How to create a travel kit

Sometimes opportunities come along in life at an unexpected time, but end up being the perfect time. I have recently experienced this as a result of being offered a new role, one that initially I was not looking for. The role requires a lot of travel, which I have been enjoying not doing, however that was the reality with this role. And to be fair, travel is easy for me now with no kids at home and Pete only working four days a week. However one of the biggest pains with travel is the packing and unpacking. So I decided that if I was going to do this I needed to make as many things simple for myself. I decided if I could have a travel kit that was essentially ready to grab, I wouldn’t need to keep packing and unpacking. So I created my ultimate travel kit, one that is ready to use for one day or a whole week. So if like me you are wanting to make your travel easier keep reading and I’ll take you through the steps I took to create my ultimate kit.

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Step 1 - Travel Requirements

The first thing that I did was to think about what my travel requirements were going to be. To do this I thought about where and how often I would need to be travelling, even thinking about the weather as well.

Working that out, initially I would probably be travelling weekly from one day to four days a week. However potentially changing locations during the week, which would mean slight variations in the weather. i.e Dunedin to Hamilton! The travel would likely settle down however not for a number of months, so it was going to be high frequency travel.

Knowing the regularity and locations helped me to think about what I would need to have in my travel kit, so this takes me to the next step.

Step 2 - Items for the Travel kit

The easiest way I found to do this is to just do a bit of a brain dump. I simply listed out all the main items I normally need when travelling and categorised them

  • Work information

  • Technology

  • Wash bag and Make up

  • Wardrobe - work/exercise/casual

For each of the categories I worked through what items I would actually take with me for every trip regardless of length and decided that these were the items that I would have in my kit. Essentially always ready and all I needed to do was to add my clothes.

As an example for my wash bag and make up category I decided that I would have items such as deodorants, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrush etc permanently in the kit. 

From my list I collected together those items , crossing them off as I went. Helpful to only get those items that you have on your list. It is easy to start to include things that you think …ohhh I might need that !!! But really you don’t  

A handy hint the small baby bath bottles from ECO store make perfect sized containers to fill with shampoos and body wash etc and means that you can just decanter from your existing products.

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For my wardrobe I have a set of travel sleep wear, lounging clothes and yoga gear which stay with my travel kit.

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Now that I had a good idea of all my travel items, this helped me to decide what my best luggage options would be, bearing in mind that I want to be able to have everything in my carry on and hand luggage. Essentially I wanted to only travel with two items of luggage, one being my handbag/briefcase and the other my carry on .

So to the next step ——-suss out the luggage, but this also the fun part as I got to do a bit of shopping

Step 3 - The Luggage

Weight and functional are king here, I was really focused on ensuring that I have light weight luggage which needed to be really functional and ok yep it had to look good as well. Having said that I would compromise on looks to get weight and functionality.

Thankfully now there are a lot of great options available that not only look really good but are very functional as well. In my research I found the Samsonite luggage a great option, these are certainly at the pricer end however if you are travelling a lot it’s a worth while investment. Here in Aotearoa, New Zealand you can find these often on special at Luggage.co.nz and Strand Bags and of course Amazon has a great selection.

Interestingly enough for me, while I was doing the research one of favourite New Zealand bag brands, Saben, released a new range of luggage…..and like OMG I just feel in love with them. Of course I did my research on the luggage to ensure that they ticked my check list; light weight, functional and good looking. I had a good read through of all the details online first, checking the sizes and weight , then went into the store to have a good look. So I choose the Cabin Bag Black Carry on . It is super light, has four wheels, a lovely long handle (bonus for us tall gals) and has great capacity inside. And of course it is a beautiful thing….I mean just look at it ! I love the gold detail in the zips and handles. Also the zips have a lock which again is another great feature. In terms of price they sit similar to the Samsonite as well as the quality.

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Now I was also looking for the perfect handbag/briefcase….that turned about to be a more challenging search, well initially. For my handbag/briefcase it needed to hold my personal items; purse, small make up bag, planner, MacBook air, cell phone, as well as my  work Surface Pro , work notebook and pen case. In my research I found that there were briefcases, mainly for men however they were often very narrow and really too slim so you could not get in all the personal items.

