This is going to be a “do as I say, not as I did” sort of post. Because honestly, we pretty much failed at packing our suitcases for our move. Not 100% failed as we caught everything (I think, as we haven’t actually flown yet) before hand, but probably 95% failed.
Our travel orders authorized 2 checked bags per person (plus a carry-on and personal item). Pretty normal and even better that the flight actually gives 2 bags free per person because otherwise we have to pay and then submit for reimbursement. Packing for a move where you won’t get the rest of your stuff for at least a month (air freight) or three months (sea freight) is a bit trickier than packing for a vacation. Especially when trying to make sure you can settle into normal life quickly and are trying to make the new place feel like home for the kids.
So a few weeks out, I started packing some of the bags. There was plenty of stuff we didn’t need our final weeks in VA but would need in Cairo. I planned on packing about 3 bags ahead of time and 3 later (DH would be in charge of his own 2 bags). As I packed, I wrote an inventory for each bag so I’d know what I’d packed and so if a bag got lost I knew what to write on the claim sheet. Great. Great.
A week out, I look at my packing list, the bags, and what I have left and decide I am going to have extra space and so throw in some bonus items (especially some extra kitchen things and more toys). I even grab a few of DH’s items. Morning of pack out comes, I toss in the final items and send all the luggage to my mom’s. Woo!
You knew there’d be an except to this story.
I discover once the movers and our stuff is gone that I did a poor job. Too much stuff, both size and weight. Plus things I really didn’t need to be bringing got tossed in because my inventory was too vague. “DD Clothing” was not specific enough. I ended up with 3 sweatshirts per child in my suitcases. Since we are moving in the summer to a hot country, 1 per kid would be plenty and we maybe wouldn’t even use that!
And then I realized that Air France’s luggage requirements were stricter then we were used to and that they were really picky and actually measured.
I was used to US carriers for our moves, as we flew on United and not a codeshare to/from Delhi when we moved. US airlines I find are picky about weight for checked luggage and size for carry-on, but not so much the reverse. If you’re obviously massive, that’s one thing, but I’ve never had my carry-on weighed on a US carrier as long as it is within size.
This led to a scramble and reorganizing. My duffles, which I used previously on planes, were too big when fully packed. Weight was fine, but the total dimensions were not. My carry-on bag (well, one of them) was too long even though we used it as a carry-on before. Plus, even the bags within size were too heavy for carry-on. Air France says no more than 26 lb per person total (both carry on suitcase AND personal item). So new suitcases bought, things removed from duffles, and a few boxes prepped for mailing. (That one sentence sums up what was a multi-hour process as I pulled things, rearranged things, and tried to track down heavy or big items for switching).
Now, we haven’t actually gotten on the flights yet, but I think we are within size and weight now.
Which means, it is tip time! These apply to both moves and vacations.
Check the Baggage Requirements First! Find out the weight and dimension requirements for both checked luggage and carry-on. If your flights are on two different airlines, follow the most restrictive requirements. Don’t assume your favorite airline’s requirements have stayed the same since your last flight. And if you’re flying a foreign carrier, be aware they may have vastly different requirements then you are used to! Measure and weigh your luggage as you go along!
Make a packing list. Write down everything you need to pack. I like to group my list by person. DH does his own, but I have to pack for me and both kids. I keep the list on my computer and just add and delete for each particular trip and then print the list.
Keep an inventory as you pack. If you have one suitcase, just check off items from your packing list and cross off any you end up not packing. If you have multiple suitcases, keep track of what goes into what suitcase. I prefer to write a list for each bag as I put items in, but you could colorcode your packing list if you only have 2 bags. The inventory serves two purposes. If you need to find something you packed before you unpack at the destination, you can look at your list and know what bag to go through. Really handy if you have a lot of bags on a move or big trip. Second, if a bag gets lost, the airline will ask what was in the bag. Easy enough if you have one bag. Much harder with multiples. I had a bag go missing on an R&R flight where I had 3 suitcases and I had to open the other bags to see what was in them before trying to remember what all I had packed and therefore what was in the missing suitcase.
Divide like items across bags. If you have more than one bag, spread out belongings across the bags. Don’t pack one bag for kid 1, one bag for kid 2 and one bag for you. If a bag goes missing, one person has lost all their items. I lay out clothing for each person and then split evenly across multiple bags. Then everyone has some clothes and a change of underwear if bags go missing! Same with toys, shoes, etc. If you have multiples of any item, put them in separate bags.
For moving, leave 1/2-1 whole bag empty. Don’t make my mistake and go over weight because way more items get tossed in last minute than you expected. If you have a big move with lots of bags (like our 8 bags!), plan packing with at least a half bag empty and maybe up to a whole bag empty. Then when the movers leave and you realize all the final things you just tossed in the car really add up, you have space. When you are in the transition between movers gone and flights not yet, and a well-meaning person gives you a present, you have space. When you realize that your husband packed too much in his bags, you have space. And if none of those happens, then the day before the flight, you can always stock up on extra things at the store.
Carry On Tips
Check size requirements! Some airlines have very restrictive carry on requirements. Don’t get stuck having to pay to check the bag!
Think about what you’ll need on the plane. For our move, there are things I am bringing carry on because they are too sensitive (medical files) or too valuable (my camera equipment) to check or send in boxes. But I don’t need them on the plane. So one of our carry-on bags is filled with those items and will be stored above and not touched the whole flight. A smaller carry-on bag will have the things we actually need on the flight and will go under the seat in front of us.
What to Pack: I’ll write a separate post about packing for carry on, but my number 1 tip is a change of clothes for each person. Drinks spill. Diapers leak. People throw up. Even better, wear and bring clothes that can get tossed if disgusting. Then you’re not trying to bag and carry your baby’s poo-covered clothes or your shirt that’s covered in vomit.