Monday, October 6, 2008

Travelling light with kids

I am obsessed with travelling light. Specifically, I want to take my family of five on a trip bringing only carry-on luggage. Not just any trip, though. We're talking a week at a theme park resort with three small kids. That will be our next big vacation and it's a little over a year away, the kids will be 5, 3, and 1.5. Call me crazy.

My husband and I both love logistical challenges, so packing for family vacations is a bit of a thrill for us. We like to see if we can do better than the previous trip and we break it down on the flight home to make notes for next time. After our last vacation I started my carry-on obsession and I think if anyone can do it we can. It may be hard to get the baby to wear a backpack with all her stuff in it, but I think the other two will love it.

Research so far has led me to Babies Travel Lite, a service that allows you to order all your baby supplies and gear online and have it delivered to your destination. A truly brilliant creation! They have everything you could want and even cater to special requests. You can also arrange to use the box your order comes in to ship things home and possibly travel even lighter on your return. I love the idea of getting diapers, wipes, and baby food delivered because they will be used up during the trip. Items that I already have at home like pacifiers, spoons, and strollers I would probably not buy. What am I going to do with it when I get home? If you are visiting family or friends who don't have children in the home this could work out great. Check with them first and see if they will store it for you until the next time you visit. I would offer to let them share your baby gear with any of their other house guests when you aren't there, too.

Another option is to check for local baby gear rental companies in your destination city. You can rent big items such as strollers, cribs, high chairs, and car seats.

Not everyone is a frugal do-it-yourselfer like I am, but I plan on checking with my hotel to see if I can ship a box of baby stuff I already own to arrive the day before we do. I will put in a roll of tape and a return shipping label also so that we can buy way too many souvenirs and not worry about carrying it all on! I will only ship diapers and wipes there so I don't feel like I'm cheating on my carry-ons only goal, but the souvenirs are a must.

Here are a few other things I've done in the past to cut down on luggage:
  • Bring only one blankie/lovey plus one toy per child
  • Do laundry at your destination (it is actually nice at the end of the day to leave the kids in the room with dad and take a magazine to the laundry room!)
  • Let the baby sleep in the stroller- this is not as bad as it sounds. She was two months old and the stroller opened flat and was completely enclosed like a tiny bassinet. Our 21 month old son used the hotel's crib and we didn't have to bring one at all.

A final thought on packing light for children: You do not need to bring a travel size of every possible product you may need. Just bring enough to hold you over in a pinch- a couple band-aids, one pacifier if you have a baby who uses one, pain reliever only if you have a teether (definitely bring some for yourself, though!), diaper rash cream only if your baby is prone to rashes, you get the idea. The cost and space of bringing everything you could possibly need is likely greater than the cost of buying the one thing you really do end up needing. If you don't use something regularly at home there's a good chance you can make it through your trip without it.

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