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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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The pain of packing

Uploaded: Jun 17, 2014
Our family vacation is fast approaching. I love vacations but I dread the packing because my husband and I have completely different approaches. If my husband travels with more than a messenger bag he feels weighed down. I like to be prepared for anything. I also want to start having fun immediately upon arrival. If I am not at the beach, on the slopes, or in a museum within one hour, I am irritable. My husband, however, is content to spend the first day of vacation shopping for whatever necessities he did not bring. He has amassed an impressive collection of hats, sunglasses, and gloves over the years, as he rarely bothers to pack these items.

Our differing approaches to packing became apparent on our first family vacation when our eldest son was almost two years old. I thought that if we packed a lot of useful gear, it would make the vacation easier for all of us. We had nine pieces of luggage including but not limited to: a crib, a stroller, a backpack, a folding high chair seat, and a car seat. United Airlines started charging for checked bags because of us.

My husband was apoplectic, especially since our son absolutely refused to use any of the equipment brought along for his comfort. He would not ride in the stroller or backpack, nor sit in the high chair, nor sleep in the crib. In addition, his feet barely touched the ground for the entire vacation. He refused to walk and instead clung to me, insisting that I (and only I) carry him for two weeks. As I was seven months pregnant, our vacation album has endless photos of pregnant me with toddler on hip posed before every attraction. Just looking at the album makes my back hurt.

My son did eventually get over his anxiety of unfamiliar places. He now relishes traveling alone by public bus in remote areas of foreign countries where he does not speak the language. My husband and I would sleep better had our son retained just a tad of his former reluctance!

I wish I could say I learned from that first vacation and managed to pare down our load for subsequent trips, but with adding four more children to the family, I have not improved much. This year, however, we have an exciting development. Every member of the family can now swallow pills, which means we can travel with only one formulation of Tylenol, the adult strength tablets. No need to pack infant drops, children's liquid, and junior chewables. How liberating to travel so light!

What is it worth to you?


Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:10 am

You crack us up, Sally! Please have a gloriously hilarious vacation--we're looking forward to reading about it in your next post!

Posted by susan, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:49 am

Hilarious. Good reminder that we adults all have different approaches -- and all work. I do like to think of traveling these days as "less is more."

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:26 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi PR,
We will, thanks!

Hi Susan,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I will be reciting your "less is more" as my mantra while packing. My husband thanks you, too.

Posted by Mother of 4 , a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:02 am

We have learnt to pack light over the years. We tend to have a "laundry day" while away and kids are responsible for their own stuff. Of course if we are driving we pack a lot differently to when we fly, but we are more likely to pack frugally because of the amount of space available in a rental car for baggage, rather than anything else.

A friend went to the airport to pick up their out of town guests, a family of mom and 3 kids where each had a roller checked bag and two pieces of carryon (backpack plus small bag) plus pillows and stuffed toys. The puzzle of fitting everything into the friend's compact sized car was quite hilarious to everyone except the airport security at the drop off place for the amount of time it took to load up, plus of course the requisite number of pictures for Facebook.

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

Packing for a flight can be nerve wracking enough for just one person. Inevitably, I remember the hearing aid batteries or eye glass cleaner are in the wrong spot and I am repacking at the airport. What a huge relief it must be when everyone graduates out of car seats and strollers!. Enjoy your Tylenol OOPs trip, Sally!

Posted by TulsaNative, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:59 am

Happy travels!

Posted by Luke, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Great blog. what is wrong about spending the first day of vacation shopping??!?!

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I agree with you Sally. There is nothing more important for a comfortable vacation than well thought out packing. I wonder if there is an online class (Khan academy must have something) your husband could take so he could be better prepared for family vacations?

Posted by I need a vacation after packing for the vacation, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I am with you, too, Sally, though I work really hard to ensure I get the right intersection of everything we need and will use and not one article more. We just got back from vacation with only 1 clean shirt and a few clean pairs of emergency extra undies and socks each.

But packing to be prepared and efficient is exhausting, so I understand your husband's approach to put it off until it's clear what he needs. After first packing for the airlines and the TSA, I then repack when we get there for our convenience on the road. I once arrived in Europe for a big vacation that our luggage never made. What a mess, never again! I always pack in a way that what I carry on would be enough to get us through for awhile, meeting everyone's needs, so that we can decide when we want to deal with having no luggage. But when we arrive, I reshuffle it all so everyone has their own stuff in their own bags, and everything is where we need it when we want it.

Overlaying the need to pack for the TSA is a real nightmare. Instead of putting the inhaler where we know it is always at hand, for example, it goes in an unfamiliar jumble of stuff that gets pulled out and shuffled around en route. After we arrive, we have to repack to make our travel go smoothly, then repack again to return. Although I use a checklist, having a separate liquids jumble for the TSA makes figuring out what goes where - also so that my repacking doesn't take forever - is an almost impossible puzzle for me.

Has anyone written the folk song "Packing for the TSA" yet? Because I can think of some really funny double-meanings...

I sure hope it has helped keep us safe, because what a nuisance!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 21, 2014 at 8:21 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Mother of 4,
I can just picture the security guard's frustration and annoyance at an occupying a coveted space at the curb!
Thanks, LJ, yes, there are some benefits to having the kids grow up!
Hi Luke,
Spending the first day of vacation shopping is fine (if your spouse is okay with it)!
Good idea, Debbie!
Dear I need a vacation after packing for the vacation,
I am impressed by your packing prowess! I agree, the TSA requirements add another level of complication to the process which makes it nearly impossible to be efficient and organized.My family knows to tread lightly around me the week before we leave on vacation!

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