Friday, June 26, 2009

Travelling light with kids - is it an impossible dream?

I waited a long time to get married. My friends used to joke that I skipped the starter husband and went straight to the boy toy (my hubbie is 6 years younger than me). So I had a lot of years where I could travel at my leisure and pack whatever I wanted.

When I was a kid and travelling with my figure skating team, we had a rule. You pack it. You carry it. So once I had my skates and dresses packed there wasn't much room left for much else. I carried this thinking to my business travel, I could pack all my needs for a week of meetings on the road into one carry-on bag (plus the lap top bag of course). I was usually the only girl on the road and who wants to make all the guys wait for my baggage.

But I was never very good at packing light for personal. And while I did pack just one suitcase for 3 weeks in Greece with Mirella and Sarah, it was a large suitcase and it isn't like you have to plan for difference types of weather in Greece. Bathing suit - check. Towel - check. Sundress - check. Sandals - check. Good to go.... pretty much. So how I crammed that large suitcase I'll never know.

My husband is also not a great light packer. His issue isn't shoes, sweaters and such. His issue is electronics, camping equipment, cooking stuff and his J.R.R. Tolkien books (which he never reads).

So you can only imagine how much fun it is now travelling with a little man along. And little people need a lot of stuff. We went to Germany for 3 weeks last year, when our little man was about 8 months, and boy did we have a lot of stuff. We ended up leaving one bag with some friends for part of our trip. We were almost comical on the train with 2 large rolling suitcases, car seat, duffel bag, day pack and then the baby.

Funnily enough our problem wasn't all the necessary baby gear, but clothes and bits and bobs we thought we might need. We tried to pack a week's worth of clothes and to do laundry as needed. The last time we had travelled with the baby he was 3 months and had pooped through a sleeper a day - a result of a skinny butt baby and disposable diapers. Since we were going to use disposables on this trip we figured we had better be prepared and took about 9 sleepers.

Where we did 'win' was in the baby gear department. We found some great stuff that really helped minimize the heavy lifting.

Stroller free

We didn't take a stroller. With the exception of a few days in Chemnitz where friends loaned us a stroller (was actually a bigger pain than a help, but we felt obligated to use it), we used our Ergo carrier everywhere.

We had asked for an MEC hard carrier for Christmas. But we realized that it was too bulky for a long trip like this. And we were finding our backs were getting sore carrying the little man in the baby Bjorn for longer walking trips. The Ergo was recommended because the little man could sit in the front or on our backs. We found a great used one on craigslist and absolutely LOVED it.

He was happy to be carried on either the front in more crowded places like the metro. And on our backs for touring around. He could look around at everything. He could nap. And he generally felt very safe and secure next to Mom or Dad in all these strange and wonderful places.

There are a couple of downsides to using a carrier vs a stroller. The first is the shared body heat. Germany had a warm spring last year and there were days that both the little man and myself were soaking in sweat. The 2nd is you have to carry the rest of your stuff. There is no little basket underneath the Ergo to store your stuff for the day. Either you have to attach it to the Ergo (they sell a couple of accessories for this) OR your partner has to wear the stuff.

  • Interesting observation. The strollers in Germany are like big Cadillacs. Lots of features, big baskets, bassinets, etc. Was funny for us to see these huge strollers everywhere. There were a few other folks with carriers. But the trend is certainly is bigger is better over there right now.

Sleeping Light

We knew we'd have a crib in Chemnitz and again in our rental apartment in Berlin. But we didn't know about any place else. So we did a lot of research on portable cribs before we left. In the end we picked the KidCo Pea Pod It was fantastic for travelling: packs small, easy set up, baby secure but still accessible. Plus he wouldn't outgrow it in a few months. The little man started using this about a month before we left - for weekend at Grandpa's house, sleeping at friends when we went over for dinner, camping, etc. He loved it. And actually slept better in his little tent than he did in the borrowed cribs on our trip. He felt he was in a place he knew when he woke up in the tent.

We recently upgraded to the Pea Pod Plus The little guy is almost 2 and was getting too big for the regular version. He can now sit up and play when he wakes up. The only downside is that he can open the zipper on the Plus. This will be great when he gets a bit older. But his escape act while camping on the weekend was NOT welcome. So we have figured out a way to 'lock' the zipper for now. If you think this will be useful for travelling when your child is a toddler then I'd skip the regular version and go straight to the Plus size.

Sitting Pretty

Our little man was just starting to really enjoy real food when we left on our trip. We didn't want to have to hold him at every meal, so we looked for a different solution. We found a small cloth seat called a Tot Seat The only downside was most of the seats at those lovely German outdoor cafes are barrel type. So we had to hold him there. But it worked well at our friends' homes for breakfast and dinner.

Unfortunately this seat doesn't work well much beyond 1 year. Our little man can still fit in it and is usually willing to sit in it. But he likes to feed himself now. And this seat doesn't bring him up high enough to do that. So we now carry around a little portable baby chair. Thankfully he is getting big enough to kneel up on chairs to eat at the table once in a while. So we might be able to go without on trips in future.


We just returned from a camping trip. And while our car was JAMMED full of stuff, it doesn't feel like we were grossly over packed. As I get more practice at this parenting thing I feel more confident that I can being to apply my 'business' packing theories to my personal world. Fingers crossed anyways.

I would love to get to a place where we can pack with carry on luggage like Earnest Girl at Yummymummyclub But I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Keep up or get out of the way

I moved my cloth diaper (CD) thoughts to a separate blog a few months ago. In part because I thought that not all my regular readers may be interested in CD, nor the inevitable discussion around poop.

But today I wrote about the increased competition in the diaper service game. And some of my marketing readers might find this interesting. If yes, check it out here