Adventures with Four: Family Cruise Vacation Packing- Part 2: Plan Your Days and Organize to Avoid Overpacking

If you read my first post on packing for a family cruise vacation, you’ll know that overpacking isn’t worth it. Now, we can talk about how to avoid overpacking. It all starts with planning.

Here’s a few things to consider as you start the planning process:

  • What is your schedule?
  • What kind of excursions, if any, are you doing?
  • Will you work out?
  • Will you want to dress up for dinner? Or do you prefer dining at the buffet where you can wear pretty much anything?
  • Do you plan on doing laundry?
  • How much swimming and/or sunbathing will you do?
  • Do your kids need certain toys, blankets, or other items like diapers, sippy cups, bibs, etc.?

All of these things and more will go into what you plan on packing. The next step for me is to write out our schedule and what types of outfits we need.

Here’s my sample schedule with outfit types:

  • Day 1:Embarkation: casual but cute, swimsuits and cover ups girls wore matching seersucker sundresses and I wore a navy dress (with pockets). Boys wore shorts and nice polo or button up short-sleeve shirts
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
    • I carried these items in our family carryon. You can see more about that in part one of this series.
  • Day 2:Day at sea: casual but cute, swimsuits and coverups, workout clothes for a morning run
    • Formal Dinner: semi-formal/cocktail
  • Day 3:Cozumel- beach excursion: swimsuits and cover ups, workout clothes for a morning run, casual but cute clothes for after returning to the ship before dinner
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
  • Day 4:Progresso- beach and shopping: swimsuits and coverups, workout clothes for a morning run, casual but cute clothes for after returning to the ship before dinner
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
  • Day 5:Day at sea: casual but cute, swimsuits and cover ups, workout clothes for a morning run
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
  • Day 6:Debarkation and road trip home: Casual and comfy

From here, I knew how many of each type of outfit I needed to pack.

A few additional notes:

  • For the kids, I didn’t have them wear outfits or clothing besides swimsuits, pjs, or jackets more than once. I know they’re pretty likely to get things dirty.  There were a few items I planned on wearing more than once.
  • I packed one extra outfit for each kid and three extra pairs of underwear for the bigs.
  • I didn’t plan on doing laundry for the kids.  I washed some of my workout clothes.
  • Be sure to check what I packed into carry-on packs vs. into the regular suitcases in the first post.

My next process was:

  • I went to the little girls (twin 2.5 year olds) closet first to choose their outfits because I like them to match while I still can.
  • I then coordinated Anna’s (big sister- 7 years old) outfits for dinner to match and during the day if we were doing something together.  For example, Day 1 at Sea- we all wore our Oh Ship, Family Trip shirts my Aunt Sarah made and the girls wore pink skorts with the shirts.
  • After choosing Anna and the little’s dinner outfits, I tried to coordinate or at least plan for Will’s outfits not to clash with the girls.
  • I packed the bigs’ outfits in gallon-sized ziplock pags with a notecard that labeled which type day they would wear it and for what.  This included the accessories they needed:  ties, belt, matching socks for Will, etc.  I did the same thing for the littles but only used one for both girls together.  I’ll be writing another blog on how this worked for us to coordinate everyone.  This part really, really helped us to be organized and coordinated….especially since the bigs stayed in my parents’ room and the littles’ with us.
  • I packed two swimsuits for each kid so they always had a dry one.  will also had a few additonal swimsuit shirts because he wore them on days at sea too.
  • I packed two pairs of panties and underwear for the kids so that they could have one for the morning and afternoon.

As much as I do like for the entire family, Garen and I included, to coordinate/match for nice dinners and such, we only made this happen on Formal night when we all rocked navy, white, and gold.  Unfortunately we somehow managed to not get a single family photo.  I’m not sure how that’s even possible considering there are photographers every 10-20 feet asking you to take photos.  Maybe it was that they were intimidated by the running twin two year olds….

I digress….

I started packing my stuff next.  I started with my dinner clothes because I knew that I could wear some of these dresses during the day either casually or as cover-ups. I’m a nerd that takens pictures of my outfits so I remember what all can go with what so it’s easier for me to mix and match more pieces. Below are a few examples of how i try to keep in the same color scheme.

