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Published: Sunday, July 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Packing for vacation is part of the adventure

When Mom packs your family up for vacation this summer, please give her a round of applause. Making sure you have clean socks isn't as easy as it sounds.

I never appreciated how difficult packing was until I organized my family's luggage for a weeklong cruise to Alaska. Our mound of suitcases was my personal Mount McKinley.

"At least I'm not one of those lame husbands," my better half told me. "I packed 90 percent of my things myself."

To which I replied, "That means I'm doing 310 percent of the heavy lifting!"

No wonder it felt like being buried under an avalanche of clothes. I had to break out the board and iron my way free.

In my husband's defense, he would have been more helpful except I rejected a lot of his wardrobe choices. (FYI to male readers: A Seattle marathon shirt does not count as "smart casual.")

All my intense studying of Rick Steves' uber-efficient packing methods didn't help me because Alaska and Europe are two different realities.

I wouldn't want to see my 3-year-old shiver in a lightweight weather-resistant windbreaker. Nor would I want to rinse out smelly socks all week, and have them line dry in our cabin.

So instead of packing light, we were loaded down. If it rained buckets on us in Ketchikan, we'd be prepared. If a rogue orca splashed me with water, I'd have back-up clothes for when I wet my pants.

Swim clothes, gym clothes, adventure clothes and fancy wear: We were ready to change our outfits multiple times a day. Cruising is like being in a floating version of "Downton Abbey."

On formal nights, my family would look sharp with fresh haircuts and new shoes. I even bought my son his first suit (pinstripes and desperately cute).

Planning to pack meant plotting for weeks, and keeping track of all of the details made me crazy.

It wasn't just packing that was the challenge, either. As any parent can tell you, we also had to prepare for carrying our luggage.

My entire family is ambulatory (in theory), and we weren't packing a car seat, so hopefully we'd make it from our car to Pier 91 without any problems. What could possibly go wrong?

We loaded my husband up like a Sherpa. He carried half the contents of our closets, plus umbrellas. I was left managing the kids and a backpack. Basically, I was good for carrying 90 percent of my own stuff.

Uh-oh. I can still hear my husband's commentary now.

It's a good thing I'm married to somebody who can do 310 percent of the heavy lifting.

Jennifer Bardsley blogs at

Story tags » TravelParenting

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