Hip Mom Packs Her Bags:

Travel Tips and Bloopers

So my clan just returned from our annual summer vacation, which for the past few years has been a grand extravaganza planned by my travel-loving, detail-oriented husband, PVT (I’m a lucky girl. He’s very talented. If he ever retires, he should consider a gig as a travel agent). We’ve done some big, wild trips: driving all over the middle of the country to the Grand Tetons, huge tours through Colorado and New Mexico, historical jaunts to NYC and Washington, D.C. Last year was a West Coast tour de force which culminated in Alaska. Zoinks!

So, I approached packing for these trips very seriously and meticulously, like a general plotting the storming of Normandy. But, for some reason, for our trip to New England this year — a whirlwind circuit starting in Boston and ending on the beaches in Rhode Island — I just let my brain fall out of my head. I was busy in the weeks leading up to the trip (duh, what mom isn’t?), but maybe I was thinking since we were heading to hotels with laundry and I didn’t have a kid in diapers this time, I didn’t need to overthink it. Well, hahaha laughed the universe!

Any travel with humans under 18 (my bright but absentminded 16-year-old son comes to mind) requires a lot of time and forethought. Maybe you have time to squeeze in one more trip this summer, or maybe you’ll remember these tips for your next trip — whatever the case, learn from my mistakes! And there were many. Here were my bloopers, both related to my children and to me!


  1. Wipeys: just because I don’t have infants doesn’t mean my children aren’t constantly coating themselves with BBQ sauce, or getting who-knows-what on their face, or needing to take a roadside potty break, or needing to use an unspeakably noxious Porta Potty. YUCK! You will always need wipeys, at least until your kids are….I don’t know… maybe 21? Also, wipeys are great for cleaning up errant puke. Which brings us to:
  2. Dramamine. Even if a kid hasn’t puked in the car recently doesn’t mean he or she has outgrown motion sickness. There’s nothing quite like the sound of retching from the back seat, or cleaning up a big pile of partially digested McDonald’s french fries (see #1, wipeys). Pack the dramamine! I don’t know if it actually helps, but I think there’s a psychosomatic effect there.
  3. Electronics: I’m a big fan of using natural consequences in teaching children. As in, my big kids should be able to pack their own bags and crap with a few general directions from me. But! I didn’t really check their bags at all, and I should have. One kid didn’t bring the Kindle that was charging ON HIS BED for him to read — I just assumed he would. NONE of my children remembered ear buds to watch things on the plane. One kid didn’t bring a charger for his iPhone, and ended up filching mine the whole trip. Putz. In short, if something’s pretty important for your enjoyment and/or sanity on your trip, don’t trust a kid to pack it! On the flip side, though, if a kid forgot an article of clothing that was really important to him, that’s a great lesson in packing and planning.
  4. Extra clothes in a carry-on: I learned this rule many flights ago, when babies would have major poopy blow-outs right when the plane took off. But lo, this rule also applies to big kids. One daughter who shall remain nameless drank a soda right before we were herded to our boarding area. Then – surprise – as soon as we began taxiing she had to use the potty. Unfortunately the pilot kept the fasten seat belt light on for what seemed an eternity due to light turbulence, and I was concerned this darn girl was going to wet her pants on flight number one of a two-flight hop. So I ran her back to the potty with the seat belt light on and faced the wrath of the flight attendants. If I had had some extra clothes, I would have let her reap the natural consequences of drinking a soda right before boarding!

For mamas:

  1. Spiritual props: If you follow any kind of spiritual practice, you’re going to need a lot of divine intervention on any trip with kids. I’m a worrier. I worry that my kids are going to get sick and/or injured in a strange town where I can’t find medical help; I worry that my cross country runner son is going to get lost and/or hit by a car in an unfamiliar town; and to top that all off, I’m a terrible, terrified airplane passenger. Even in relatively calm skies, I’m very aware of the ridiculousness of being 35,000 feet in the air and having absolutely no control over my fate. Throw in some bumps — or some BIG bumps — I’m a wreck. There were severe thunderstorms on our wee little Tulsa to St. Louis Southwest flight. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so petrified or near death on that puddle jump. (It turns out my 7-year-old inherited my brain — she was making the same time-of-death calculations as I was.) As the plane was shaking around like a piece of popcorn in a popper, I started rummaging through my purse for my rosary beads (I’m a Catholic girl), and they were not there. So, I spent this horrible short flight in severe spiritual distress! Bring the stuff you need to comfort you!
  2. Cosmetics: I have a large, fairly complicated arsenal of cosmetics and skin care that I use to keep my old wrinkly face from looking like a pruney zombie. But on vacation, I have to conserve my packing space for contraband wine and shoes, so I inevitably reduce my cosmetics haul to some random samples and travel sizes from Tarzhay. This is dumb, ladies. Not only do I miss the ritual of taking care of my wizened face, but I inevitably end up with blah skin while I’m supposed to have a youthful, sun-kissed glow. Ha! Take the time to buy the travel-size containers, and bring your treasured serums, eye creams, shampoos and parfums. You don’t want to look like a tired mom en vacances, now, do you?
  3. Adulty things: So I’ll keep this rated PG, but guess what? It’s a family vacation, but new scenery and lots of time in close proximity might make you and your husband feel…young (ish), and a bit frisky again! Maybe? If you have the accommodations for a bit of non-kid time (we always have to get a second hotel room just for all the bodies, but we also got a VRBO), bring that thing you might want or need. Some lingerie? Massage apparatus? I’ll stop there. Use your imagination.
  4. Books/videos: I relish vacation down time – and airport time — for reading. But, again, I wasn’t thinking ahead. For some reason you can’t download new content on Kindles via Amazon when you’re in an airport or in a hotel. Why is this? I even called Amazon, and the lovely lady said there’s nothing Amazon can do about it. So I was stuck in a hotel having to actually pay attention to my rotten kids with no diversion. Be prepared! Bring an extra book, or download an extra book at home.
  5. Clothes for you: Of course I brought too many shoes (why did I think I’d need high pointy-toed boots with a bunch of kids in the wilds of New Hampshire?), but I brought like three outfits (again, vaguely thinking about laundry access). I told the kids to bring hoodies, but didn’t think about temperature as it related to my own cold self — duh, mama! New England might still be chilly in June! So, I rotated my paltry, stained outfit supply and stole my sons’ hoodies when they didn’t notice.

There you are, ladies. Bon voyage! And my last bonus tip? This is one I’ve never been able to implement: a solo two-day beach escape all by myself after the big family vacation. Alas! It’s right back to real life once those wheels drop down on the runaway. Off we go!

Categories: Hip Mom