Part One in this little series.
For the second installment of my road-trip-with-kids advice, I want to talk about packing for the actual trip, not just the driving portion. So really, this applies whether you’re taking a road trip, a plane trip, a train trip, or all three.
When the kids were really little and I got to pick out their clothes every day, packing for trips was a one-woman job. Unfortunately (in my opinion), my kids now want to have some say in how they dress. I learned the hard way that B, especially, needs to help me pack when she was about 5 years old and she cried over the clothes I brought for her–after we were already on the trip and I couldn’t undo what was done. Once she was helping pack, it only made sense for the boys to help too ( I mostly do Q’s packing still, although I make him look at what I pick out and say yes or no to certain items). And really, with four kids now, I would be overwhelmed trying to do it all myself without forgetting anything.
I always try to make these processes as quick and efficient as possible, so rather than packing for each child one at a time, I bring them all upstairs to the bedrooms at once and pack everyone at the same time. It’s a little loud and chaotic, but it only takes about 45 minutes total, so it’s over fast.
First, I get out their suitcases. Each kid has their own. This is good for a few reasons: first, they feel responsible for their own stuff both while traveling and during the trip; second, there’s no fighting over someone possibly wearing something that belongs to someone else since it’s all separated the whole time; third, on the return trip I can condense the clean kids’ clothes into one or two suitcases and use the remaining kids’ suitcases for dirty clothes, which makes unpacking easier.
I set their suitcases up in MY room. Then I give instructions as to what I need–for example, “Bring me 4 pair of pajamas and 8 pair of underwear.” They get to pick which ones, but they have clear guidelines as to how many of each thing they need. As they bring me different categories of clothes, I fold them and make piles for each child on my bed. Next, they might bring me 4 pair of pants or 3 pair of shorts (or whatever is seasonally appropriate). I always finish up with shirts so I can make sure they get tops that match the bottoms they’ve already selected.
Once I have all the kids clothes in individual piles, I go through what they’ve picked one pile at a time to make sure each child has A) clothes that match and can be worn together, B) clothes that fit, and C) clothes that are appropriate for what we are doing on the trip. Then I pack the clothes into each suitcase, zip them up, and line them up in the corner of my bedroom. No one is allowed to touch them once they’re packed. If a child is missing a particular item when we are packing (say O wants to pack a certain pair of pants but they are in the wash), I put a sticky note on his suitcase to remind me of what, specifically, is missing from that bag.
We’ve been packing this way for a few years now and it has worked like a charm–I can’t imagine doing it any other way now. I think this method teaches them how to pack on their own, as well, which means that in a few years when they’re old enough to go through the process on their own, I won’t even need to be involved and can just worry about packing my own clothes!
Do you have any tips or tricks to add? Any packing secrets you can’t live without?