Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Packing, Then and Now

There was a time in my life when I packed a single backpack for a two month trip.  

There's something so freeing about that.  

Sure, it was strategic, and difficult to do.  For our Asia/Australia trip back in 2005, my husband and I had to pack for warm and cold weather.  For hiking and swimming.  For fancy nights on the town and casual beach barbeques.  IN A SINGLE BACKPACK.  Given those constraints, one has to learn to be minimalist. Flexible.  Go with the flow.  There simply is no way to pack for every contingency.  So you don't worry about every contingency.  You just enjoy.  

Australia, 2005- My backpacking days
Nine years later, packing for a family of five is an entirely different beast.  It really doesn't matter the length of the trip - 3 days, or two weeks.  It takes me generally two days to pack my family for a trip. There are more contingencies than I can count, and as a result, sometimes, it looks like this: 

This won't all fit in a backpack.
The first day I start laundering and thinking.  The laundering, which I do in preparation for the hardcore pack day to follow, takes a couple of hours all in.  But the thinking - this takes all day.  I am constantly thinking of things we may need - making mental notes (which will likely be forgotten), making lists (trying to remember all of my mental notes and knowing full well I'm forgetting something I thought of earlier), and calling my husband with a list of things for him to pick up at CVS on the way home.  

The second day is when it's on.  It's hard core packing day.  And that's the day I'm in today.  We leave for Bethany Beach, DE tomorrow for the long weekend.  Oh yay, we're going on vacation! Oh shit, I have to pack.

When I tell someone without children that it takes me a full day, all day, to pack for my family, they probably think I am exaggerating.  Because honestly, when I try to explain what exactly I am spending 10+ hours on all day, I can't.  I don't know what I am doing for all of those minutes, or why it takes so long.  But given that I am doing this today, I'm going to attempt to break it down: 

For the family: 
- I need to pack food for the baby - spoons, bibs, and an equal amount of fruits and veggies to cover each day.   
- I need to pack snacks for the kids for the car trip.  This includes cookies, chips, cereal, water, napkins, sippy cups, and random other things I throw in. 
- I need to pack vitamins - Flinstone for the older boys, Trivosal for the baby.  
- I need to pack some sort of highchair/booster for the baby since he is now eating three meals a day.  I will have to go through my attic to find one (full disclosure - I will make my husband do this). 
- I need to pack medicine.  Because God knows I have learned the hard way that there is nothing worse than being on a vacation and up in the middle of the night with a feverish child with no motrin or tylenol handy.  So I pack it ALL.  Fever reducers, allergy medications, first aid creams, lotions, sunscreen, desitin, epi-pens...  Oh, and cortisone cream.  Because when we were in Disney World, that's the one thing I needed, which of course we did not have.  
- I need to pack bathroom related stuff for the kids - tooth brushes, tooth paste, flossers (because I am never having a kid go under for dental procedures every again!), shampoo, hairbrush, and plastic cups for them to rinse their mouth because they insist on having a certain color.  
- I need to pack diaper supplies - diapers, wipes, overnight diapers, swim diapers, and loads and loads of diaper cloths for a very spitty baby.  
- I need to pack entertainment for transit.  This includes the portable DVD player, charger, case of DVDs, I-pads, related I-pad chargers, and car adapter.  
- I need to pack for entertainment/necessities for the destination.  Sand toys, boogie boards, beach chairs, beach tent, beach bag, beach blanket, and cooler to bring lunch to the beach.  
- I need to bring ziplock baggies to put said lunch in.  And ice packs to keep the cooler cool.  
- For this particular upcoming trip, I need to pack towels - beach towels, bath towels, wash cloths - and sheets - for two queen beds and a king bed.  And a spare set of sheets for the inevitable bedtime accident.  
- I need to pack some extra blankets in case the ones they provide are too thin, too gross, or both. 
- I need to pack laundry detergent so that I can clean all of the above.
- For the baby, I need to pack the pack and play with two sets of sheets for the inevitable spit up.  I also need to pack the noise machine despite my husband's objections because I will do whatever is freaking necessary to ensure that my baby sleeps through the night whilst on vacation.  
- I need to pack two baby monitors (both the base and the other remote set) - one for the baby, and one for the older boys, because I am unsure of the condo set up and I will not sleep well if I am worried that I won't hear my kids in the night.  Because God knows I love getting up with them in the night.  
- I need to pack clothes for all three children.  And because it will be in the 70s in the day and the 50s at night, I need to pack clothes for warm and cold weather.  Shorts, t-shirts, pants, sweaters, light coats, bathing suits, socks, sandals, sneakers, pajamas (both long pants and shorts, because who knows how the AC works in the condo).  
- I need to pack sunglasses for both older boys, with a few pairs to spare for when they lose their sunglasses and freak out.  
- I need to pack multiple hats for the baby so as not to burn his bald scalp.  

