Happy New Year! We are home. We took the RV, the kid and the dog halfway across the country and back for the winter holidays. It was eight nights in five different locations and more than 1,600 miles of driving. Lots of holiday love from family and friends during a chilly late December in the Midwest.
We had one hasty retreat from Roxanne when the heat ran out in the middle of an especially cold Michigan night. More on that in a future post for Winnebago. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few minimalist travel tips from almost 17 years of making this trip in all different ways.
1. Modular is better.
Everything you pack tends to expand to fit its container. Doesn’t matter how long you’re traveling, what season it is, or whether you’re hauling a pocketbook or a steamer trunk. Preventing this phenomenon is hard. It requires active work. This is especially true when we’re driving an RV full of drawers and cabinets. It’s easy to fill them up.
Luckily, we have years of practice of changing households every day or two during the holidays and lugging an ungodly amount of belongings up stairs, into elevators and back and forth from the car. It stinks. So we pack as little as we can possibly manage, and we pack it into modules. Instead of bringing the whole suitcase with all the clothes somewhere for a single night, we use something like an Eagle Creek packing cube for each of us. These make it easier to pack the suitcase or duffle bag too.
I also always carry my gear bag, so things like hand sanitizer, deodorant and an iPad or laptop are easily at hand.
2. Think multi-purpose.
If the entire nation is in a record cold snap, there’s no getting around the heavy gloves, snow boots and such that take up a lot of room but are oh-so-necessary. But for the rest of the clothes, we tend to stick to things that have more than one use.
We keep it casual. There are never formal occasions in our family over the holidays, so nothing more fancy than a pair of jeans or a pullover is required. Layers are a must. This year, I discovered the magic of white tech shirts that can serve as an undershirt or for running in warm weather. They dry so fast they don’t even need to go in the dryer. I’ve built up a nice collection of running tops and use these for layers and for sleeping.
3. Do some laundry.
Our RV comes equipped with a canvas drawstring laundry bag, and we tend to assemble a couple of the hotel laundry bags on each of our trips too. A few years back, we got out of the habit of packing enough clothes for the entire journey. We always stay in or near places with laundry facilities we can use, whether at our parents’ houses or hotels with a guest laundry. So we pack for a third or half the trip instead, saving a bunch of space and hauling energy. We don’t bring along anything that requires sensitive care.
This system worked out really well for us again this year, though I packed too much and never wore a few of the items I brought along. Another upside: you have a lot less dirty laundry to do when you get home.
4. Bring many, many snacks.
You never know when hunger will strike, but it’s never fun to make extra stops just to find food. We always pack our fridge with supplies to make a few lunches on the road. We also carry apples and oranges, cut vegetables and a handful of Clif, Luna and Larabars. There must be chocolate. And something salty and nutty is always nice, whether peanut butter-filled pretzels or a fruit and nut trail mix.
5. ABC (always be charging).
Most of our traveling hours saw me in the driver’s seat, XY in the back keeping busy or napping and Lindy doing professional development work on the co-pilot side. Our mobile internet hotspot and my Waze-running phone were drinking a lot of juice. We pulled together all of our cables and kept the two devices and Lindy’s iPhone on full charge as much as we could, knowing there would be no overnight power when we slept in the van. I also carry chargers and cables around with me in my bag. Battery life is an easy thing to lose track of when you’re changing places as often as we do. You don’t want to rely on a friend or a relative for a charger only to discover you’ve left your device behind.
We are home, rested, laundered and have the van ready for her next trip. Per tradition, we also never let the sun set on a year before talking through some travel plans for the year to come. With an 8-year-old a few months away from turning 9, family halfway across the country and two of the three of us having summers off, we’ll have plenty of travel to talk about in the next few months.
We wish you a 2018 full of many adventures!
Also published on Medium.