Author: Annie KilbrideFamily General Travel

My Family’s Busy Bags

When you are at a restaurant, in the car, or headed to the beach, do your children drive you crazy by fighting or by saying that they are bored? I have found several variations of a ‘busy bag/box’ on Pinterest, and decided to create my own. My bags have changed over the years accommodating items that will satiate my 4 year old as well as my 7 year old!

Below are some of my ‘Busy Bag’ ideas:

My Restaurant Bag contains:

  • Paper which is kept in a fun print file folder
  • Crayons that are kept in a pencil case
  • Coloring books
  • Lacing boards which are kept in a large pencil case or large utility baggie
  • Laminated Road Maps that are printed and placed in a page protector sleeve
  • Matchbox cars which are kept in a large pencil case or large utility baggie
  • My Little Ponies
  • Crayola Model Magic which is kept in plastic baggies (this is like Play-Dough, but doesn’t crumble as much)
  • Laminated play dough mats which are kept in a page protector sleeve (this prevents the Model Magic from sticking to a table)
  • Stacking cups
  • Colored pom-poms or colored popsicle sticks

When my children were toddlers, I used to pack lots of board books, large Duplo blocks, finger puppets, Crayola dough, laminated play dough mats, stacking cups and Fisher Price plastic animals. For older children, add Legos, playing cards, trivia questions, the game Uno, books, Mad libs, and maze books.

My Car Bag contains everything from my restaurant bag, plus the following:

  • Travel Bingo boards
  • Books
  • Small cupcake pans
  • Magnetic alphabet letters
  • Notebooks
  • An Etch a Sketch
  • Super hero figurines (most small items like these can be stored in an empty Wet Ones wipes container)
  • Paper on a clipboard
  • Stickers
  • Small snack containers – filled with dry cereal and pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • Sports bottles filled with water
  • Books on CD from our local library, or Conference CD’s from the NAPO-GPC library!

A fun idea that I started — on a 10 hour trip to Myrtle Beach — was to get baby links from the dollar store and connect them from one car hook to the one across from it in the backseat, and a super hero traveled link to link every hour that passed. Also, since each of my children had a small version of the car bag next to them, with each activity organized inside a smaller container, there were no melt downs!

Taking a family of four to the beach is like a jigsaw puzzle. Everything needs to be organized and in a certain area or else it will be covered in sand or forgotten. Thanks to many invites to Thirty One parties I am well prepared for the beach with bags!

My Beach Bag is a system of smaller bags:

  • My pocket tote holds my cellphone, cash, my son’s EpiPen, inhalers, a sunscreen stick, baby powder, and sunscreen, plus a zinc stick (for my son who fries in the sun)
  • My large utility tote holds hats, my long sleeve shirt, my children’s extra rash shirts, four beach towels and my blanket that rolls up
  • My large zipper pouch holds my husband’s iPad and my Kindle
  • Another zipper pouch is filled with a small blank pad, small coloring books, mini markers and a small My Little Pony. (This pouch was added after thinking that just the beach toys would occupy my 3 year old last year.)

Staying organized, even on vacation, helps to keep my sanity, as well as my husband’s when the ice cream man rings his bell and both children start running towards him. All he has to do is reach in the pouch for the money and not waste any time looking for it. I hope I have inspired you to create your own “Bags” for whatever situation calls for it.

Have fun and safe travels this summer!

Author: Sherry CastaldiClothing Family General Home Organizing Travel

20 Organizing Tips to Help You Pack Your Suitcase Like a Pro!

Picture of a 'rolling' suitcaseThere are a few basic components of your vacation you need to consider before you select certain articles and start to pack. If you are traveling by air, be aware of your carrier’s baggage restrictions. This is the time to be efficient with your space!  Below are my 20 tips to help you pack like a pro:

