How Packing for a Trip Changes After Kids (Hint: No More PFM Shoes)

I remember one of the first road trips we took after our second son was born. We were driving from Seattle to Oregon in order to stay for something like two weeks, and I could not believe the packing task I had to deal with. I brought so much stuff: baby clothes, toddler clothes, travel crib, bouncy chair, a swing, diapers, toys, mealtime accouterments, blankets, medicines ... the list went on and on.

Now that the boys are older, the packing isn't nearly as epic. Still, every time I'm surprised anew by how much work it takes for the four of us to go anywhere—and don't even get me started on the laundry that awaits when we get back home.

You know what's funny about the Herculean task of packing for a trip with kids, though? Apparently I've been doing it for years. It's just that instead of Pull-Ups and baggies of goldfish crackers and favorite blankies, I used to agonize over how to get all my OWN stuff from point A to point B.


In fact, I actually have photo documentation of a packing list I made for myself back in 2002. My husband and I were going on a week-long cruise, and this is what I was planning to bring:

I remember photocopying it at my office (because you never know when you might need a backup list!) and a male coworker of mine ended up taking a long, horrified look at it. We then had a conversation that perfectly illustrated, in my mind, one of the major differences between men and women:

Brian: "Dear lord. Dear lord. HOW long are you going for again?"

Me (defensively): "A week."

Brian: "Too-small pink shorts? What does that even mean?"

Me: "Well, they are a little too small in that they look great when you're standing up, but not so much when you're sitting down, so if I'm gonna be, like, standing around, then they'll be great, but if I'm thinking I'll be sitting in them—"

Brian: (makes weird batting-at-air gesture with hands)

Me: "ANYWAY. I haven't decided if I'm going to bring them or not. Hence, the question mark."

Brian: "PFMs? What are PFMs?"

Me: "Please Fuck Me shoes. Duh."

Brian: "What is up with the frownie face next to 'Tampons'?"

Me (having lost patience): "Well, what the hell do you think it's there for? It is to indicate that the necessity of packing tampons is a total bummer."

Brian: "Don't you have a calendar? Why didn't you schedule, you know, around?"

Nearby Female Coworker: "Listen mister, we are not, like, egg timers, okay? Things aren't always predictable."

Me: "Yeah."

Female Coworker: "Let me see that list. Mm hm. Mm hm. Yep, this is all pretty standard stuff."

Brian: "Whaaaat?"

Female Coworker: "Brian. What do you bring when you stay the night at your girlfriend's house?"

Brian: "Nothing. Because I have a toothbrush there."

Female Coworker: "Right. And what does she bring when she stays the night at your house?"

Brian (dawningly): "Noah's. Fucking. Ark."

Female Coworker: "And that's just for one night."

Brian: "Damn."

It's oddly nostalgic to see that list from over a decade ago. (For one thing, did my husband really own three Hawaiian shirts?) Some of the things are what I'd pack now, but I'm amazed by how my life seems so different now. I mean, nail polish and remover? On what planet would my family vacation include the ability to enjoy the opportunity of giving myself a manicure? Long silvery skirt? Where would I wear that, the McDonald's we stop at during our road trips down I-5? A selection of bathing suits, rather than the ONE I own that manages to cover all my wobbly bits?

And PFMs? Please.

Still, there's something freeing about keeping things simpler for myself. As long as I have a good book and a comfy pair of yoga pants, I can be happy pretty much anywhere. And I may not have predicted that one day I'd add my packing capabilities to my motherhood resume, but all that prep work with fancy shoes and tanning oils paid off. I'll tell you what, I can Tetris the shit out of a kid's suitcase these days.

Have you noticed that you spend less time packing for yourself, and more on your kids when you travel these days?

Images via Flickr/lassec, Linda Sharps

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