When we were 17, my friend and I celebrated the completion of high school by going on a trip to the UK and France. We spent days putting together cute outfits and jammed them into huge, rolling suitcases – only to find that Paris’ metro stations didn’t have escalators. Chastened by the experience, I’ve used backpacks ever since and regularly re-assess how I can pack lighter. But what happens when there’s a kid (or two, or three) in tow? It’s not as simple as rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Here’s what I came up with after scouring parent blogs.
From Thrifty Travel Mama:
- Limit the number of shirts per person. Thrifty Travel Mama usually packs four shirts per person and varies up the type depending on season (e.g. two short sleeve shirts and two tank tops in summer). Babies are an exception; double their clothing allowance, especially if they’re still in “poop-explosion phase.”
- Stick with a subtle color scheme. The author likes black, blue, or gray for her sons and makes sure that each item can be matched with any other. Don’t pick colors like red or white so you don’t have to worry about washing them separately.
- Prioritize shoes by activity. Do you really need a pair of Jimmy Choo slingback mules, hiking boots, and flip-flops? Probably not. The more you can minimize on these bulky items, the better; comfort first, style second.
- Pare down the toiletries. Thrifty Travel Mama recommends using castile soap, an all-in-one liquid that can clean bodies, clothes, and teeth (no really, she says). For camping in Canada, I used to buy solid shampoo from places like the Great Canadian Soap Company. You can even make your own all-in-one soap. Wet wipes are also great for cleaning up messes, washing your hands in a pinch, and as a replacement for facial cleansers in a pinch; my boyfriend always raises his eyebrow at the jumbo pack I bring on each trip.
From The Art of Simple:
- Bring lots of Ziploc-type bags. Apart from the obvious uses (e.g. dividing out snacks for different kids, containing easy-to-swallow pieces), the author of this post has an unexpected use for re-sealable plastic bags: “Since a lot of kids don’t like taking showers, and because many hotels don’t make it possible to take baths, a ziploc bag makes a great drain plug. Fill it with a little bit of water, and it becomes an instant weight that snuggles nicely in the drain.”
- Limit the number of toys you bring. Traveling to a new place is such a novel experience that your baby or toddler is likely to find ordinary objects and activities entertaining (e.g. a shoe horn). You can also make this a chance to give them a special toy just for the trip; the author has an artistic kid, so a fresh notebook and a set of markers usually do the trick.
- Call ahead to see if businesses can accommodate your family’s needs. You’d be surprised by how equipped they are these days. This goes for child seats with car rentals, pack n’ plays at hotels, and milk-warming facilities on some flights.
From My Little Nomads:
- Pack enough in your carry-on for the first two days of your trip. If your check-in bags get lost or delayed, this will give you some peace of mind.
- Use online storage for photos. Many travelers are worried about losing their hard-won photos when traveling; mitigate that possibility by diligently uploading them to services like Adrive or Skydrive. And while we’re on the subject, the author recommends just taking a small digital camera since it’s the portraits of your family, not the artistic shots of tourist attractions, that you’ll cherish down the road.
Photo: Molly.Low (Flickr)