  1. Know the climate, weather and temperatures of the location you will be visiting as this will determine the types of attire and accessories you will need.
  2. How long will you be there? This will determine the amount of clothing and accessories you will need.
  3. If you are traveling by air you need to decide if you will be using carry-on baggage or if you will be checking bags. Remember this choice may affect your toiletry choices due to various airline restrictions.
  4. Now put together daily outfits and undergarments based upon the amount of days you will be gone. Add an extra 2-3 days of additional attire for emergencies. To keep clothes at a minimum consider a wardrobe that is easily coordinated with mix and match items. For example, jeans, black, white and tan separates can make for a variety of different outfits.
  5. Begin by appropriately folding these items and stacking them in piles. This will serve two purposes. One is so they are ready to be put into the suitcase, and two is to get a visual of the amount of luggage space and pieces that will be needed.
  6. Next, decide if you will need any specialty items; dinner or formal attire, rain gear, sweaters or jackets for potential cooler temperatures, hiking gear, etc. and gather these items. Fold and stack them for packing.
  7. Decide what types of shoes you will need. Do you need walking shoes, dress shoes, any specialty shoes such as boots, or flip flops? Do not bring all of your shoes; decide which ones will be the most universal to your needs.
  8. Now you can decide if you need accessories such as additional outerwear; hats, scarfs, sunglasses, etc. and put those items with your piles of clothing to be packed.
  9. Gather your necessary personal toiletry items with regard to if you are checking bags or using only carry-on and make sure you are following your airline carrier’s guidelines.
  10. It’s a good idea to use a small travel or cosmetic bag or clear plastic Ziploc bags for packing toiletries. If the airlines do want to view these items it is easy to see them, and if any would leak or spill, it will help safeguard your clothing.
  11. Once you have all of your items stacked in front of you for packing, now you can see what size luggage or how many pieces of luggage you will need for the job.
  12. Arrange your shoes in with top sides together but opposite each other front to back; one shoe toe should be facing into the heel of the other shoe for the best fit. Place them in shoe covers if you have them or use white plastic bags to keep the soles of your shoes from touching your clothing and your suitcase lining. Pack shoes in the bottom or sides near the bottom of your suitcase.
  13. Next, place your larger items such as jeans, pants, jackets, etc. in the suitcase and take advantage of the length of the suitcase. (some may need to slide under the shoes, you’ll have to see) Know that you may need to double fold some items to fit properly.
  14. Rolling your clothing is another option to folding it and often avoids unwanted travel creases.
  15. Begin to fill in the suitcase with your pre-folded clothing or rolled clothing, filling the sides with smaller items like undergarments, socks, accessories and even those toiletry bags.
  16. The trick to keeping your items neat and orderly is to put them in the suitcase neat and orderly and fill spaces with smaller items so there is less opportunity for shifting.
  17. By packing the more delicate items closer to the front of the suitcase, the weight of the other clothing is not on them at least during the period you are in control of your bag.
  18. Don’t forget to bring along some laundry bags or mid-size plastic bags to keep your dirty clothes separate in the suitcase as you travel.
  19. Do not over stuff your bag! If you can barely get your suitcase closed from the start, it will be even more challenging later. You will either need another bag or you will need to make some strategic elimination choices from your original selection of clothing and accessories.
  20. Use the straps within your suitcase to help keep your clothing from shifting. Check and adjust so that everything appears to be evenly packed within the suitcase.

Now zip your suitcase and go! Bon Voyage!

Author: Rie BroscoHolidays Organizing Seasonal Travel

How to Pack for a Trip

Last week, my partner Naomi, and I traveled to New England to visit family. It was her brother’s 50th birthday and there was a surprise party for him. I also have family in Massachusetts and looked forward to seeing folks I have not seen in too long. It was going to be a short trip by car… only 5 days (including the two days of travel time).

Now, I need to confess, I do not usually travel lightly – especially when we
have a station wagon with a large cargo area in it but since it was such a short trip, we decided that we would not need much. And so the packing began.

What I already knew (and actually followed this time)…

  • I really do spend most of my time in one or two comfortable pairs of pants (no need to bring more).
  • Pack items that you can mix and match. Sometimes you wake up and just don’t like what you had planned to wear. It is nice to have a choice without bringing extra stuff.
  • Check to see if there are laundry facilities in the place you are staying (or a nearby Laundromat) so that if you do spill something on an article of clothing you wanted to wear again, you can launder it quickly.

Things I should have known but just learned…

  • Bring a flashlight for each person to have by their bedside. Our hotel had a power outage and finding the bathroom in the middle of the night without bumping into the furniture was a challenge (especially since the one flashlight we brought was still packed in the suitcase and the batteries died after 3 minutes of use!) The flashlights can be small and fit on a keychain (or most cell phone screens light up when turned on or have an app for a free flashlight).
  • Before leaving home, check all batteries to make sure they are charged and working. This applies not only to flashlights (see above) but also cameras, phones, tablets and any other gadgets you bring.
  • Before packing all those gadgets, ask yourself whether you truly need to take your laptop, a tablet, cell phone, portable dvd player, gps, and… or will one or two items do the job of many?  Besides, if you are on vacation, shouldn’t you leave the work at the office?
  • If your phone or tablet does not have an alarm clock feature, bring a small battery-operated travel one with you (especially if you have to wake up at a certain hour).

Traveling lightly can be a challenge for some people (ok, I include myself in that category) but one of the most important things I learned is that it is an incredibly long way to carry multiple (heavy) bags up or down four flights of stairs when the elevators don’t work. Plus, unless you are visiting the wilds of Labrador or the back trails of the Appalachian Mountains, most places have stores where you can buy almost anything you left behind and can’t live without… like flashlights or batteries!