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!


  1. What a great tip! Thanks for sharing! I would never have thought about doing that in dresser drawers too... my children's need some serious reorganizing!

  2. That's interesting. Will have to try it!

  3. Well, that definitely inspired my girls while you were here. They have started doing this in their dresser drawers!! Yeah!! =)

  4. Genius! I am so excited to try this on our next trip. Thanks so much!

  5. Thanks for sharing this...well, you have been in one place now for way too long! Come see us and we will not even notice you are wearing the same clothes :) Lord Bless!
    Misty Risse

  6. I love this. So you!

    Boo-hoo! Makes me miss you all!!!

    Love and hugs to all!

  7. Love it! Thanks Jolene. Will need this very soon. :)


  8. I enjoyed this article very much because I am always open to new organizing techniques! It is a great idea!! Thank you for sharing it.

    Hope you have a great day!!

    Mrs. T

  9. Hey there! It is so good to hear from you! I have missed you! This s a great post! All your posts are great! How helpful! I am trying when I travel to cut back on taking so much. It's hard! Can't imagine doing it for as long as you have with that many people! It looks like you have it down to a science! I'm sure many will appreciate these helpful tips! Thanks for sharing. Blessings and safe travels!

  10. Will have to try this in our dresser drawers!

  11. When I want to complain about the 1 month-ish trips that we have to make to the states with just two destinations, I'm going to remember you. Wow. You are AMAZING.

  12. Fantastic idea! I am totally going to try this!

  13. We do the a variation of this. Each of us is also allowed one carry-on sized piece of luggage and we do the "shoe/belt bag"! They each have a back pack with stuffed animals, crayons, paper, books; and now that they are older, computers for school. However, we role our clothes instead of folding them. I may need to experiment with your folding method and see how that works for us. We do however "cheat". Sunday or church clothes are put in a separate hang-up bag. Creatively labeled "church clothes bag". :) I have a post entitled "Tidbits from the Means", where I talk about a few of our travel tips, as well as some cute family quirks we have. :) Thanks for sharing what's working for you guys!

  14. I have lived out of a suitcase a lot and I can't believe I never thought of this! I usually just give up after a couple days and start piling everything on top of the suitcase lol. Thanks for sharing this tip, we're starting deputation in March and I'm definitely going to be trying this!

    1. All the best to you on deputation, Cara! It is a wonderful journey that lays ahead of you.

  15. I enjoyed your instructions.

    We will be travelling to the states for about six weeks soon, and the packing thing is a huge headache for me.
    I think you have just relieved a lot of stress for me.

    Elizabeth Speer
    Ghana, West Africa

  16. Thanks for the tips. Hope to see you in Austin TX soon. Today it is 80 degrees. Crazy weather.
    The Kellys

  17. I don't travel much, but what a cool idea! You are so smart! Time races on. I am reading a book I believe was recommended by your mother-in-law, Peril by Choice. I am enjoying it. I so enjoyed my visit with my familia in Nicolas Romero and the services of Kevin Wynn in Iztapalapa. Now I'm home for another year. I love you all and pray for you. Take care, love, MaryAnn.

  18. Oh Jolene, I've missed you!!! I have been praying for your family though, and checking back often. And, WOW, you are an expert packer, my friend! I'm going to borrow some of your tips for our travels. We've never lived out of a suitcase for more than 2 months, but still, "I understand." *smile* Praying for your family today and sending lots of love and hugs from Germany!!! ~ Sheri

  19. So glad to see you posting again. Great packing tip. I've done this before and it works for a little while bit it soon ends in confusion again. Too bad once you pack it this way it doesn't stay that way. :0)
    We are headed to the States for two months in April and I think I'll give this another try. Thanks

  20. Wow!!!, thank you for that timely tip. My sister in Texas is undergoing chemo-therapy for 2 different lung cancers and my clothes are a wreck by the end of each visit..I'm heading there again next week. I just wish I had known about this when my 6 children were at home and went home to Texas to visit. Thank you soooo much Mrs Jolene!!!

  21. Such a clever idea, Jolene!!!!!!

  22. I'm late in getting to this, but wanted to say that we're continuing to pray for your safety and your witnessing. You've done well on the packing. The most I've done was personal business travel for a couple of weeks. Had to carry my laptop (those were bigger just a few years ago!), purse (which was also bigger a few years ago) and a single carry on that had to fit in the overhead bin. It is necessary to think a lot about what is taken and how. Great tips - and may your journeys remain safe and memorable.

  23. Almost exactly the same as I would do it. However, I also bring extra plastic bags or what i call zips so that when used they all get stored in them and to keep the smell of used clothing away. I wish you enjoy your trip. You are creating wonderful memories for your family to treasure forever.

    Jeff Rivera
    Bestselling Author

  24. GENIUS! WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF THIS?! Lol thank you so much... :D


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