Are you packed?

Some people hate packing. Me? I don’t mind it because it means I’m going on a trip! My mom worked for United Airlines, so we traveled often and I learned to pack light. And, if I haven’t mentioned it, I’m generally pretty organized. Maybe just a little compulsive. Chase loves it though, since he’s always anxious to get out of town. When he asks me, “are you packed?,” the answer is always, “yes!”

When we met, Chase lived in San Diego and I lived in D.C., so we traveled back and forth often. The  greatest perk of my government job was flex time.  Since I had every other Friday off, I did the bulk of the flying…and packing. Packing for San Diego is simple. The city is casual, and the temps are between 60-80 year round. I would throw some sunscreen and makeup in with a few tops, jeans, skirts (I rarely wear shorts) and flip-flops. One carry-on got me through a weekend. And in most cases, it still would. If I was traveling alone. But I have kids!

Our first trip as parents was to my in-laws’ home in Big Bear Lake when Clay was three weeks old. We brought a slew of baby gear and 27 different outfits. How does someone who weighs seven pounds have enough stuff to fill a GMC Yukon? I always prided myself on being an efficient packer and I wasn’t going to let a kid get in the way. I learned quickly that baby gear can multitask (stroller as a high chair, blanket as a changing pad, etc.). I would bring essential gear, clothes and toys, nothing extra. The good news is that as kids get older, traveling with them no longer requires a forklift to load your car. They can sleep in a bed or eat in a regular chair. They don’t go through six outfits or 15 diapers. So, finally, we have less to pack. Hooray!

Now that we are packing mostly clothes and toiletries, we have designated suitcases: a medium-sized one for the kids to share, a small one for me, and a duffel bag for Chase (which he packs himself). I make piles of clothes and other necessities before I pack them, to make sure we have everything. Since we use the same bags for every trip, I put things in the same section of the bag each time, so if Chase goes looking for something that I’ve packed, he knows where to find it (kids’ blankets and books in the top zipper compartment, shoes in the bottom, etc.). This also helps when re-packing, so I notice if something is missing. I also bring a plastic trash bag, and rather than putting dirty clothes back in the suitcase with the clean ones, I put them in the bag for our trip home. It keeps clean clothes away from dirt, and I don’t waste time sorting clothes when we get home, trying to remember what has been worn. I put the dirty clothes straight into the wash, and the unworn ones back into the drawers where they belong. 

In addition to the suitcases, we bring a canvas grocery bag of snacks and two sippy cups per kid (one for milk, one for water/juice). I also pack another small tote for the iPads, phone chargers, sunscreen and the magazines that I subscribe to, but haven’t yet had time to read (I save them for trips). 

As for unpacking, I am one of those crazy people who does it right away. Even if I’m tired, I would rather get organized and start my week that way, than have it hanging over my head the following day. For me, a packed suitcase on my bedroom floor would just be another painful reminder that I’m not on vacation anymore.

Four years after that first trip with a baby, we spent this past weekend in Big Bear (something we do fairly often). Efficient packing allowed us to take our smaller, more fuel-efficient car. We had so much fun out on the lake that I didn’t even read my magazines. But I did unpack them when we got home and put them back in the magazine rack where they belong. When Chase asks, they’ll be packed and ready to take on our next trip!

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