I've always prided myself on being able to pack-light. My last trip to the UK, a week-long trip for work and play, even the lady at the check-in counter asked if that was all I was taking when my suitcase weighed in at just under 10kg. I like the complexity of mixing and matching, multi-purpose dressing and getting everything to fit inside a small case - like Tetris for clothes.
But Dear Boy changed that. Now I've become much more of a 'just-in-case' packer with piles of extra clothes, snacks, entertainment and what-not for both of us. There's just no way I could only do carry on only anymore, even just for the two of us, just for the weekend. But I decided to set myself the challenge to pack light-ish anyway.
Here's the scenario: a Friday to Sunday trip to a warmer interstate climate, staying two nights in a one-bedroom serviced apartment, and all meals except breakfast being handled by family and friends. I've made it easy on myself by paying for a cot at the serviced apartment ($15 a night) and hiring a car seat to go in our hire car ($5 a day - I've found most car companies use our brand of car seat so I'm not worried about safety standards there) so we won't have to haul ours up there. I've also paid for checked in luggage.
So what we need to bring is a stroller/pram, two days and two nights worth of clothes, nappies, breakfast, snacks, entertainment/comfort.
For Lilybett: comfy jeans, black singlet, black t-shirt, black thin cardigan, bright-coloured flats and a grey lightweight scarf that doubles as a wrap/blanket/cover on the plane.
For Dear Boy: comfy lightweight trousers with elastic cuffs at the ankle so they can be pulled up to the knee and converted to shorts, bodysuit singlet to prevent bare tummy on the plane, special monkey-flying-a-plane t-shirt, warm zip-up hoodie that's easy to take off a sleeping child, thin socks, and lightweight shoes that can be worn without socks.
Carry On Bag: I choose to carry a well-padded laptop backpack when we travel. Not only is it more comfortable than our regular baby bag but it protects my camera without having to worry about an extra camera bag and the multiple compartments make it easy to find what I'm looking for in a hurry. It's also big enough that I can put our regular baby bag into the main pocket and just pull that out when we're seated with everything we need for flight itself. It stashed really easily under the seat and saves faffing about when there are people queued up behind you.
Here's what we carried on:
- Our regular baby bag with several new lightweight books (Thomas themed), my phone (in flight mode), snacks (rice crackers, craisins, pepitas, flaked coconut, puffed corn, and a few treat biscuits), an emergency 200ml tetrapak of milk, dummy (with a ribbon and pin to avoid fishing for it on the floor), lozenges, a bottle of water for me and a sippy cup of water for him.
- Nappy change bag (with four nappies, new pack of wipes, tiny tub of sudocrem, smelly nappy sacks, travel tissues)
- spare t-shirt and a pair of shorts for him and a spare shirt for me
- camera (with a freshly charged battery and an emptied out SD card)
- wallet and car keys, printed tickets and boarding passes
- spare dummy
- saline nasal spray and nurofen for the boy and several travel packs of tissues and some cold and flu meds for me.
- several small wheeled toys for zooming over the gate lounge floor prior to take-off.
- lightweight baby blanket for laying on the gate lounge floor, for covering a chilled sleeping child or for padding the hard armrests or window frame when the small child has fallen asleep at an awkward angle and is at risk of banging his head if there's turbulence.
It was much warmer at our destination so I packed for summer with a few options to slip on when the evenings cooled down.
For Lilybett: two t-shirts (black and black and blue stripes), long singlet, three pairs of undies, pair of plimsolls, lightweight skirt, mix-and-match tankini for swimming.
For Dear Boy: Three t-shirts (grey, blue and yellow), soft stripey shorts (could double as PJ bottoms if the nights were warm too), singlet, long sleeved t-shirt, long stripey tights (for the trip home), two pairs of socks, pair of sandals, two bibs, 10 daytime nappies and rash-shirt and shorts for swimming (not pictured).
- travel sized shampoo and conditioner
- two hair elastics
- children's 50+ sunscreen
- tea-tree oil (for hiding smells and putting on insect bites)
I've always liked to pack comfy PJs that could also double as regular clothes or extra layers in a pinch. I've found that's pretty easy to translate to packing for Dear Boy as well.
For Lilybett: long yoga tights and a long-sleeved black t-shirt, wooly socks.
For Dear Boy: star tights, black long-sleeved t-shirt, Dr Who long sleeved onesie, lightweight Bonds sleeping bag, spare dummy, three sets of night-time nappies and a night-time story book (not pictured).
Extras we didn't need but I packed because we had a lot of extra space to fill:
- a fitted sheet for the portacot (the hotel supplies bedding but the sheets tend to be very starchy and rustle a lot whenever Dear Boy moves in his sleep - so a soft sheet is a luxury item for both of us);
- large cotton waffle blanket (again the hotel supplies bedding but their blankets tend to be of the heavy, polyester type - this one can be folded for layers or kept thin for warmer nights);
- and a soft snuggly elephant (for awesome night-time and morning snuggles - der).
I can't quite decide if this little treasure is a must-have or a luxury item. It's a portable high chair (we got this one from Aldi for around $20), essentially a bit of expandable foam zipped into a waterproof fabric case with a few straps. It unfolds, puffs up a bit and straps securely to a regular backed chair. Once Dear Boy is snapped in, he's at a pretty good height for sitting at kitchen, dining and cafe tables. In the past we've just used the stroller as a defacto high chair but that means there's no tray or table. With this, he can sit at the table and eat or play with trains or crayons while we eat. It gives us that little bit more time to catch up with friends and it's very handy when cafes aren't stroller friendly.
All up, I think we packed pretty light - using just 12 kilos of our check-in luggage allowance and leaving us plenty of room to bring home a big pile of hand-me-down clothes and books as well as a little wooden stool that's been used by all the uncles. Our flight home was also delayed for three and a half hours, which was a bit of a nightmare given that made it overlap with Dear Boy's normal dinner, bath and bedtime routine. Luckily, we didn't run out of nappies and were supplied meal vouchers by the airline for the inconvenience. Keeping Dear Boy entertained was hard but he spent a long time zooming his cars around and running the full-length of the airport. We also late-checked our stroller so took a few long walks outside as well to watch the planes. I was also really lucky Lovely Husband decided at the last minute to join us and he had loaded his tablet with episodes of Thomas and Friends and Peppa Pig - when Dear Boy started getting persnickety on the flight we let him zone out with the TV. I'm also really glad I bought two spare dummies as he popped one and we lost the other at the airport. Disaster!
What didn't we use?
- two of Dear Boy's t-shirts
- one set of night-time nappies and four daytime nappies
- portacot sheet and blankets (turns out the hotel sheets and blanket were fine this time around)
- wooly socks
- tweezers and tea-tree oil
- tankini (although I should have worn them when we headed to the beach as I ended up with very wet jeans even after they were rolled up to my knees).
Do you have any must-haves when you travel with kids or any luxury items you refuse to leave behind?