Here’s what I took and wore for the five day cruise:

  • Day 1:Embarkation:  Navy dress with pink, navy, and white scarf, tan sandals
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Black sleeveless dress, red flowery shrug/kimono, red sandals.  These were packed in my carry-on, along with my red swimsuit.  The black or navy dress could’ve been used as a cover-up should I have chosen to go swimming as well.
  • Day 2:Work out:  Black shorts, Duluth tank top (both of which could’ve been worn casually around the ship or with other outfits), running shoes,
    • Day at Sea:  White capris, navy Oh Ship, Family Trip shirt, and red sandals.  Navy cardigan for when it was cold inside the ship, which I ended up not needing.  Grey shorts later on when I sat in something with my white pants.
    • Formal Dinner:  Navy and gold dress, gold shoes, navy cardigan.
  • Day 3:Work out:  Grey shorts, duluth tank top (grey shorts were worn the day before and both could’ve been worn casually if I needed to), running shoes.
    • Cozumel beach excursion:  Black swimsuit, purple/pink maxi dress (dress could be worn either casually or with a black cardigan and jewlery for dinner), tan sandals
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Peach sundress and floral multi-color scarf with black wedge sandals and a black cardigan/jacket (I had planned to wear this dress as a cover-up with my black swimsuit, if necessary, as well.  It also goes well with the scarf I wore the first day and the navy cardigan with tan shoes)
  • Day 4:Skipped workout:  womp, womp
    • Progresso beach exursion and shopping:  Red sundress, red swimsuit, red flowery shrug/kimono, red sandals.  (red dress could be worn at dinner as well).  After getting the girls back onto the boat for nap, I changed into my third workout outfit of red shorts and blue Duluth tank top, running shoes for comfort.
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Black dress (worn the first night), black and metalic scarf, black wedge sandals with one of my black cardigans.
  • Day 5:Skipped workout
    • Day at Sea:  Red flowery shirt and black shorts with a black cardigan for when it got chilly.  Later wore black pants and red flats to a show with the same black cardigan.  During naptime, I wore one of my recycled workout outfits.
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Black dress with red flowers and red flats, as well as one of the black cardigans for in case I was chilly.
  • Day 6:Debarkation and roadtrip home:  Black dress, red sandals, and red/white scarf (yes, it was the third wear for that dress but it was so comfy, had pockets, wasn’t visibly dirty, and didn’t smell bad.

Amazingly, I only had two items (besides my extra underwear) that didn’t get worn- an extra work-out shirt (since I skipped two work-outs) and one extra casual black and white shirt that could’ve been worn with either pair or black shorts or my black pants.  I call that success

It was really so great not to have an over-abundance of extra un-worn clothes at the end of the trip.  What’s better is knowing that the clothes I had with me all coordinated with at least one or more other items so I could’ve made many, many more outfits if I wanted/needed to.

If I had one thing to change, I would probably have worn my pair of black sandals on Day 1 instead of the tan ones.  I feel like they might’ve been more versatile since I tend to be more likely to wear more black color-schemes than browns/tans.   Again, if that’s the only thing I’d change, I think that’s a success.

There you have it- how I packed clothes for our family of 6 (besides Garen) to make sure we didn’t overpack.  Check out my first blogs about why not to overpack on a family cruise vacation.

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Mommy Review Monday: Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack

For the girls’ birthday last year MaMa got the littles backpacks since they’d been trying to steal the bigs’ bags and backpacks for a few months.  After all, what toddler doesn’t like bags???

These Fairfax Pre-K backpacks have been FANTASTIC.  They are the perfect size for the littles and they LOVE to carry them around.  Without further ado, here’s my review (because I know you always want my opinion):

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Front

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack with Names

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Straps and padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

What I like about them:

