Daily Reads


Packing for Europe

boarding for Italy / catching a train in Milan / almost back home to Texas

When I was a little girl, before every family camping trip my dad would pull out a packing checklist he'd made - stakes, mallet, plastic bags, matches, propane, flashlights, batteries, etc. - and carefully make sure we packed everything we needed. At the time I thought his meticulous checklist was silly - "Is it really the end of the world if we forget something?" But then I had kids. And I still wanted to travel. And I learned that a beloved blankie, or a much-needed plastic bag can make all the difference when you're far from home. So I have put together my own traveling list, and if I do say so myself, it makes traveling with the family 1000% better. With good preparation I don't feel as anxious and I have a much better shot at enjoying myself. (You totally knew what you were doing, Dad!) A couple of friends have asked about how we packed for the trip, so I thought I'd share some of my list here.

The first thing I did was pack a carry-on bag. My rule of thumb, when packing a carry-on, is to imagine the worst case scenario and pack accordingly. I imagine the airline loses our checked bags, we all come down with sickness during the 9 hour flight, there are multiple diaper blow-outs, the food on the plane is inedible, and everyone needs a change of clothes. This might sound excessive, but it covers the bases and it works! And even after the flight, this bag continues to function as command central - whenever we went on a day trip this bag came along. We changed locations multiple times during our trip and we didn't lose anything because everything important had a specific place in the carry-on bag! And it all fits in one backpack. Here's what I packed:

- one change of clothing for everyone, rolled up tightly in the bottom of the bag
- ziploc "first-aid kit" (tylenol, pepto, teething tablets, bandaids, any prescription meds, retainers, etc.)
- ziploc "snack kit" (nuts, raisins, apples, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, etc.)
- "diaper kit" (changing pad, diapers, wipes, and plastic bags)
- "electronics kit" (chargers for phones, iPad, and camera, adapters if traveling abroad)
- water bottles for the boys
- a light layer for everybody (jackets for boys, sweater and scarf for me)
- several extra plastic bags because they're small, light, and they really save the day when you need one
- travel packs of lysol wipes and hand wipes

the boy knows how to relax on a flight / playing on the people-mover / watching the sun rise over Europe

We also brought Michael's small backpack. This enabled him to carry part of the load (sometimes), but even more importantly, he had a consistent place to keep his books, toys and found treasures on the trip so nothing got lost. I packed small toys and activities that I knew would inspire play in any setting. Here's what we brought for Michael:

- a dry-erase activity book and marker
- a small, flat tin full of letter and picture magnets
- several new small books (from the dollar bin at Target)
- his favorite "adventure gear" that also happens to be small (compass, binoculars, laser)
- crayons, stickers, a couple of activity packs from the dollar bin
- a couple of his favorite cars
- Ralph and his motorcycle
- a small matching game
- his two small blankets that he likes to sleep with
- the iPad (loaded with favorite movies and games)
- headphones
- along the way we also added an Italy cap, a slingshot, some rocks, and gladiator gear

Finally, I carried my purse (wallet, keys, passports, sunglasses, iPhone, camera) and pushed a single stroller with the Ergo stashed in the basket underneath. Most of the time Sam rode in the stroller and Michael walked, but when Michael got tired he would ride in the stroller and we put Sam in the Ergo. We also kept a hook on the stroller so we could hang bags from it whenever possible. This was a really good balance for us. We had everything we needed and it was manageable getting around in airports, train stations, and even walking through cities.

We checked two medium-sized suitcases and a travel crib (which can be worn as a backpack). Looking back, I think we probably could have packed a little less clothing (and put everything in one very large suitcase) but we expected cold, wet autumn weather and we ended up having warm temps instead. So, we were prepared, but in the end we didn't need some of the things we brought. My packing goals were pretty simple: I packed one week's worth of clothes for each of us (plus a little extra for the boys), planned to re-wear clothes when needed, and wash clothes when possible. I tried to make sure everyone looked nice while still being comfortable, everything was layerable, and I tried to keep most of our clothes within the same color palette (because you never know when you'll get the perfect framer of a picture!) All of this took some thought and careful planning, but it was really worth it! I won't go into detail here, since this will vary so much by season, but here is a perfect (and realistic) example of a travel capsule wardrobe. I followed this almost exactly and it was just right.

Tim and Tiny Tim / making our way through Zurich airport / Sammy in his "highchair"

Finally, a few quick words about baby gear. We brought as little as we possibly could, and I'm so glad! As I mentioned above, we brought our favorite stroller and kept the Ergo stashed in the basket underneath. We debated a lot over what type of stroller to bring, and I'm so glad we settled on this one - it's old but it has never failed us! Sam spent a lot of time riding (and occasionally napping) in it, and it served as his high-chair during most of the trip, and a few times as a changing table on the go. I worried that it might be too big or bulky in tiny European streets, but it was fine and it handled cobblestones much better than an umbrella stroller would have! The only other equipment we brought was the travel crib and, again, we debated this one quite a bit. And, again, I'm so glad we brought it! Sam struggled with sleep on this trip, so I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for him to sleep in strange/uncomfortable beds along the way. It gave me huge peace of mind knowing he would have his own familiar, clean bed wherever we went. The iPad functioned as white noise and/or night light when needed. We brought about a week's worth of diapers and wipes, and when those ran out we just bought more. And that's about it!

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