When looking at just handbags they were really not robust enough to carry all the tech equipment. There was an option that I was thinking of using and that is my London Carry all Dagne Dover which I use as my carry all for work and it’s fab for that . However really needed something smaller as my hang bag. Dagne Dover do have some excellent options now in their luggage collection which I was looking at.

However that was before I came across the perfect solution and I happen to find it at Saben……ohhh I shouldn’t have gone into that shop!! What I found has worked out to exceed my expectations…..it is soooo freaking practical, and the design means it is so nice to use and it is not bulky but holds everything that I need. So check it out my beautiful Taylor Black work bag . The two best elements of this bag;

  1. Dual compartments which I can get my Mac onside and my Surface Pro on the other

  2. Design, it’s long and slim and for a tall gal it just works so well for me functionally.

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So there I am on a wet Friday afternoon coming out the Saben shop with a new bag and carry on, having spent, and lets be honest, a small fortune on them…..I had a smile across my dial feeling very pleased with myself. Because for me I had found the perfect two travel pieces I needed.

Now to set them up ready for travel. Ohhh the fun of organising ….I’m in my happy place peeps!

Step 4 - Travel Kit set up

This is all about great packing organisation and if you do some googling there are all sorts of ways to do this well. For many years I have been a roller, boy you can fit a lot in when you roll clothes. In fact we travelled around Europe for 6 weeks with the kids with only two backpacks using the rolling method.

However for my work travel I pack shirts and blazers and they are not really ideal when it comes to rolling. So I will use packing cases. I have actually been using dust cover bags that you get with shoes and bags and sometimes sheets as packing cases for sometime however decided that I would upgrade these. I manage to get these Flight packing cases on special at Briscoes as well as a tech bag .

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On a recent trip to Sydney I discovered this fabulous reusable bag shop in Paddington called Bag-All . They have the most amazing selection of bags and you can even get them personalised. I did do a bit of a spend up and got myself some really lovely packing cases and a small tech bag for my hand bag. Now I think I am well set up for packing cases!

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In terms of the Travel kit set up, as I mentioned above I really wanted to be able to reduce the amount of packing needed and essentially have as much ready to go as I can. With the exception of my daily clothes I set up the following kits;

  • Wash bag

  • Yoga kit

  • Lounging clothes

  • Tech kit

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Each of those kits have their own bag and have all the items I need ready to go. I just add the clothes I need for the period I am away which is not a big deal.

I am sure that I will have make changes to the kit as I go along however it’s a great start and will make the chore of packing and unpacking a lot less time consuming.

All packed up

My goal was to set up a travel kit that enabled ease of travel as well as reducing the packing and unpacking. I found going through the four steps outlined above was really helpful and helped me to make the right decisions to get my travel kit set up. I am sure that you could apply this to any travel situation to help you to also build the perfect travel kit for your needs.

Happy Travelling my friends

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meal planning for beginners

How many times have you heard "what's for dinner"? either from your nagging kids or your inner voice reminding you that you have to sort dinner out! If I told you that there was a way to make that stupid question go away would you believe me?  Well actually there is and it's called meal planning. I initially started meal planning when the kids were little, Pete and I both working full time. It made such a huge difference to our week and to this day, even though the kids have grown and flown, we still meal plan. Meal planning is really simple, easy, it saves heaps of time and your week feels a lot less crazy. And as a bonus it will actually save you money. It's a great way to manage the food budget. In this post I take you through all the steps to make this easy for you. I also have FREE printable for you and some great tips to get you on your way.

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Meal Planning is actually very easy, just plan in advance what meals you are going to cook each night over a week, fortnight or month. Easy eh!!!! For me I follow these simple steps;

  • Decide the planning cycle

  • Check my planner for upcoming activities & events

  • Choose my meals to cook

  • Shop

  • Cook

The first step you want to do, is to work out how often you want to meal plan, I call this the planning cycle.

WOrk out your Planning Cycle

From my experience the best way to work this out is to line it up with your shopping routine. I plan our meals from Monday to Sunday as we shop on Sundays. When we shopped fortnightly, I planned fortnightly.