  • They have their names on them (see above).  Some people don’t like to have kids’ names on their backpacks and things for safety reasons and, as much as it may seem like I don’t care about my kids, I’m not worried about this for my toddlers.  They’re not going to go with a stranger just because someone knows their name…. The older kids might, but not toddlers who cower behind us even when we see a family member we’ve not seen in a few weeks.  Plus, we find thta people appreciate their labeled backpacks even more when your littles are twins since, despite ours being opposites in almost every way possible, they still get mixed up.
  • Ours are color coded- Kate is pink and Clara is purple (just like the most of their color coded stuff from our Phibian shoes to stuffed animals and doll clothes).
  • The stripes are nice vs. another pattern because there’s no battle over whether Clara has a unicorn and Kate has a rainbow…or whatever their flavor of the moment is.  Plus, stripes are classic.  I feel like this is a huge benefit over the super-cute but not so classic choices in the Mackenzie lineup, also from Pottery Barn.
  • They’ve held up great- despite being thrown down, stepped on, over-loaded, spilled on, and dragged around quite frequently.  And they still look good- even if they could use a good scrubbing.  Judge me if you like but I’m lucky if my kids are all clean, let alone their backpacks spotless.  The straps are very important because cheaper bags will wear out faster, especially with a lot of wear, on and off, that toddlers will inevitably do.
  • They’re the perfect size for toddlers- our girls just turned two when they got theirs and I’m guessing we won’t need to upgrade for a long time.  Ours are constantly holding a half-pack of wipes, 3-4 pull-ups or diapers, a change of clothes, a toy, a squeezy, and a granola bar with a sippy cup in the side pocket.  These have virtually eliminated the need for us to carry a diaper bag with two times everything.

Fairfax Dimensions

  • They’re water-resistant (and juice and milk).  This is also super-important since spills abound in our household (and in my car).
  • They have adjustable straps, which is great as they grow.
  • They have a front pocket for small things (our girls like to put flash cards, dinos, and/or little ponies in them).  These have a place for crayons, which would require us to keep up with them and you must know that doesn’t happen around here by now.
  • They have well-padded shoulder straps and back padding- cheaper toddler backpacks often skimp on this feature.  See above picture.  This only matters if you plan on your little one carrying these for more than a few minutes.  Ours have carried theirs for up to an hour at a time and I attribute that to them being comfortable.  The more they carry, the less you have to.
  • You can get other items that match- lunchboxes and water bottle for those of you who are matchy-matchy like I tend to be.  Our littles weren’t in need of a lunch box but when we’re ready to move up to the next size, we may get matching lunch-boxes but probably not water bottles since those seem to disappear from their special pockets. I sure don’t want a fancy, personalized water bottle to be left somewhere other than the handy pocket they’re perfectly sized for.
  • They have reflective piping on them.  You can sort of tell from the first photo above.  As a safety-nerd, I love this for those moments when one or two of my munchkins escapes into the dark….not that we ever have to deal with that…..
  • They’re very reasonably priced- especially right now as they gear up for back-to-school.  $19 for the backpack and $9.50 for the personalization.  While that may seem like a lot to some for a toddler’s backpack, consider how much they’ll carry them if you use them instead of a diaper bag like we do with ours.  Unless something changes, we figure they’ll use these until they go to Kindergarten, which is at least another two years.  That comes out to be less than a penny a day….

Fairfax Backpack checkout

What I would improve (but not deal-breakers):

  • They could use a slightly larger side pocket.  It’s rather tight getting a sippy cup in there, mostly in terms of it being “tall enough”.  In other words- it always looks like at any moment the sippy cup or water bottle may squeeze out.  You can see this from the picture above.  (Side note- the Mackenzie version looks like it might be slightly bigger.  If your little one has that version- see below- please comment and share)  In looking at the description, I don’t think the Fairfax is designed to hold a water bottle or sippy cup.  However, it works- just not as well as one would hope.
  • I wish it was machine washable.  I’m willing to guess that it might hold up to the washer but we’ve not parted with ours long enough to try (although you can clearly see they could use it).  If you’ve tried washing yours, please, please share your experience.  Again, this is wishful thinking as most backpacks are probably not going to claim to be washable- although I washed my good ol’ Jansport growing up multiple times before finally getting rid of it.  See my review of the Jansport backpacks, which my bigs will be carrying again this school year and I will soon be throwing in the wash.
  • I wish they’d put exterior connectors/metal loops onto the outside (like the small Fairfax backpacks have) or the actual straps that the Mackenzie version has.  We could use these to potentially on an extra baby doll or maybe a small blanket, although they’re actually designed to connect to their lunch box.  You could also use these with a carabiner to attach to your backpack or luggage fairly easily.

