it is a great reminder to load them if you need them.

What about you?  Do you have any favorite travel tips?  What makes packing better for you?