Just a quick tip, I find weekly planning  a lot easier, as you normally know what you will be doing during that week and able to plan the meals around that. However another week out there are likely to be things that come up that you have not planned for. So you do need to have flexibility in planning the longer your cycle is.

Check your upcoming events and activities

The first thing I do is to check  my planner, checking for what's on that week, evening activities and so on. I note which nights we can cook and which nights we will be really busy. Therefore planning out the best options for dinner to fit around our activities.

Let's take this weeks meal planning. This week we have extra visitors at the end of the week and I am travelling in the early part of the week. So for us this week, I know that for Friday night we will have more people to cook for and Saturday night we are hosting our party, so we need a quick gab dinner. Sunday will be late so we will have to do something quick and easy. 

So this week we need a variety of quick and easy meals and some pre made meals, like slow cooker meals.  

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Now that you have sorted what the week looks like and which nights you need to plan the meals for then, it's just a matter of choosing the meals.

Choosing the meals to cook

For me the meals need to be quick, easy, healthy and budget friendly. I also have to balance our different food tastes. Pete likes meaty, spicy and really hot food, more spicy hot Asian style, where as I like less spice and chillies and more vegetarian. The biggest challenge for meal planning is finding inspiration for meal ideas.

So how do I find meal ideas? 

There are great online food bloggers and pretty much any food genre you want. I would suggest using Pinterest for this, just set up your own recipe board, search for meal ideas and pin the recipes to your board. As you can see I have done that on my Pinterest page. Also check out some of your favourite chiefs and they are likely to have a website, sign up for their weekly newsletter and you can get meal inspiration to your inbox every week.

Also local supermarkets have great websites with food and meal inspiration and your can have the added bonus of shopping online.  Countdown is a good example and there is a great app that you can use as well. I also have one favourite cookbook on the go which I will refer to as well. Tip,  just as an idea you could have a monthly cookbook theme.

My favourite cookbook when the kids where at home and we were pressed for time was Jamie Olivers 15 min meals. I would go through his book every week and pick out yummy meals.

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It does make it easier and quicker if you have a good stock of recipes or meal ideas that you can refer to when planning them out. A good tip is to make up your own home recipe folder

Another tip, try and have meals that use seasonal ingredients as they are cheaper and fresher, like a cabbage and carrots in winter for slaw versus a lettuce variety salad. Also try to share ingredients across meals - mince 1kg - split in half over two meals.  Veges, like spinach, half bag for one meal, half for another. This really helps to reduce your food waste and is a cheaper way to shop.

Prepare your shopping list 

Once I have decided which meals to cook for the week , I then work out which ingredients we will need to buy. On my meal planning page I note beside the meal what I need to buy then just transfer that onto my catch all shopping list. The other thing that is really handy is that I note the reference, i.e where the recipe is from. E.g if it's from the cookbook I would just have the page number as the reference. As I have variety of sources of meal ideas this referencing is really helpful.

To make this easier for you I have a created a FREE weekly meal planner printable for you to use.  As you plan out your meals just note down the side what you need from the supermarket. It's really handy to have on you when doing the shopping. To receive this FREE weekly meal planner download just sign up below;

FREE Meal planner

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Display your Meal Menu

This may seem a bit strange to display your meals for the week, but trust me it's worth it!. Firstly everyone can see the meals, so no need to ask what's for tea...."it's on the board" secondly if someone else has to cook they know which meal to make. And lastly it makes you accountable to actually cook the meals!  Once you have written them down and got them up for all to see if does commit you to making them. As in the end meal planning will not really be of any use if you just end up not cooking and getting takeaways instead!! (tempting as that may be sometimes)

My menu display board is just a photo frame with a piece of card stock behind and I use a whiteboard maker. I just wipe it down each week and write up the new menu....easy as that. 

Hints and Tips to help with meal planning

  • Try and maintain a pantry with the staple items, so all you need to do is to buy the meat and vegetables.

  • Collect recipes from magazines, cooking shows, subscribe to food blogs.

  • Use your family's favourites meals, when our kids were younger Shepherds Pie, Lasagne, Bolognase, Sausage Casserole and Homemade burgers were our high rotate.

