Wednesday, August 15, 2012

have kids, will travel...the packing experience

we have recently returned from a close to one month trip to california. yep...traveled with the masses. i traveled by plane with a nine year old, a six year old, a five year old, a two year old and a four month old. i'm no expert, but having lived overseas when the three older kids were born and taking many a trip across the u.s., i figure i can lend a hand in the packing process for anyone who may be a first timer.

here are my tips:

  • get started early. as unsightly as it may be, lay out your suitcases in advance. try to cram the kids things into half a suitcase. for most airlines, it's $25.00 for the first checked bag per passenger. might as well save money when you're packing little people clothes. 
  • pack by outfit. when i'm on vacation, the last thing i want to do is search through the luggage for my kids clothes each day. i pack their suitcases by outfit. for the boys, shorts go with matching top and into the suitcase they go. this gives me a clear idea of how many days worth i need. it also helps so that i don't over pack. as you are packing in advance, as soon as an outfit is clean sometime in the week before, pack it. there is nothing more miserable than trying to do laundry the night before a trip. if an outfit is in a suitcase, it for sure won't be worn in the days immediately before a trip.
  • don't forget to pack the basics. make sure you have socks, underwear, shoes, swimsuits, hair bows, accessories, leggings and pajamas or each kid for each day. sometimes i get so excited packing the outfits, i forget some of the essentials. 
  • purchase items upon arrival. don't waste space or weight bringing a giant pack of diapers when you travel within the u.s. wherever you are going, some place or another will have the basics. this is true of children's shampoo and body wash, wipes, formula, and baby food. take the items you need to get you through your flight and the first day or so. within that time, take 20 minutes out of your trip to make a quick run to the store. you will probably be there anyway as it's nearly impossible not to forget something.
  • make a check off list for the night before. there are several items you can't pack until the night before. make a list and set it on the counter for the morning of your trip. these are items such as the favorite blankets my small ones like to sleep with, a night light from one of their bedrooms, medicine they might take in the morning, toothbrushes, etc.
  • become familiar with your scale. suitcases need to weigh less than 50 pounds or you will get charged for the extra weight. make sure your suitcases fall within that 50 pound margin. if you are like we are when we travel and you end up purchasing things on your trip, aim for 40 pounds a suitcase so you have room to add up to 10 pounds for your return trip. if you are at the 50 pound margin for all of your bags, seriously consider packing a cloth duffle bag in one suitcase to fill for the trip home.
  • don't forget your stroller and your car seats. with small kids, a stroller is a life saver in an airport. even if it becomes a catch all as you are going through the different gates, bring it along. you can wheel it right up to the gate and drop it off as you enter the plane. thanks to the little magic airplane fairies, it will be right outside your airplane door when you arrive. if you are renting a car, you can rent a car seat through the different car rental companies. if you are visiting family and using one of their cars or you don't want to rent a car seat, travel prepared. my family had extra booster seats but i brought my own car seats for my littlest kids. you can check your car seats when you check in your luggage without any extra charge. i have a car seat cover and i *love* it. not only does it protect my car seat through all the baggage check in and the claiming process, but it has wheels, straps to wear like a back pack, and a little zippered compartment to put last minute items you don't want to carry on the plane. if you are going to check your car seat, seriously consider getting a protective cover. car seats are too expensive to get damaged in baggage. 
here's my favorite protector:
  • be realistic about transportation to and from the airport. there was no possible way we were going to get to the airport in one car. with five kids, adults, two car seats and two boosters, we were at capacity. make sure you have a way to get to the airport, both coming and going. we had great friends who drove their truck with all our bags to the airport while we drove our car. on the way back, due to a sickness my dad was recovering from as we were leaving, we were struggling to find a way to get to the airport, a two hour drive from my parent's home. no joke, this is how we got there.
totally ridiculous, right? still, cheaper than an airport shuttle, 
easier with all the kids and realistically about $50.00 
more than it would have cost my parents in gas to 
make the two hour trip with two cars, there and back again. 
a little embarrassing? you bet. a solution? without a doubt. 

this should get you packed so you can finally proceed to security. check back tomorrow for how i pack to survive a five hour plane ride with five kids. carry-ons...here we come! happy travels!