Fourth of July is approaching, school is out, and the season of family travel is in full swing. It’s time to pack up Glop, Sun, Ab, and our beta and hit the road.
It once was so easy to jump in the car for a vacation. I had only myself to consider, and I had practically the whole car to fill with my stuff. (Glop is the only person I know who repeatedly packs too little clothing for a trip.) We had no kids, no pets, and no house. Now it requires a lot of planning, shopping, and paper for all those “to do” and “must pack” lists. As a modern mom with many fears (see a great post on this topic by a fellow blogger), I plan for every contingency. Here’s a look at a fraction of the items on my list for an upcoming trip:
ibuprofen (for all ages)
noise machine (in hopes of helping the kids sleep)
And on and on. I truly add to this list at all hours of the day and night. It’s not like we’re traveling to Antarctica or will be cut off from the rest of civilization. We’re just going to visit my in-laws at the Jersey shore, who probably have many of the things we’ll need right there. But I get caught up in a “leaving home” mode that compels me to bring everything I need to recreate home wherever we go. I’m like a mamma bird trying to take the nest along with us.
In my defense, I do try to travel a little lighter every year, now that we don’t need a pack-and-play or bottles. But I seem to fill whatever space opens with a few more of my things – an extra pair or two of shoes, a blow dryer, books, dresses. Now all this is really useless to me, even at home (when do I have time to blow dry my hair? where would I wear a dress?) But part of me forgets that these trips are not really vacations anymore. My in-laws do an awesome job of helping us with the kids and giving us date nights, but as anyone with kids knows, you never really get a vacation – they’re just always on your mind even when they’re not in your presence. You more or less get a “change of scenery,” which may or may not involve a better time than you may have had at home.
Beyond packing for a trip, there’s shopping for special car food, like mini-boxes of Froot Loops, fruit snacks, Cheezits, Chex Mix and other assorted snackies that are normally not in stock. Then there’s cleaning and vacuuming out the car, which guarantees that someone will not only scatter the above-listed snacks all over the cabin, but also grind them into the upholstery and pee/poop/puke in her car seat; round-the-clock laundry to ensure everyone has enough socks/underwear/t-shirts; strategic organization of car-appropriate activities, like coloring books, crayons, and puzzles (even though no one will do anything but watch DVDs); mowing the lawn one more time; stopping the mail; putting out the trash; cleaning out the fish bowl (yes – he always comes with us). On top of it all, I always get it into my head that we must leave the house clean from top to bottom, which is impossible even during a normal week.
As you can see, I whip myself into a frenzy before even getting into the car to face a six-to-eight hour drive with the littles. It’s a wonder I agree to go anywhere at all. In the end, I go to all this effort to create the allusion that I have some control over how the trip will go. Taking your kids (even yourself) out of their element can create an unprecedented level of chaos. I fool myself into believing I can counter it by providing that special lovey or the scent of familiar sunscreen or a beloved bedtime story. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t. But it seems the natural thing for me to do as a mom.
How do you simplify packing for road trips? I’d love to read your tips!