I have always prided myself on being an excellent packer. I figure out ahead of time exactly what I’ll need, I pack clothes in a single color palette so everything matches everything else, I roll instead of fold, I bring one all-purpose sweater instead of several warmer outfits, I pack socks inside shoes, I wear my bulkiest outfit instead of packing it, I figure out ways to make every item I bring have multiple uses. I can pack for a week in a single backpack and still have room to bring home souvenirs. Just call me Holly Go-Lightly.
Actually, I should have written that previous paragraph in the past tense. Because I USED to do all those things. When I was single and packing for just myself, all those things were true. Now that I have kids, forget about it.
When you’re a single adult, you don’t have to plan for a lot of contingencies. It’s possible that you’ll spill wine on your blouse, it’s conceivable that you’ll break a sandal strap, it’s within the realm of possibility that you’ll catch your heel in the of hem your skirt and tear it. But the chances of anything like that happening are so small that you don’t even plan for it other than maybe packing one extra blouse. But with small children, there’s a VERY high probability that clothes will get stained, or wet, or torn (or, in the case of shoes or socks, lost), usually once a day or so. So instead of packing one outfit a day – or less, assuming you’ll get a couple of days’ wear out of a pair of pants - you pack two for every day plus a couple of spares on top of that. And you never assume you'll get a second day's wear out of ANYTHING.
And that’s only clothes. Now add in the entertainment stuff. The single me might have packed one paperback book (or these days, a Kindle) to keep myself entertained on the road. Now, for each of my kids, I have to pack a stuffed animal, one toy for every hour of airplane time (both ways), a couple of bedtime books (fortunately, these can be shared), a special blanket (for the baby), a coloring book or sketchpad (for the preschooler), and a few emergency snacks.
And don’t get me started on the “personal care items.” Diapers (two sizes), swim diapers (two sizes), baby wipes, changing pad, diaper cream, baby Advil, child Advil, baby Benadryl, child Benadryl, bandaids, first aid cream, baby shampoo (hotel shampoo is rough on little eyes), formula, bottles, sippy cups, child-sized forks and spoons, and bibs.
And that IS traveling light! If we were traveling heavy I’d have to add two high chairs, a Pack & Play, a collapsible bed tent, a double stroller, a jogger-stroller, two car seats, and a full-size changing pad. (Oh wait, we’re bringing the double stroller. OK, scratch that off the “packing heavy” list.)
At least I can still pack lightly for myself. Which is fortunate, since there’s not much room left in my suitcase!