Living life on the road as a family of six was a brand new concept to us. What do you pack? What kitchen gadgets are essential? How many shoes do you need? What about books and toys and camping gear?
Honestly, we packed a bit blindly. We’ve camped before, so we knew generally what types of things to bring along, but we’ve never lived everyday life on the road – cooking and laundering, playing and working – so that was all a big guess.
We, perhaps like you, are used to our big suburban house with plenty of storage space and the convenience of Amazon Prime free shipping and a Target a few minutes away if we ever need anything. For this summer, however, there would be no quick shipping (no address!) or space for all the excess we’ve grown accustomed to. Our hope was to pack only what we needed and nothing unnecessary that would take up valuable space. But also, when we pulled away from our house our goal was to not smack ourselves on the forehead having forgot something totally obvious.
As it turns out, we did a pretty good job packing and preparing for this big adventure.
I thought it would be fun – and perhaps interesting to you? – to share the random things we’re glad we brought along, what we have not needed and what we wish made it onto our packing list. The following items are the little things of everyday life that have found their place in one of three of the categories.
Let’s start with the things we’re GLAD WE BROUGHT:
We’ve used the clear tray (no longer available from Target, but this is a similar one) for corralling papers, pens, magazines and miscellaneous items on the table, for serving snacks or cut up watermelon and for keeping the dice all in one place when the kids are playing Tenzi. It has little rubber feet on it which keeps it from sliding around, I love how it doesn’t add any visual clutter since it is clear and it works to keep us just a little bit more organized.
The same goes for the wood bowl. Ryan grabbed this one (also from Target) to use on the shelf next to his bed and when we found that it didn’t fit we ended up keeping it thinking we could use it for something else. I’m so glad we did. You know all those random things that get dropped by your front door? Mail, keys, sunglasses, receipts, spare change, lip balm – that is what this bowl has become for us.
On a whim, I grabbed a few of my office essentials and used a drawer organizer that fit perfectly on the floor and slides under a kitchen cabinet to store them in.
This has become our junk drawer and we’ve probably used something from it every day of the trip. Tape, scissors, string, pens and pencils, washi tape, little note cards + envelopes, a pencil sharpener, tags and postage stamps. So glad we brought these things along.
Ryan’s pick for what he’s happiest we brought with us is a Car Console Lockbox. It fits perfectly inside the console area between the driver and passenger seats of our Ford Expedition and gives us a place to store any valuables while we’re away from the car. I had never heard of such a thing before and I agree with Ryan in saying we’re glad we brought this along. Even after the trip, we’ll leave it in the car.
One more random thing we’re glad we chose to bring: Starbucks Via instant coffee.
(This is not a picture of via coffee. This is a delicious latte we had at Ashley + Chris’ house in Oklahoma. But it goes along with the coffee theme :) )
Since Ryan is the only morning coffee drinker in our family (I know, call me crazy. I’m more of an afternoon decaf latte drinker), we debated about bringing a big coffee maker if only he was going to drink the coffee. At home, it’s no big deal since we have plenty of counter space; in the trailer kitchen, counter space is at a premium. We ultimately decided on bringing Via packets for his morning cup of coffee and he’s been totally happy with it. This one decision saved us tons of space and makes for super easy cleanup.
Now on to a few things we PACKED BUT HAVEN’T NEEDED:
First thing is this collapsible dish rack. I was all excited about it because it smushes up and fits under the sink when it isn’t in use. What I’ve found, though, is that it’s just as easy to lay out a towel on the counter and let the dishes air dry without the bulky drying rack. We probably could have skipped it altogether.
I do, however, love our plates and bowls.
Another kitchen item we really didn’t need was our tea kettle. When we’re camping, we always bring along the tea kettle for boiling water for coffee or hot cocoa or oatmeal. As it turns out, the hot water tank in our airstream is very good at its job and the tap water puts out very hot water. It works great for morning coffee (see above) and instant oatmeal in the mornings and saves a bunch of time instead of always heating up water in the kettle. We definitely could have left it behind.
We brought along the kids’ scooters and that was a big waste of space. They rode them once in Oregon and Audrey hopped on one just the other day, but otherwise, they have been sitting in the back of our car taking up valuable space. We didn’t need them.
Note: if we were just hanging out at the campsites, I could see how they might be fun. Or we would want bikes. But that isn’t really how this trip is shaping up to be. We basically use the campsite as a place to sleep in between busy days out sight-seeing. When we are at the campsite, we are either swimming in the pool or hanging out in the trailer so those scooters just haven’t been necessary.
This last one surprises me … we brought too many cameras.
We packed our newer good Canon slr, our older canon, an old waterproof video camera, a GoPro, our son’s little digital camera and both of our phones. Plus the tripod and a few lenses. We’ve pretty much only used the good camera, our phone cameras and occasionally the go pro. We could have left all of the others behind.
And finally, WHAT WE WISH WE BROUGHT:
It shocks me to no end to say this, but I wish we brought legos. Just a few. Mainly the lego guys.
We have four million legos at home and I was pretty happy to get away from them. We figured we would be out and about doing fun activities and there wouldn’t be time or the storage space for bring along toys, so other than a few games and Audrey’s beloved stuffed dog, we left home without a single toy.
Our stops with friends in Oklahoma (where this photo was taken) and in San Antonio gave the boys a chance to rekindle their love of legos and most recently, our 8 year old has been begging us for just a few lego guys to play with. Poor kid. He just wanted two guys!
The good thing about living on the road is that there are plenty of places to stop to pick up whatever you forgot. In this case, yesterday was a happy day for the boys as we finally bought them each a little set of legos to play with. They are in heaven and it is actually really great to see them so excited about so few toys.
Part of this experience for us has been pulling ourselves out of our comfort zones and deliberately choosing to live minimally. We fill our home with so much non-essential stuff and these past few months living in a teensy trailer has reminded us that we truly need very little. Maybe even less than what we brought along with us.
I am not sure how this will translate once we get home – will it change us? will we go back to life as usual? – but I am forever grateful for this crazy chance we took to see who we were as a family away from all the things that distract us at home.