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.

Traveling light: Goddesses and Gods First, Part 1

photo credit: Jennifer Griffes 2012

Spring has sprung! There is nothing like opening the door to have a whiff of Spring blast you in the face. The world feels lighter. We block off weekends for spring cleaning. We crave salads over comforting mashed potatoes.

With the flowers blooming, animals scampering, and birds building nests, it awakens something within us that whispers “it’s time to get out of the house.” What better time to travel with baby on that road trip to Grandma’s house? How about cashing in on one of those Groupon Getaway deals to take the family to Niagra Falls or to tour the castles of Ireland?  Can you feel the wind whipping through your hair? Yes!

Needle off the record. Whether you are flying or driving, we have all stood in front of the massive pile of “stuff” that we are supposed to fit into a space that is physically impossible to fit into, let alone carry through a busy airport. Stress levels rise. There may be some bickering. Traveling with a child(ren) isn’t nearly as spontaneous and carefree as it was when we were all single or married without children. It can be totally overwhelming.

Traveling light is empowering! When I had my daughter, I never thought I would travel again…at least not in the way that I used to (wind through my hair as I sashay on the plane with a small carry-on bag after scoring a cheap flight the night before). But we do!

Join me in this several part series exploring travel and adventure with your infant or toddler.  With a bit of adjustment, we can reduce emotional and physical baggage to have you all traveling like Other Baby Book Goddesses and Gods in no time.

Emotional Baggage: Stress level down, joy level up.

We begin with you. Yes, you, travel God(dess).  Hopefully, you have all read Kate’s post “The New Myth of the Stay-at-Home Mom.”  If not, please wander here when you have a chance. The long and short of it all is that sometimes you must put yourself first. Dirty dishes, laundry, and packing for your child be damned.  If you are planning a family adventure (and I mean adventure in the loosest of terms…even a trip to Grandma’s house counts), this is a great time to follow such sound advice and take some time for yourself to strategize.

You are your child’s rock, base, and who he looks to as a first indicator of whether or not a situation is fun and comfortable. Whether your child is 3 weeks or 30 years old, he will always know when you are stressed. Traveling can cause a lot of emotional stress! Just a little bit of careful planning can reduce travel stress, and your family will love you for it. Through my travels with our daughter, I have discovered that four things can make or break my emotional traveling state. If you do nothing else for your next trip, please try these tips.

Tip 1: Bring your own blankie.

You take so much care in making sure that your child has their favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or lovey. While traveling, you should do the same for yourself! We are not just talking about blankets here. We are talking about something portable that can give you extra enjoyment when you need it most. We all identify certain items that bring us into our comfort zone, be it an awesome book you are reading, a favorite raw food snack bar that you tuck into your carry-on bag, meditation beads, or your favorite music. It can be anything just as long as you know that during a stressful time you can whip that puppy out and feel your joy level shoot up to the sky. I love packing special “momma only” snacks that I don’t get to have that often. It is instant pleasure.

Tip 2: Make sure you have designated God(dess) space.

If you are staying at a hotel during your travels, try to book at a place that you can get a suite or a room with an outside space (balcony or patio). This will alleviate any “feeling trapped by sleeping baby” feelings. My husband and I discovered this on a recent trip to California when we were upgraded to a room with a balcony. Completely fabulous!  Don’t forget the baby monitor!

Tip 3: Have a special place for special documents.

Up your efficiency and lower stress by having everything you need (especially at the airport) when you need it. This includes birth certificates, confirmation numbers, driver licenses, etc. You will never have to frantically dig through bags while keeping an eye on the little one (or endure the deep thigh squat if you are wearing him), hold up lines, or waste time you could be spending gliding through security and getting a bite to eat instead.  We have a dedicated gallon-sized Ziplock bag for this purpose when flying (and then we separate important documents after check-in).

Tip 4: Set aside special time to pack for yourself.

Just do it! The first time we flew with our daughter I had everything ready to go…everything except anything packed for me. The clock blinked 2am. We had a cab coming at 6am to take us to the airport. I wept.  Now, I pack myself before I pack our daughter. A God(dess) who feels organized (and  has the right pair of shoes and, ahem, remembers underwear) is a happy God(dess). You can make this happen in any number of ways…during naptime, in the evening after bedtime, having your partner take the kid(s) for a bit, or hire a babysitter for a few hours. Just make sure that it happens!

Join us in two weeks for the second installation of our Traveling Light series, Gods and Goddesses First, Part 2: Physical Baggage. Once you ditch the “stuff,” traveling is a breeze! Let’s use Spring as an inspiration and lighten our traveling loads! Happy travels!

Stephanie’s greatest packing achievement was for a 2.5 month journey to Kenya and Tanzania which included a geological field season, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, a safari in the Masai Mara, and a snorkeling excursion in the Indian Ocean. She fit everything into a single backpack. She never wore any of those clothes ever again.



Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!