Summary of steps

I hope this post has given you some useful information to help you get started with meal planning. Meal planning is such a simple and easy thing to do and does make such a difference to your life. Remember the 5 simple steps;

  1. Choose your planning cycle

  2. Check my planner for upcoming activities & events

  3. Choose my meals to cook

  4. Shop

  5. Cook

Get inspiration on a weekly basis on my facebook page, 7nightsaweek , it's dedicated to my weekly meal planning and so each week I share my meal plans, provide links to recipes and share any meal ideas and tips that I have come across.

Happy meal planning my friends!

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Mum and Career, the 4 things you need to do to succeed in both

It was a conversation with one of my staff that lead me to this week's blog. With two young ones at school and working full time, she had a challenging week. Like a lot of women, she chose to work full time and have a career, and why not? However it can be a tough road being a Mum, whether working full time or at home, it can be a hard but rewarding road. Surprisingly enough we are not superwomen and we need to recognize this and give ourselves a break.

 

Having raised my kids and worked full time in my career I have learnt a few things on the way, so I thought I'd share some of these with you and, hopefully, you can take something from it to make your life a bit less chaotic.

You are not the only parent

Ok, so you’re the Mum and you think that because of this you should be the authority on your children……well, that is true, but there is another parent, so make sure you let them be the parent too.

One of the most frustrating things I hear is “hubby's babysitting the kids” or Dad saying “I'm babysitting the kids”. No you are not! They are your children, so you are actually simply doing what a parent should do - parenting.

I learnt this really early on with our daughter, first born. Within our first day back at home with her, Pete was bathing her and I was hovering over him…..”do it like this…..don't do it like that.. blah blah” He turned around and said to me “she is my child too and I`ll do this my way”. It really made me stop and realise that I didn't know any more about bathing, dressing, changing nappies etc than he did , we were both new at this. So yeah, I totally let go of feeling that I had to be the authority on our kids. From that day on I never had to plan or organize anything when Pete was with the kids, he did it his way and he did it well.

So as women we need to stop feeling precious about that and let go sometimes.

Let it out of your head and share

I don't know about you but I carry lots of crap in my head, you know the usual stuff, school stuff, dates, appointments, birthdays, sports… it goes on. You need to get this information out of your head and get the family aware of these things and involved in helping with them.

There are great ideas and tools that can really help with this

  • calendar
  • diary
  • to do list
  • family home folder

Whatever you chose to use, make sure you keep it for everyone to use and see.

We always had a big calendar that had everyone’s name on it, so you could easily see what was coming up for the family weekly and monthly. We found this kikki-k one worked really well.

Flexible work options

Ok, so we may not all be in a position to have flexibility in our work, but I strongly suggest that you do try and achieve this. If your present work environment doesn't support this, think about finding one that does.  I know this is easier said than done, but think about the difference it would make to your life and parenting ability.

One of the reasons I remained with my employer was because they are so supportive of work-life balance. I always made the effort to attend all the important events in my kids' lives - at school, on the sportsground, etc. It wasn't always easy, but I did it.  My husband did the same, between us we were always there.

I recall once at a parents' event at the school, a group of mums talking to me about how hard it must be working full time and raising a family. This was about fifteen years ago and a full time working Mum was still not that common. Obviously I talked about the challenge, but I did ask them if they had asked my husband the same question? And do they ask other fathers this question? I didn`t meant to be rude, but it’s important to change some perceptions and expectations that we place on ourselves.

Create the Social hub

My final word on this topic is, as far as I am concerned, the most important. No matter what else is going on in the world, your home must be the social hub for your family. It has to be the place from which their values, and their skills to get through life successfully, are developed . Yes, school and sports friends and other external factors help to broaden their skills and can influence them, but don't ever underestimate the importance of the home. Its one of the things you can actually control and achieve as parent, is to make your home a strong social hub. Always keep your kids close, and never, ever, stop communicating with them, especially in the teenage years.

I know we all have our own family experiences , but I hope this has helped in some way towards making your life easier.

I will be sharing a lot more practical ideas for organizing and planning in my upcoming blogs, so please “stay tuned”. Look forward to talking to you again soon.

Hugs and smiles

Tania