If you are the mother or father of small children, you know that your attention is frequently pulled away from things you are actually trying to accomplish. I read recently that a preschool child typically requires the attention of their caregiver every 4 minutes. That means I have 4 minutes to get something done so I better work fast! The best way I have learned to pack while taking care of kids involves making piles and lists. As far in advance as I can, I designate a box that I can keep out of the reach of my kids for things I need to pack for the trip. This is very helpful to me because as something crosses my mind, I can grab it quickly and put it in the pack pile. I find that if I do not act on a thought quickly, the thought goes away. If it is not something I can physically put in the box, I make sure to write it down. Then I will remember it even after I get a glass of milk/change a diaper/clean up toys/change the laundry/break up a sibling fight, you know, the everyday mommy things that little kids require.
I’ll try and just outline a few things that make life on the road a bit easier (and I wish I had realized a few of them sooner).
- Even for long trips, I try to not pack more that 9 days of clothes for my kids. As much as possible, I try to have clothes be multi-purpose so we can mix and match. I find you really do not need more than 2 pairs of shoes per person (although I really love shoes!) You really need less than you think.
- Trying to keep clothes clean on the road can be a challenge! For littler kids, I LOVE the bibs with sleeves! Ikea sells some at a really good deal. I have a couple of the Bumkims brand ones that are great too (here is a link). They wash up really easy and are usually dry by the next meal. If your little one pulls off their bib, at times I extra secure them with a rubber band around the back. I know it seems kind of mean but sometimes I really need that bib to stay put!
- speaking of cleaning clothes, I like to have some laundry grains and stain treatment with me when I arrive somewhere. We always have very dirty clothes from our travel day! And hand washing kids clothes is not that bad, a hotel sink or bathtub works fine if you have no other easy options. (Did you know there are NO laundromats in Warsaw, Poland? None!)
- I have found that a lot of temporary housing does not have kid friendly tableware. For my kids, it is not if but when a dinner plate will end up on the floor and this breaks dishes. We have had to order emergency replacement dishes for sublet apartments in the past. To avoid this, I try to include a couple of non-breakable plates/bowls/cups for kids in our luggage. I bring some plastic place mats too for my kids. And I like to bring a new kitchen sponge and a small bottle of dish soap so I am ready to wash up. I like to travel with a bottle brush even after we don’t use baby bottles. It helps sippy cups and water bottles get less stinky!
- I also LOVE to travel with a magic eraser sponge, and I have even started bringing a 2oz. bottle of glass cleaner. This helps get little finger prints off tvs and glass tables if you need to clean up after yourself. The magic eraser is great for getting accidental art off of walls that are not yours. (However, if you are in a fancy hotel in Japan that has textured fabric walls that your 2 year old decides to decorate, the magic eraser will have no power! Nail polish remover will do the trick, thankfully!)
- I frequently travel with an empty spare bag, either for souvenir or simply because I never pack as well coming home as I did to go. I find when I do not bring a spare bag I usually end up buying one.
- many of our early packing trouble of bringing too much stuff was because we had the wrong stroller and port-a-crib. We lugged a 20 pound port-a-crib as a separate piece of luggage through Israel, England, Mexico, and a lot of the USA. Additionally when we would travel by car we used to have to use a car top carrier because our first stroller would not fit in our car. Here is how phil&teds save the day! We LOVE the phil&teds travel cot because it is small enough to pack in our carry-on luggage. I put it in a roller bag with my camera equipment and then I know even if our other luggage gets lost, at least the baby can sleep that night! We also love the travel cot because it is very long, much longer than a traditional pack-and-play, and the sides are deeper, keeping our little ones who are prone to escape safe and sound. In our phil&teds travel cot bag we are able to also fit a crib sheet and a couple of other blankets so we are good to go!
- when car traveling with our phil&teds double stroller, we just pop off all the wheels to store them separately and the stroller goes nearly flat in our small car. This is lucky for us because we use every spare square inch of space in our car when going for long periods. We also love the Lazy Ted so we automatically have an infant/toddler chair when we bring the double stroller. Kids love the Lazy Ted and I think for my kids there is something very homey and comfortable for them to have their own little chair when we are in new places.
- Just in case for the stroller, we travel with a spare inner tube and a tube repair kit, and we always keep an air pump with the stroller. We have only had to replace the tube when traveling once. It was very nice to have one with us instead of searching for one in a country where I had a 3 word vocabulary.
- You may need to think about childproofing needs for your new environment, but that is a whole other post, as is travel friendly toys!
It is amazing to realize that everywhere we have gone they have these places called “stores” where you can buy things you may have forgotten. At times I get too caught up in trying to pack everything we will possibly need, but it is nice to have things on hand like a little sewing kit, shoe polish kit, basic medical supplies and spare everything just so you are ready.