Aging Expectations

Don’t Forget to Unpack

Original post date: April  29, 2010

In my previous career, I traveled extensively – usually alone.  When I arrived at my destination, I barely spent any time taking care of “my stuff.”  After a long day of work, I would usually get back to the hotel late in the evening and fall right into bed.

So much for seeing the world…

The next morning I would get up a bit early to iron my clothes for the day.  Using that type of schedule required very little of my energy for packing or unpacking.  I pretty much took my toiletry bag from my suitcase and put it in the bathroom.  Done – unpacked.

When I was young I must have heard a story about spiders in the drawers of hotels, which is one reason I think I’ve never unpacked.  I had this idea that if I put my clothes in the drawers they would become filled with spiders, then I’d put the clothes on, and then spiders would be crawling all over me – gross!  I’m over that now however I do still get a shiver when I think about it.

Now I’m traveling with kids. Change required.  I know, it’s hard to believe.  My experience with kids, at least my kids, is that a person cannot effectively live out of a suitcase.

Problem 1:  All the clean clothes seem to get mixed with the dirty clothes.

Problem 2:  They can’t remember what they’ve worn and wind up wearing the same thing multiple days.  “Didn’t I see you in that yesterday?”

Problem 3:  Usually there are more than one child’s things in a suitcase.  As they begin to look for their things the other things get tossed aside.  Where?  Who knows?  Let the hunt begin.

My solution – unpack all of my items upon arrival.  Yes, it’s a departure from my traditional way of doing things and it did take time to get used to.  Trust me though, it’s much easier and we haven’t had any spider incidents (yet…shiver).

The best way to start this process is with packing.  Try to pack similar things together.  I put all of our swimsuits in one place.  I put all the kids’ underwear, socks, and pajamas in one section.  I put my husband’s and my underwear, socks, and pajamas in a separate section.  I treat it like my drawers at home.

Now, when I get to the hotel and open those suitcases, it’s like my drawers are already set up.  All the bathing suit stuff goes into one drawer.  The kid’s underwear, socks, and pajamas go into drawer number two. My husband’s and my underwear, socks, and pajamas go into another drawer.  And so on, and so on.  I do the same with any toys, baby things, etc. I’ve brought.

Of course, toiletries in the bathroom and hanging items get hung immediately; even if I still need to iron them, I hang them up.  This will help save my drawer space since usually there’s not that much to go around.  I advocate kids sharing the swim drawer and underwear drawer to save space.  If at all possible though, I give them their own drawer for their actual outfits.  This tends to save in fighting.

If there isn’t extra space, then everyone sucks it up.  It’s usually best if my husband and me split up and share with one of the kids.  Then, there is no issue with kids accidentally wearing each other’s stuff.  Also the clothes tend to fit better (small and large clothes in one drawer as opposed to all larger size clothes in the same drawer).

The next step, which is very critical, is to establish a place where dirty clothes will go.  This is very important because at the end of the trip, all the dirty clothes are in one place.  I pack them separately from the clean clothes (if there are any) and save myself some wash upon my return – bonus!

Try it on your next trip and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.

packing / unpacking


  1. Funny- when I read the title of your post, I thought you were talking about unpacking AFTER you get back from a vacation! I always take way too long to do that step, as it means the vacation is over. 🙁

    These are great suggestions. Especially the one about creating a spot for dirty clothes. I’ve recently started bringing one large Travel Space Bag per person (bought them at the Container Store), so each person can come home with a compressed bag of dirty laundry to take straight to the laundry room when we get back. They are also great if you have swimwear that is still damp- keeps it separate from everything else in your suitcase.

  2. Ha. I NEVER unpack! I get to my destination, and live out my suitcase. Then I get home, and it stays packed for weeks if not months after. I am so bad with clothes. I’m also a last-minute packer. Everything gets done the night before.

    I guess I’m bad at this travel stuff. 🙂
    Ronni recently posted…Currently . . .My Profile

    1. As long as it works for you and you have fun on vacation! But, maybe you’ll try one or two ideas and have an even better time!!

  3. When I was a teen and traveling with my parents I lost my favorite t-shirt because I left it behind in the hotel drawer. I don’t think I’ve unpacked while traveling since. My kids are 14-22 now, so when we travel I let them choose. My husband always unpacks. But let me tell you one thing for sure — I check those drawers three or four times on check out day to make sure I haven’t left anything behind.

    It sounds like you’ve worked out a great system that works for you and that’s what matters. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Sharefest. I hope you have a lovely weekend.
    misssrobin recently posted…Any Man of MineMy Profile

    1. That is traumatic! I can see why you wouldn’t want to unpack 🙂 But great reminder to CHECK and double CHECK everywhere before you leave!

      1. That’s probably why I don’t tend to unpack either! Years ago, we left my then 3-year-old son’s most beloved stuffed animal behind in a hotel in Baltimore. The hotel staff couldn’t find it, and I felt so terrible! I never forgot about it. For years, every time I walked by a display of stuffed animals for babies, I would look for one like it. Then a few months ago (11 years later), I saw one that bore a resemblance to it- I finally knew the company that had made it, so I did an online search for his original stuffed animal and found an identical replacement for it! He’s a teenager now, but it was funny to see it peeking out of his stocking on Christmas morning. 🙂

          1. Yes, he sure was! He definitely appreciated what I went through to find it for him, even it it did take over a decade!

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