Friday, August 29, 2014

Packing like a Pro

Over the river and through the woods to Crazy Town we know you sang it :) Every time we take a vacation I go crazy. There is a week when I live on coffee and lists and feel like i'm always forgetting something. It's a week of planning and cleaning and packing and prepping and hair-pulling and...insert bad mommy habit here. But in the end, we have everything we need, the trip goes smoothly, and the lil' monster is happy on the car ride. Both Ways! So this time I'm sharing my lists and awesome crazy with you - so you can appear less crazy :)

To start with you will need:

  • A Pen
  • A Trip Notebook (A three ring binder with a clear insert on the front)
  • Clear page protectors (dollar tree has packs of 10 that have a 3 hole punch)
  • Blank Paper for random notes to yourself :)
I then added my Notebook cover page.

From there I use my page protectors to build our trip. Here's the order I use. You can do it differently, obviously, if you want.
  1. Trip Cover page: Destination, Dates To & From, Occasion if needed
  2. Printed Map To & From (in case there is no GPS reception)
  3. Hotel Confirmation Page
  4. Activities we are doing / Itinerary
**When the trip is over I put all the pages together in one page protector behind the Cover Page and put it in the back of the book. The next time we would like to go to that destination we have most of the info ready to go!

Next up is the car...the dreaded car. I actually take most of the responsibility for our car because I drive it the most. It is the quintessential Mom Mobile and as such I like to do most of the work with it. I keep it up to date season wise so come trip time there are a few things to do to prep it.
Normally how my car looks minus the stroller that resides in it :)
**My hanging organizer is a shoe rack from dollar tree that I cut in half and nailed in. We don't plan on selling our car. Just driving her till she dies :( The other organizer is a traditional car organizer from an Auto Store that I have had longer than I have been married...That's been with me through all 5 of my cars. You all need one. Seriously. Now. :)
  • Clean it: Take out the trash, Vacuum it, Get those random toys out. Wipe down the windows and surfaces. 
  • Restock your supplies. I keep a first aid kit, a medicine bucket, a restaurant activity kit, and extra diapers / wipes / trash bags in my car at all times. I also keep tissues packs in the doors for the random runny noses. As well, an extra outfit for oops-es since my son still has the occasional accident when he is sleeping.
  • I maintain car tools for breakdowns in my car as well. We live in Mississippi right now but I did my time in PA with a car that liked to breakdown...I learned my lesson. I always keep a few hot hands, ponchos, umbrellas, flashlight, tools, fuses, as well as the basic car jack / spare tire. 
Now when I know trips are coming up I take the toy bucket out of the car and replace the toys so they seem brand new. Best Mom trick E-vah!!! I also start in on the trip fun. Trips are tough enough with kids, but cranky kids make a trip unbearable. With a little planning any trip can fly by and be a lot of fun actually. Most of the ideas I use I got from friends, family, Pinterest, his nursery, his speech therapist, VBS...the places are endless. Just raid your home first before buying anything, and talk to everyone for great ideas!
The Trip "Kick-Off" Bag

  1. He had a bag to kick the trip off. Some old toys from a garage sale he
    The Blue Bucket holds his toys on the floor
    normally. On trips, it's within arms reach :)
    had forgotten about plus a new cowboy gun and sheriff's badge (to be the man of the house while Dad was away). Bonus: That bag was used to collect treasures along the way throughout the vacation!He had his Toy Bucket back with "new" toys.
  2. I bought a kid desk at Michael's on discount since it was a little beat up to help him with his art projects. Highly suggest these things. This one tucked neatly into the back of the chair when not in use :)
  3. He has a Kurio with lots of educational kids games and netflix (bonus!) but didn't even ask for it this time :)
  4. The Bonus Bags. Best idea ever! Brown lunch bags with random toys in it. I mark them 1- whatever (normally one for every other hour of the trip both ways) and close them up. Bring a dice and let them roll. Use these bags as bribes, incentives, lures into the restrooms...I don't care...They are awesome! I Never give Monkey the toys out of his happy meals because he's too busy playing or sleeping, so they all go into a box for later. I raid that for these bags :) When he's (fill in the blank here) I let him roll the dice and he gets the bag to match that number.
  5. The Fruit Loop "Candy" Bracelets. A snack Ziploc bag with
    Fruit Loops and a Bendy in it. They string the Fruit Loops on it then you close it up and they can wear it while they eat it :) Self Contained fun game that will last awhile, and its a snack! Two-fer!
  6. Small Cookie Sheet and Magnets. Put the Magnets in a Ziploc Bag for your own Sanity.
  7. Empty Egg Carton and colored Puffs. They can sort to they're hearts content. You can be super cool and put stickers in the bottom of the egg carton for them to match the colors to. 
  8. Extra plastic cups as well for sorting is always fun. 
  9. Coloring books with wonder color markers and stickers. Just remember to turn your  OCD off because those stickers will end up in weird places :) The endless giggles will make it worth it though.
  10. Pillow :)
    Car Pillows go a long way...and are not hard to make ladies :)
     **Get a solid Flexi-Bucket for the front seat that can hold the extra games, toys, and food within arms reach to make life easier. This is especially necessary if you are road-tripping by yourself! Otherwise get a little one that fits by your feet and when you stop, change it out! Keep them guessing or you will be miserable.
My "Blue Bucket" with extra activities, My Orange cooler tote with
snacks / drinks, and my new yellow Life Bag with my Trip Notebook :)

