Five tips to transform the Drat Pack

Packing Tips for Family Trips

The kids and I are packing our bags today.

Never mind that they’ll probably have to run around naked for the next few days because what goes in the suitcase is NOT to come out before we leave for our Great American Yellowstone Adventure. There are suitcases, overnight bags and a tote full of food supplies stacked by the back door. We may or may not have barricaded ourselves inside until we’re ready to depart. In case you’re wondering, it will take us approximately 30 hours of drive time to reach our destination.

(Please pray for my aging Suburban. She’ll probably turn over 200,000 miles before we leave Ohio.)

Whilst planning our adventure, I started researching all sorts of family travel sites. I found folks who recommended putting each day’s outfits in plastic bags so kids could easily pull them out. I discovered mothers who recommend stacking all the clothes in a plastic tote. One distraught blogger even said with great exasperation, “Maybe I’ll just go to the nearest Wal-Mart and buy all new clothes!” Yeah. Right.

space saving packing

I tried the tote. It was huge and bulky, and I imagined three kids digging through my neatly folded stacks, tossing items to and fro. I don’t like it when people mess with my systems (unless of course they have a better idea). After a few trials, errors and a brief period of tribulation, I pulled the suitcases from storage and came up with my own system. As I mentioned above,

You’ll need rubber bands. And patience.

I began with my son’s clothing: eight pairs of shorts, eight shirts.

1) Roll each “outfit” and secure with a rubber band. (I ran out of rubber bands. Yarn works just fine in a pinch.) With this system, he can reach in and grab his outfit. They fit neatly and this is a very small bag: 12w x 20d x 6h.

2) Roll thick sweatshirts and extra items like swim trunks to fill in empty spaces. Bulky jeans should be folded in thirds and placed on top of the rolled outfits.

roll clothes in suitcases

There’s enough room on top to for five, long-sleeved shirts — also rolled, and a thick, fleece jacket, mittens and hat (just in case we encounter a random snowstorm at higher elevations!

3) Place small items like socks and underpants in the front pocket of the suitcase.

4) Fold each child’s beach towel in thirds and place on top of clothing.

tips for packing

5) Put a tall kitchen garbage bag in each suitcase for dirty clothes.

Hopefully we won’t need to stop at the laundromat. I have visions of my son jumping into the infamous Yellowstone Mud Pots! There you have it … packing isn’t rocket science but with the right system, you can get a heck of a lot more in a tiny suitcase.

One last tip! We’ll spend a couple of nights in hotels as we travel to Montana. I don’t want to have to unpack the car before we arrive at our final destination.

Pack an overnight bag for each child.

Each of my kids packed two T-shirts, two pairs of shorts, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and clean undergarments in a small backpack. After a 10-hour day of driving, they’ll grab this for the overnight in a hotel. No unpacking the grocery-getter, no lugging suitcases and excess stuff … just a simple grab-n-go bag.

overnight travel bags for kids

Also, yes … we were all at the dentist this week. It’s always a bonus when you can find a great use for freebies — like backpacks, new toothbrushes and tiny tubes of toothpaste! We’re not leaving for several days, but we’re getting closer to being organized and ready!

Where are YOU going this summer?


*** Post Edit ***

Thanks to MAC for asking what happens to laundry on the return trip. Here’s my plan:
At the end of our stay, the dirty laundry bags will be put into the empty suitcases. What doesn’t fit will be stuffed into an empty, extra-large duffel bag I’ve brought along for just this purpose. We’ll stash it on the floor in front of my son’s seat. He still requires a booster seat and his legs dangle. The bag will make a nice foot rest for him!

This is also a good option in case we’re a suitcase short on the way home. We may need to fill one of them with souvenirs instead of dirty clothes. (Have I mentioned that my kids collect rocks every time we go somewhere? Have you seen The Long, Long Trailer? It’s kind of like that!)







  • comment-avatar
    Darci June 13, 2013 (7:13 pm)

    Same place as you! Haha

  • comment-avatar
    Sally June 14, 2013 (7:17 am)

    Got your first aid kit packed? benadryl, bandaids, etc. Bounce fabric softener sheets repel insects and can be tucked in a pocket for all day. Not sure if other softener sheets work the same. Tape penny over insect bites to lessen the sting. Hope you enjoy the trip.

  • comment-avatar
    MAC June 14, 2013 (9:40 am)

    Not throw a wrench in your plan but exactly what do you plan to do with the dirty clothes? How does that fit back into your system after lets say . . . day three?

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer Kiko June 14, 2013 (9:55 am)

      Good question!! Please see post edit 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    MAC June 14, 2013 (10:35 am)


  • comment-avatar
    Amy May 31, 2014 (11:30 pm)

    Ruber banding outfits is a great idea for my spacey 12 yo! Thanks! And, I immediately thought of the “Long, LongTrailer” with your rock collecting comment!! Hilarious flick!

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer June 1, 2014 (5:33 am)

      I LOVE that movie, probably because it’s close to my reality when we go camping! 🙂