Whether it’s work travel or vacation travel, packing a suitcase is a major process. For me, it’s an emotional journey that can include denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. This is true whether I am packing for myself or supervising the family luggage stuffing.
My process begins by laundering every item of clothing in the house. I have two reasons: One, even if I’m going to Florida, it might snow, so all the scarves we own must been clean and folded. Two, if someone breaks into my closet while I’m gone, I want them to think I’m tidy. It’s important I make a good impression on burglars bent on stealing my 7-year-old Target brand yoga pants.
The next step of the process is to purchase shorts. The older I get, the more traumatic purchasing shorts has become. Shorts are never in stock when you need them. They’re always on the racks three months before you need them. How does one know what size they’ll be in three months? I never do. I also purchase footie socks, travel sized toiletries, and zippered plastic bags.
After a few weeks, I have a pile of things to pack that ensures I’m prepared for everything from a rainy day to walking the red carpet at the Oscars.
No matter the trip, business, or pleasure, I always have a wrinkle-free dress, five styles of black sweater, and workout shoes since the hotel has a gym. (Denial!) I also have a lot of underwear ready because what if I’m gone for five years?
Once I’ve determined the correct shorts, ball gowns, jeans, and flip-flops for every occasion, I try to cram it all into the suitcase. This occurs the day I depart. It always goes very badly. (Anger!)
We’ve reached the part of the process where I dump the entire contents of the suitcase onto my bed and start again. Here’s when serious emotional work begins. (Bargaining!) I hate every pair of jeans I’ve owned since 1991. Bringing three pairs of abusive jeans on vacation seems self-sabotaging. I also remind myself that a trip to the Oscars isn’t on the itinerary, so I don’t need the formal wear I’ve inexplicably included. (Acceptance!)
After several panicky hours, I cull it down to three black sweaters, one pair of jeans I hate, a pair of shorts, a white shirt, a black dress, and flip flops (black.) And, of course, 27 pairs of underwear just in case there’s not a Target where we’re going, and twenty-six pairs explode en route to our destination.
Only then can I start panicking about my kid’s questionable decision-making.
This recent article from AAA has twelve great suggestions. Both AAA experts and experienced moms agree that a list is a must if you don’t want to forget anything.
When it comes to packing for the kids, I’ve tried to teach them to pack instead of packing for them. I hate to hover. Especially since I’m in the midst of my own journey of self-discovery through casual wear. I laundered all their clothes. What more must a mother do?
Okay, well, probably a lot more. My mom friends weighed in with some good ideas: For those long road trips, pack the kid clothes in square laundry baskets. The baskets stack in the van, and if you’re doing laundry on vacation, the clothes go right back in the basket.
Consider rolling clothes instead of folding to maximize space. I can personally attest to the brilliance of vacuum packing the clothes. (It’s the only way I can bring all those black sweaters.)
Another mom advises telling the kids that the departure time is three hours earlier than it actually is to eliminate that last-minute rush and drama. This is especially useful if you’re trying to get to an airport.
Keep in mind that the universe likes balance. This means that if you’ve packed yourself four times the number of underwear needed for a week’s vacation, your kids will bring exactly zero underwear. But they will pack every device charger known to man. They may have to wear a charger instead of boxers if you don’t check on that, at least.
Well, unless there’s a Target where you’re going.