Ripley hates it when we pack. Despite the fact that she nearly always gets to come with us, she still constantly frets while we get our things together before every trip. She makes this really tragic anxiety face and follows me around the house, crying inconsolably. She never believes me when I tell her that she gets to go, either. Sometimes I will actually take her out to the car (if it isn’t hot) and buckle her into her seat in our Xterra with the window down for the last 15 minutes or so before we leave. That makes her almost as happy as packing makes her sad.
On this trip, Ripley doesn’t get a window. In fact, we rented a vehicle to drive to Alaska, and a lot of things will be different for her this time around. Sabre is coming, her seat is smaller, she doesn’t have a window, and she won’t be able to stick her face between Mark and I in the front seat while we drive. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’ll be fine. She’s a really adaptable critter, which I couldn’t be more grateful for. She is an ideal travel companion.
So what are we driving? For this trip, we rented the largest SUV available from Hertz. All of our own vehicles are too small for Ripley to have her own seat. We picked up our rental on Monday this week, and we ended up with a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban. I already want one of my own. Or at least, I want its smaller sibling, the Chevy Tahoe. I’m not sure what Mark and I would do with an entire Suburban.
Our rental only has about 4,000 miles on it. It has a leather interior, power release seats, a blu-ray player and screens, push-button start, a back-up camera, and so many other bells and whistles that I couldn’t even begin to list them all. For our purposes, though, the most important thing is the bench seats in the middle instead of captain’s chairs, and the storage space. This thing is going to hold all six of us, and have room for all of our stuff. It even gets pretty decent gas mileage for a veritable tank. I know I’m starting to sound like a Chevy commercial, so I’ll tone it down. But seriously, this thing is pretty sweet.
We considered renting an RV for this trip, but in the end, we went with the Suburban. While in some respects, an RV would be ideal for this trip, it fails in other ways. For one, the seating wouldn’t be as convenient in an RV. For another, an RV is more difficult to take places and see things than a regular vehicle. Once you’ve picked a spot for your RV for the evening, you wouldn’t want to move it again. It’s harder to book spots for RVs in advance than it is to book hotel rooms. They are more difficult to drive in general, and more expensive to rent. After weighing all of these things, we decided that we’d rather rent a vehicle larger than any of our current vehicles, but we still wanted it to be a personal vehicle and not an RV.
Our plan for the Suburban is to have two people sit in the front seats and two in the middle. Ripley will sit in the third row, with one side of the seats folded down. This will effectively give her two seats, the one on the car’s far left and the middle seat. On top of the folded third seat, we’re going to put the cooler. Sabre is going to sit in someone’s lap most of the time. Ideally it will always be my mother’s lap, but I expect to have her shuffled off to myself and others when there’s a need.
The rest of the back of the vehicle is for our other stuff. We’re planning to take our kitchen tub, a single food tub, Ripley and Sabre’s crates, Ripley’s backpack, and one 90 liter duffel bag for each person. It’s going to be a bit of a tight fit, but I think it will all fit pretty well in the end, given how much space we have.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you may be wondering why we aren’t taking our tubs, but we’ve decided that for this trip, to make everything fit well with what we pack and what my parents pack, they just don’t make sense. Instead, Mark and I are packing in 90L Patagonia Black Hole duffel bags. This will be our first trip packing in these, so we will see how it goes. If nothing else, the wonderful backpack straps are a gift from bag heaven.
We’ve already decided that we are going to need to do laundry along the way to pack reasonably for 24 days. If we tried to pack enough clothes for all of those days, we’d need double the storage space. Even to pack for part of it, we are going to need to be judicious with our space.
All of those packing tips you read about on the internet? For the most part, they hold true. After all of our trips, Mark and I have picked some favorites that we try to do regularly when space is going to be tight. For one, we like to use Eagle Creek packing cubes, which I know I’ve mentioned before. We get new ones almost every Christmas, because Mark’s dad really likes them. And we are grateful. We really like them too. We have quite a collection of them now, and I expect to use all of them for this trip. They fit perfectly in our duffel bags. We also use compression sacks for things that can be wrinkly, like socks and underwear.
We like to roll our clothes, too. It doesn’t seem like it would save a lot of space, but it really does. If you do it right, it even keeps your clothes from wrinkling. On a typical trip, I take a dirty laundry bag and toss everything in after we wear it. On this trip, space will be at a premium. Instead, we will roll up our dirty clothes in a separate packing cube to be washed later. Or at least, that’s the goal.
I’ve really had to plan and pare down what we take along with us on this drive. I always make lists of what I’m going to take along on every trip to make sure that I don’t forget anything. This time, I’ve cut probably a dozen things from the list, knowing that we can’t prepare clothing for every conceivable situation. For example, instead of packing big coats for a cold boat tour, we are going to pack layers and our wind-proof rain jackets. The layers can be worn again, and the rain jackets fold up to next to nothing. They’ll also come in handy when it rains.
My goal is for everything we take to have more than one use. Instead of taking several sweaters, we are going to take plain-colored long-sleeved undershirts to wear with our T-shirts. If it is hot, we won’t need the extra layer, and if it is cold, we can just wear the T-shirt we were going to wear that day over the undershirt. So far it looks like the trip is going to be pretty warm, which is great for us. Summer-weight clothing is much easier to pack than the warmer stuff.
Toiletries are something that can be compressed as well. For this trip, we are going to pack full bottles of our typical soaps, lotions, and creams, because three weeks is much too long for the smaller packaging to last. Unfortunately, this means that the toiletries are going to take up more room than they might have otherwise.
Despite that, it is still easy to look through what we use every day to figure out what we really need and what we don’t. And since we aren’t going somewhere completely uncivilized, we can buy most things that we could run out of or forget with relative ease.
I like to pack toiletries in Ziploc bags, even though we have fancier toiletry kits in our closet. For one thing, if you pack anything that can leak in a Ziploc, the worst thing that happens is the other items in the bag with it get wet. With this in mind, I group together things that have similar functions, so if one leaks the others aren’t ruined. If something can’t leak, or it would be ruined if something else leaks, I pack it separately in its own zip lock bag or one of the toiletry kits. It isn’t exactly rocket science, but it has kept my clothes and bag dry on every vacation I’ve ever taken.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re taking a food tub and a cooler along to Alaska. If you’ve read my article on picnicking on a trip, you won’t be surprised by this development. It is so much cheaper to make your own lunches, and it saves time, too. We may be in the middle of nowhere when hunger strikes, and all of those espresso shacks in Alaska just aren’t going to cut it where lunch is concerned. In fact, I think Mark is the only one that even drinks espresso. A mocha and a muffin do not make for a healthy lunch.
That’s not to say that we are only taking healthy foods. We’re only human, after all. Still, we are saving ourselves from a load of salt and fat at fast food restaurants. That’s good, right? And we wouldn’t want the fellas to get cranky when they miss a meal. I’ve found that if you wait until more than an hour or so after the prescribed lunchtime to feed them, they start to whine more than Ripley does when we’re packing. Nobody wants that.
That’s really all I can say prior to the trip about our packing plans. Honestly, this is another article that I might have to revisit in the future. Did we pack too much? Too lightly? Will it all fit in the car? For now, your guess is as good as mine.