For myself:
- Clothes (for warm and cool weather), shoes, bathing suit, exercise clothes (which I truly have never, ever used on a vacation, but I continue to bring).  
- Hair dryer and jewelry so I can attempt to look nice at least one evening. 
- Spanx (see above).
- I need to pack pumping supplies, so that I can pump milk to give Colin in his daily oatmeal.  This does not mean I just have to pack the pump.  I also have to pack spare parts, storage bags, and some sort of detergent to clean said supplies. And some spare bottles in case I want to pump before dinner and allow myself a cocktail.  Or two.  
- Boppy for breastfeeding ease.  
- My own vitamins and medications (note to self to ensure xanax is in the bag).  
- Computer to blog (which lets be honest, I probably won't), charger for computer, kindle and charger (wishful thinking), headphones for when I go on this theoretical run on the beach which never happens.  
- I-pad stand so I can watch shows in bed when my husband inevitably passes out promptly upon hitting the pillow.  
- I-phone charger.  Please God, don't forget the I-phone charger.
- Wine.  Lots of wine.  

For my husband:
- Nada.  Nothing.  That's his thing.  I'm not one of those wives (not that there's anything wrong with that).  

For the dog: 
- I don't know.  This is also my husband's thing.  He loves her more.  But I think it involves food, food bowls, a leash, poop bags, etc.  

So, to those wondering minds, this is why it takes me ALL FREAKING DAY to pack.  And I'm sure I'm forgetting multiple things.  (I know there's at least one thing, actually, because as I was reading over this, I thought, Oh, I need to add xyz!  I have now forgotten what xyz was). 

Shit, I'm overwhelmed.  

But it's all worth it right?  Right?  

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  


  1. Just so you know, we are not bringing half of what you have listed, or I'm not going! :)

  2. Ah, yes. I call it pre-pack day and pack day. Since having baby #2, I've also added in a pre-pre-pack day. That day is today. But the good news is once I've survived pack day on Friday, I get a full 4.5 hours of sleep before getting up for the 13-hour car ride on Saturday.

  3. I can relate. I realized that I had officially become a mom when I spent days packing an entire SUV-load of crap for my daughter and arrived at our destination only to realize that I had forgotten my own toothbrush.

  4. Wow. half the stuff you listed I would never bring on a trip! I always figure we can do without a baby bath or vitamins for four days (or a week). plus, in an emergency, we can grab meds at a local store. even with kids, I havelearned that less is more. bit you get points for being thorough!

  5. All I have to say is: can ship all the diapers, wipes, meds, snacks for the destination, bottled water, Ziplocs, travel toiletries, sunscreen, etc. directly to your condo (or to the real estate agent you are renting from) for free and in two days. Saves you a ton of time/energy/space on the way down. Whatever is left over, you bring back with you (you can never have enough Ziplocs/diapers/wipes, etc. at home). has changed changed my working-biglaw-mommy life, especially my packing life! Thanks for the blog, I always enjoy reading it.

  6. You do it the wrong way, believe me, I had three sons as well but I do it your Australian way which is: one bag for each, what fits goes it, what doesn't stays at home. Believe me, it works, even with new borns (ok, for new borns two bags). Children love to have it differently when they go on vacation and live adventures. No snacks, no vitamins, no highchair, have a ready to go bag for bathroom stuff so you don't need to pack each time (the vacation bathroom stuff! Add medicine, check that every six months), no entartainment, vacation as such is fun enough, one towel each, bucket, shovel and one sand toy each, always rent houses with towels, sheets and blankets, believe me they will work and leave at home the monitors, you will hear them. Shouldn't be holiday about relaxing and let it go?

  7. You are overpacking. I traveled for a month with my 6 months old with one bag each - one for me, one for my husband and one for the baby!

  8. I have one simple tip when packing for the family: Pack everything you think you're gonna be needing - Stop, breathe & remember all the unnecessary things that you packed. All the "maybe" stuff, put it away. You're gonna end up with 3 or 4 bags less than you originally have. :) Trust me, it works! I tend to overthink as well when packing. And I think that this is a good way to really pack lighter than originally planned!


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