I’ve never made it secret that I like to travel light. I go on trips to roam, explore and get away from the entanglements of everyday life, so it make no sense to me to haul half my house along when I travel. If I have to spend my trip wondering where I can stash my stuff or worrying about how to get my stuff from Point A to Point B every time I change locations then I’m not focusing on what really matters.
Now, traveling with kids has brought about some packing challenges. When you travel with babies and toddlers you need to bring a certain amount of gear with you. You also need your hands free in the airports and often it’s easier to travel with one large checked bag rather than several carry on sized bags, even if you’re bringing the same amount. Strollers and especially car seats are another huge challenge. But now that the kids are four and six, we’ve gone back to carry on only travel and we’re not looking back!
It hasn’t always been easy, though. New York was fine, even with the extra winter gear we needed since it was only a five day trip. Hawaii was also no problem since we packed for warm weather and had a washing machine in our condo. But this last trip was a real challenge.
First of all, I was packing for three different climates. We were starting with five nights in Edmonton, which can easily get to thirty degrees below zero in December. We then went to Miami for a five night cruise to the Bahamas requiring tropical gear followed by a week in Orlando which, despite being only a four hour drive from Miami is considerably cooler and can get close to freezing in January.
So basically we needed to pack for a Canadian winter, a beach holiday, a New Year’s cruise with two formal nights and a week in the theme parks where the weather could be anything from near freezing to scorching hot. And we needed to bring our own car seats. And we were participating in a gift exchange on the cruise that had me bringing 39 small gift bags that took up about half of one of our bags.
Here is how we did.
Not to shabby, eh? Now to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t include my “purse”, a MEC over the shoulder bag that I’ve been carrying on my trips for over 15 years or the suitcase of presents we checked in on the flight to Edmonton, then shipped home on Greyhound filled with new presents before we continued on to Miami, but that is the sum total of our luggage for a three week, three destination trip.
The two smaller bags in the front are our Trunki Boost-a-paks which we absolutely love. They replace the bulky booster seats for our two kids, are easy to carry and have just enough storage inside for their own personal items and a few toys. The two children’s suitcases are Christmas presents from their grandparents. They are Heys brand and seem to be pretty decent quality. I was able to fit the kids’ clothes into one half of each suitcase and use the other halves for our swimsuits and beach gear and our formal wear. The rest of our clothes fit into the two 40 litre packs along with toiletries and electronic gadgets.
It wasn’t easy, though. I had to use every trick in the books to get the bags in under the limit. For Edmonton, we brought our winter jackets since they were very lightweight, but I was able to borrow snow pants, mittens and boots from a relative in order to avoid packing those things. (We also were lucky in Edmonton since it was “only” ten or 15 degrees below freezing while we were there and not any colder!) I had also hoped to buy some sand toys for the kids in Miami before we left on the cruise, but I wasn’t able to find any near our hotel. Fortunately, the kids made do with empty drink cups and plastic spoons from the concession area on our one beach day.
I was able to do laundry in Edmonton while we were there with family and then I did another load on our last day on the ship, which got us through our last week. Now, I’ve heard some people say that they have no interest in doing laundry while on vacation since that’s what they leave home to avoid, but I’ve never had a problem with it. I do think that traveling with only three days of socks and undies and washing clothes in the hotel sink every few days is a bit extreme, but doing a load of laundry on the ship took up maybe 15 minutes of my time. Stick it in the machine in the laundry room down the hall. Come back an hour later and stick it in the dryer. Collect it when it’s dry and throw it back into the suitcases. Boom, you’re done. Way easier than carrying an extra week’s worth of clothes as far as I’m concerned.
Now traveling light is not without it’s challenges. I erred a little to far on the side of warm weather for Orlando. It was perfect weather for visiting theme parks most days with lows of about 10 degrees Celsius and highs in the low 20’s but that made it a bit too cold for shorts and T shirts. I ended up having to wash my daughter’s pants in the hotel sink since we’d only brought two pairs. On the other hand, when the temps dipped down to three degrees one night I was able to dig out our winter jackets from the bottom of the pack and we were cozy and warm watching the fireworks in the dark!
Overall, I feel that this trip was a bit of a test of our ability to travel light with kids If we could travel without checked luggage for this trip, we should be able to do it for just about any trip. Or at least until my daughter gets old enough to refuse to wear the same two pairs of pants for entire week straight!