Plan your food. Its easy to pack breakfast and lunch. Freeze some water bottles as ice packs and throw some fresh fruit and bagels in a cooler. I always bring some PB&J and deli meat / cheese as well as an unopened juice bottle for Monkey. As well, pack some snack packs of your favorite things and keep it handy. I gave Monkey his own Snack container (old Baby Wipes container) that he could choose things from. A little freedom can go a long way in making kids happy. And don't forget to bring some for the ride home :)

Suitcases! the bane of my existence...Its been too long since we have been on a plane so this is in no way how to pack according to weight restrictions. This is how to pack with kids. Period. I use my trusty Packing List - Toddler. Altered from the original Packing List - Baby. I throw everything in the suitcase as it is washed so it doesn't get worn and then two days before the trip I lay everything on the bed and match up the outfits, fill in the blanks on the lists, and stuff the suitcases. My hubby and I share one suitcase and our son has one. That leaves a cooler, tech bag, life bag, pack~n~play, and stroller to pack. Remember I have a permanent diaper bag with a change of clothes in the car :) 

     My son's suitcase is packed a little differently than ours. I put his outfits together (underwear and socks included) and put them in gallon Ziploc bags. Push the air out when you seal them and they lay really flat. They also double as dirty laundry bags so if there is an accident you don't have to worry about the smell or mess in the suitcase. Bonus, your kid can get dressed themselves without your fear of not matching. If you need certain outfits for certain days, just number the bags to match the days in your vacation. His blankets, noise machine, diapers, etc...all go in his bag so I pack his carefully.

I always clean my house before leaving for vacation. It's why I stress so much. The timing is so close together that I feel like I'm sleep deprived going in. However, I hate coming home relaxed to a huge mess and more work. I change the sheets, clean the bathrooms, do all the laundry, and run the dishes as i'm walking out the door. Don't leave laundry in the washer or dishes in the sink as that will cause a huge smell and no one likes a smelly home fresh from vacation. I also throw some powder down on the carpet and vacuum the day before so everything smells amazing and feels amazing. We always leave really early in the morning so we leave the house beautiful :) I love it but it does take some work. 
Our Lt. Logan going to the Dog Sitter! If you take your animals in the car, get them proper restraints. We were going five houses down, but he is normally in a harness with his car leash :)
If you have animals, please take some time to find the best place for them. They are family and deserve to be treated as such. We now have 2 dogs, 1 cat (who thinks she's a god), and a turtle. The turtle is the easiest out of them all :) We have to board the dogs and find someone to come once a day to the house for the other two. I print out Caretaker Lists for anyone who has our animals to help. I included them to give you an idea of what to include. At the top I also try to write who they are going to and the dates we are going to be gone. 
After Animals, Before Children...

That trash bucket is a permanent feature and I love it!

We have a Bear Rug that my Son takes everywhere right now :)
Freaking people out on the highway was fun though...

Trips are time consuming and difficult but with a little planning and work they can be a lot of fun and definitely easier than we anticipate. Keep everything for your trip in your binder. In the long run, the best thing to remember is that the trip is not about the destination, it's about the journey. It's about those adorable little people in the back seat taking that journey with you. It may not be like that vacation you used to have where you packed a duffle bag and hit the road for the beach and sipped margaritas but this time is so much better. You get to be a pirate and a cowgirl and a princess all in one day. You will be told "you're the best" a hundred times over a simple candy bracelet. You will get to see about twenty different restrooms and suddenly appreciate yours so much more :) You will be exhausted and beat down and smell like cleaning solutions and yet there will still be a precious little person who wants to climb into bed with you and snuggle when you get to your destination. Because, let's face it, we're parents. We're Moms. Our destination is our children. and it's the best destination in the world.

Best Wishes,
Jules & Monkey

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