I’ve been traveling a lot this semester, both alone and with my family. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on family packing, but I have picked up a few tips worth sharing with anyone who’s taking charge of packing for more than just yourself.
Ultimately, packing is a really personal process, and so much is dependent on how you rank your priorities. Is it more important to you to avoid baggage check fees or to be able to get on and off a plane with as little as possible? Would you prefer to bring everything with you or buy some things when you get there? I think that the key to successful packing is being as honest with yourself as possible over what you need, what you’d prefer, and what you’re willing to sacrifice.
My process tends to go something like this…
I’m an obsessive list-maker, so for trips like this one I make a list of different events (meeting with former professors, commencement ceremony, family celebration dinner, mother’s day brunch, etc.) and then figure out what level of fanciness is appropriate. For example, the previous list of events meant that I was going to be needing casual and could-be-dressed-up dresses plus a separates option or two.
Then, I apply my very sophisticated “throw all the clothes I’m drawn to right now on the bed and see what happens” technique (illustrated above). As the name suggests, I start pulling out clothes that fit those general parameters and that I find appealing or inspiring at that moment. Then, I try to create outfits from the pile, removing or adding items in order to create an overall color palette to give me as many on-the-road options as possible.
Now, packing for N. and little e. in addition adds another layer of planning. I still make a list of needed items and throw their clothes into the pile on my bed, but for a weekend like this one — where I know there will be a lot of family photo opportunities — I also try to create some coherency (but not matchy-matchy-ness) between all our outfits.
For example, one event we’ll be attending is a mother’s day brunch and birthday party for N.’s grandmother. There will be lots of family there, and many photos will inevitably be taken. One option would be for N. to wear a white and olive striped button down and brown pants, while little e. rocks his navy polo and gray chinos. I could pull together the blue and green with my graphic floral pattern dress.
Or…baby e. could wear his plaid button down and pattern mix with his dad’s blue and green patterned button down. Meanwhile, I could add some warmth with my salmon midi skirt and gray salmon top or with my bright red-orange dress.
Any of these items could mix with any of the others, and all could be appropriate for several of our weekend events. Packing this way satisfies my inner planning-nerd without sacrificing that creative moment of coming up with an outfit “the day of.” Gotta keep the magic alive.
I’ve become a stronger believer in packing cubes recently. It helps to have all of little e.’s little clothes in one neat, zippered cube, otherwise they have a tendency to get lost in the maw of the bigger bag.
Meanwhile, keeping N.’s and my underwear, socks, and pajamas in another cube helps us find necessities and keep track of what’s clean and what’s dirty. Honestly, I don’t think that these packing cubes necessarily make for the most efficient use of space, but I appreciate them as sanity-savers.
For this road trip I made little e. a “bucket of fun,” containing his mini magnetic doodle pad, some play planes and a helicopter, his baby owl puppet, and a few board books. I also packed a bag full of an array of healthy snacks for the road that could be easily accessible during the drive. Little e. did, indeed, appreciate these provisions.
Although it’s more “stuff” to bring along — and I wouldn’t have packed this volume for an airline flight — the revolving set of options was worth it for a road trip.
What packing tips for family travel do you have?