Packing Light With Small Kids

Here is a post that I wrote a while back, but it got buried in all the drafts that I didn't get around to publishing. I though it might be useful for someone, so here you go:

   When we backpacked to Turkey, our kids were 2 and 4. On the way we got into a conversation with some Americans and Aussies, who mentioned that traveling with kids is hard "because you need to carry all that stuff." This perplexed me and my husband a little, because this was all the baggage we had with us:

One of these is a carry-on.

  The personnel at the airport was also quite surprised that we had only one bag to check in. The big pack weighed only 10kg. Half of the smaller one was with food and water for the journey. Apart from this me and my husband had a messenger bag each. The kid stuff took up very little space, the bulkiest stuff was the electronics and the chargers / batteries. And the pretty stones my guy collects.

So what did we pack for the kids?

* Clothes:
    I packed 3 short-sleeved tops, 3 long-sleeved tops, 3 shorts and 3 long trousers for each kid. If we had planned to stay in one place we would have needed less, but being on the road constantly meant fewer laundry opportunities, and changes of climate. Each kid also had a jacket, 4 pairs of socks, 1 pair of sturdy shoes and one tiny towel. The small guy had a bib. The bib is very important if you don't wash a shirt after every meal. BTW I did laundry in the sink most days. I carefully choose the lightest clothes they owned (my fav are those lightweight cargo pants from HM)

* Sleeping bag
      For the small guy, who just cannot stay under the blanket.

* Toys:
     I had one zip-loc bag full of little toys and little books. No, the kids didn't miss their toys: they had plenty of excitement on the trip. I also believe in letting the kids get bored a little bit, so that they aren't distracted from their environment. Also, in case we needed more playthings it would have been easy to buy the most gorgeous handmade stuff for very cheap in every souvenir store. In a pinch I whip out my diary and make origami or draw airplanes for them while we wait for a meal or the bus.
In Turkey whenever the kids didn't want to walk, I'd tell them to look out for the cats. In Istanbul there are cats at literally every corner, so that worked pretty well.

Find the cat
* Food:
    I had one lunch-box where I usually had some small fruit, nuts, or leftovers. I tried to always have a couple of bananas or apples as an emergency snack.

*Diapers and Hygiene:
     I was half-way to toilet-training small guy before the trip, sigh. If only I had started a month earlier... anyway we tried to buy the smallest available packs of diapers. We don't use talcum because of the health concerns. In case of nappy rash (which so far never happened) I would have used one of the oils in my cosmetic case, so I didn't bring any cream. The kids shared our soap and shampoo.

* Baby Carrier:
     We are huge fans of the Ergo baby carrier. It is light, rolls up small, is comfortable for the carrying person, and most importantly it keeps the kid in a healthy position (with a curved spine and the legs in a frog position, not hanging down from the crotch with the legs straight down like in the Björn --- which by the way was declared unsuitable for use by a recent Öko Test because this position pushes the leg bone out of the hip socket with every step).

* Other stuff:
     Tooth brushes, passports, health insurance papers and vaccination cards.

    In my days of traveling with a baby I would also pack a burp cloth, a sippy cup or a Sigg bottle with the sport nozzles, two changing pads (the disposable kind, they can be reused) and probably a sling (I had a Diddymos) which also doubles as a nursing screen and a blanket. We didn't use formula, bottles or pacifiers, so we don't own the extra stuff involved.

Obviously we were lucky that none of our kids needs special medical equipment, it's obviously a completely different story if you need to haul necessary stuff like that on every trip.
Still, my experience taught me that small kids are more flexible than we give them credit for, and actually need very little material things. They do need lots of attention though. Also, a little boredom is good for them, as that's the space where the child starts being creative. Sometimes a child needs a small nudge -- asking them questions about the things around them or giving them small tasks can help them give attention to the world around them, and learn to enjoy museums sight-seeing trips and concerts.
And you probably can leave the kitchen sink at home.

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