Overall, I just can’t say enough good things about these backpacks.  They really are a perfect gift for a toddler or pre-k student- one they’ll love AND their parents’ will love too since it won’t be another toy that takes up real estate.  So, thanks Mama!

Or if you’re getting ready to send your little one(s) to pre-k or you’re just flat tired of carrying all of their stuff for them, this is a great option, as are all of the Pottery Barn backpacks.  Plus, at the time of this post, they’re all on sale thanks to back-to-school season (even though its still July)…

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Oh, and FYI- no one paid me or asked me to write this or gave me anything to try… although Pottery Barn, if you’re reading this, I’d be happy to take a few samples for my litter of littles.  Bahaha!

Adventures with Four: Family Cruise Vacation Packing- Part 1: Why not to Overpack

We just got back from a wonderful (and a little exhausting) family cruise vacation.  You can see highlights at my previous post.  If you’ve ever packed for a cruise, you know how easy it is to overpack. This is the first cruise that I can say that I actually didn’t overpack- for me or the kids. Is it cheesy that I’m actually really proud if that?!?

However cheesy it may be- I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some tips to pass on after packing for the trip for our family of six. This is part one and will consider overall considerations before you start the process. I feel like preparing helps you to avoid overpacking quite a bit.

You’ve got a few things that contribute to overpacking tendencies when preparing for a cruise:

  • No charge for checked bags
  • So may activities across the spectrum- from formal dining to trips to the beach to working out.
  • Because of the many wardrobe changes, it can be really easy to pack lots of shoes if you’re not careful.

Here’s a few reasons not to overpack for the cruise:

  • Space in your stateroom is limited, depending on what size room you get.
  • Space for your suite cases are limited, depending on what size room you get.
  • The more bags you take, the more you’ll need to tip the porter and shuttle drivers. We typically tip a dollar each bag. That’s not really that big of a reason but it can add up if you have a big family. As a side note, using a porter is worth every penny if you have more than one bag per person with small kids, in my opinion.
  • The more bags you take, the longer it will take you to check in and out. It’s just like on an airline with security. You’ll need to put tags on them, etc.
  • This one is pretty obvious- the more you pack, the more you have to carry- even if it’s just far enough to check your bags or to the porter. Just like on airlines, you have the choice to check a bag or carry it on. We did both. When you have four kids to keep corralled you’ll probably need to consider whether your kids are old enough to help carry bags and, if so, what size/kind of bag are they able to carry? This should be a determining factor in how many bags and the size you take for your family.
    • Our littles (2.5) carried their backpacks that contained a few toys, wipes, diapers, and boogie wipes to have accessible. They both also insisted on helping roll on a little toy bag that also had their cozy blankets.
    • Our bigs were responsible for carrying their check-in bags until we got to the check-in point.
    • I packed a family carry-on for the first day/night in case the checked bags didn’t get there quickly enough for activities and dinner. This had:
      • Sunscreen
      • Meds- because who wants to pay twice as much for something you
      • need?
      • Makeup/cosmetic bags for Garen and I
      • Swimsuits- the girls and I were able to use our dresses we wore onboard for a coverup if we needed to
      • Dinner outfits for everyone- it helps to plan this outfit to go with the shoes, accessories, and jewelry you wore onto the boat to minimize the amount of space you need in the carry-on. Keep in mind the first night’s dinner is usually casual- our family still dresses nice (non-formal dresses for girls and pants and button-up it polo for boys). You will see an array of dress each night so you can choose what works for your family. We just like to take the opportunity to dress up like we’re going out to eat.
  • Another obvious point but worth mentioning- The more you pack, the more you wear. The more you wear, the more laundry you’ll have. And what you don’t wear you still have to unpack and put away. And after a family vacation (especially with a big family) this takes forever at a point when you may be wanting a vacation from your vacation.  Trust me….I’ve been swimming in laundry since we got home.

There you go- my humble opinions on why it’s worth not overpacking. Now the next post: Plan Your Days and Organize to Avoid Overpacking (Part 2).

Until then, happy packing and planning for your family cruise vacation!