Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Traveling With Little Tykes...Take Three

OK, we’re going. What do I do now?

Make lists.

Well, maybe you don’t, but I do. I start making lists as soon as I have tickets bought. I write down the clothes I’m going to need, and anything important that I may forget later. I usually write lists down on paper and keep in by the fridge, but I also keep a hard copy on the computer. If it’s on the computer, I know that even if I lose one (or if a pair of little hands gets a hold of the lists), I can always print off another.

I pack differently for the type of transportation we’re taking. If we are flying, I make a list for each suitcase we are taking. Now that Tate is three (actually, starting at two) we have to pay for all of his flights-therefore he gets to check a bag. Children under the age of two can sit on your lap free of charge for domestic flights, but for international flights there is a charge for infants, regardless of whether they have their own seat (it’s not much, but you do have to register them). Because of this fee, they usually get to check a bag, but check with your airline. If you have to take a domestic flight first, it won’t matter anyway. Also, be sure to check the weight limit on each segment of your flight. If you’re taking a little plane for a leg of your journey, the weight restriction is likely much less than the usual 50 lb. limit.

So, here’s my list of lists for a trip by plane:
1. Master list of what we are taking (Including which suitcases, carry ons, etc).
2. List of what is going in each checked suitcase.
3. List of what is going in each carry on.

*If you don’t like to make multiple lists, go ahead and color coat which item is going in which suitcase. *

Having these lists makes it a lot easier when you’re unpacking, looking for a certain item. You’ll at least have some general idea of where something is. Before this system I can’t tell you how many times we’d be looking for our toothbrush in the dark. We’d end up tearing open our three suitcases before we found whatever we were looking for.

If we are going on a road trip, I’m much less organized (as evidenced by my recent trip to BC. I forgot a stroller. Seriously. A stroller. I am a mother of two small boys and we go on walks nearly every day. How could I have forgotten a stroller?!)

Here are the boys with the umbrella stroller I bought. Thank goodness for umbrella strollers!
I digress.

Yes, I am much less organized in the car. And usually I take more bags because it’s easier to pack each boy individually. I still make a master list, but I’m not as concerned about knowing what is in which bag. Usually we aren’t in a do or die hurry, and with small children we inevitably make a few stops. Or, a lot of stops. It depends on the trip.
OK, now onto the age old question.
“How in the blazes to I fit all of this crap into these tiny suitcases?!”

I have a very simple answer that you probably won’t like.
You don’t.
Yes, that’s right, you don’t.
I hear you, stop shouting…here’s the solution:
You get a bigger carry on.
I realize that seems like a cop out; and probably very obvious. But, since airlines imposed the tax on families, oops, I mean the second bag fee, there is very little else to do. I always max out our carry on luggage for two reasons 1. It costs more money to check a second bag and 2. I’ve had stuff stolen out of my luggage and I’m wary of putting valuable stuff in there…and along those same lines, who wants to have their bag lost on their way somewhere remote? Not me. I pack most of our clothes in carry ons.
Seriously-Max out the carry on luggage!
So, what do you do if stuff still doesn’t fit?

Simple. You don’t take it.
Nearly everywhere I’ve been sells diapers. I bring enough quality diapers for each night (the better quality ones hold more stuff) and then I buy the rest there. I’m boosting the local economy, and even if it costs more than diapers in the states, I doubt it costs $50 more (or whatever the stupid fee is for an extra bag these days). Ditto for baby food, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, hair spray, body wash, diaper wipes…you get the idea. I realize you're taking a risk here, but most people, especially in foreign countries I've visited, are really very helpful and accomodating. They want to help you find what you want. I have yet to not be able to find a reasonable replacement for something I've left at home.
Bottom line: if you need more than a trial size or two, get it while you’re there. I promise it’s worth it. Plus, you’ll have room for all your souvenirs if you don’t have to take your toiletries with you!
Alrighty, since I’ve probably completely bored you with my talk of list making…here comes the best part-practical advice. Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel insanely unorganized when I’m living out of a suitcase. I end up not matching AT ALL because I get overwhelmed when I look at the mess of clothes the suitcase seemed to vomit all over the floor while I was sleeping (Yes, I’m talking a lot about vomit lately. We were just sick so I’ve got a lot of vomit muse). I was talking to a good friend of mine about this problem a couple of years ago, and she shared her secret with me.
And I was never the same.
For Tate, I include underwear, socks, shorts or pants and a tee shirt. If he needs a sweatshirt I’ll pack that separately, because usually he can wear those for more than one day. Since Theo’s in mostly one piece outfits, I just throw his in along with Tate’s clothes. With this method, the only ‘free floating’ items in the suitcase/carryon are PJs and extras. I do bring two extra outfits just in case, but I let them float and don’t put them in a bag.

What’s her secret?

Seriously. This miraculous little bag makes all the difference in the world when it comes to organization and packing. It’s this simple: Set out clothes you want to bring by outfits for the kids to wear each day rather than grouped by item. Put a complete outfit in each ziplock bag. That way, when you get up in the morning you only have to grab a bag instead of digging through the suitcase to find each little piece-and, they don't get dirty!

A sample of a Tate bag ready to go!

So, that’s my tip for today. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Kelly G. for passing it onto me a couple of years ago!

Take care,
Click here and here for the first two installments of this series.


Christine said...

Ziploc bags!!!!! GENIUS!!!! Thanks for the tip, I get suitcase anxiety as well, this will totally help! Yay=)

Kara said...

Ziploc bags - or Spacebags (now that Pete's Humongous!!!) come in really, really handy. We can pack smaller now that Pete's big. Odd how that works.

Umbrella strollers - totally awesome. I've had a few of those during my time as Parent to a Small Child. Even left one behind accidentally in the trunk of Uncle Bob's car after John's wedding. Had to pick up a new one inside the airport. (5am flights after 4 hours of sleep, toting a 2 year old... not so good.)

Love Tate's new do! He matches Theo!