Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Do You Do It? Travel Edition, Packing For a Crowd

When talking with others about vacations or camping or traveling with a large family, I often hear things like "How do you pack for everyone?" "How does it all fit?" "I don't know how you do it!" In the early years, we had 4 children ages 6 and under. It was work. But honestly, it is getting easier. The kiddos are all growing up and getting pretty self-sufficient. I am going from being a Mom-of-Many  to being a Mom-of-Not-So-Many-Anymore. OK, that isn't exactly true (once a mother, always a mother!) But my children don't need me to do as much for them as I used to do. I now can provide a list of items needed to be packed and then just need to double-check that no important items are overlooked. Once they know what is needed, everyone brings their 'stuff' to an assigned place (the living room floor, couch, etc) I have them compare their pile to the list.

For several years, I utilized a marvelous system for my 'Littles'.  A set of those plastic stackable drawers. Each drawer is about a foot tall and about a foot and a half deep. Perfect for baby- and toddler-sized clothing. I filled one for each of my kiddos, and one with diapering supplies. Each night while pulling out pj's, I would also set out next day's outfit, leaving the drawer unit in the back of our SUV-type vehicle. It was easy to fill up in the house, light-weight enough to carry easily to vehicle, and easy to reach and keep in order. But then they grew. Or maybe I should say the OUTGREW my ingenious system. Their clothing just wouldn't fit.

These days I have 11 year old Esther and 6 year old Bekah pack their clothes using a 3-step method. Each of the girls uses a large canvas tote. Below you can see what Bekah packed for a weekend trip last summer:
1. Layer 'em.
dress or jumper/top, shorts/bloomers, undies - whole outfits together

2. Roll 'em.
each day's outfit is a snug little pack

3. Line 'em up!

each night, she takes out a "roll" ready for a new day!

For the boys, now 9 and 8 years old, we still pack up one good-sized suitcase. They wear the same size and basically share a wardrobe, so it's easy to stack, fold and roll like things together. The pictures below are from a week-long camping trip we took this spring.

You can see in the upper corner they each get 2 pair of jeans, next to that I lined up t-shirts folded compactly (I picked up this little tip from a post over at Organizing Made Fun), across the front I stacked shorts and pajama sets. In the empty corner, I placed a couple of sweatshirts, in case of cool nights. In the little pocket at the back, all lined up nice and neat, I placed their rolled up underwear. The pocket in the lid held socks. That's it! 2 boys, 1 suitcase and a week's worth of camping fun. 

FYI -- dirty laundry gets tossed into a laundry basket in the camper, not back into the suitcase. However, they somehow find plenty to fill the suitcase for the trip home -- things like dirt, rocks, sand, insects. You know, souvenirs.

For trips when we have a special occasion or event to dress for, I have packed a separate bag, with one nice outfit for each family member, separate from our everyday play and travel clothes. This stays stashed away until the appropriate time, so we don't have any cross-contamination, if you know what I mean.

So, how do you pack for a crowd? I'd love for you to share tips and tricks that make traveling easy for you!

Linking up this post to Works For Me Wednesday  and Big Family Friday.

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