First, I keep running packing lists on my computer. I have several. One for when Brandon travels for work alone, one for when we travel as a couple, one for when we travel with our children, one for when the children travel without us and one for hospitalizations. Now I'm not reinventing the wheel for each trip.
This was an evolving project, I started with just a list for all of us together. But remember when I was hospitalized for preterm labor? We thought we were just going in for monitoring. Brandon ended up coming home and packing the children to go to our friend Nikki's house and packing things for our hospital stay.
I sat down and typed each list in check list fashion when I wasn't stressed. The key here is to not be in a hurry and stressed. Then I let it sit for a few days and looked at it with fresh eyes.
When we get ready to travel I print the list I need and make any event specific additions. (Master copies can also be found in a notebook I call "Mom's Brain.") I cross out things that don't apply such as a coat for a July trip to Georgia.
Next, I start my staging area. I lay out whatever suitcase(s) we are using and start to pack things in the suitcase. As I put items in the suitcase I put a check next to the item. I don't worry about packing them efficiently at first. This is just for collection.
As the trip gets closer, I grab my stash of 2 gallon ziploc bags. I buy them at the dollar store but can often reuse them. If children are going on the trip with us, I put four complete outfits in the ziploc bag- one for each child. This includes hair bows for the girls, socks, underwear, and clothing. That is one days worth of clothes. I do this for all the days.
This is an example of a bag I recently packed:
I also bag up our toiletries in these 2 gallon bags and pack one extra bag in case the toiletry bag doesn't last. When Brandon travels, he has his own toiletry bag that we leave partially stocked for his business trips.
Why bags you ask? Well... I apparently am the Master Outfitter in our home. Brandon becomes paralyzed when he looks though a suitcase to choose things for our children to wear. This way I can quickly set out a bag and jump in the shower, dry my hair, nurse the baby, or one of the other many things I do to get us ready and dressing can continue. It's amazing and works beautifully!
Also, with five people (excluding Solomon for now) rummaging through suitcases, things can get messy very, very quickly. Organization can become chaos in about 3 minutes flat.
Once I have collected everything, I sit down and put things in the suitcase more efficiently. For flying, I divide our clothing into at least 2 different suitcases. I used to work for a company that handled lost luggage claims so I'm very mindful of the possibility.
Then I tackle our "To Do List for Going Out of Town." More on that later!
How do you pack? I'm always looking for tips to improve the process.
PS: Please be in prayer for Brandon and I. We are discussing some long range goals and some future possibilities for our family. I'll share more as I can. :)