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Mama Drama: Decrease Packing Pressure

Dear Mama Drama:

Every time we travel, even for a weekend, I find myself stressed and short-tempered by the time we pull out of the driveway. I’m always running around packing everything and the rest of the family is waiting on me to get it done. There are so many details to keep track of that I worry my kids will forget something if they pack themselves, but managing everything takes all the fun out of traveling for me.

~ Travel Weary Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Travel Weary:

I’d be stressed and cranky too if I were doing all the work while everyone stood around and watched. You need an action plan to get the rest of the family involved and taking responsibility for their travel gear.

Have suitcases or bags for each of your children if they are old enough to pull one on their own (age 4 or 5 is a good barometer depending on their strength and stature). This will help in the organization of belongings as well as redistribute responsibility as you pack and transport luggage.

Create a packing list for each child of all the items they’ll need to bring including specific clothing (i.e., 3 t-shirts, 1 dress shirt) toiletries, stuffed animals, books, and games. Give this to your children who can read and have them set out the items on their bedroom floor. This way you can take a quick peek and double check that all items have been accounted for before they go in the bag. For children who are not yet readers (or need a bit more organizational support), read the list aloud as they pull out the necessary items.

Pack together. Packing a suitcase effectively is an important life-long skill you can teach your children. By doing it with them, you’ll save yourself tons of time and frustration down the road. Explain your thinking as you make suggestions of where to put different items such as shoes, underwear, toiletries, etc. Be flexible if they have divergent ideas and problem solve together if you have concerns about whether an item will fit or may be too fragile for that part of the bag. After doing this a few times, you’ll be able to hand off the lists and relax while your children develop the confidence and skills to manage their own belongings.

Make a list of critical items you don’t want to forget. Enlist your family in helping you make sure that list is completed before heading out the door.

Pack ahead of time. Last minute packing makes everyone stressed out. Packing all that you can the night before you leave decreases the pressure to remember everything at the last minute.  Additionally, getting a head start on packing for your little ones who can’t do it themselves lets you just grab their bags and go when you’re ready.

Finally, clearly designate and communicate a time that everyone needs to be ready to leave. Be sure to allow some wiggle room for mishaps, bathroom needs, and other unexpected events.

Moms often have all these lists and skills in their heads, so can easily end up doing all the work and feeling frustrated. Relinquishing control over the details and redistributing responsibility will help traveling become a wonderful rather than wearing endeavor for you.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

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  1. I am seriously printing this off and checking it out. I. Need. Help! It’s been a bit overwhelming to plan for a month-long road-trip and these are great tips.

  2. We camp fairly often and I over the years I have developed the mother of all packing lists. I have friends request that I share it, to which I always oblige. That list is my bible before a trip! Currently using it right now to get ready for a trip to Black Hill next week!

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