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Family Travels | Part Two

Packing Clothes |

Or, how to pack five kids into one suitcase for two weeks without loosing your mind.

Step one is arranging for someone else to watch your children, away from home, for a whole morning or afternoon so that 1) your toddler doesn’t UNPACK the suitcase, 2) your big kid doesn’t despair of the outfit choices you made for her, and 3) you can enjoy your iced coffee and focus your mind on the task at hand.

Heather Grace Photography

Next, I have a checklist ready to go.  A week or two before it’s time to pack, I create a running list of items on a document on my computer.  I use cute fonts and whatnot (fonts are fun!), and arrange the list into categories:

  • Toddler (special items are needed)
  • Preschooler (her needs are a little different)
  • Bigger kids (who have the same needs)
  • Me
  • Husband
  • My travel bag/plane carry on/diaper bag
  • Husband’s travel bag (a backpack)
  • 3 big girls’ backpacks
  • We are using one medium suitcase for our Wellington boots (a must on the moors, so I’m told) and towels (so that our hosts don’t have to give up so many), with space for purchases and gifts we’ll bring home.
  • Miscellaneous items like host gifts, to-do’s around the house before we leave, and items to be purchased


Packing Suitcases/Checked Baggage:  Under each person category, I then list each specific clothing items needed, and the number I will pack.  Toiletries, hair care, accessories, medicines, and all other specifics are also listed.  For our 15-day trip, we’ll be staying in rented flats and private homes with laundry facilities, so I focused on packing about one week’s worth of outfits that I could mix and match easily depending on the unpredictable English weather– sticking to neutrals or similar colors with denim bottoms.   The toddler had a slightly different/longer list, because diaper blowouts happen overseas, too!   Supplementing this was one dress, one or two sweaters, one fleece, and one bathing suit (wishful thinking) per kid. Shoes for each kid included sandals, sneakers, and Wellies.

To keep things visually straight, I cleaned off a bed and laid the clothing and shoes out in piles according to their kind, in birth order.  This level of OCD is not necessary but it sure makes it easy to add and subtract to the piles quickly with minimal confusion!  Behold:

TRAVELPREP05eHeather Grace Photography

Why the gallon zipper bags, you ask?  This is my favorite packing tip!  Pack folded clothes in to the bag, then press all the air out as you zip it closed.  Viola!  Very flat, very packable, and very organized.

Because we need to be able to mix and match, I didn’t organize in bags by outfit.  Instead, I only made each kid a bag of socks+undies, a bag of shoes, and then I squeezed all five bathing suits and rash guard shirts into one bag.  I also put all hair accessories into one bag.  Flattened and sealed, they went into the zippered pocket on the lid of our biggest suitcase.

Heather Grace Photography

Heather Grace Photography

I pulled one outfit per child for our plane ride, and one outfit per child for an emergency change of clothing to put in our small carry on suitcase.  The five changes of clothes fit into two flattened plastic zipper bags and will take up hardly any room at all!  The remaining clothes were stacked and placed into the suitcase along with the bags of shoes, some Pull-ups for nighttime sleep and a pack of diapers.

Once I get the kids packed, I feel like I can relax a little and focus on adult packing and travel bag packing bit by bit in the afternoons or after the kids go to bed.

 Next up… my Travel Bag and Ideas for Kids’ Travel Activities!

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