I love this post from Miss Minimalist about how she goes on weekend trips with nothing but a large purse. We have a toddler, so traveling does involve a bit more stuff than we would take for just ourselves, but we’ve always managed to travel relatively light, even with our son. We just spent a three day weekend visiting my husband’s parents. Our son is still in diapers, and cloth diapers do take up quite a bit of space (but I like them a lot more than disposables). We took along a large tote bag filled with diapers and cloth wipes, but other than that, we each had one small back back for our stuff. My father in law wanted my husband to go golfing with him, so we had to take his golf clubs and shoes. We also had to take our dog (I’m pretty sure the cat loves it when we leave her here for a few days on her own, but that wouldn’t work so well for the dog). We took my husband’s tiny Audi, and still had enough room left over that we were able to bring home several boxes of canning jars that my mother in law no longer needed (tomato canning season is right around the corner… stay tuned for my forays into that adventure).
I have found that people – even those who are fans of traveling light – start schlepping LOADS of stuff once they have a baby. I’ve watched vehicles get packed for a three day trip and the entire trunk is filled with baby stuff. And it doesn’t look like fun. Let’s face it, traveling with a big purse like Miss Minimalist uses is a lot more convenient than dragging a huge suitcase all over the place. So why not try to continue to keep it as light as possible, even with a baby or toddler?
Here’s what we’ve done to minimize the amount of stuff we have to take with us on trips since our son was born:
1. This past weekend was the first time we’ve ever taken a stroller anywhere (I use a jogging stroller all the time when we’re home, but it’s bulky and not something I’d want to try take on a trip). We got a tiny umbrella stroller (it folds up into a cylinder just a few inches in diameter) at a thrift store for two dollars, and we stuck it in the trunk next to the golf clubs so that I could take our son for a long walk while the guys were golfing. This would not have gone with us if we had been traveling by air. Other than this trip, we’ve always used a sling to carry our son, or else he rides on my husband’s shoulders or walks along next to us. I’m a big fan of the Moby Wrap that I got secondhand when our son was a few months old, and he went everywhere in that until he was about 18 months old. A wrap or sling can be stuffed into a diaper bag – you can’t do that with a stroller. Having a baby on your chest or back makes traveling pretty easy. Not only does the sling take up almost no space, but you also have your hands free to carry other stuff.
2. Co-sleeping means that you don’t have to haul a portable crib. Or if you’re going to visit family or friends, you can see if they might be able to borrow a portable crib from someone in the neighborhood during your visit. Hotels will usually bring roll-away cribs. Or you can pretend you’re camping and kids can sleep on a blanket on the floor. Be creative!
3. Breastfeeding. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re breastfeeding, there’s no need to bring bottles, formula, bottle warmers, a cooler, etc. And if you plan a trip that involves staying near your baby most of the time, you can also avoid bringing the breast pump. Our son nursed for two years, and he never drank from a bottle. This was truly not a challenge at all for me – nursing him was something I loved (after the first couple painful weeks!) and it never seemed inconvenient at all. That said, I nursed him anywhere and everywhere. I had no problem nursing him in public, and I never even got so much as a sideways glance (lot of smiles though!) for nursing in public. When we flew in March, I was still nursing our almost two-year-old, and it definitely made the plane ride easier.
4. Kids don’t need as many clothes as we think they do. Yes, babies do have blowouts. But they really aren’t that common. And tiny baby clothes are pretty easy to wash in a sink. Babies also spit up, but that doesn’t mean that you have to immediately change the outfit. Usually it can be cleaned with a wet cloth and all will be fine. Toddlers get dirty. That’s just the way it goes. Our son is attracted to dirt, mud, leaves, sticks, and dust. If I changed him every time he got dirty, I’d do little else. So I just don’t worry about it. I do keep a spare outfit in his diaper bag, and it sometimes comes in handy (like the day he stepped into a pond wearing jeans, socks, and shoes, and went in up to his waist). But I had a spare outfit in his diaper bag all last winter and he never needed it at all – he outgrew it before we ever used it. So when we went away for our three day weekend, he wore one outfit, and we packed two more. Three outfits, three days, and it worked perfectly (if one had gotten hopelessly wet or dirty, he’d have just worn another outfit two days in a row – no big deal).
5. Shoes. Our son wore one pair of shoes (the Keens that I got for two bucks earlier this summer) and we packed a pair of sandals for him (these, found in brand new condition at a thrift store for a dollar) as we knew we’d be spending some time at a park with lots of water fountains.
6. Toys, books, and other entertainment. We never bring anything like this with us on trips. We have an iPod Touch and we’ve downloaded several free toddler apps to it. We took that along when we flew to visit my in-laws last spring, and it worked great as airplane entertainment. We took the iPod along for our weekend trip, and it came in handy when we were out to dinner and waiting for food. But most of the time, our son is really good at entertaining himself. I think this might have something to do us not having a TV. We encourage him to use his imagination a lot, and spend lots of time playing in the backyard. He had no problem with the four hour car trip each way, because he liked looking at all the scenery. And once we got to grandma and grandpa’s house, he entertained himself playing with pine cones and sticks in the backyard. It’s really never occurred to us to pack toys when we go anywhere.
So all we took along for our son this past weekend was the tiny umbrella stroller, a tote bag full of diapers, and a small back pack that held stuff like his clothes, jacket, pajamas, swim trunks and sun hat. The bag full of diapers was by far the biggest thing, but hopefully we won’t be needing those for too much longer. It’s definitely possible to travel light, even with a baby or toddler – you just have to think outside the Babies-R-Us box. Not only is is much more convenient to travel with very little stuff, but if you’re flying, it’s also less expensive now that airlines are charging so much extra for checked baggage.