Dear Mama, Who is Going on a Trip

Panic! Anger! Frustration!

And you STILL forgot something important!

Yelling! Whining? Moping.

Does this sound like the morning of your departure when you pack up the family to go on a trip? The chaos tends to make the whole house dread going anywhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can keep your cool and settle into the front seat with a smile as you begin your adventure. Since I’m not sure precisely how to best adapt my preparation methods to your needs, I’ll just give you the rundown. You can figure out what works for you.

With three 3×5 cards, I have learned to avoid the travel frenzy. We may still be 25 minutes behind our plans, because I’m still learning how long it takes to load three little ones. However, we still have everything we need when we stay overnight six hours from home. Best of all, I can avoid that out-of-control frustration that can bring a cranky mama to a full, roiling boil.

Like most simple techniques that make my life easier, this is a method taken from the FlyLady. I have a notebook with addresses, basic routines, encouraging words, and a few recipes slapped together. In the midst of my book, there are my Travel Prep cards. The cards are basically my packing checklists. One is for arrangements, one is for my husband and me, and one is for the babies.

On the first card I have written:

  • Clothes cleaned and put away
  • House in order
  • Groceries to take along (to save a little money and health usually blown on gas station snacks and fast food.)
  • Maps printed
  • Hotel confirmation number
  • Check vehicle tires, filters, oil, fuel, wash, wipe interior
  • Polish/brush shoes
  • Wash sheets/fresh linens on the bed
  • Wash dishes

Having things in order helps make our “landing” at our destination and our “landing” back home much smoother! Obviously, I don’t always get it all down pat. I do, however, consider each chore and choose what I will leave undone. That way, things are not neglected from forgetfulness, but the least necessary tasks for this particular trip will be moved to the bottom of my “triage” on purpose. Already been to this destination? Skip printing the map. One basket of towels on the couch needs folded but there’s little time to do it? Okay. A formal event calls for nice shoes? Polish them. Really want clean sheets to collapse into when you get back home? Strip and make that bed to have it ready for you!

On the next card are the items that we need to pack for my husband and myself. These are items we usually need when we stay someplace overnight. For me, I have listed:

  • Pajamas
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Number X of complete outfits
  • Stockings
  • Dress shoes
  • Swim suit
  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Charger
  • Earbuds
  • Lip balm
  • Oils
  • Brush & Paste
  • Hairbrush
  • Pins/hair bands
  • Deodorant

Again, I read through and decide what is necessary. No pool? Skip the suit. Going to church with the friends you’re visiting? Grab the dress shoes and stockings.

Extra things to be sure my husband remembers to take include:

  • Deck of Cards
  • Dress hat
  • Dress boots
  • Radios

Now for the babies. This list I made when the eldest was a year old. For now, this works for all three kids. As they mature, I’ll make a new card.

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Formula
  • Bottles
  • Bottle warmer (Rabbit Trail: I thought this thing was ridiculous before we had twins and were spoiled with the $2,000 Medela bottle warmers at the hospital. Our own $20 warmer makes feeding two babies within one hour an attainable goal wherever we go.)
  • Sippy cup
  • Bowl/spoon
  • Cereal/food cartons
  • Bibs/burp cloths
  • Number X of outfits
  • Sleepers
  • Blankets
  • Socks
  • Dress shoes
  • Diaper cream
  • Oils!
  • Jerky (No Man’s Land Beef Jerky is a teething lifesaver!)
  • Toys
  • Jacket & Hat
  • Pack ‘N Play or portable bassinet
  • Car seat (This can be forgotten if we’re rushing next door to borrow a vehicle. Then it is wasted time running back to our house for the car seat!)
  • Stroller
  • Wrap/carrier

Again, these are things I need to consider every time we leave overnight. These cards help me make decisions about what is left undone or left at home, instead of running crazy and forgetting to grab something vital for our trip.

About three days out from departure, I begin skimming the Travel Prep cards. I consider who will wear what and when. We make reservations. When I make my usual grocery run, I get the extras we will need. Between regular chores and feedings those three days, I can get everything packed and ready by the night before we leave.

Another thing I love to do for travel is to pack small. I grew up watching Rick Steves’ travel shows and enjoyed the easy mobility of his simplicstic  approach. Some like to take the kitchen sink for security, but I like the security of being able to move swiftly. Now we are a family of five, compact travel makes an even greater difference!

For a weekend venture, I can fit my husband’s things, my stuff, and the babies’ outfits into one duffle bag. We all have clothes for each day and an emergency outfit in case of a horrendous spill. I keep a toiletry bag packed at all times, so I can throw it in the duffle and be done with it – no time wondering where to fit the toothpaste. The babies’ essentials are in their diaper bag, as usual. The toddler’s clothes fill the empty spot in her diaper bag. Then I have my catch-all bag for my purse, books, electronics, or whatever I’ll need while riding shotgun. This comes out to four bags, four big things we need to remember to grab in the morning. There is very little scrambling for odds and ends.

Most importantly, I must pray. It is easy to center these lists on myself, my plans, my perfectionism, and my pride. Despite the best travel methods, focus on the flesh like this can still destroy peace for the whole family and cause unnecessary grief. Instead, I must focus on using these tools to facilitate my service to the rest of the family. I must pray and remain in the presence of  The Perfect One, who extends grace to the tarnished. From there, He can empower me to extend His grace to my family, regardless of how well they “get with the program.”

Well, fellow Traveling Mama, I hope this spiel can provide you with some handy ideas. If the details are overwhelming, just pick five to-dos for your next trip and see how that works. With some forethought and attitude adjustment, packing up the family can be a peaceful affair, after all!

This post is one of a series titled, “Dear Mama.”

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2 thoughts on “Dear Mama, Who is Going on a Trip

  1. SCrosnoe says:

    I am a total list person, but had never thought of the concept of perpetual lists for repetitive functions – very practical for all! Great reminder to keep our Heavenly Father in the center of matters – things work so much better that way!

    Of all the memories from childhood, vacations and trips are among my favorites – so I would add you are making a lifetime memory, make it a good one!

    I love the series – may it bless many!

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