Our time visiting the Baja Peninsula is quickly coming to a close and today we spent the day loading up the Mazda5 for our return to the United States. As we rounded up everyone’s possessions and negotiated about unnecessary baggage (how many shells, rocks, and sticks do we really need to take back with us?) we were reminded of how much we love dry bags.
Our love affair with these wonderfully adaptable, completely packable, waterproof bags started way back when Five of Hearts was a baby. We were looking for a bag to store dirty cloth diapers in when we went camping or traveling, and didn’t have immediate access to laundry facilities. Using a dry bag became the perfect solution as it kept both the wetness and odor completely sealed inside until we could run the diapers through a washing machine.
When we starting traveling full time and were in need of extra space in our overcrowded minivan we turned to dry bags again to store items on the back of our hitch platform. The dry bags easily clip to the supports of the hitch platform and keep everything bone dry, even after driving miles in rainstorms. At about the same time we realized that a mini dry bag was the perfect solution to keeping our cooler from becoming a watery mess. We just put the ice right inside the dry bag and when it melts the water stays in the bag instead of drenching our food.
Another one of our favorite uses for dry bags is as food storage containers. When camping and traveling we load all of our food into dry bags. They work great to protect food from wet conditions while camping. You can put the bags down on the soggy ground and not worry about ending up with damp or dirty bags. Dry bags also keep our food safe from insects, many of which we have encountered here in Mexico, but have never made it into our food thanks to the tight seal and impenetrable plastic of dry bags.
We could honestly go on for paragraphs about all the ways that we use dry bags. They are great for transporting wet bathing suits and sand toys as well as cameras, tablets, and wallets while at the beach or out in a boat. The best part is that a decent dry bag doesn’t have to break the bank. There are some really fancy versions out there with straps and extra features. However, we usually pay no more than $20 for a large bag and they last a really long time, just be careful not to drag them over rough surfaces as it will puncture the material. You can find dry bags at almost any sporting gear store or large box store. So, if you are in need of a great waterproof storage bag for any reason the Fives definitely recommend checking out dry bags and hopefully you will fall in love just like we did.
When we first started traveling full-time as a family the younger Fives were pretty upset about not being able to pack all of their toys. We did our best to convince them that they would stay plenty entertained without a closet full of toys (most of which never saw the light of day). In most respects they were troopers as we paired down their toys and drove away with only what they could fit in their backpacks. As it turned out the kids didn’t miss their toys much at all, especially when we were camping, or busy hiking or beaching everyday.
However, when we stayed in Prince Edward Island for two months this past summer we decided to experiment with adding a set of LEGO bricks to our pile of belongings. We had been wanting to use LEGO building bricks as a home school tool and we liked that LEGO products are an appropriate toy for all three of our kids. At first we started off small with just one set for each kid. Then Nana Five visited and brought with her a tub of LEGO bricks that she had received from a friend. Finally before leaving the kids found one more set at thrift store that they bought with their savings.
At this point we were a little worried about how we would pack this growing pile of toys into the Mazda5. As it turns out most LEGO bricks are actually super portable and fit nicely into a waterproof dry bag that we strap to the hitch platform. The next concern was how to use and store all these bricks and mini figures without investing in a LEGO table or storage drawer system. We were also getting pretty sick of stepping on random figures and asking the kids to clean their half built designs off of the kitchen table.
With a little online research we discovered one of those truly remarkable products. It is called the Lay-n-Go Activity Mat and it makes storing and playing with LEGO bricks a breeze. Lay-N-Go was developed by a family with three kids that needed a better solution to managing their LEGO collection. The activity mat that they designed can be used for any toys or games and is durable, easy to store, and most importantly it is super easy for kids to take out and put away.
We own the large activity mat which gives the younger Fives 5 ft. of space to house all of their LEGO creations. They all easily fit around the mat and when they are done playing they simply pull the drawstring cord and pick-up is complete. No more hunting around for lost pieces and no more nagging the kids to get a handle on the mess. We love that the Lay-n-Go mat is made out of Poly ripstop making it travel tough. We also love the carrying strap, and the inside storage pockets where the kids can store their special LEGO figures or pieces that they want easily accessible.
When we start traveling by air in a few years we obviously won’t be able to take our large activity mat with us. However, Lay-n-Go also offers a Lite version that is the perfect size for backpacks or carry on luggage. These bags are really great for setting down anywhere to play without the fear of losing pieces or dealing with a tedious pick-up. If you have a LEGO fan in your house we definitely recommend taking a look at the Lay-n-Go product line. Five Spice has already been dropping hints about their ingenious cosmetics bags and we just noticed their new Lifestyle bag. We might just have to outfit the whole family with Lay-n-Go bags before our next big adventure.
We tried to pack light for this trip as space is limited. Anything deemed non-essential didn’t make it into the van. However, along the way we have made our guidelines for essential belongings even stricter. At several campgrounds we have bid farewell to items that no longer made the cut. We were all very excitted as we drove by our storage unit in Saco, Maine and dropped off even more items. Now we can finally see Five of Hearts smiling face in the backseat!
Since we have owned our house Five Spice has worked tirelessly to keep our possessions at bay. She was always on the watch for broken toys, unused gifts and needless dust collectors. However, her efforts had to be redoubled this past February when we decided to sell our house and this time she recruited the rest of the Fives to lend a hand. For the past four months we have explored the depths of our closets and fearlessly faced the recesses of our junk drawers. We have all been forced to take a good hard look at what we own and question whether it is worthy of the endless cycle of packing and repacking that will be part of our new life on the fly.
After 108 eBay auctions, 97 books and CDs sold on Amazon, 12 Craigslist transaction, 7 trips to Goodwill, and 1 massive estate sale, we were left with two piles of stuff.
One pile would be traveling with us this summer and needed to fit into our Mazda 5.
The other pile was going into a 5×15 storage unit until September.
This past Saturday the Fives came face to face with these two piles as we pushed, shoved, and squeezed them into their respective vehicles (the Mazda 5 and a 14 ft. UHaul).
At the end of the day each Five came away with a different perspective on these choosen items that managed to escape the proverbial yard sale or donation chopping block. Some wanted to throw our storage key into the Atlantic Ocean and never look back.
Others tried desperately to smuggle one last book across enemy lines (as much as she loves to read Five Spice refuses to turn the passenger seat into a mobile library). In the end we all agreed that there are no winners in the war against stuff, just two tired parents and three cranky kids.
Do you have any tips on how to keep the upper hand on your possession?