Traveling Light With Babies and Kids: Physical Baggage

Photo credit: Stephanie Kuster, 2008

Welcome back God(dess)! I am so glad to see you reading the second installment of the Traveling Light series. If you missed the first post, wander here when you get a chance to soak up some nifty tips on reducing the emotional baggage of traveling with young children. Now let’s get physical!

For most of us, packing for a trip is one of those “rather-have-a-fork-in-the-eye” activities that we leave until the last minute.  However, once you add a kid or three into that mix, plus the new airlines baggage fees or a small trunk, the results can be frustrating, irritating, and downright disastrous. You pack too much “stuff,” you end up with armpit stains from lugging all the baggage through the airport, or you consider putting “Tetris Master” on your business card because of the rearranging you have done in the trunk of the car. Let’s lighten our loads! Less is more! You will love the view out the back window!

Physical Baggage: Load level down, joy level up

Is anyone really having fun when they are lugging 60 pounds of heavy objects? Nope. For you God(dess), traveling light is all about organization and knowing what you need before you need it. The first time that you really strategize for a trip, it will be a lot of extra work. However, I promise you that each time you travel it will get easier and easier because everything will already be set in motion. The results? You can grab your things and go because you already know what to pack. Now, you can really take advantage of last minute travel deals or (you may want to sit down for this one) be more spontaneous! I will tackle to how to efficiently pack for your children in the next installment, but for now God(dess), please devour these tips for reducing your physical baggage.

Tip 1: Follow the 75% rule

Luggage is a foul temptress. We humans LOVE to expand to fill the void. Don’t do it! Instead, follow the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule.” Once you pick out the piece of luggage you are going to use, don’t fill it more than 75% full. If you are traveling by car, do not fill the trunk over 75% of its capacity. If you need to carry your luggage (and kids) through the airport, don’t carry (or roll) over 75% of what is a comfortable weight. You get the idea. Everything needs breathing room, including you, God(dess).

The 75% Rule applies to clothing as well. Before a trip, place all the clothing that you want to take with you on your bed. Immediately remove 25% of it. This is hard. I still have trouble doing it, but in the end I have found that 9.9 times out of 10 I wouldn’t have worn the items anyways. Try it. You’ll like having less. Having extra room in your suitcase also means that you can fit in that gift Grandma gave to your sweet baby and that you don’t have to meticulously fold everything for the trip back home. An instant stress reducer!

Tip 2: Make a list

The week before you leave for your trip, start making a list of the things that you need to bring with you. As you pack, check off the items. I can’t tell you how many times my packing list has saved me and kept me from forgetting or adding un-needed items. Want to save paper? Make a list on email or phone.

Tip 3: Dress like Angelina Jolie

Red carpet appearances aside, the majority of Angelina’s wardrobe consists of black, grey, white, and tan. Her clothes are classy and, best of all, infinitely interchangeable. This is perfect for traveling light (and adhering to the 75% Rule)! I always use her style as inspiration for what goes into my suitcase. On several occasions I have considered making bracelets stamped with WWAP (What Would Angelina Pack) to help me along my way.

Stick to a neutral palette. Get yourself a fabulous but comfortable black dress or two. Dresses (especially cotton jersey) pack down nicely and are instant outfits for mommas on-the-go. I have a short and a long dress that I pack almost every time I travel. I can wear them every day (or night) with a different scarf and no one is the wiser. What else can’t I live without in my suitcase? A pair (yup, just one pair no matter how long the tip is going to be) of dark jeans, a black, drape-front cardigan, and a pair of nude ballet flats. Backcountry camping is a different story…perhaps we will tackle that subject another time.

Tip 4: Bring a fabulous scarf

The scarf is the one travel item that a momma cannot live without. Not only does a fabulous scarf pack a style punch with the Angelina-inspired packing job that you have accomplished (see Tip 3), but functionality abounds! A scarf can also serve as a nursing cover, a light blanket on a chilly plane, a pillow, a modesty cover for visiting places of worship, a glamorous headband for a bad hair day,  and (most importantly) allows for an epic game of peek-a-boo. The bonus is that scarves take up very little space. In fact, you can probably bring two!

Tip 5: Invest in miniatures

If you absolutely need to bring a hair straightener or hair dryer, invest in a travel sized device. The same goes for toiletries. Refill mini hotel shampoo and lotion bottles and the next time you visit the dentist, ask for toothpaste samples. S(he) will be more than happy to supply them for you! After your effort, make sure to organize your mini treasures in a nice, hanging toiletries case and always have them ready to go when the great, open road calls to you. Trust me, it makes a difference.

In two weeks we will continue the Traveling Light series by tackling Traveling Light with an Infant. The natural, breast-feeding, baby-wearing momma definitely has the advantage! Happy travels!

Stephanie’s favorite fabulous scarf was bought by her husband in 2009 during a late-night trip to a Berlin Department store. He picked it out of the 5 Euro bin. She has brought it on every trip since then.