Sunday, January 26, 2014

Travelling Tips Part 2 of 2: How I Pack So I Don't Lose Things (Including My Mind)

photo from here

I have always hated packing. Kids or no kids, packing shines a big fat spotlight on one of my worst qualities, which is that I'm terrifyingly forgetful. Let's just say more than once I've accidentally walked the streets of Brooklyn in my slippers. 

I used to just deal, working around whatever item I'd forgotten, but once I had kids, I couldn't just wing it anymore.  Forgetting the baby monitor or my son's epipen were really hard or impossible to just brush aside, and all of a sudden idiot-proofing became just as important as baby-proofing.  

That said, I've since implemented a few dummy-resistant systems that seem to work pretty well for me, and to be honest I wish I'd started doing them before I had kids.  It's a lot more pleasant than having to wear your underwear inside out because you forgot to pack any. Again.

photo from here

Tip #1: Create a Permanent Packing List

My in-laws live at the beach, so we are lucky enough to spend most summer weekends taking in the sun and surf.  We go with enough frequency that I keep a permanent packing list in my phone not only for myself but also for the kids.  This includes everything from sandals to sunscreen for the kids to tampons and makeup remover for me.  Everything is on that list including random items like infant tylenol, because I've found it's much easier to simply not pack the things you don't need rather than realize in the middle of the night that your toddler is cutting molars and you have nothing to give them.  Because our kids are also allergy-prone, we always pack liquid and topical benadryl, which has saved us at least a dozen times.  More than once we've lent a dose to friends whose kids break out in a rash from this or that. And whenever I find myself driving to CVS at 8:30 at night to pick up something I didn't pack, onto the list it goes. Ipso schmipso.

The great thing about having a master list for all four seasons and for every family member is that when I do things like fly across country to LA with my kids in the middle of winter, I can easily pull together all the warm-weather must-haves for the kids and for myself. 

Tip #2: Take a Suitcase Selfie

It's one thing to follow your master list, packing broad categories like t-shirts and pajamas and jeans.  It's another to remember exactly which t-shirts or how many pairs of shoes you packed.

To solve this problem, when I pack I neatly lay out everything on the bed first - clothes, kids toys, books, lovies, shoes, handbags, etc - and snap some iPhone pictures of everything I'm taking with me.  This way, when I'm packing up everything to return home, I can do a quick visual cross-check of my packed items to make sure I don't leave behind a pair of shoes by the back door or a bottle or bib in the kitchen.  Seriously, this little trick has been such a lifesaver.

Tip #3: Make a Master To Do List (and take a picture of it)

Because Mike went out to LA six days before the kids and I flew out to meet him, it meant that not only did I have to get us packed, but I also had to take care of all the 'leave-the-house-in-a-state-of-relative-normalcy' tasks that he and I usually split up, like cleaning out the fridge, running the dishwasher, arranging for someone to grab our mail and even setting the coffee maker the night before our big morning trip.  I'm not complaining about chores (even Kate Middleton used to take out her own trash), it's just that being solely responsible for the packing and the house prep meant I had to get organized. Aside from getting ready for our flight, I also had little things to remember to do, like take out cash for Julie the Babysitter and pick up a birthday gift for a friend we were seeing on our trip, and since I work full-time and had an opening night two days before our trip, I had to parcel out all the chores over a few days.

Just like with the suitcase selfie, I always snap a picture of my to do list, too, so that I can put any free moments during the day to good use, texting my neighbor about our mail in between client meetings or running to the store on my lunch break to buy ziploc bags.  Then when I get home I just cross them off the list and snap an updated pic.

Tip #4: A Few Random Suggestions

- I have to credit Mike with the idea to pack a few empty plastic shopping bags.  Whether for dirty clothes or muddy shoes, having a separate bag for stuff you don't want touching your other stuff is invaluable.

- Take a few moments to think about life when you return from your trip.  Whether it's making sure you have a few days of clean clothes when you get home or putting clean sheets on your guest bed for your friend who's coming to visit the day you get back, think ahead to life after your travels to avoid a headache.

- Roll all of your items instead of laying them flat.  I first saw this done by a friend in high school and I've been doing it ever since. Even when we went to LA I packed an entire suitcase of dirty, neatly rolled clothes. It's the secret to turning any bag you have into a clown car.

Do you have any tried and true packing or travel tips to share?


  1. Great thoughts! I am so glad to get these use full tricks. Your all tips are really informative and I love it. I also like to do travel a lot. Mostly I preferred to spend my vacation and other special days far from the house. Now I am planning washington dc cherry blossom tours to celebrate the summer vacations with the whole family.

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