Packing for Vacation

With all the necessities packed in, there's almost not enough room for the family.

The heat wave that the whole country is experiencing is hopefully nearing an end. September and cooler weather is just weeks away – and I couldn't be happier. Not only because of the weather, but because it heralds our fall vacation.

Every year in September, we head up to the Pocono Mountains for our family vacation near Bushkill Falls. It's a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood by a quiet lake.

Until the Kells family gets there. But that's a story for another time. 

There are mondo amounts of packing to be done for a family of five, and since I hate to be without something, I pack everything. Matt is fond of telling me that we're not visiting the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the High Arctic, where the nearest store is 400 miles away. There are actual stores that sell every human need within a 15-minute drive of the house.

What men don't understand is the mentality of a mom. Granted, we can buy whatever we need. But in a mom's mind, what if little Jimmy falls and gets a nice-sized cut on his knee? The 30-minute round trip is precious time that bacteria could be festering. Open cuts can get staph infections which cause pain, fever, or chills, sepsis leading to possible pneumonia, or organ failure. It might even lead to gangrene and poor little Jimmy could lose his leg.

That 30-minute round trip doesn't seem like such a good idea any more, does it, Mr. Man?

Moms aren't happy with a box of Band-aids, which to a man's mind is the complete first aid kit. Well, that and duct tape. We pack a first aid kit complete with all the mom basics.

Women will pack sterile dressings for every part on the human anatomy, including an eye patch. We bring tape, iodine, cotton tips and swabs, wound closure strips, and triple antibiotic ointment – single use.

In the event of a burn, we don't just pack lidocaine. We have aloe vera gel, glacier gel, and soft, mold-able boo boo ice packs.

We have Neosporin in every conceivable form. There's the regular tube that's kept in our kit, but you also have to have it in the portable purse size. As much as we'd like, we can't lug our entire first aid kit everywhere we go.

We pack thermometers, safety pins, tweezers, scissors and even pill cutters. Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, in both pill, liquid and fast-dissolving disk form are a must. Antacids, Cortisone cream, cold medicine and nasal decongestant round out the kit.

And, yes, we even pack duct tape.

Once I've insured that our mobile medical unit is in tip top shape, it's on to the clothes.

Since we vacation in the mountains in September, the weather can be a bit tricky. As such, I have to pack both warm and cool weather clothes. Matt often reminds me that even when we vacation at the shore in June, I pack both warm and cool weather clothes.

In my defense, there could be a freak ice storm. Just 650,000 years or so ago, the planet was abruptly covered with ice. The dinosaurs weren't prepared, and look where that got them.

So in addition to their summer clothes, each kid has to have at least one pair of sweat pants, a few pairs of warm socks, a warm sweater and a hoodie. What they (and by they, I mean Matt) don't know is that I secretly stash winter coats in every nook and cranny that I can find.

If there is a freak snow storm, think of the money I'll save having them on hand.

Even though we have a washer and dryer at the house, I insist that the kids have a pair of underwear for every day of the week that we're there. You never know; they could tear them while hiking or tubing. Or they could spill something on themselves and end up staining them.

A trip to the hospital in dirty or stained underwear is a mother's worst nightmare.

Then there's the cooler. I can't leave food in the refrigerator that will spoil while we're gone so in the week preceding vacation, I try to use up most of it's contents. Inevitably, there's still some that didn't get eaten, so it comes with us. I've actually packed half a head of lettuce, a carton that contained only four eggs, and a container of hummus that was only one-quarter full.

You'd think I was brought up during the depression.

Even though the ride is only an hour and a half, I pack sandwiches, some type of chips and pretzels, juice boxes, sodas, brownies, water bottles, fruit and whatever else I can think of that the kids would like to eat. You never know, a semi could overturn, causing a massive traffic jam. We could be there for days.

OK, hours is more like it, but when you're a mom, you think worst case scenario.

There's also the deer to consider. Elyse (the “deer whisperer”) managed to get a doe to eat from her hand one year. Next thing we knew, the entire herd was coming by. It got to the point that when we woke up in the morning, there were 12 deer waiting for us.

I half imagined one of them holding up a hoof and pointing to an imaginary watch as if to say, “I've got places to go, people to see; let's get with the program and begin to dispense the food stuffs.”

We can't arrive empty-handed – especially since the baby buck has been getting bigger and bigger, along with his antlers. So I make sure that there are apples, loaves of bread, a variety of nuts, and whatever else I can get my hands on to insure that we have a happy herd of deer.

Getting our gear into the car is another feat which requires an amazing amount of both stamina and brawn.

When the kids were little, we had a minivan. Even though I pack everything that we could possibly need in the event we were stranded for a year, Matt managed to squeeze everything in it. He likened it to an art form; I thought it was more like a Jenga game. One wrong move and everything was coming down.

As the kids grew, so did the quantity of luggage, games, and electronic equipment. We had to buy a luggage rack for the top of the van. That turned into a top carrier which lasted for about two years. We graduated to renting a U-Haul trailer one year.

That was the year that Matt had had enough and announced that he was going to get a conversion van large enough to contain the Kells family traveling circus. Knowing Matt, I figured he was just annoyed at forking over money to rent a trailer.

A few weeks later, a blue monstrosity pulled into our driveway with Matt at the wheel, grinning like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber concert. He actually did it. He went out and bought a used conversion van that rivaled a Winnebago in size. We named it Goliath. He's not just for vacations, but being a mammoth gas guzzler, he stays in the garage the majority of the year. 

In a few short weeks, we're going to wake up Goliath and begin our twice yearly vacation trek. Matt will once again begin the precarious task of filling every available space with every imaginable human need.

Now, where did I put those snowshoes?

You can follow Tamara Kells, The Brunette Lucy, on Facebook.



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