One of the biggest challenges I have faced over my years of family travel was to come up with a simple system to teach my son with autism this life skill: How to pack and unpack efficiently. If you are a parent or caregiver facing the same issue and could use some tips, this post is for you.
The week before Traveling
Choose a place in your home where you can lay out clothes and see everything you put out.
- a new pair of underwear and socks for each travel day
- Count one outfit of a shirt and pants per 2 travel days.
- Pajamas (depending on the person’s age 1-4 a week)
- 50% extra underwear in case of illness or accident
- Occasion-appropriate shoes
- An extra pair of shoes and socks in case of the rain.
- Always pack a jacket and swimsuit for “just in case” scenario
- Check out preliminary weather reports to know what to pack. Remember it is better to pack LESS in today’s travel world where you pay extra for every suitcase
- Make sure everything fits size-wise especially if it hasn’t been worn for a while.
- Check for damage, cleanliness and stains! Nothing is more embarrassing than packing an item and wearing it with the last meal’s remnants still stuck to it.
Day of Packing (a day or two before traveling)
Materials: You will need 2.5-gallon Ziploc bags and colored duct tape. (If you have several family members allocate different colors to each member so they can quickly identify which bags are theirs.)
- Label your Ziplocs with a piece of colored duct tape.
- Take each outfit, roll the shirt and pants separately into two rolls, place in Ziploc bag and squeeze the air out. Fill each bag only ¾ of the way so the clothes do not interfere with the zip mechanism.
- Socks, pajamas, and underwear should be packed separately for easy access. Some people like to pack socks in shoes, but I think that it makes the socks smelly and can bulk up some shoes.
- Use a Ziploc bag for each pair of female shoes and two bags for the gym and male shoes.
Write ‘shoes’ on the Ziploc bags so you don’t confuse these bags with clothes bags.
- If you are using a suitcase, you want to lay the Ziplocs in a horizontal way from top to bottom. Start with the bulkier clothes first! Then fill the sides or edges of the suitcase with the smaller bags and shoes.
- Remember to balance both sides of your suitcase by filling it equally since suitcases are more susceptible to becoming damaged if a heavy, unbalanced suitcase tips over.
- Always pack a couple of extra empty Ziploc bags in your suitcase in case the ones you use; rip or don’t close well.
Unpacking and Repacking in the hotel
- Find a shelf or drawer that you can put all your Ziploc bags on, together in one place. This way you can keep track of your belongings and run less of a chance of forgetting anything at check out time.
- If you are traveling with other family members having everyone’s belongings in differently-colored -Ziploc -bags helps eliminate confusion as to whose bag is whose.
- Unless you are going to a formal event or job interview keep your clothes in the bags and do not unpack them. This way they are not only protected from any allergens that might be present in the room but also from bedbugs if there are any.
- After you take out an outfit in the morning, leave the empty bag out on the table so you can quickly find it when you need it later.
- After you have worn the outfit, use the empty Ziploc bag on the table to pack it back into the suitcase. Make sure you mark the bag as soiled, so you know which bags contain the clothes you need to wash when you return home.