by Michelle Duffy
Traveling light is a good thing. You have less to pack, less to carry, and it can help you avoid issues with lost baggage. But, this usually means you’ll have to make compromises in your dress and plan to wear the same items multiple times through the trip (hey, will anyone really notice if you wear the same pair of pants twice anyway?), hand-washing small garments such as undies, and perhaps even including a trip to a Laundromat on your vacation.
You might think it is difficult to travel light with young children. After all, you don’t just need clothing and toiletries; you need diapers, baby food, toys, safety equipment (such as a stroller and a car seat) and perhaps even a place for your baby to sleep!
But with a little information, planning and preparation, you’ll see that it’s actually pretty easy. First, remember that people have babies the world over and diapers, formula and baby food are available everywhere. Start by packing enough for your travel time and maybe the first day or so of your journey. Then, find a store when you arrive. Many moms worry about formula brands and ingredients being different when they’re away from home. For my children, I used a soy-based formula to avoid milk allergies and was able to find a similar product in health-food stores in the countries we visited. If you use a local product, doctors recommend introducing a new formula by mixing the new product with the familiar product over a few days–starting with mostly the familiar product and adjusting the ratio of the mix until you’re using 100% of the new product.
Single-grain cereal mixes are small and light enough to bring with you. Apart from these, I made my own baby food. I know this sounds a little like too much work, but it’s actually quite easy – especially when your child is at the single-varietal fruit or vegetable stage. I chose accommodation where I would at least have access to a stove top, a fridge and a fork. If you use a hand-crank food mill, you avoid having to worry about the exact composition of blended baby food mixes. Again, I know this may sound like too much work for a vacationing mom, so if you’d prefer to buy locally, I recommend looking for a natural or organic food store at your destination.
One note – the contaminated baby formula found in China in 2008 was, for me, yet another reason to visit developed countries while traveling with a child who is under two – there are so many places to visit, why invite danger?
A Must-Have Gear List For Parents Traveling With Young Children
1. An infant carrier such as a BabyBjorn. When both my children were infants, I used my Baby Bjorn at home, while out-and-about around town and while traveling. To say I was a fan of this product would be a gross understatement. The Ergo is a newer product which gets rave reviews from new moms I know in Seattle.
2. My husband and I like to hike and invested in a Kelty kid-carrier (good for toddlers up to 50lbs) when our older son was just a year old and used it for both our children. The outer frame makes this carrier bulkier than an Ergo but it also provides necessary support for all-day hikes and the standing frame can double as a high chair. Most carriers of this style include a zippered pocket which you can use as your diaper bag/daypack – handy for hiking and when traveling.
3. We usually opted to use our Kelty carrier instead of a stroller especially when traveling. That said, I did pick up a cheap, collapsible stroller for those times when I knew a stroller would be necessary. If you’re reading this before you’ve invested in a stroller, and you know you’ll be traveling with your child, opt for a Maclaren Triumph. You’ll have a sturdy, comfortable stroller for home use and one which folds easily for travel. If you’re just looking for something to use for travel a Kolcraft Umbrella Stroller worked perfectly for me for day trips, car trips and travels overseas.
4. A portable changing-mat such as the The First Years Deluxe Fold & Go. Preferrably one which folds into a pouch and is wipe-clean. Your local mall, grocery store or restaurant may have changing tables in the restrooms, but this is certainly not common everywhere especially outside the U.S.
5. The Saddle Style Waterproof Mattress protector is about the same size as a large towel and easy to pack at the top of a suitcase. It’s useful for protecting mattresses in rented accommodation from all the spills and accidents that are a natural part of traveling with children during the ages and stages from nursing infants to potty-training toddlers and beyond.
6. I’m a huge fan of co-sleeping. For most of our travels with my older son when he was an infant and toddler, he slept with us – or on a nest of pillows and blankets on the ground. With my younger son, we had a little extra money, so I invested in a Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard. This was perfect for trips to visit grandparents and also vacations when we knew we were going to stay in the same place for the duration. I’ve still got mine – even though my baby is now nearly nine. I’ve loaned it to friends for their new babies and used it when friends and family have come to visit us.
So there you have it: try traveling super-light just once, see if it works for you, your baby and your parenting style. If it does, you’ll be glad you tried – you’ll have so much less to pack the next time you travel.
Michelle Duffy is an IT professional who, after 10 years in the dotcom world, left Amazon.com to spend more time writing, traveling and being with her family.
With her natural passion for travel, she and her husband left Dublin, Ireland in 1995. After exploring much of the Western U.S., they settled in Seattle with their two boys. Parenthood did not preclude Michelle’s intent to wander far and wide. She has traveled extensively in the U.S., Europe, South and Central America with her family. Her children have so far: visited Machu Picchu, explored Mayan Mexico, enjoyed the view from the Acropolis and marveled at the kangaroos in South Australia – as well as visiting many other fun destinations worldwide. Michelle is currently planning 15-month round-the-world trip with her family.
Michelle is the WanderMom blogger and co-author of Wanderlust and Lipstick: Traveling with Kids. Follow her on Twitter @wandermom