Road Trip: Packing without Losing Sleep or my Mind

Our family of 7 is hitting the road! We’re taking a 3 week road trip from Georgia to New Hampshire, with stops in 7 States along the way.  We will be vacationing with family (I don’t think we’re fancy enough to say “we will be summering”) on a beautiful lake in New Hampshire for 6 days before my husband flies home to continue his MBA program. The kids and I will continue our 3 week trek by visiting loved ones up and down the East Coast. I’m very much looking forward to this, as a road trip visiting loved ones is one of my favorite things. I should mention I grew up taking road trips with my family, so it’s kinda in my blood.  My dad owned what I can only describe as a hippie van, complete with shag carpet, a faux fire place, a working sink, crushed orange velvet chairs for driver and passenger that swiveled 180 degrees,  and NO SEATS for children.  So we sat in bean bags or lawn chairs (true story) or piled into the BED in the back. The one with curtains and fancy lighting. If you are a childhood friend, you have memories of this van no doubt! Oh, and the exterior was painted with murals of gladiators and lions battling each other in rivers of blood (still a true story.) I promise to find a picture/slide of our actual childhood van to share with you, but for now here’s an example of the genre of vehicle within which I was raised. Except ours had a lot more blood and weaponry on it.


I digress….

Like I was saying, I very much enjoy road trips. I can’t say the same, however, for packing. Especially packing 2 adults, 4 young children and a baby. Whoever invented Glamping is a genius.  But my packing strategy has been evolving through the years and so I want to share ways I’m learning to pack without loosing sleep or my mind.


  1. Packing less stuff is less stressful than packing too much. For me, this is the trade off. I could pack for every possible scenario that may or may not occur, cram the van, have to lug all of that stuff to and from each overnight stop in the name of being prepared (honestly, just writing all that feels too heavy), or, I can pack the essentials and trust we’ll find what we need IF we need it.
  2. Relax-we’ll be able to get whatever we need if it’s needed. Unless it’s a prescription, there’s pretty much nothing we wouldn’t be able to  get on the road if needed. It’s one of the joys and privileges of traveling in the modern era and not in a covered wagon headed West, and for that I’m very thankful.  So I try to keep from stressing over all the possible- and endless- what if’s, and pack for the known like a responsible parent.
  3. We really don’t need that much clothing. Seriously. Especially for a summer trip where bathing suits abound. Each kid gets 4 pairs of shorts and 4 tops. Done. Except for Mia, because dresses. I will note that this concept is easier when packing for my kids rather than myself. I tend to over-pack and I NEVER end up wearing everything I brought. Except for the awesome maxi dress and sandals I’ll be traveling in…for 3 days (that’s a bonus tip) this is what I’m packing and it feels manageable. IMG_7830


  1. Lists! Starting a month out, I devote a notebook to the trip and I begin making lists. Nothing pretty, but whatever comes to mind gets put on the list. The goal here is to get it off of my brain and onto the list.  Hence the ‘not losing sleep’ part. And yes, I pack sardines.  #Omega-3!IMG_7832
  2. Bins. This trip, I’m ditching the bags and going straight for the bins. My theory is that these can easily stack in the van and also serve as dressers during each stop.
  3. Staging. Three days out, I set up a staging area to begin stock piling our gear. I like to keep this area as neat as possible as a way to stay organized and calm….clutter really does a number on my stress and ability to think clearly.  I devote 30-60 minutes a night to packing, but then it’s off to bed at a normal hour. No late-night/all-night packing fests for me, because kids still wake up at 6 am and I still have to parent.
  4. Categories. These change depending on the trip, but here’s what’s working this time around: On the Road, Clothes for All, Water, and Overflow. I like how bins offer built-in limit; if it fits, it comes. This probably only works for summer trips, since winter clothes are so bulky. Which is one of the reasons we moved South!


  • On The Road: this is everything our family will need during our 3-day trip North. We’ll be staying with dear family and prefer to NOT appear as though we’re permanently moving in or should’ve hired a moving crew. So, this bin contains everyone’s pj’s and toiletries, 2 changes of clothes, diapers, wipes, and is made easily accessible in the van (i.e. top of the stack.)
  • Clothes for All: Yup, all of our family’s clothes fit in this bin (Except for Micah, who’s flying home separate and has his own bag.)
  • Water: bathing suits, towels, life jackets, water shoes, goggles,sunblock, (minimal) beach toys…it’s all here. And it can all be plopped on the shore with minimal effort.
  • Overflow: because not everything can be neatly categorized. This bin contains  board games, my camera, books, additional toiletries, sound machine, the most adorable baby camping chair, my beloved TRX for exercising on the road (stay tuned for more on that)….

So that’s how we’re hitting the road this time around. In my next post I plan to share ways I’m maintaining my diet and exercise on the road….and possibly even continuing my weight loss.  But now it’s off to the lake, the mountains, and the silence of no internet.

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