This is all the stuff we brought to Europe. It’s pretty much the same as if we had taken only a two-week trip. Since we’re coming into travel season I thought I would take a minute to show how we packed it all and what we brought with us.
If the trip was just going to be adults, I would generally pack light, but when you add small kids it’s more important to pack smart.
Most of the trips my family takes are of the road-trip variety where I can just toss everything into the trunk of the car without much forethought. For this trip we took planes, trains, buses, taxis, and even a boat. If our kids had been old enough to manage their own luggage, we probably would have each brought a small roll-around carry-on. Since we had to manage the kids and the luggage, we strategized for weeks about the best plan.
We wanted to have our hands free to push the stroller and grab the four-year-old. We also needed an extra suitcase for food (more on that later).
Our carry-on bags included:
1.) a diaper bag
2.) my tote bag containing my purse and computer
3.) the kids’ backpack of toys
4.) a weekend bag for the camera and food
Our checked bags were:
1.) one big red suitcase (it’s really bigger than it looks in the picture) to hold my clothes and the kids’ clothes
2.) a big backpack to hold Doug’s clothes and our extra stuff
To carry it all, Doug did most of the heavy work to wear the backpack and pull the red suitcase with the weekend bag on top. I carried my tote bag and pushed the stroller with the diaper bag and kids’ backpack hanging from it.
Our first decision was how many pieces of luggage to bring. Our bag allowance would have let us take and check more bags for the flight, but we knew it would have been more than we could manage for the rest of the trip. We didn’t have enough hands. We decided to consolidate most of our stuff into two big suitcases.
The problem with a large suitcase is the risk of exceeding the weight limit. Pack the lightweight stuff like clothes in the big suitcases and the heavier things into the smaller bags.
To keep the kids’ little clothes from getting lost and messy in the big suitcase, I gave them each a large packing cube. These were a big help when we arrived because I didn’t have to unpack everything. I just unzipped the bag and their stuff was organized like it was in a drawer.
I carefully selected the clothes that I brought since I needed clothes for both winter and spring, and I talked about what I chose in this post about having a small wardrobe.
We packed enough diapers for a few days. We took them out of the package and stuffed them around the edges and in between things so they wouldn’t take up much room.
You must have a packing list in detail–the longer the trip, the more detailed it needs to be. Do not trust your brain to remember everything! Also count your bags so as you’re leaving you can make sure you have them all.
I spent so many hours trying to anticipate what we needed for the trip. These items were a big help with the kids:
The Chicco Capri stroller – a lightweight umbrella stroller with big enough wheels to manage cobblestone roads and uneven sidewalks. The style is similar to the popular Maclaren strollers, but I prefer this one and it’s economical too.
A baby carrier. Mine is the Beco Butterfly II which carries a kid on your front or back, and I wore it in the crowded parts of town and when I was getting on buses. With any carrier, you have to practice with it to be comfortable. Don’t put it on for the first time while you’re on your trip and expect your little one to like it. I saw some people wearing baby carriers so that the baby was swinging down at the parent’s waist, and that can’t be comfortable. With your baby carried in front of you, your baby should be high enough that you can kiss the top of his head.
Almost everywhere we stayed had a baby bed (or a pack-n-play), but no one had a high chair. At home we use a Fisher-Price booster seat, and it collapses small enough to take in the car, but it wasn’t small enough for this trip. For this trip we used a chair sling. It’s not my favorite, but it folds up into a really small bag, and that’s what we needed. It lacks a booster seat, but it holds your child securely in almost any chair.
For my four-year-old I bought kids’ earphones. They worked with my ipod and the airline’s in-flight movies. I like them because they will stay on her little ears, they have volume control, and she could hear my instructions.
We also remembered to bring plastic cups for the kids, and little tupperware containers that could be used for bowls.
On the Flight
We didn’t buy a seat for our child under age two. Try to buy your tickets early so you can reserve the bulkhead seats. They have extra room, a space for the baby, and fewer people walking past you.
If your child will be sitting on your lap during the flight, let him drink only water. You don’t want him to spill orange juice on your lap during the beginning of a ten-hour flight, not that I would know anything about that.
For my little boy who is a light sleeper, it was easier to fly during the day than through the night. (And when he cried, people were generally nice about it.)
For ideas about toys to bring, take a look at this post and all the ideas in the comments.
Since we have food intolerances in our family, we designated almost one entire bag for food. We needed it too. (My kids and husband don’t eat gluten, dairy, and most soy). There was almost nothing in the airports or the flights that they could have to eat. I had requested the “fruit plate” for them, but it was tiny. Our bag got us through the days of travel and when we arrived and all the stores were closed. (A tip to the wise: a jar of peanut butter is considered a paste and thus a risk when you make your way through airport security. They didn’t seem to mind the packets of baby food.) We brought snacks with us like nuts, cereal, and chicken.
Have a plan for when you arrive. We made the mistake of spending so much time packing and getting ready to leave for the airport that we forgot to print a map and the directions for where we should go afterwards.
The flight can be hard, but it will be over in just a few more hours. It’s the time change that really gets me. It’s so much harder with little kids. You worked so hard throughout the trip, you’re in a new place, and you really need to rest but you can’t.
As a rule of thumb, it takes one day of adjustment for every hour difference in the time zone. So for example, if you travel to a country seven hours ahead, it will take a full week for your kids’ internal clocks to become accustomed to the new time. Yes, that means your child will be awake at three in the morning. Just plan for it instead of trying to fight it. Sunshine helps.
Just in Case
Make sure to bring an extra pair of clothes in your carry-on for accidents and spills, and just in case your checked bags don’t arrive.
I’ve talked about how I use Dropbox, and that was the perfect solution for online backup of our travel documents and photos.