It was a shock when I found out that my son’s birthday was one day after the school’s cut-off date, so he would barely be four years old when he started kindergarten. You should have seen my face – a ‘scream’ emoji brought to life. I saw my freedom disappearing before my own eyes, and I started dreaming of getting permission for absences, packing fat- and sugar-free snacks, and words such as “drop-off time” and “school vacation.”
A severe case of last-minute panic broke out, so we booked a two-and-a-half-month-long trip to the USA for four – because traveling with kids can be done.
The only problem is that you have to pack first.
I took a pragmatic approach by sending Any Working Dad and the kids off to the grandparents. I then worked my way from room to room, laying out clothes, putting them back, rolling them, folding them and so on and so forth. Afterwards, I was utterly spent – but I did learn a thing or two from my two-day pack-a-thon:
#1 Packing lists are my friends
Start making lists at least two weeks before you actually start to pack. What do you need to take with you? What needs to go in your carry-on luggage? What else needs to be done (holding mail, clearing out the fridge, pausing magazine subscriptions, etc.)? If you create these lists electronically, it’s not only easy to share them with other people, but it’s a snap to delegate tasks to your loved one such as the unpopular trip to the recycling dump. I like to use Wunderlist, and in the meantime I’ve created the ultimate packing list for beach vacations.
#2 Take a minimalist approach to packing clothes: First in, then out
First lay out everything you want to take. Then consider which clothes can be combined to form at least three different outfits. The rest go straight back into the closet.
#3 Don’t fold, roll! Why rolling creates extra space
Roll your skirt! Pants and T-shirts also take up much less space when rolled. And astoundingly, they are not more wrinkled than if you fold them.
#4 The best invention ever: Packing cubes and luggage scales!
The wet dream of every organization nerd (me! me!): Packing cubes. They’re even available in different sizes and colors so that each family member can have their own specific cube(s). A medium cube is big enough to fit around 5-7 T-shirts (rolled, of course!).
If you plan on traveling around, these cubes are worth the investment; if you’re going to spend two weeks in the same hotel, you don’t really need them.
Another absolute must-have: A small, mobile luggage scale. It lets you distribute the weight of your things among all your suitcases so you won’t be in danger of unexpectedly having to pay for overweight baggage.
#5 Check in the evening before your flight
Many airlines let you already check in the evening before your flight. For us as a family, this is a great option. After all, with several kids, carry-on luggage, strollers and car seats, we already have our hands full on departure day. Oh yes, the strollers: You can indeed take full-sized strollers with you to the gate, but they still need to be given an official tag from the airline first. So: Better take them with you when you check in the evening before your flight.
We managed to get our baggage ready on time for the big trip and get the kids to bed. We were ready to take on that 12-hour flight to Los Angeles with two toddlers.
And now you are, too!
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