4 Bags You Never Have to Unpack Again

Any traveler worth their salt needs to be ready to roll at a moment’s notice, but that can be tricky for those of us rolling with strollers. What is a meandering mom or pop to do?

Upon returning from a super fun and totally exhausting vacation, it takes me at least a week to tackle the unpacking process. So, forget it. Just keep a few of those bags packed and waiting for your next adventure. They might just be the push you need to get yourself out the door and into the world.

1.  The Bathroom Bag

Do yourself a favor. Make a trip to the dollar store. Buy an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and any other toiletry must-haves.

Ladies – if you include nothing else, put some tampons in there. Nothing ruins an evening faster than having to pay $11.37 for 5 tampons at the local truck stop. Gather your items, leave them in a bag which stays tucked in a drawer or closet until your next trip.

Have kiddos? Get them their own bag. Here’s a quick list of what’s in ours:

  • toothbrush & kid-friendly paste
  • medicines (kids’ ibuprofen, benedryl, orajel)
  • diaper cream & odor-blocking disposal bags for the obvious or to keep fecal-covered clothes in until you reach a washing machine
  • nail clippers and q-tips
  • kids soap/shampoo
  • bandaids & a thermometer
  • chapstick (my middle child is obsessed)
  • a travel sized sunscreen for my translucent children

Here’s the key:  you leave this thing packed. Do not touch it. Do not steal from it when you run out of toothpaste in your bathroom. Do not use that thermometer when you can’t find your other one (okay, of course, you actually can do this, but take the whole bag to the kid, check their temp and then put it right back in). The wonder of the packed bag is that you lessen the probability of forgetting something. Don’t touch it!

2.  The Picnic Basket

alt="baby chewing on plastic cup at picnic lunch"
Don’t forget the plastic cups so your kid will have something to eat.

This does not have to be an actual basket. Mine is a small canvas bag with lots of pockets to help me organize. It could be a sturdy cardboard box – whatever is handy – just keep it locked and loaded with all the necessities for a meal on the road.

There are times we stop at restaurants, times we grab drive-thru, and times we swing through a grocery store and save ourselves some cash. Whatever your preference, every traveler needs a picnic basket. The open road has a way of turning your average three-meal-a-day Joe into a savage beast requiring sustenance every 15 minutes. Be prepared.

Peek into my basket and find:

  • paper plates, bowls, plastic silverware
  • wet wipes & paper towel
  • small trash bags
  • disposable cups (restock with the coffee/plastic cups in hotel rooms)
  • small Tupperware containers and Ziplocs for storing perishable items
  • a sharp knife with a cover
  • extra straws for when McDonald’s forgets
  • a can opener
  • a corkscrew if you travel like I do…for real, though, include a corkscrew

A note on this final item:  I personally prefer the trusty wine key with its multiple nifty tools. The knives come in handy for opening things you don’t want to use your picnic knife on (like those action figures you splurged on to keep your kids entertained because you can’t listen to Frozen one more god-forsaken time). I’ve also used the little hook end to scrape vomit out of a car seat on two different occasions.

3.  The Beach Bag

alt="Spanish beach scene in Alicante"
A day at the beach in Alicante, Spain, and you forgot your SPF. Do you know the Spanish word for “sun poisoning”?

You might not be trekking off to the shore, but nine chances out of ten, one of the hotels along your journey will have a pool. There is no better way to burn off your kids’ extra energy after a long journey than to toss them in the pool and make them swim laps.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, our beach bag stays packed and sits in the top of my coat closet right by the door to the garage. It is ready to go with:

  • sunscreen, sunglasses & hats (my kids get burned in 43 seconds)
  • bug spray
  • swim diapers, regular diapers, wipes
  • gallon ziplocks for wet suits
  • an old sheet to lay on & a couple thin beach towels
  • life jackets
  • a few small beach toys

In the winter months, I just put away the sun/beach items and keep it in our basement for trips that include pool time.

4.  The Bonus Bag

A diaper bag, your pet’s travel bag, your tote of camping gear, etc. This final bag will really depend on your life and your hobbies. Since I have three kids 5 and under, I keep a diaper bag handy at all times with extra clothes, diapering needs and all the essentials.

For those of you with older kids or those of you with fur babies or those of you who are smarter than all of us and just have to worry about cleaning up your own poop, you might have a completely different bag that fits your needs (a camera bag, laptop case, your mountain climbing gear if you are not only way smarter but also way cooler and more extreme than the rest of us). Whatever your niche, have a bonus bag packed and on the ready for your next adventure.

Being prepared takes some of the guess work and hours of frustration out of the packing process. It will also save you a massive headache when you realize that raucous noise coming from the backseat isn’t the kids’ latest movie, it’s your toddler spewing vomit all over himself. Okay, you’ll still have a headache, but the wet wipes, trash bags, and extra set of clothes you included will help lessen the throbbing in your temples. And remember that corkscrew I told you to throw in? Aren’t you glad you listened?

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