Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tips for Family Travel: Packing and Managing the Chaos

I HATE packing a suitcase for trips.  I'm a pretty darn organized person.  I make a packing list weeks in advance.  I make a to-do list to ensure that all clothes are clean for our trip and we have everything we need ready to go.  But when it comes time to actually pack the suitcase, I think I'd rather have dental work done.
But's a necessary evil if you're going anywhere over night or longer.
My family of four (my husband, I, and our 4 and 2 year old boys) is heading east to visit with family during the holidays this year.  Plane tickets are expensive enough without having to pay for those checked bags now.  So I am bound and determined not to check more than one suitcase for all four of us - for a 6 day, 5 night trip.
Calm down, have a sip of coffee.  Here's the plan.
We will be staying in the homes of family members and friends, rather than in a hotel.  That being said, we'll have the use of their washing machines and dryers available to us.  We will wear the same outfits on the day we leave as we do on the day we come back.  You need comfortable clothing for travel anyway, right??
We will each pack two more outfits in the suitcase and wear them twice while we are there, doing a load of laundry mid-way through our trip so that we can wear them again.  I'm not in love with having to wear the same outfit twice, but hey - if it will save us $50 on a checked bag, I'm willing to suck it up and deal! (Can I get an amen, fellow frugal friends??)
I also plan on taking no more than two carry-on bags with us on the plane.  I recently flew to New York, and with so many people trying to cram everything into a carry-on bag rather than pay for a checked bag, there is usually little-to-no storage room on the plane and you end up having to gate-check your carry-on anyway.
We will take two backpacks with us that can be stored under the seats in front of us so that we don't have to worry about not being able to find space in the over-head compartments.
One of the carry-on backpacks will be for the kids.  It will contain books, toys, snacks, and other items necessary to keep them busy and engaged during the flights, along with diabetes medication/supplies and a change of clothes for my youngest who is still working on making it to the potty every time he has to go!
The second carry-on backpack will contain the items we need:  identification, boarding passes, money, phones.  It will also contain other things we don't need, but think we do: tablet, chargers, ear buds, etc.  My plan is for ONE person (cough*myself*cough) to remain in charge of this bag and all the contents in it.  This way, when we get ready to go through security and or board, we aren't shuffling around, trying to remember who has what boarding pass, or trying to figure out who has our cash when we're trying to grab a quick snack or drink on our way to the next gate.  Whenever we are done with the ID's or boarding passes, they are all handed back to the designated person for the next time we need them.  I feel this is imperative to remaining organized in an airport with a family of four.

While we are visiting, I'm going to keep all dirty laundry together, in an organized stack outside of the suitcase (I will bring a trash bag for this purpose) so that when it comes time to do our laundry, it's all in one place. 

I have asked my friends and family members to keep in mind that we are flying to see them and not driving.  I so appreciate the love my children receive from family, but they are always showered with entirely too many gifts.  Family has been advised that if it doesn't fit in our suitcase/bags when it's time to go home, it doesn't come home with us, and can be shipped at a later date!
I think my plan will keep us very organized, and with organization comes less stress, which is important when you're travelling at any time, but especially during the holidays.
Your turn readers:
Packing: Love it or hate it?
How do you pack "smartly" for a family?
Any awesome tips for managing all the chaos when traveling - whether by road or the airways?



  1. If your going to pack all the "important" stuff in one bag you need to be very careful with it. I'd suggest at least stashing some emergency cash somewhere else. One lost or stolen bag would be a real bummer.
    Have fun!

  2. Pack your own snacks and a reusable water bottle that you fill up before you get on the plane (there are fountains everywhere). If you have 2 carry-ons, split important meds just in case one gets lost (similar to Gin's comment about cash) and know how to get more locally if you need them. Shop online for gifts and have them deliver to your family's address instead of lugging them with you. Good luck!

  3. I think you've got a great plan! (New comment-er here. Just started reading your blog, love it.) We aren't going anywhere quite as far or for quite as long, but my husband and 3 boys are heading to my inlaws' for 3 days for Christmas, and since my MIL is a (closet) smoker, we all end up smelling like a bar within 15 minutes of being there. So, I also do the reuse/recycle outfits idea--saves space, time, and laundry when we get home (which I start, I kid you not, as soon as we walk in the door from our garage!). :) All good, right?

    Good luck in your travels and have a great trip!