Packing while parenting
The packing has begun. Though we have gone away twice with our 1-yearold, both trips were to see family in New York. Extra hands to help with the baby let us relax a bit, but those weren’t traditional vacations. And traveling with a baby? Stressful.
Especially after Ollie’s outbursts have landed us on the No Fly List.
We’re heading to the Outer Banks soon — an annual family vacation that took us to the same delightfully worn beach house in Kill Devil Hills for decades. It was a chance for many generations to spend time together . . . and engage in some serious Uno throwdowns.
Board game battles were waged and lost; hearts broken and repaired. If I had a down day, I would think about that moment when we’d pull into the long drive and leap into the thick, salty air. My sister and I would race upstairs to claim our beds, then find my grandparents in the great room — dinner plans already underway.
As a child, the house seemed huge. Familiar. Katie and I always ran around in a competition to spot the home’s changes from one summer to the next: new tile in the bathroom; fresh comforters on the bunk beds.
It’s been three years since I went to the beach, and this year will be filled with firsts. We’ll be staying in new digs, for one. It’s my first time vacationing as a parent myself. Also baby’s first road trip, and first experience in the sand and surf (from a very safe distance). It will also be Oliver’s first time staying more than a few nights away from home.
So I’m panicking, of course. And panicking requires packing — or overpacking. No baggage fees on road trips, right?
Well . . . unless my husband starts charging. Which is entirely possible.
After the rain finally broke on Saturday, the usual yard sales beckoned. I pulled out a notepad on our drive to Prince Frederick, content to have Spencer as my captive audience.
“OK,” I announced. “Let’s talk about what we need for the beach.”
Baby food. Baby spoons. Bibs: waterproof and terrycloth. Baby bottles. Soap to clean the bottles. The drying rack for the bottles and cups.
Oliver’s clothes. Extra clothes when Oliver ruins his clothes. Detergent to wash those clothes when the extras are all gone. A swim diaper? Towels. Sunscreen with an SPF of, like, 500. At least.
Oliver’s favorite blanket. Oliver’s back-up favorite blanket. Half the toys from the living room, which will also require digging for the lost Little People beneath the coffee table. Pretty sure they’ve joined forces with the dust bunnies by now.
Gone are the days when I would casually bring down a suitcase, fill it with cute tops and fret if I forgot a nail file. While Spence gathers the usual assortment of socks and faded T-shirts an hour or two before we leave, I’m always cross-checking my list with my other packing lists — ticking everything off like a health inspector. (And I would still score a C+.)
You’d think I was preparing to separate from civilization. I mean, we’ll pass a dozen big box stores en route to the beach — and there’s a Kmart within walking distance of the condo. But I hate having to purchase what I’ve already over-purchased at home. It’s irritating. You know the reusable bags now sold at most stores? I’ve amassed dozens. They’re lined up like sentinels in the hallway, home goods organized in each: towels, washcloths and bedding; toiletries and bathroom products; snacks, drinks and water; books, magazines and candy. (Every traveler needs candy.) I thought — again — of a frazzled woman Spencer and I encountered years ago in an airport. She was traveling alone with a luggage cart full of seemingly random belongings, digging for a boarding pass while the contents of her bags spilled onto the floor. She turned to us with wide eyes, gesturing wildly at the debris. “Do you ever feel like your brain is in all of these bags?” We were polite, I hope, and maybe even helpful — but I was silently scoffing. After she finally left the line to get her chaotic cart under control, Spencer and I exchanged the universal look of “Um, well, that was weird.” Ma’am, dear friend, comrade, wherever you are . . . I am sorry. Sometimes, I do feel like my mind is “in all of these bags.” Let’s hope I can find it by the sea.