In my lifetime, I’ve traveled to 28 countries in total. I have sashayed through international airports with my slick four-wheel-drive suitcase on a ten day beach getaway, and I’ve hauled ass in the back of a pick-up at night down unknown dirt roads with a dog and every possession to my name on my back.
I have done the whole living outside in a hammock thing and I’ve done the five star complaining about room service thing. Any type of travel you can think of – save for camel through the desert (which is on the list) – I have done it. After all this, I consider myself somewhat of a packing expert, and here’s my top 9 tips for moms on the road.
1. Choose a small bag or backpack. If you buy a 70L backpack, you will take 70L with you – same goes for those massive all-wheel bags (my mother loves these). Know that you will be lifting that, sometimes with a kid in your arms, sometimes while breastfeeding that kid – so take the smallest bag possible and avoid throwing out your back on vacation.
2. Start mentally packing the week before. I recently took my first 7 week trip with a three month old and I was mentally packing 2 weeks before, putting things aside, thinking of ways to condense, questioning every soap bottle and baby wipe. The more you make lists, and mentally pack, the less likely you will stupidly take a second bag ’cause of all the useless last minute stuff you thought you would need.
3. Lay it all out. I take all the things I am going to pack and I put them on my bed first so I can see it all, then I start taking away. If you just start putting things in a bag, you will end up with those shorts you only wore one time but have held on to because they were expensive and you might get to wear them at a fancy beach restaurant. If they collect dust at home, you ain’t gonna wear them on vacation either. Laying them out allows you to take away unnecessary items up front and you can try to co-ordinate all your pieces. You do not need more than three tank tops for seven weeks if each of them works with all the bottoms you brought. Laying it out lets you see the big picture.
4. Condense. Question every damn package you have. Do you really need that half-full plastic bottle of vitamins? That’s what ziplocks were invented for. I usually travel with a big ziplock filled with smaller ones that have what I consider essentials: prenatal vitamins, tempra, raw cacao, organic cinnamon and Genmaicha tea. This is my crazy, you sort out your own. Invest in stuff sacks and compression bags from MEC – and when I say “invest”, I mean spend $30 and get at least two compression bags and a stuff sack. Compression bags take the air our of your clothes. I used one for mine and one for Luna’s to condense sweatshirts and leggings and this nice bathrobe I like to travel with. A stuff sack is nice for the small things like bathing suits and bras etc.
5. Diapers. This is the smart packers personal little FU. If you use regular diapers, you’re set. Bring the minimum and buy as you go. If you are like me and only use Honest Brand diapers and re-usables, you have to get crafty. I take a pack with me and try to have others brought or sent as I go. I also take 2 reusable shells with 5 diapers. Luna and I were only staying in each place for a week so I reused as much as possible, hand washing a couple a night then had them all laundered the day before we left so I would have fresh diapers at the next location. Moral: you don’t need 20 days of diapers for a 20 day trip; you only need two days worth cause access to diapers is as universal as condoms and smokes.
6. Accidental over-packing. So you are going on a month-long trip and you accidentally over-packed. That’s okay. The second you realize it (usually about 48 hours into your trip), take out all the items you don’t need and post them back to yourself by the slowest most local method. Same goes for gifts. Do NOT lug anything you don’t need to lug with children. They are lugging enough on their own. Every town has a post office, ship home everything you can.
7. Double Duty. Anywhere you can, make your “things” work overtime. For instance, I make my own shampoo which is also body wash and safe for babies. 3 in 1. Also a sarong is a skirt, bathing suit cover, towel, baby tent and grocery bag. I also travel with a small reusable fold up bag in case I need to run to the supermarket for diapers, of course.
8. Forget about toys, toothpaste, water toys, towels, bathing suits and anything else you can buy there. If you are going to Cancun for a week, why are you trekking down with tooth paste and water toys? Walmart was actually invented for this exact purpose and they are everywhere you will ever go with a kid and if there isn’t one there it’s because you are not meant to have a pool noodle in that place anyway. Buy things on the other side. If you are worried about waste, find a local place to donate these items at the end of your trip.
9. My all time pro tip: DO NOT CARRY ON. Everyone is always trying to carry on so they skip the baggage line up. Just put your bag under and take the smallest little bag on the plane with you. Planes are not for squishing your feet around a big beach bag and a heavy AF wheely bag you couldn’t possibly lift into an over head bin to save your life. Enjoy the ride with your kids and worry about a fifteen minute wait for baggage later. This is the all-time number 1 rookie mistake I see most. Solo travelers on business take a carry on, people with kids are carrying on children. Leave the rest to a baggage handler with a back brace. That’s his actual job, yours is to get everyone to your final destination as happily and as comfortably as humanly possible.
Happy trails mamas.
Featured Image: 2016 Louis Vuitton Campaign, Shot by Patrick Demarchelier