Trials of Traveling

A couple of times a year I have my personal Olympics. My athletic competition arrives when packing for a family vacation begins.

Once that Samsonite hits the bedroom floor my Olympic flame is a blazing and I scream out my personal preamble. "Let the packing begin!" My wife then shakes her head while quickly exiting to the safety of the children's rooms as stray socks begin to fly.

I'm a major packing minimalist. The way I see it, less is indeed - - well - - less. Less to carry and less time to spend at the baggage carousel waiting to set the North American land record for consecutive trips of being the hapless owner of the last suitcase to find its way off the plane. I'm convinced there are pictures of my luggage circulating amongst the International Society of Baggage Handlers and they're getting quite the chuckle from picking on me.

My lifetime goal is to go on a week long vacation and fit everything I need into a nice hefty-size Ziploc bag. My inflatable beach chair included!

On the other side of the valise, my wife leads the way in the number of parcels and parental preparedness. Rest assured, my children will be clothing-equipped if a snowstorm engulfs Orlando as we're vacationing there in August. My minimalist packing leaves a temperature margin of error of about seven degrees. Colder than anticipated temps force me to simultaneously wear the two pairs of shorts I packed which comprise 47% of my vacation wardrobe. At least they match in my Geranimals-for-Grownups attire.

And with a pair of knee-high socks (which also have the dual ability to serve as long sleeves), I've literally got everything covered. Pants are way too one-dimensional. Hey, I'm using every available thread I pack to its utmost sartorial capacity. I'm the King of Clothing Conservation.

I've also uncovered the family vacationer law of disproportion. There's an inverse relationship between the size of the child and the amount of things required to be packed. The converse clothing corollary. How one child under the weight of 25 pounds can warrant three colossal size suitcases remains one of the great mysteries of our modern era.

As parental porter, I can attest that we travel with enough luggage that we could set up camp anywhere and sustain ourselves until the next millennium. Food? Heck, we've got enough snacks to pacify a horde of ravenous passengers on a completely filled 747. On a transcontinental flight. Stuck on the runway for 2 hours.

There is indeed an incomparable advantage to traveling with young children and it's more than just getting those free airplane wings for your lapel collection. It's words that are music to parental ears. Namely - - "Anyone traveling with small children may pre-board the airplane now."

In debating whether we should have a third child, that phrase was at the top of my list for reasons why we should. Anything for a few more years of getting the first crack at finding space in the overhead compartments and the opportunity to take aboard one more carry-on item. No more having to try and sneak that fifth backpack under my overstuffed jacket.

I may have my loading luggage idiosyncrasies, but the experience of each vacation brings me a bit closer to achieving that Ziploc baggage goal of all packing minimalists. Suitcase Packing Hall of Fame, here I come!