Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Packing for a trip

Well, hello there from a stranger!  Yes, it has been way too long and I have missed this little space.  Since we have already spent more than four months on the road, I thought I would dedicate this post to something I have learned... how to pack a suitcase more effectively.

You see, with six of us traveling together in one mini van, our quarters can get cramped quite easily.  So, we have adopted a couple of traveling principles that have helped us stay sane and kept us getting along like one big, happy family.  

First of all, we decided that each person gets their own suitcase and it can only be carry-on size.  "If it doesn't fit in the suitcase, you have too much stuff." *ouch* This has been tricky for us since we have traveled through all types of weather - from hot, summer days to cold, winter-type weather.  Also, our line of work requires clothing of all types - from casual, play days to Sunday church services that require suits and ties for the boys, to everything in between.  Yes, that adds up to all types of clothes needed, but we have managed to stick to our spacing budget.  As long as we don't stay anywhere more than a couple of days, no one ever notices that we are wearing the same things over and over again!
After a few trips back to the states in the last 10 years where we traveled for several months each time, I have have had my share of suitcase frustration.  It is easy to feel organized when your trip first starts, but after a day or two of getting into your suitcase multiple times throughout the day, these cramped little quarters can quickly turn into a disaster zone.  {Ask me how I know.}  Since living in Israel for three months in the spring of last year and traveling in the states and Mexico in late summer and fall, we literally lived out of a suitcase seven months in 2012 - more than half a year!

It didn't take me long to realize I needed to come up with a better solution to packing.  The way I used to pack went something like you see in the picture below... nice folded clothes in stacks.  The problem with this method is that I found myself constantly digging to the bottom of the stack for something I couldn't see...

After a couple of digging sessions, I had a mess on my hands.  Then, I started taking those same stacks and arranging them differently to come up with a whole new solution...
After you turn 'em sideways, you slide them into your suitcase and solve the problem of not being able to see what is at the bottom.  With this method, everything is constantly seen from the top!  In fact, this method works so well that you will find that you don't even have to organize your clothes by type, color, or anything else.  You can just fold them and stack them randomly (i.e. as they get washed and re-packed) and never have to worry about not being able to find something at a glance.  I'm a mom of four, after all; I don't have time to go into over-kill with my organizing methods.
This little trick has saved me tons of time because the clothes stay organized, even after several days of pulling clothes out.  A total win-win situation in my book, for sure.
I have included a picture of every person's suitcase in our family to show you that this trick works for every age and every size of clothes.  Our family's ages range from nearly two-years old to adults and we pack the same way for each person.  The only difference would be in how you fold (more folds for the bigger clothes and less folds for the smaller ones).  Just make sure that the edge of the folded clothes start at the bottom of the suitcase and end at the top, where the zipper is located.
There you have it!  If you are wondering about our shoes, we keep all of those together in a separate bag which we ever-so-creatively call the "shoe bag." (I know... three cheers for our originality). This way, no shoe odors collide with clothing and we only have to take the shoe bag in with us whenever we are dressing for a different occasion... in other words, not every day.

Each of the kids have a small backpack that they keep their random toys, books, and crafts in, and hubby and I each have our own small bag for personal treasures near our seats as well.  Other than  our display board items, this is basically all we travel with.  Well, except for each other.  Like I said, "one big, happy family!"

This method may not work for every one, but it has worked like a charm for us and I wanted to share, in case someone else {possibly another missionary's wife} can be helped by the tip.  In fact, this system has become so familiar to us that I even fold our clothes into our drawers at home the same way and we all love it. {A popular online organizing tip}.

Yes, our clothes still have to be ironed, but when you are cramming that many clothes into one suitcase, even the fool-proof method of rolling your clothes to prevent ironing doesn't quite work.  So, we have just gone this route to enjoy the benefits of finding our clothes easily and keeping our suitcases in order.

Happy travels, my friends!