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(Ian and I are on a trip so I’m sharing this little gem from the archives.)
During a job interview, I was once asked, “If you were going on vacation in Ireland, what would you pack and when would you start packing.”
My answer was normal for how I used to pack – I’d make a list of everything I need about two weeks ahead of time and double it and then I’d probably add more right before I left, too.
I’d like to change my answer.
Since embracing simplicity and minimalism as a totally awesome way of life (less cleaning!), I’ve realized that the way I pack could totally be improved upon. And so that’s what I set out to do on our last overnight trip.
Before, I would take everyone an outfit for every day we’d be gone and one extra. That was a lot of stuff to pack up in a lot of bags and a whole lot to clean when we got back.
The new normal
For our last trip, everyone got one set of jammies and two pairs of socks and underwear. Then, everyone got one complete outfit with a short-sleeve shirt, long-sleeve shirt and sweater. Multiply that by six and we had a full duffel bag.
I made a point to make sure everyone left with versatile shoes and since it was winter, everyone was wearing a jacket and snow hat. Ella got an extra pair of undies and pants since she’s in a constant state of potty-training.
Isaiah got an entire extra outfit, since he can’t walk from one room to another without getting dirty.
And to my surprise, it worked out just fine. Ella had an accident, so I washed a load of laundry on day two and some of us could have gotten by with even less clothing.
Here’s what we learned about packing a little for a lot of people:
Wash where you go
I have a bunch of laundry soap samples lying around my house and I realized that they would be great to take with us when traveling. Rather than trying to remember them, I just put them in the drawer under the passenger seat in our van.
Evaluate how many clothes are really, truly needed
If you have access to a washing machine (and a thrift store if things get really messy), you really don’t need to take much clothing. If you’re going to be doing something special (like the family portrait we did on our last trip), make sure to incorporate what you’re wearing into your plans.
Taking an extra pair of shoes for exercise or for a snow forecast might be a good idea if you’re not comfortable wearing those shoes for the whole trip.
Examine normal daily habits
If you typically wear one pair of jeans for a few days, you’ll probably do the same while you’re away. My husband would always just pack one pair of pants on those occasions when I had him pack for himself and now I know why.
He almost always makes a pair of pants last for a few days, so why bother packing extra for a trip “just in case?” Same goes for little kids. If you have frequent accidents with one, plan accordingly.
The other kids might be fine with one extra pair of jeans, but this one will probably need two or three. In this case, I usually pack leggings as extras since they take up less space.
Buy or borrow when you’re there
If you get where you’re going and find that the washer is broken or that your little sweetheart is peeing her pants faster than you can clean and dry them, you still have options. In our case, we usually visit family, so borrowing something for us or our children is pretty easy to do.
In the event that it’s not, a clothing store of some kind is invariably within close walking or driving distance. I heartily recommend checking out the thrift store before making your way to Target. Whoever’s dirtied all of their clothes can lounge in jammies while they wait.
Simplifying your travel baggage isn’t only for singles or couples with one or no children. All it takes is a little planning (even less than before in my case) and letting of the “what if and just in case” mentality.