I spend most of yesterday filling up 6 suitcases & 5 carry-ons full of freshly roasted coffee (want to buy some?!), handmade products from our trade school, gifts for our supporters, random things and in the midst of all those stuff… our clothes.
How often do you find yourself going crazy trying to keep your kids’ clothes organized in suitcases when traveling? This has been my dilemma year after year for the past 6 years of traveling back and forth from Central America and the States.
Most of you know by now that we travel to the States every fall for our 2-month furlough. We always look forward to this time as a family to reconnect with our family, friends and supporters. The only thing I don’t enjoy is the constant mess I had to face every week with the kids’ suitcases.
Especially as our family grew from 1 to 4 in the past 6 years!
So, each year my packing method changes as I try to find the best way to pack all the kids clothes that would meet 4 requirements:
- 7 days worth of outfits that they can grab easily without making a mess.
- Shows clearly who’s clothes are who’s.
- Everything stays organized & compacted.
- Everything fits nicely into two tubs (or one large suitcase) with room to spare for extra things.
What you think? Sounds & looks almost impossible, right?!
Well, maybe not…
Last fall, we flew to the West Coast from the Midwest and traveled around AZ & Southern California. It was essential for me to find the best way to keep their clothes organized and make sure they all fit in the tubs as we traveled to a new location almost every week. I did not want to be stressed out over silly clothes!
Thankfully, I was able to create a packing system that worked brilliantly for us last fall! The pictures you will see below were taken during that time and this is how I packed my 4 kids’ clothes yesterday.
My Packing System… Using Plastic Bags
When July rolls around, we start counting down the weeks until we head to the states. I also start thinking about what we need to bring back to the States and how I was going to pack them into our suitcases… especially the kids’ clothes.
As I was thinking (and praying!) about how I was going to pack everything and not lose my mind in the process, an idea came to me…
Pack 7 outfits along with dresses, PJs and extra socks & underwear using gallon-size plastic ziplock baggies and mark them with different colors of duct tape to help the kids know which bags were theirs.
So, when the time came to start packing. I grabbed one box of gallon-size plastic ziplock baggies and went to work:
- 7 outfits (along with socks and underwear for each outfit) for each kid.
- 2 PJs for each kid.
- extra socks and underwear for each kid.
- 2-4 dresses for each of the girls.
- 1 light jacket or sweater for each kid.
First, I fold each outfit into 7 plastic baggies along with a pair of socks and underwear. When folding the clothes, be sure to fold them flat. Do not roll them up! I will explain in the next few steps.
Second, I fold the PJs and extra socks & underwear in one baggie.
Third, I took the dresses and put one in each of the seven baggies of outfits. That way if the girls want to wear a dress instead of shorts and shirt, they can wear the dress from the bag I set out for the day.
Lastly, I would zip up the bags but leave a 1 inch opening to squeeze the access air out of each bag to make them completely flat. You will have compacted clothes that take up less than half the usual space!
With the light jackets or sweaters, I simply put them on top of their clothes along with 2 pairs of shoes so that it is easy to grab on any day they need it.
Each kid had 8 plastic bags… making it a total of 32 plastic bags to pack. They all fit in one large suitcase with plenty of room to spare!
Now. I had two rules with the kids on this system:
- Wear the outfit in the bag, no mixing it up with other bags.
- After the clothes have been worn for the day, they do not go back into the plastic bags… they go into the dirty pile.
Honestly, I have to say this is the best system by far for me with 4 kids. Our travels last fall was SO much easier! Laundry days became a breeze because I knew what needed to be washed and was able to quickly fold and put the clothes right back into their baggies.
Some Extra Details
The bonus of using plastic bags is that you can see what is in each bag without having to take out the clothes. I’ve thought about using reusable cloth bags because they would be much more earth-friendly and last longer, but then you would have to take out the clothes to know what is inside.
For some, that would be no big deal… but for me, I like to be able to quickly browse through the suitcase and get out what the kids want without wasting precious time looking through each bag to find a specific outfit. Make sense?
Well, I am delighted to share that I just recently browsed through a friend’s newly released ebook, Sewing School 101, and came across a tutorial of hers where she used mesh to make her daily clothes bags. This is where I have to say… great minds think alike! Here I thought I came up with the most unique idea of packing and already this gal is two steps ahead of me! I am excited to tackle this project soon and these bags will be very handy for many years to come.
It really helps that the kids clothes are small enough to fit in the plastic bags. I know in a couple years I will not be able to do that for my oldest daughter, but by then she will be responsible for her own clothes and keeping them organized. That will be interesting!
For now, this system keeps this mama sane and happy!