As we head to my mother-in-law’s house on this rainy Christmas Eve, I cannot help but look in the rearview mirror and sigh at the pile of luggage, stuff, presents and paraphernalia we are hauling with us for just a long weekend.
The sad truth is that no matter the length of time we usually plan on being gone, the amount of stuff we need to pack for two kids under the age of two is insane. And it grows exponentially if we plan to be at a place that does not have a washer (and dryer, God willing).
If you don’t have kids it might sound really foreign. Yes, we both loved to pack last minute (my Mom could testify of my many, many nights before leaving—even if I had to leave for 6 months—crazy packing, sleeping only a couple of hours and then waking up just in time to drive to the airport. A sort of traveling ritual for me). Especially if leaving for a weekend, we would just bring a small duffle bag for the two of us with a couple of t-shirts and some underwear. That was it. We could have probably used the vast empty space of our teeny tiny Hyundai to transport a full-sized kangaroo. That time, although only two years ago, seems long gone.
Now if we are able to see through the back window of our car we call it a win. And we need to always take the bigger car. Don’t get me wrong. I would not change it for the world. I love my babies and I would do anything for them, but their needs do clash against my last minute packing style and it used to stress me out. A lot. I have been doing it though for a while now and I have come up with my own personal system. It might work for you too; no guarantees though. If you are interested, please keep reading and maybe you can come up with your own twist.
Oliver is 16 month old and Margot is 3 months old. They are both at a stage in their development where for different and (un)forseen reasons they get dirty. A lot. As I write, less than 30 minutes into our trip O. has poured water from his water cup onto the car seat buckle—and himself of course—and is now trying to retrieve the water with his index finger and licking it).
Although it will increase the number of bags you are going to carry, I think that packing for small kids involves a lot of “separation” to get easy access to what you need anywhere you might need it.
I usually pack a bag for clothes (a small one for each kid), one for bedding (two kids’ combined), and one for “kitchen supplies.”
- Clothing bag(s):
My rule of thumb for a weekend worth of traveling when it comes to outfits (and pajamas) is one for each day you plan on being gone plus two emergency ones. If I am at a place with easy access to laundry I only take one for emergencies (I always carry no matter what an additional spare one in the diaper bag). I include burp cloths as well, since Margot is still breastfed (the same would work for a bottle fed baby). I make sure that pajamas are packed on the very top since that is usually what we immediately need to retrieve at destination.
In the clothing bag I also make sure to pack a thermometer and Tylenol, since having to run to the store in unfamiliar places is the last thing you need when you have a sick baby. As Oliver keeps falling and hurting himself I now carry also some gauze and antibiotic ointment).
- Bedding bag:
Sheets, blanket(s), sleepsack(s), radios and sleeping toys for Oliver and three small books. Usually we bring one in English, one in Italian and his Bible which we all like to read cover to cover every night. We are usually able to fit enough diapers for the amount of our trip as well. We usually do not pack toys as we are either someplace where they are accessible or we do not really need any, since Oliver is easily entertained by common objects.
- Kitchen supplies bag:
Bottles, spare pacifiers, manual breast pump, a small container with back up formula (tested) for emergencies, vinyl bib and a sterilizer bag which works really well, especially in the USA where microwave ovens are available most times and this makes the load to carry much smaller.
- Other essentials:
Pack ‘n plays for the kids to sleep in if we know we are not going to a place that supplies them, a bouncy seat (although we never took one with us when Oliver was small, we now take one with us at all times with Margot because sometimes that is the only place she will sleep).
We are not big on strollers but during winter if we have to do lots of walking around, we usually pack one (when Margot was born we were gifted a wonderful light weight double stroller). Even if the kids are not in it, it makes for a great coat and bag hauler!
What we cannot leave at home though are our baby carriers. I prefer wraps, either stretchy or woven, while Scott is a fan of the Ergobaby carrier. They have saved the day more than once, even if all we did was stay at someone’s place. And they come in handy particularly when at museums and sightseeing in general, especially when the weather is nice, but we have also tested them a lot during winter. Most of all, I could have never made it on an intercontinental trip with a 9 week old all by myself without my carrier. (Coming soon: Air Traveling vs. Car Traveling with an Infant).
As I mentioned at the beginning this is what has worked for us so far.
I am looking forward to hearing what your system looks like and how it works for you in the comments below.