I'm enjoying the relative peacefulness that this pre-trip period has been. It was so much harder last year, prepping for 3 weeks abroad. This trip feels so easy in comparison I think I could prepare in my sleep. The great thing about traveling with some regularity (even if it's yearly) is that you learn from each trip. Here's some stuff we've learned that I'm applying to our trip tomorrow.
1. Less is more. Really. Ryan's been converted to packing as lightly as possible, since he was usually the one to manhandle the suitcases onto and off of trains with approximately 15 seconds before the train pulled out, abandoning him or our belongings in Nefferfargen, Germany. We have a washer and dryer in the townhouse we're renting, so we are only taking two additional changes of clothing. And as little else as possible.
2. Since you can't prepare for every possibility, don't even try. When I'm packing, I tend to run through every scenario and pack exactly what we'd need to counteract it. What if Darcey and Brad get a cold? I'll pack children's AND adult cold medicine. What if Zack loses his blankie? I'll bring a back-up blankie. I'll bring the sling for when the stroller is inconvenient and the leash for when the sling lets me down. Dress clothes in case we go to church. Play clothes in case we go to somewhere dirty. A set of scriptures for everyone in case this is the week that we finally start reading as a family every night. Floss, because I might be inclined to floss. Nail polish remover. Extra batteries (or a charger) for every electronic gadget ever invented. Umbrellas. Shoes for every possible occasion. Gum, candy, lollipops, granola bars, apples, sandwiches, string cheese, goldfish crackers. It takes a strong constitution to say Yes, I might find a moment on this trip when having a dressy casual sweater would be handy, but if that moment ever comes, I'll just wing it.
3. Delegate. Brad and Noah have done 100% of their own packing, both for the trip and for their travel day entertainment needs. All three boys will be responsible for carrying their own bags at all times, so Ryan and I will be slightly less pack-mulish than normal. Plus, they can't complain to me that I forgot to pack something that they absolutely can't live without and will therefore punish me until they either get home and retrieve said treasure or forget about it because the flight attendant just offered them peanuts.
4. Schedule some relaxation time. I don't do relaxing vacations. I don't know if I ever have. I come from serious touristing stock, and I can't ignore the inner voice that is screaming at me not to close my eyes for one second because I might miss something. The thing is, there's plenty of downtime on a vacation, and I'm trying to approach this trip with less of a "to-do list" mentality and more of a "see what we see" attitude. I'm telling myself that whatever gets skipped because we need a day off will be done next time. (Even though next time is probably many, many years from now.) Although I don't know how well that will work - I still feel a little sickish that we didn't go to Versailles last year. But hey! Disney and Versailles are both not going anywhere! If we take a break occasionally, we'll enjoy what we do see a lot more.
5. It's going to cost way more money than I'm planning, and that's okay. The cost of fun on a vacation can be astronomical, but the cost of avoiding fun in favor of saving money, well, that's just ridiculously painful. I am packing lunches and snacks, putting a leash on the kids' trinket money, but if the thing that is stopping us from having a good time is a $3 sucker, well, I'm buying the sucker.
6. Let go of the obsessive things. For example, I can't leave home with the house messy, because I have this fear that we'll all die in a fiery crash and all of my friends and loved ones will come to clear out our house and see EXACTLY how bad a housekeeper I am. It's like wearing clean underwear in case you get in a car accident, except on a grander scale. My house is mostly clean, at least the parts that guests see, but if I'm dead and someone has to clear out all of the junk I've accumulated on my side of the bed, I'm just sure it's going to tarnish your image of me. I don't want you to know that I don't always bother to make sure used Kleenex makes it into the trash can, or see the massive pile of clothes meant for D.I. that is piled on my closet floor. So, just in case of the whole fiery-crash scenario, please don't clean out my house until after the eulogy.
7. Keep doing what works. I'm packing lots of small diversions that hopefully will buy us some sanity while we wait at the airport or stand in line for a ride. I'm planning on blogging daily, because not only did that relieve stress but it helps me remember the trip more clearly. Which in turn relieves the stress that comes with forgetting all of the great stuff we've done. Mostly, I want this trip to be fun for everyone in the family, so that we'll all be looking forward to the next trip. I love that traveling is what our family does - we don't have a ton of traditions, but vacations is definitely one of them. So I'm looking to chalk this trip up under the "success" column, and if nothing else, get some great memories out of it.