We don’t ever count on buying food at our destination. And since we don’t allow my son to eat at restaurants, that means we have to pack enough food to last the duration of our trip.
We haven’t traveled by air since my son was very young so we have yet to face that challenge. Thankfully our destinations are all within a 10 hour drive. While flying could be an option, it isn’t very appealing given how much we would need to take so we’ve elected to drive. Any destinations that are beyond a drive we’ve just kind of crossed off the list until the kids are older and we can manage to travel without $500 in baggage fees.
One thing we always do is only book hotel rooms with microwaves and refrigerators included. We’ve tried to manage before without a fridge by changing out ice and it just didn’t work. Even if your room doesn’t include them, try calling and asking if they can add them to your room before your arrival. Many hotels will be accommodating. We also call the day before we arrive to ask that they double-check that the fridge is on and working. (Be sure to take some plastic bags with you. If your ice blocks with thaw before your return, you can fill the bags with ice from the hotel to keep any leftover food cold on the way home.)
So how do you travel? What tips and tricks have you utilized to make life a littler easier?
For me, the most important thing is my packing list. I have a list that is saved on my computer and lists out everything I could possibly need. It is general, meaning it doesn’t specify “pink shirt with flowers” but it does just say “shirts.” While it may seem silly, I’m sure we’ve all managed to leave the house before without something as basic as shirts, pants, or underwear! So, if it’s on the list, it won’t be forgotten! Plus, it is helpful to have a list to cross things off once you’re done rather than wonder whether you’ve forgotten something.
My list is six pages, and looks something like this:
Page 1: My Supplies – Clothes (I list out shirts, pants, short, outerwear, underwear, socks, belt, hat, pajamas, etc.), Toiletries (Even though I keep a toiletry bag packed all the time, I list out each item that should be in my bag so I can check my bag against the list before each trip), then a list of my things I need to pack in the morning right before I leave like make-up, curling iron, cell phone charger, etc.
Page 2: Family Supplies – Things like bug spray, sunblock, camera, batteries, first aid kit, stroller. Also beach supplies like chairs, towels, beach tent, beach toys, etc. I also keep a list here reminding me to do things like stop the mail, and a list of chores to do right before we leave like taking out the trash, running the dishwasher, turning off the a/c or heat, packing snacks for the car, etc.
Page 3: Kids Supplies – Separate lists for each kid (don’t forget things like hair bows, sleepsacks, hats, swimwear, tights, etc). I list my son’s nebulizer and medicines, then a long list of the items that go in their toiletry kit (again, already packed but I just double-check to make sure everything is there). Toiletry kit includes regular things like toothpaste and shampoo, but also things like Neosporin, thermometer, nail clippers, band-aids, Tylenol, etc.
Page 4: Beach Supplies – I only use this list when we go to a beach rental. It is broken up into two sections, household supplies (paper towels, soap, Ziploc bags, coffee filters, paper plates, etc.) and Food (broken up into drinks, breakfast, lunch, condiments, and snacks)
Page 5: More Kids Supplies – All my diapering supplies, food supplies (bibs, kids utensils, thermos’, vitamins, epipen, ID bracelet, snack cups, etc), and other kid supplies (mobiles, portable dvd players, travel crib, comfort items, night light, travel potty, toys, etc).
Page 6: Food List – This is my son’s food list. I break it down by how many breakfast, lunch, dinners, and snacks we’ll need. Then I fill in each meal and snack. The night before we leave, I put all his food and drink in one section of the fridge/freezer so when I pack in the morning everything is already in one place. We often are packing a lunch box too if we’ll be stopping to eat on the way.
When we travel, I have some foods that I resort to because they are just easier:
For breakfast, my son always eats the same thing. I pack oatmeal, pancakes (frozen), sausage (cooked, then frozen).
For lunch and dinner I often pull my previously frozen meals from my freezer. Items like spaghetti, soup, and taco/bean mix work well. Hot dogs are also easy, we like to mix them with green beans and red kidney beans for an all-in-one meal for the thermos. Yogurt also works for travel. We always pack sunbutter as well, either for sandwiches or snacks with graham crackers.
For snacks, I pack enough snack mix (click the link and scroll to the bottom for my recipe) to last the duration of our travel, snack bars, fruit, crackers, or hummus and veggie sticks. Individual fruit cups, applesauce cups, raisin boxes and dried fruit also work well.
Don’t forget about drinks (the shelf-stable milk work great) and dessert, especially if you’re attending an event like a party where you’ll want to have a special cupcake for your child.
Despite the ridiculously long list I have, it isn’t a stressful process to pack anymore. I used to be very overwhelmed handling the packing by myself. It is a lot to handle and a lot to remember, so I removed the “remember” from the process. My list has been perfected over the past year or so. Each time I come home I edit the list, adding anything I may have needed on the trip that I didn’t have.
I have a lot of confidence in my nerdy little list! The good news is I don’t lay in bed the night before we leave wondering what I’ve forgotten. I’m not up late the night before we leave. I don’t run around crazy in the morning feeling stressed and scattered.
So, that’s my advice to you, make a list and make your life just a little easier when you travel.