If you’re like me when you think of traveling you think of the destination: the beaches, the cities, the pictures I’ll post to Facebook. I hardly ever think of the actual traveling part of it, the behind the scenes preparation of what it takes to arrive to my destination. Oftentimes, if that part is stressful it can take a whole lot longer (or a whole lot more bottles of vino) to (pun intended) wined down when I do arrive. When we moved abroad, traveling became a much larger part of our lives than ever before. Besides the initial move abroad, there are long weekends when we pack up our Space Wagon with the family to maneuver around the island and the larger process of traveling home for a whole summer. Let me say that packing for two months can be quite stressful. A friend at Dropcam reminded me that April is Stress Awareness Month and finding a way to stay stress free (or less stressed) is essential to so much travel. Here are some tips I’ve learned to manage stress when traveling.
Stay Packed and Ready to Go
When you are packing for a whole family: clothes, toiletries, diapers, formula, bottles, toys, dog food, refrigerated food, snacks etc. and with 4 people who all use different sunblocks due to varying degrees of sensitive skin, you’re bound to forget something and become quickly overwhelmed. So I try to cut corners where I can and it comes in the form of a ready-to-go bag, a bag that’s always packed. I have a few versions.
THE BEACH BAG
We live in a place where a beach is as accessible as shopping at Target. A beach bag that is always packed saves on time and worry. Our bag has:
- 4 beach towels (adult and kid)
- a ziploc bag with adult and kid sunblocks (prevents spills also)
- a ziploc bag with bug repellent and talc. (See here for a great Pin on taking talc to the beach.)
Our other ready-to-go ski beach bag holds:
- beach toys
- and kids’ beach towel robes to change into
This way whenever it’s a beach day the only thing left to pack is our kids.You can tailor this bag to your needs depending on where you live. If you live to ski, consider having a ready-to-go ski bag. If you spend your summers at the lake, think about what necessities you will always take to the lake and pack them in a ready-to-go ski bag.
THE TOILETRY BAG
The toiletry bag is more universal to everyone’s traveling and its contents rarely change so this is a great bag to have ready to go. It’s also a great way to use some of those makeup or face lotion samples you have laying around. A key to packing this bag is to separate some things with ziploc bags this way if one liquid-filled container opens, everything doesn’t get ruined. The toiletry bag’s contents could include:
- spare toothbrushes (adult and kid)
- toothpastes (adult and kid)
- small containers of shampoo/conditioner (These are filled at the end of a trip to avoid having to fill these things up when packing the next time. This is also helpful if an emergency trip pops up.)
- Baby shampoos/conditioners/bath
- store sample face washes / moisturizers (I get a ton of these from Sephora and Bare MIinerals)
- razor cartridge (so I’m just adding the razor)
- spare perfume/spray
- small bottle of travel lotion
- handful of hairbands
- small bar of soap
Remembering to pack the small things beforehand can help you focus on the many big things you will inevitably have to pack.
One of the worst vacations I ever took was because I had not yet accepted where I was in life. At this particular time in my life, I had a 10-month-old daughter and was in my first trimester of my second pregnancy. To say it simply, I was not in a place where I was willing to rough it out so when I arrived at our “rustic” accommodations I was miserable. I – who was already sleeping horribly – had to share a small bed with Husband. There was no air-conditioning in our room only an old, rickety standing up fan that didn’t penetrate through our mosquito net. There was a mosquito net which meant there were animals, I mean insects, and I definitely don’t like insects, even less when I’m pregnant. To add the proverbial cherry on top, there were possible mouse poops on our friend’s bed. The place had a great view and was close to the ocean but it wasn’t enough to outweigh the negatives for me. Had I not been pregnant it might have been more manageable for me but I was pregnant and traveling with our 10 month old baby. When we left – a day early – I said to Husband, “We have to accept where we are in life. We have a small child and another on the way and this doesn’t work for us or our situation right now.”
I am not saying that you shouldn’t try stepping out of your comfort zone but be sure it is something you are ready for.
Packing the Essentials
DON’T TAKE EVERYTHING WITH YOU
Ask yourself these questions:
- What you can do without it?
- What must you have?
- What are the things you can buy at your destination?
The less you travel with, the less packing you will do, the less weight you will carry, and the less you’ll forget.
This is coming from years of bad packing and a serious case of being a girl who likes to pack more stuff than she needs. I’ve recently started to get better at it and let me tell you – it is a HUGE relief. Let’s face it, most of the time we don’t need that pair of black stilettos and the pair of nude heels when we’re going on a beach holiday to a sandy resort. I like to think I’m going to wear them but I always end up in flip flops. I could say the same for jewelry. Jewelry should be versatile. One or two necklaces and one or two pairs of earrings (like silver or gold hoops) are really all you need and that should be including the pair you’re wearing. Let go of the image you think you are going to flaunt when you’re traveling which includes too many wardrobe changes, Sarah Jessica Parker, and embrace (yes – ACCEPT) who you are. If you can do this, you are already on your way to packing better.
Now, that you’ve learned you need less, pack smarter with things you can mix and match instead of static outfits.
- a pair of leggings goes a looooong way and they’re super comfortable. Wear it with a tank top to lounge around, or under a tunic for a more around town look.
- a few tank tops are great for multi-use. I wear tank tops to work out, to the pool, or under a light sweater, all of which are completely different looks.
- one pair of flip flops (which I will spend most of my time in) and one pair of nicer shoes and these should be shoes you’ll actually wear. They don’t have to be heels just something that might dress up an outfit if you need to go somewhere a bit fancier.
- a light sweater is my MUST HAVE. I live on a hot island and I still bring a light sweater everywhere I go. Everywhere. Inevitably I will end up somewhere with a breeze or A/C and having a sweater to snuggle up in always makes me happy.
The key to packing – as I’m learning – is to bring pieces that can double up. Less room in your suitcase, less to pack, less to unpack, less to forget… see the pattern.
The truth is, stress free travel doesn’t exist when you have children. Even the words stress free are as fantastical as the unicorn you rode in on, but if you could remember some tips that help you reduce your stress, you’ll be a lot more relaxed when you arrive at your destination.~ Pack lightly. Live well. Move often. Repeat. ~ Photo Credits: Travel List: Kamilla Oliveira Room with Mosquito Net and Rickety Fan – Michele Zanin