By Julia Pantoga
Between this time of year and January, I take several lengthy driving trips to visit friends and family. Because I am typically away for 3 or 4 weeks, and I am doing so many different things and seeing so many different people, packing for these trips is a big project. But, I lead a life full of obligations at home, so I never have much time to pack. Hence, I have developed various systems to make the job easier and to make sure that I don’t forget things.
Keep a List
I keep a running list of things I need to pack. This list includes everything I might need in every circumstance. I also keep a short list in the corner of the things that I need to remember for this specific trip (e.g. cranberry relish recipe for sister). I keep this list handy on my computer and update it as the trip approaches, and I remember things. Right before the trip, I print this list out and refer to it carefully while I am packing. I put a line through things that I don’t need for this trip and check things off as I put them in the “staging area” for my packing (which is usually my bed). If I pack anything that is not on my list, I write it on my list and, if I may need it for a future trip, I add it to the master list on my computer. When I leave the house, I fold the list and put it in my purse. I then have a checklist to use every time I repack along the way.
Have Some Bags Always Packed
My bathroom bag is always packed. I don’t pack bathroom items such as: toothbrush, shampoo, hand lotion, deodorant, etc., because I have duplicates of all of these in my bathroom bag. The main disadvantage of this system is that my bathroom bag is heavy, as it not only contains a toothbrush, but sunscreen, insect repellant and a host of other emergency items. The great advantage of this “system” is that when I return home late at night, I don’t have to unpack my bathroom bag to find my toothbrush. All my “home” bathroom items have been left in their usual spots.
Here’s another tip—put really nice products in your bathroom bag–shampoo and conditioner that smell so great, that showering is a treat. As you are driving at odd hours, sleeping on different couches every night and adjusting to other household’s routines, you need to remind yourself that you always take care of yourself. No robber would ever realize it, but my bathroom bag is one of the most expensive items in my car when I travel.
In addition to my bathroom bag, I keep an extra workout bag in the car, complete with extra sneakers, water bottle, sports bra, swim suit, etc.
My own strategy is to pack a lot of small bags that I can handle myself. If I have help loading and unloading my bags (and I usually do), helpers that are bigger and stronger than I (a category that includes most adults) can carry multiple bags at once. But, if I find myself in a situation where I have to handle my luggage myself, I can handle my own bags with multiple trips.
Leave Your House Ready for Your Return
Every time I leave any dirty dishes when I am going to be away for any length of time, I regret it terribly when I get home. Pe-ew! Wash all your dishes, take out the garbage, sweep the floors and generally pick up the house before you leave.
The best tip I ever got about traveling is to change my sheets right before I leave. Nothing says, “Welcome Home!” like a fresh bed.