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Two Weeks, Four States, Six People: A Packing Primer

Tomorrow my family and I will board a plane for the East Coast, where we will spend two weeks tromping through upstate New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and NYC. This trip is basically four trips rolled into one, the first one being a surprise birthday party for my father-in-law, who's turning 80 and hopefully not reading this website right now. (He's not. I asked my MIL to keep him away from the computer like in that one scene from "White Christmas" where Danny Kay pretends to fall down the stairs during the "Ed Harrison Show.")

Anyway, packing for six people for a two-week trip is not something I have any expertise in at all, except for the fact that I have done it now three times. Not well, mind you. I always forget someone's underwear and pack someone else nothing but pants, and we always end up at the nearest gift shop to buy toothbrushes—but that's part of the adventure, right? I mean, does anyone really want the kind of family memories where everyone has impeccably packed personalized bags and doesn't spend at least half of the trip trying to find a duplicate lost lovey at the nearest Goodwill?

Not this guy.

So, packing. This is what we pulled together for two weeks and six people:

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1. Backpacks full of things

For the airplane, every kid gets a backpack full of goodies that they are not allowed to open until takeoff. This trip I have procured a fine selection of items from the 99-cent bin at Target. They each have their own journals, drawing paper, crayons, markers, pens, mechanical pencils, playing cards and new books. We also have three screens—my computer, Hal's computer and Hal's iPad—for watching movies during flights. So far we have been able to have Archer and Fable share a screen with one pair of headphones.

I will have three backpacks this trip, one that will consist of computer-y things, another that will consist of changes of clothes for everyone in case our luggage gets lost and another that will be overflowing with Pirate's Booty and other such snacks. And, yes, I know. That is one bag above the legal limit. Archer will hold one of my bags through the checkpoint and we will wink at each other. We will wink.

2. Three Large Suitcases full of more things

We own three large suitcases and I pack two people to each one. Everyone has a hoodie, a raincoat, water shoes, a dressy outfit, sneakers, sandals, seven pairs of socks, nine pairs of underwear (to be safe), one swimsuit per person, 10 pairs of leggings for the twins to share, three pairs of shorts each, two pairs of pants and seven shirts and/or dresses for each child to wear twice. (We will have laundry access in the first three days and last three days of our trip.) It is going to be humid, and we are going to be very active for most of our trip, so yeah.

And then there's me and Hal. Hal has packed two pairs of shorts, one pair of jeans and, like, three shirts. I have 20 dresses, jumpsuits and onesies currently set out to decide on. I will likely rock-paper-scissors for whatever goes in the bag and call it a day.

3. Carseats and Booster

We learned the hard way years ago that renting car seats is stupid-overpriced and also disgusting. I have never seen a rental car seat that wasn't a complete catastrophe of broken and stained with puke and poop. Ever. For the last few trips, we have brought our own car seats for the twins and a booster for Fable. (You can check car seats and boosters free of charge, by the way, so long as you're checking only one per child.)

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In conclusion:

Screw packing light! Keep calm and don't carry on, you know what I'm sayin'? Keep calm and pack a huge suitcase full of pants.

And car seats.

And booster seats.

And snacks.

And costumes—in case the kids decide they want to put on an impromptu play in the elevator of the Empire State Building.

Sorry if this wasn't at all helpful. The truth is I was never going to be a master packer. And that's just fine. Because you wanna know what? It matters zero. Regardless of what I've overpacked on past trips and/or accidentally left behind, we have never met a vacation we didn't love. If there's one thing I've learned while traveling with family, it's not about what you bring, but how you bring it.

xo, Internet. See you in a few ...

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