We ended up traveling with 13 bags. 14 if you count my purse which is giant and is often the place we shoved stuff that we forgot to pack where it belonged. Here’s a luggage breakdown:
- 3 full-sized suitcases. One for each traveler.
- 1 electronics bag (for chargers, cables, portable router, surge protector, bluetooth speaker, DVD player, etc.)
- 3 backpacks. One for each traveler. Dana and I had our laptops in these, Allison had stuffed animals and fishy crackers in hers.
- The Victory Diaper bag. Dana called it the “hygiene bag.” This was experimental, but it worked out very well. Just stick it in the hotel bathroom and every family member has their shampoo, razor, toothbrush.
- The Food Bag. We acquired this early in the journey when people started giving us Easter candy and treats. We used the “free” bag you get for spending way too much money at the Kennedy Space Center gift shop. We kept a small supply of snacks and water in it, but it also became “Catch-All #2.”
- The laundry bag. This is a USMC backpack that started as Dana’s PT bag until he realized he wasn’t going to do any running on this trip, sent his running gear home and freed up a bag. Sometimes we stashed swimming gear in it.
- The Arts and Crafts bin. This was a gift from our friend Sara. The brilliance was that it held all the supplies plus the completed artwork. It guaranteed that Allison had something to work on every night in the hotel.
- The Gift bag. It was a giant plastic Disney World bag that we shoved all the stuff we bought along the way. Allison’s Cinderella gown took up most of the space.
- The PanAm bag. I packed this empty in my suitcase when Allison and I flew to DC on the first step of the voyage. It was meant to hold toys and junk for Allison to do in the car.
Please note, we began with 10 bags, which was plenty, and acquired three more. And that’s AFTER spending almost 300 dollars sending home boxes of stuff that people gave us along the way (or stuff we decided we didn’t need. Dana sent home most of his long pants after the first week).
Here’s something we learned along the way: Not all bags needed to go into the hotel room every night. Thirteen bags for one night becomes a big pain in the butt–and slightly ridiculous. Our solution was to bring all the bags into the room when we were staying somewhere more than one night (mostly with friends or family) and use the PanAm bag as our “go-bag.” We’d pack it with sleepwear and the clothes for a day or two for every member of the family. That way we could leave the three largest pieces of luggage in the trunk of the car. We still had a lot of stuff, but it was more manageable. It also, I suspect, made mornings faster because there was no indecision about what to wear (or arguments from Allison). Ya wear what’s in the bag! We had just one occassion in New Mexico/Arizona where cold winds required a back of the car change from shorts to long pants, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.
What could we have left home? Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at my packing job. I didn’t bring much that didn’t get use. In retrospect, Allison’s little backpack/rolling luggage didn’t do us much good, but it’s part of her airplane accouterments, and important to her. Some things aren’t worth fighting about.
What did we forget? A thermometer. I had medicine of all sorts, but no thermometer. We bought one of course, but you always seem to need them in the wee small hours in a strange town.
A legit camera–not just the one on my cell phone. Next time, for sure. Non-negotiable.
I don’t know that we’ll ever be the family that can backpack across Europe, but certainly we can pare it down from fourteen bags! It’s not like we are Edith Wharton characters taking the Grand Tour.