We have taken several long road trips with our kids over the past few months. Through trial and error and some tips from my friend Elizabeth, I found some things that make road trips and packing easier. I want to maximize the fun and adventure we have on the trip, so I don’t want to have to think about matching outfits, locating socks and shoes, or finding toothbrushes for the kids. My packing process is done to make life easier and the trips more enjoyable.
1. Packing Cubes
I have a little obsession with packing cubes. It is because they are lightweight, take up very little extra space in the luggage, are easy to use, and they keep everything sorted and organized. One Christmas my Mother in Law gave me a set of them and I have been adding to my collection ever since then. Amazon has some that are nice, including the Eagle Creek brand, of which I own and recommend: http://amzn.to/2ae5YXB
I also have found packing cubes for sale at Homegoods for better prices than I have found anywhere else, but I can’t say that they always have them in stock.
2. Use One Cube For Each Day
When using the packing cubes, I use one per day. Not one per person, but one for me and all three kids together combined. I can use medium sized cubes for summer time packing, as the clothing doesn’t take up as much space. If we were going somewhere cool, I would use larger sized cubes for each day. My husband packs his own bag, so I don’t worry about his stuff. I just make sure I have one outfit for each of the kids and myself for each day of the trip. This last trip we were gone 8 days so I packed 8 cubes. I did pack an extra set of clothes for each child in the diaper bag.
I don’t put shoes in the cubes, as they take up too much space. For road trips I have a separate bag, that I simply call the shoe bag. Each of the kids only needed 2 pairs each for this last trip. I am a little more high maintenance and required a few additional pairs.
Here are our 8 days of clothes for our most recent trip:
3. Pick Coordinating Clothes
Before I put the clothing into the cubes I make piles for each day. I start by picking out 8 days for each person out of their closets, including my own. While I am doing this I try to think of the colors we have im each of our wardrobes that can all coordinate for the trip. For example, for our trip over the Fourth of July I chose several days of outfits for everyone that had red, white, and/or blue.
Some people may think coordinating outfits is silly. I don’t make us “matchy-matchy”. Unless of course it is Brielle and I doing Lilly Pulitizer Mommy and Me matching outfits. I like to coordinate outfits for vacations because I know photos will be taken. If one person is wearing lime green, I don’t want someone else wearing burgundy plaid, because it simply won’t be visually appealing in a photo. I don’t want the clothing to distract from the people or scenery, so I dress us mostly in clothing that doesn’t have writing on the front, and colors that go well together. We don’t have to all wear the same color. Just colors that go well together and look visually pleasing in a photo.
4. Lay Clothes in Piles for Each Day
Once I chose enough outfits for each person for the trip I then lay them into piles for each day. I start with the first day of the trip and then add each person’s clothing to each particular day. I lay them spread out vertically, so I can see that everything looks decent together (color coordinated or at least not clashing). Once that is done I can stack up the vertical piles and put them in the cube. I made tags for the cubes that say each day, so when we are traveling it makes it very easy to grab a cube and get ready quickly.
In these piles I will also add underware, socks, hair-bows, and jewelry for each day. This makes it very simply to get ready quickly. Everything is in one place to get ready for the day.
Here are the piles of clothes I made for one of our trips this summer. The twins pile is on top. I buy their clothing in doubles, which makes it very easy to dress them every day and additionally makes packing easy. Brielle’s clothing is in the middle and my clothing is the bottom stacks. They are ready to be cubed!
5. Medicines and Pills Locked Up
I also like to use a packing cube for medicines and pills we have to take on the road with us. I use a luggage lock to keep it secure. That way I know the kids can’t get into it. I use luggage locks with a combo and I set them all to the same passcode, so I have it memorized.
6. One Bathroom Bag
I used to pack individual bathroom bags for the kids. I have since learned we only need one for the kids and myself combined. I am the one who will get them ready in the morning in my bathroom while on a trip, so it was easiest to simply condense the packing. I use travel size bottles. I purchased empty travel size containers, so I could fill them with my personal shampoo and conditioner.
I try not to over pack. It can become easy to do this, especially with clothing. My cube system provides the exact amount of clothing needed. If my kids didn’t get so dirty I would be able to reuse items during the trip, but that isn’t the case. We often have washers and dryers where we rent, but I never want to depend on using them or having the time to use them. We want to maximize the time for adventures, which means sometimes the laundry can wait until we get home.