Traveling with kids: packing for sport tournaments

As you may have gathered by the header image of my blog,  we are a sports family. It’s summer time, and this means baseball!

What does it mean to be a sport family? Well, one thing sports families do is they go on tournaments. Both local and away tournaments require traveling, which by default means packing.

Although I like traveling, I am not a fan of packing stuff. Especially for a family trip…

I hate stuff.

Packing didn’t used to be a horror for me. As a seasoned flight attendant for a number of years, I knew how to pack efficiently: quick, light, and simple was the way to go. Back then of course, I was young and single, and certainly not a high maintenance girl. 😉

But then, I became a mom. My minimalist lifestyle went out the window the day the babies arrived. Stuff multiplied exponentially and I’m still trying to dig out from under it.

Traveling seemed both an invitation to get away from the house with all its stuff in it, and a curse. It gave me anxieties about how much, and what exactly, I should pack. I still wanted to make do with less, but I was no longer a free spirit like I was back in my youth.

Depending on where we went, and what amenities were available, my list of what I deemed essential would change.

I try not to think back to the packing for trips with young children, or worse, children in diapers. I still remember our first camping trip when our second was still a toddler. She had a set of lungs on her, that one… lordy. And because of the bugs, leaving her half dressed, or less, was not really an option. Closest hospital to treat a possible allergic reaction to a sting was a 45 min trip away through thick, Canadian bush…

Also, please don’t ask me about that time in the town of Lindsey on the way up to Haliburton, involving an unscheduled stop-over in a fast food parking lot, which was only about halfway of a minimum four hour trip to our final destination. Threats were uttered by the driver that this would be our last ever trip to anywhere… lol

Or how the socializing middle-aged morons blocked the open gate with their idling car while our car, open window to allow for the screaming child noises to give them a hint to move and let us pass, refused to move. All we wanted to do was GET THERE to the camp site and release the little terror into the welcoming arms of her aunt, but I digress…

Today we pack for tournaments. And it resembles nothing of my carefree flight attendant days. Because, ladies and gentlemen, middle age has arrived and I am now much more high maintenance than I used to be.

I wonder how this happened… 🙄

I need glasses for distance and glasses for reading. I need contact lenses, solution and containers. I need twice as many toiletries than I used to back in the day, and I like sleeping with at least two pillows to avoid further injury to my already screwed-up shoulder. I like indoor plumbing but can manage with an outhouse; a shower, even if it’s lake water, is preferable to a swim in an algae-infested lake or pond.

And I like good food, not canned food. If I’m going to be on vacation, I would really like to enjoy meals. They don’t have to be high end, I like a sausage on a stick as much as the next guy, but eating cold peas out of a can for a week is not my idea of enjoyment. Also, lukewarm wine because the ice melted doesn’t appeal to me either; neither does any tepid beverage.

I’ll manage just fine during the apocalypse, thank you, but if we have choice here…and we do. Right? Well then give me a few basic luxuries and I can make do with a lot less of the modern conveniences I like to rely on at home.

Which brings us back to packing.

These days, I forgo camping more often than not. They can go play with the bugs while I sleep in my own bed with my six pillows. 😛

I do however attend the kids’ tournaments.

The good news is the tween and teen pack for themselves nowadays. I still keep an eye, and a hand, in their packing though; at the very least, I do the final supervision that essentials did in fact make it into the car. You know, mom-approved essentials:

  • toothbrushes
  • deodorant
  • pjs
  • underwear and other clothing
  • bathing suits and goggles if the hotel has a pool
  • water bottles for the sport activity
  • all (not just some) sports equipment required during the tournament*

This last part is crucial. 😉

I’m sure you know that kids have a different perspective on essentials. To them, essentials include bbq flavored chips, and chargers for their electronic devices. And cash, especially coins so they can play slot games or whatever. 🙂

Did I mention I hate stuff? I really do.

I’m the mom who perpetually reorganizes the stuff in the van while in the parking lot at sports tournaments.

Because I am me, I like having visual organization. What this means is, anytime I open the trunk (or the boot, as you UK’ers like to call it), I like to be able to reach in, see at a glance what is there, take what I need, and get on with my life.

This is not how my family operates. My family, who is not like me at all, likes to rummage for stuff.

Just thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies. 😛

I have been preaching tips to keep order in the van to my family for years. For instance:

All dirty laundry goes in the same blue recycling bag. When we get back, it’s a matter of taking the dirty clothes bag out and depositing it in the laundry room.

My family was trained to do this early on, and we have mixed results. Again, see rummage, above. ~ shiver ~

Note: sporty teen boys have a certain odor, especially after playing their sport. The last thing I want is for every item in the van to smell like teenager.

Then there’s the thing with snacks in the car.

Coolers should be stocked with drinks and other food items that need to keep cool, not bags of chips. Keep those handy for them to snack on while driving. Although, there’s the crumbs situation…

Last trip with just the two of us, my son created so much garbage and crumbs in the van during the 90 min trip back, it took him 20 minutes just to clean up after we got home. He kept forgetting to look under the seat, and behind the seat, and in the cup-holder in the door, and and and…

I don’t want ants crawling all over my van while I’m driving thankyouverymuch. Nor do I want rotting garbage or empty water and pop bottles rolling around while grocery shopping.

Ultimately though, the more you travel with kids, the easier it gets. Older kids can gain some useful skills while on road trips, away tournaments or any other traveling plans. And quite frankly, at some point they gotta learn what it’s gonna be like to have forgotten something. Or to lose something they did pack…(namely, a $30 Blue Jays water bottle which was a gift for a birthday. Blah.)

Not sure what kind of traveling is planned for the summer. The next foreseeable tournament is local, which will mean that the van will be full of stuff, and I’ll be organizing it in the parking lot during a crucial inning.


*Crucial gear or equipment is harder to replace when it comes to things like forgotten skates, baseball gloves or helmets. Most tournaments are located in larger towns or cities, so if you must get a new jock or bat, laces for skates or cleats, even shin/elbow pads,  that’s not the end of the world (although will crimp your cash flow…and perhaps dip into the booze portion of the budget). But you really do not want to leave on a far away trip with this stuff missing; trust me, you will want to relax some while the kids are out of your hair and you have a chance to sit back with other adults for a chat and a cocktail, not run around to shop for replacement gear.