When traveling, in the words of Lone Starr: “Take only what you need to survive.”

Spaceballs is a fantastic movie, a true classic.  There’s a part where Lone Star tells Princess Vespa to pack lightly for their walk through the desert.  They discover she has brought …

LONE STARR: What’s this?  I said take only what you need to survive.

PRINCESS VESPA: It’s my industrial strength hair dryer.  And I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!

LONE STARR: Okay, princess.  That’s it.  The fairy-tale is over.  Welcome to real-life.  You want this hot-air machine?  You carry it.

The definition of a vacation, according to dictionary.com, is a “period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday.”

Why is it, then, that I usually come home from a vacation feeling like I need a vacation from my vacation?  Let’s face it: when you’re a parent, getting away with the kids is not going to magically suspend parental duties; and getting away without the kids leaves you with the stress of worrying about them while you’re away and a keen awareness of what’s piling up at home.

What makes it even worse is when the packing and unpacking become chores.  I spent four straight weekends from late March through late April traveling.  It seems the more into motherhood I get, the longer my suitcases, shopping bags and laundry piles remain sitting out somewhere they shouldn’t be once we’re home.  Sometimes it makes me wonder if traveling is even worth it.  Thus, here are some tips I’ve come up with to ease travel burdens (and I’m going to try to follow them ALL the next time I go somewhere):

1. Keep an electronic checklist of what you need to pack for each family member.  I especially found this helpful when I had to travel with pacifiers, bottles, pump parts, and the like.  I just keep adding and subtracting to this list every time we go somewhere.

2. If you travel often to the same place (as we do to Florida and Colorado to visit family), leave what you can there and keep an electronic, updated list of those items.  Then refer to it every time you are packing so you can know for sure what you don’t have to bring.

3. Keep a dopp kit for each family member that never gets unpacked.  It should have all the essential toiletries.  Remember – the key word is essential.

4. Buy sample sizes of hygenic items or make your own with small plastic bottles and tubes so you don’t have to pack or unpack the big bottles.  If you come back from a trip and the little shampoo bottle is running low, refill it right then.  All of your liquids SHOULD fit in a quart-sized zip top plastic bag.  Keep this bag packed and ready to go so all you have to do is grab it.

5. Leave the industrial strength hair dryer and other items you really can survive without at home.  Now that I’m a mom, I rarely take jewelry or non-essential makeup on trips.

6. Be creative with what you take so you can mix and match four items to make six outfits – a skirt, a pair of shorts or pants, and two shirts should allow for six combinations of outfits.

7. If you can’t plan to do laundry and the weather is pretty predictable, pack one extra outfit in your carry-on and otherwise, pack exactly the number of outfits you need for each day you’re gone – and no more.

8. For short trips, choose items from your closet that will all go with the same purse and shoes.

9. Stuff socks (or bras or panties, if you dare) in your shoes to save space.

10.  Inevitably, things don’t fit back into your suitcase to come home as well as they did when you left.  I always pack folded clothes on the way out and then roll each item to re-pack the suitcase.  Rolling your clothes makes them take up less space, making room for the items you (inevitably) bought.

11. Take extra plastic bags for dirty clothes or wet ones; when re-packing to return, I always make a “dirty clothes” suitcase filled with everyone’s dirty things (that are literally just thrown in) and a “clean” suitcase.  The dirty one goes straight to the laundry room and the clean one goes straight to a bedroom (where it often sits for days on end).

If I follow all the above tips the next time I travel, I know I will be more at ease and have less stress upon return, when life goes back to “ludicrous speed.”  You just gotta love that movie!

Document life’s funny moments so you can remember them.

It’s really hard in this information age to feel like I’m doing enough to document all the greatest, fleeting moments as they’re happening.  Never before have we had such easy access to photos, videos, blogs, etc. to mark milestones.  So far, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.  For example, I actually kept a calendar on my refrigerator when I introduced Eliza to solids so I could mark what days I introduced each food to her.  Of course, I did this to keep track in case she had an allergic reaction to something, but also because, remember, I’m a control freak, so I wanted to introduce her to every fruit, vegetable, meat, bean, herb and spice I could think of between six months and a year, and there’s no way to remember if your child has yet tasted, say, cardamom or kohlrabi.  (Maybe I was only that adventurous in my memory, but whatever.)

So, I haven’t had a calendar up yet for Zach, but I’m going to go get one now for sure.  It’s nice to have a record of food introductions that’s easy to read.  But the other reason to keep a calendar handy is that it makes it super easy to jot down the dates of first teeth, first steps, first words, first anythings, and of course, funny moments.  (My mom suggested this.)  I have not been using a calendar for these things (yet!), but rather several different tracking devices.  My problem is I am a perfectionist, which is a really paralyzing disease because I end up waiting to do a lot of things until I have time to do them exactly as I imagine I should do them.  What this leads to is inaction.  I’m trying to get better about this, so I have a nice journal I use to record my favorite moments.  But I also have a couple of random notebooks around in case I can’t find the journal or am afraid if I wait until later I’ll forget.  Shoot, if I were at a restaurant, I would use a napkin to document the moment and just put it in my filing folder later.  (I’m cured!)  And I’m okay about not having everything in one neat and tidy place because all I really need to know is that someday, if I wanted to make a perfect scrapbook or baby book, I’d have the resources at my fingertips.  And finally, I have Zach and Eliza’s e-mail addresses.

Just after my children were born, Greg set up an e-mail account for each one.  I try to send them notes whenever I think about it (sometimes every few weeks, sometimes every few months) to tell them how they’re doing, or describe their milestones, or their personalities, or just how much I love them.  E-mail is so nice because it automatically time stamps your thoughts, so someday my kids will know exactly what I was thinking on a particular day in history.  We decided on Gmail accounts because the messages won’t ever be automatically deleted.

So, don’t get paralyzed by perfectionism.  The important thing is to keep a record – somehow – of the truly important stuff.  If you have ideas on tracking your kids’ greatest moments and milestones, please post them!