Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Motivational Monday: Family Car trips and Packing Philosophy

Nostalgia cluttered my thinking with memories of those car rides we reminisce about with friends. You know the ones I am talking about: the one where your brother rode in the back window and your sister slept on the hump on the floor……or the trip where your aunt threw up in your Barbie case. You know, the ones where you opened the window and arm wrestled with the wind as your dad chain-smoked all the way to California. The one where you just piled in the car and headed west…… the vacation where no motel reservations were made, and you had to sleep in the car…I call the back window!

For the past two summers we have taken long car trips with our boys. Last summer it was 2,700 miles in a Corolla with the 5 of us. This summer it was 2,200 miles in an Explorer with 4 of us. Last year in order to take the Corolla; I really had to have a method to my packing madness. I carefully thought about what to bring along, especially clothes as they take up so much room. During both of these experiences I developed a method to my packing madness:

· I packed by day and put everyone’s clothes for that particular day in one bag. When we made our stops, I didn’t have to bring in our entire luggage, just what we needed for that day’s stop. For example, if our first stay was at a hotel for just one day, I packed one bag with our clothes for the next day in it, and nothing extra. So when we checked into the hotel, we grabbed that day’s bag. If we checked into a hotel for 3 days, I had 3 days worth of clothes packed in one bag.
· I really packed only what we needed, nothing extra.
· We always do laundry half way through our stay. Most hotels have multiple washers and dryers available and for about $10 you can complete 3 loads of laundry in about 90 minutes. You may want to call ahead to your hotel and check if this is an amenity offered at your hotel. Often we will stay at family and friends and they don’t mind if you do a couple of loads of laundry. Just think of all of the time you will save when you come home and half of the clothes you unpack are already clean!
· A separate bag for pajamas. This works really well as it stops the searching through the entire luggage for those missing pajamas. I only pack one pair for each of us and the pajamas also get washed at some point during our trip.
· A bag with coats and pants. This bag did not come out of the car at all because we enjoyed warm temperatures our whole trip. Coats and long pants are bulky and take up a lot of room in luggage.
· A bag for swim gear. Not every stop required swim gear, so we left this bag in the car until we needed it. Sunscreen, goggles and empty plastic bags for wet swim suits should also be placed in this bag. Make sure that you pack at least one towel so if you go to a water park you can have at least one towel to share (remember it is hot out and you will dry off quickly and multiple towels won’t be necessary.
· A sleeping bag and pillow in case someone needs to sleep on a hotel floor or wants to snuggle in the car to take a nap.
· A collapsible cooler, to keep our day’s supply of water cold.
· One bag with everyone’s toiletries (okay, so in traveling with four “men,” I was the only one with toiletries; they had toothbrushes. This bag came in with us at every stop for obvious reasons.
· Snacks purchased at the grocery store before we left so that when we were gassing up the car, we didn’t add to the cost with high-priced junk food. Although a
· A portable DVD player with an adapter enabling it to play throughout the car (especially nice so that we could all listen to the sound of light sabers slicing through the air as we drove through arid Wyoming)
· Small games and books that travel well. We have a box packed with various games such as mad lib’s, card games, car bingo and of course for us the infamous Nintendo DS complete with car charger.
· Individual MP3 players are also a great thing to pack as it gives the kids a break from what mom and dad are listening to on the radio.
· I had an open toped bag that I kept all of our electronics and chargers in. This bag often went into the hotels with us so that we could make sure that everything became properly charged before the next days adventures.
· Hubby and I even bring our laptops; there are free wireless connections everywhere these days except for business hotels where they charge an arm and a leg for Internet usage.
· If you are counting we probably pack on average of 10 small back packs or duffel bags, not huge suitcases. Because of the size of the bags they are easy to wedge in small spaces in trunks and even under seats.

I want these vacations for one reason: my family. Be it good or bad, these are trips that we will always remember. The boys will be forever saying that the car was too small; really, it wasn’t…well, maybe the back seat was. But is there a back seat big enough when traveling with three kids?

I challenge you to instead of reminiscing about the memories we had as kids, make your own memories with your kids. Become a road warrior in your own way: from traveling to small destinations within 100 miles of your town to taking a trip across the country. What will your kids remember in 20 years? I know what we will still be talking about!

To Simplified, Joyful Living.

Melissa Schmalenberger

If you enjoy the article, please leave me a comment!
(The picture was taken as we left our last hotel)


susanmathison said...

Dear Melissa,

Such great packing ideas! And I too, have great memories of car trips with my big family....we once left a little brother at a gas station because no one saw hime get out of the way, way back of the suburban (he had made himself a nest on top of the luggage.) You are a precious lady, and I love your insight and passion!
Sue Mathison

Jenny Davis said...

great tips, Melissa! I love the idea about having a bag per day. Nothing drives me more nuts than rifling through a bag of wrinkled clothing looking for a pair of shorts or bloomers for my 14 month old!

Melissa said...

Thanks for your comments Sue and Jenny....glad to inspire all that I can!


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