I’ve been thinking about packing a lot lately. You know, the stuff you have to take with you when you go places. Oh, the stuff. But the places! I love the places.
Back in the days before you had to pay to check luggage, I was a serious overpacker. I’d just throw everything I might need into a suitcase and then rejoice once I’d left it in the hands of the airlines so I could walk lightly to my gate.
But a few years back, when the fee for luggage was firmly in place, I made a decision: I would become a light packer. It was right before a week-long trip to Europe, and Dan and I were determined to take only carry-ons for the trip. At the time, it seemed impossible. How on earth could we go to a wedding in France and take just a carry-on suitcase!? But I was both fed-up with paying fees to check luggage and also fed-up with lugging my luggage around. It seemed like having so many belongings was getting in my way of enjoying the destinations to which I traveled.
We all know it’s hard to change. But I made the change from over-packer to light packer very well. All it really took was buying the best carry-on suitcase ever as well as a great lightweight hiking backpack.
For at least 3 years, I didn’t pay any luggage fees. Not a one. And then I had a baby.
Everyone tells you that when you have kids you’re going to little by little acquire more and more stuff. As much as I’ve resisted this, it’s still happened to some extent. I firmly believe that babies and kids don’t need a lot of stuff. They need to be clothed and fed and loved and entertained, but just like with adults, having more things does not result in a happier baby. And yet, when we went to California last weekend, it felt like we had so much stuff. Two carry-on bags, two “personal items,” a heavy carseat, and a 20-some pound toddler in a carrier.
Overall, I think I’ve been able to maintain my status as a light packer. We travel with more than we used to, but a lot less than many people! It’s the carseat that really weighs you down. There’s no getting around it. It’s the law. Safety first. It’s especially hard to get around without one in the US, where public transportation is often not that convenient. But when we go to Europe someday, I will not be taking a carseat, that’s for sure! You can also rent them at your destination, but once you’ve shelled out $200+ for one at home, do you really want to spend more money?
Thankfully, they do make great items for traveling with little kids. I’m convinced a main component of parenting is the never-ending process of deciding which items fit your lifestyle best. Because there are so many options out there! And they’re all pretty expensive! The most useful things we’ve found so far are:
phil&teds Traveller Crib
I wanted this crib when I was pregnant, but decided not to get it because of the high price tag. Instead, we got a Pack-n-Play. Once we were traveling places by plane and needed a crib, I found a used one on eBay for around $120. I’m so glad we have it, since it’s pretty much the smallest option out there (comparable to the Baby Bjorn model). But it still takes up a good amount of room. It won’t fit in a carry-on, and annoyingly airlines don’t gaurentee they’ll check it for free (as they do with strollers and carseats), so you pretty much have to check a bag if you’re taking it with you. But it’s still very convenient. Although, I am also glad we have the Pack-n-Play. It was great for the first 6 months when Willa was sleeping in our room. It just wasn’t great for travel. It’s big and doesn’t have a handle.
Diono Radian convertible carseat
We just got this carseat for Christmas since it was clear that W was almost too big for her infant seat. I picked this one because it’s the only foldable carseat on the market, and it is also the narrowest. Additionally, you can keep your child rear-facing up to 45lbs. in this seat (most are 40lbs.) and it’s also a seat you can use from birth to 120lbs. Plus it’s FAA approved so you can use it for flying.
I just bought this recently, and am really excited about it. At home we use a phil&teds portable chair, and while it’s come in handy at a lot of restaurants, it’s a bit big to carry if you want to pack light, and it’s also not compatible with some tables. I’m a big believer in kids eating at the table, and Willa is still at an age where she needs to be strapped in (I know that’s debatable, but that’s my opinion!).
Beco / ergo carrier
I love both these carriers. The Beco was ideal when W was little, but now as toddler I find the Ergo to be more convenient. But either way, the carrier is the way to go. I do not believe in traveling with a stroller. Too big! Too much!
tegu blocks travel set
I got these blocks from a dear friend when Willa was born. They’re my favorite toy to bring along on trips, and people are always asking about them. The magnets in the blocks not only make them fun to play with, but stick to any metal structure. This comes in handy on planes and in restaurants! I recently took them to a Super Bowl party, and I totally lost it when one block went missing. (Perhaps I am too consumed by things?) Not to worry though, the party host found it. Phew.
Despite these useful items, my back and shoulders are still always sore on a trip…perhaps I should just accept it, but I’m going to keep striving to be the lightest packer possible! And if you have thoughts or tips, please share!