Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Three humans two suitcases

Hey. So, this post has been sitting around in draft form for quite a while now, and I'm tired of it so I'm just going to put it out there.
It will not be interesting to many of you, but I feel like it might be worth recording some things about how it was that we travelled pretty light with a baby. We were in Europe for six weeks with two carry-on size wheelie bags, and two small backpacks (the little ones from MEC, I think every Canadian owns one at this point). So, three people, two suitcases, two backpacks. The check-in lady at the Air Canada counter told us it was "unheard of," and I figure she sees a lot of stuff. Given the amount of train/plane travel we did I can't imagine how hectic it would have been if we had brought more stuff. When we started planning our trip, I definitely didn't think this would be possible, but it was. I was kind of obsessive about reading other people's packing lists before we went, so here I go putting more of that kind of crap onto teh internets.
What did we bring? Here is our list.
The basics:
- Clothes for me. I won't bother with the details except to say that I used the travel fashion girl "classic" packing list, with a few tweaks (I'm not really a dress wearing gal, so I took an extra skirt and top). Since our trip started in the arctic, I also packed a few warm things that I was willing to ditch at the end of that part of the trip. In a feverish haze of packing I accidentally added two extra t-shirts, which weren't really essential but also didn't take up that much space.
- One set of running/yoga clothes, plus running shoes
- One travel yoga mat for both of us.
- Patrick's clothes. Sometimes I feel bad because men's clothes are just so much bigger.
- Clothes for Heiko. I roughly followed the minimalist mom's list. But to summarize: two long sleeve onesies, one long sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, one short sleeve onesie, two pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, two pairs of pajama pants, one pair of baby legs (rarely used), three pairs of socks (two would have done it, one cotton, one wool), one cotton hoodie and one wool blend hoodie. One super awesome k-way! Sun hat, cozy hat (didn't use), two pairs of shoes (turned out to be the wrong shoes, but we remedied that expensively in the Netherlands).The good thing about baby clothes is that they are really small and therefore easy to wash. I was a little worried about a massive barf-fest at any stage along the way, but happily we didn't experience such a thing.
As for other stuff, you know, all that stuff that babies need?
Here are the things that were essential:
- One receiving blanket, makes any bed a nicer place
- Sanitizing wipes (don't like these things on principle but they give me some peace of mind as a mama to epi-pen kid)
- Folding placemat - super helpful in restaurants with tablecloths
- Silicone bib: we used this at least three times a day to cut down on laundry/the crazy mess that is Heiko eating. It was helpful that it didn't need to dry out between uses, unlike any other bib he has ever used
- One sippy cup
- Epi pen, obviously
- Ergo carrier
- Travel stroller, ours is kind of giant as these things go, but it also reclines which is great for on the go napping.
- RAIN COVER for the stroller!!!! We were extremely close to leaving this at home, and I can't even begin to imagine how much it would have cramped our style not to have it. As a couple who met in rainy Vancouver, there are few things I like to do more than go for long walks in the rain with my sweetheart. And Heiko snoozing in his snug and dry stroller now just makes it that much sweeter. We did a lot of rainy walks in the Netherlands, and it turns out that we can fold the stroller up with the rain cover in the basket.
- Reusable snack bags
- Snacks! We traveled with a few packets of almond butter, raisins, rice cakes and a few other odds and ends.
- Toys and books: we brought a few small toys and three books. Of course we picked up more things along the way, plus everything is a toy, like it or not. This was maybe the most counter-intuitive thing to me at first, to be taking so little for Heiko. But he really needs so little, and we made toys and games out of everything.
- Diapers, enough for about 5 days. This actually turned out to be unnecessary, in that we could have taken fewer. But it was nice not to have to stress about getting those things right away.
Some additional stuff we found handy:
- Laundry supplies: soap, universal plug and clothesline
- Two sporks. What a dorky name, but these were essential rudimentary picnic supplies for cheese spreading and tomato cutting (hacking, really).
- A mini quick drying towel, which was useful for cleaning up after said picnics.
- A small canvas tote bag. This was pretty handy as a snack/heiko bag on our travel days. Sometimes I wished for a more structured "diaper bag", but I really believe those things are just organized black holes for too much crap. Plus this bag folded away to nothing when we were done with it.
- Those water bottles that are like plastic bags. Do you know what I'm talking about? They basically take up as much space as there is water in them, which is pretty great.

Things we brought but didn't use:
- Wool sleep sack. Since we were cosleeping it was always pretty warm, and we never used this. It took up a lot of space.
- Baby monitor. This actually would have been really useful, if it had worked on 220V. Unfortunately, not only did it not work, the higher voltage appears to have fried the monitor for good. Bummer.
- iPad aps. Before we left I downloaded a few aps for Heiko, fearing the worst on the long flights. But we never used them. I showed a few of them to him several times, but he wasn't really interested. He just wants to press the 'home' button, which is annoying. So I dropped it pretty quick, especially with the AAP recommendation of no screen time for the under two set. This, however, depends on the child, and I'm sure some people would find these aps extremely useful.

Things that would have been good:
- Some kind of highchair substitute. I think there are fabric thingies where you can essentially make any chair into a highchair by tying the child into the chair. This would have been handy, but possibly too bulky to realistically take.
We found other ways to lighten the load too. Being comfortable cosleeping was probably the most important thing, since it meant that Heiko didn't have much trouble adapting to new sleeping environments, and we didn't need to cart around a bed for him. We also really worked to minimize what we brought for ourselves. We both left our computers at home in favour of the ipad. My camera is compact. I brought only e-books on the iPad, which probably would be great if you really like to read but I'm not a big reader so it was fine. We downloaded maps on our phones.
It helped that we didn't need to look presentable at any time during the trip, so I didn't bother bringing particularly fancy clothes or shoes. It was also useful to get used to the idea of wearing the same clothes over and over again. I'm pretty ready to say farewell to these teal jeans, let me tell you.
Travelling light also meant that we didn't do too much shopping in our various destinations, since we knew our bags were already full. We did, however, pack a folding duffle bag which we deployed for the final return voyage, full of marzipan and stuff. It was nice though not to be thinking about souvineers until the end of the trip, since it would be easy for a lot of the trip to become a consumer quest of sorts if we had started collecting earlier.
The other thing that pro-packer weirdos always talk about is packing cubes. This was the first time I used them, and what can I say? I'm a believer. My clothes fit into one cube, Heiko's in another. Definitely meant that the suitcase was more manageable to rummage through, and I think they help squish everything down.
So that about sums it up. If you have read this far, what is wrong with you? For all you non-parents out there, let this be a warning and an incentive to double-check the birth control: this is the kind of crap your brain gets all filled up with when you have a baby. Eeeh.


  1. I read the whole thing. I am most impressed, especially that you included running shoes, which I find to take up so much room in a suitcase. Do you have magic small shoes?

    1. You are a mad woman (for reading the whole thing)! My feet are on the large end of average I would say. In fact, I purchased my current runners at 6 weeks postpartum, and they are ginormous! I guess my feet really did get bigger during pregnancy, and now they've shrivelled back to 8.5 or something. But they are Nike Frees, which do actually squish down with a couple of sturdy broccoli elastics :)