Sometimes I feel like motherhood is one ongoing “to do” list. I try not to focus on those pesky things that make me feel overwhelmed, but during the holiday season – and especially when traveling with kids – I feel like that “to do” list is the only thing keeping me sane.
My husband and I are very fortunate to live near so much of our family – well, most of them. We frequently make weekend treks to Iowa to visit with my husband’s grandparents and other extended family. While we look forward to enjoying everyone’s company, I do put a lot of time into the preparation ahead of the trip. Our first couple of trips were a bit rough and caused a bit of angst between the hubby and I; for instance, I tended to make sure we had everything we could possibly need and sometimes I had a hard time keeping with the time schedule while he tended to rush and want to leave as soon as possible. One year, while attempting to leave at the agreed-upon time, we discovered that our then-toddler twins did not have appropriate-sized utensils for Christmas dinner; it worked out, it just wasn’t the ideal situation for a family on a schedule. Another year, my attempt to “loosen the reigns” by asking my husband to help pack the car resulted in us arriving at grandma and grandpa’s house without our suitcase. Fortunately, I had packed an overnight bag with everyone’s pajamas and essentials to get through the night and the children’s clothes were in a separate bag. We simply washed and re-wore the same day clothes that weekend.
Eventually, we learned that a detailed checklist serves us both. The checklist – on a single piece of lined paper – has probably saved our marriage more than once. We can both see the list (no mind-reading required), add to it, and check things off. Here is what my preliminary road trip list looks like:
Car preparation: oil and tires checked, car de-cluttered and vacuumed, car seats safely installed.
Clothes: overnight bag with pajamas, toiletries, and other overnight/”first thing in the morning” essentials. This is especially beneficial if you get to your destination late in the evening and don’t want to unpack the car in the middle of a snowstorm. Kid clothes are packed in stacks by day to ensure each child has the right amount of socks/underwear/pants/shirts for each day. If we’re staying at a hotel, we generally pack an extra set of clothes. Mom and dad’s clothes are packed in a similar fashion, different bag.
Medications: any current and contingent prescriptions are packed (i.e. inhalers and ear drops), as well as OTC medications. While there are plenty of places to buy children’s ibuprofen, I hate spending money on something I already have. Don’t forget the adult headache medicine, either.
Gifts: it’s Christmas, so don’t forget the gifts.
Bedding: our kids get to “camp” when we stay with relatives, so we pack their sleeping bags and pillows.
Food: while access to food isn’t usually a problem, we do pack enough to know our kids will be comfortable between official meal times. Sometimes that means a loaf of bread, PB&J, and sliced apples or bananas. Also, water bottles for everyone!
Entertainment: it’s a car ride, which means our kids will sleep for most of it. But before sleep, we listen to a lot of children’s CD’s. The kids can bring a backpack with a few travel-sized toys and books. We’ve tried sharing electronics and DVD’s, but those usually result in more conflict than entertainment so we tend to leave those at home.
Traveling with littles: is your little one used to a certain size bowl, plate, spoon, cup, booster seat, diapers, potty chair? Pack those, and it will decrease stress all around. Bonus tip that we’ll get to try out this year: put a diaper in the bottom of the potty chair while traveling (it’ll absorb the urine and leave you without an awkward disposal until you arrive at your destination). If you’re cloth diapering and traveling, make sure you pack your detergent and know you might get a couple of funny looks … but you’ve probably already had a few funny looks, anyway.
So, what are your traveling must-haves? I’d love to hear your traveling secrets!