Low-Stress Travel

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

The prime time for travel is upon us, friends!  I’d like to share with you some suggestions that help our family.  (Check back tomorrow to learn how to help your unaccompanied children fly worry-free.)

One summer, when my kids were 3 and 6, our family traveled and worked in about 12 different countries over the course of a few weeks.  Needless to say, it was a good opportunity to learn what does (and doesn’t) work well when traveling light.

  • Be willing to go without.  Improvisation is a clever idea!  One of my favorite photos of my daughter was taken on the cool and breezy coast in Ireland.  We’d been in hot Spain just the day before and due to the drastic drop in temperature we experienced, our only choice was to have her wear socks with her sandals, wear jeans under a pink knit dress, and throw on a red hoodie to top the ensemble off.  The joy in her photographed face reveals she doesn’t care that she’s the most mismatched child on that  seaside playground.  While we’re not generally so unprepared, I love that the photo captures her beaming face caring only about what mattered at the time.  And I’m glad I didn’t lug around extra baggage to accommodate one cold day.
  • My son takes medication daily, and I’m grateful the NHS of England allowed us to get enough refills for our travels so he’d not go without in case we were in another country at the time.  In the US, you can ask your pharmacist to request additional refills for your should you plan to be out of town an extended period of time.  Keep an extra written prescription in your bag from a family doctor in case medication is misplaced while traveling out of the country.
  • I used mild shampoo to wash out clothing in bathrooms, drying it via a suction cup travel drying line I bought in the airport.  Each of us had one small euro sized case.  They were light weight, a carry-on size, and allowed room for the kids’ favorite blankets and stuffed animals, a plastic bag for dirty clothes, 3 pairs of pants and 4 shirts. I kept more underwear than anything for the kids as they wore easily and we didn’t always have the opportunity to do laundry every third or fourth day as needed.  We didn’t have a Kindle back then so taking a small selection of books for bedtime stories was necessary.
  • The children had a handheld gaming device to share as well as travel coloring books for entertainment.  It’s important to note that some children are happy to sit and read while others want to be on the move.  Chris and I took turns walking our “mover” about the airplane or train when needed and did our best to encourage both of our children to catch the scenery passing by in car or rail.  No game could replace the experience my children had seeing the roadside sign in France headed to a village where their great-grandfather served in WWII.  No book could surpass staring out the window from a fold out cot on an overnight train, watching the morning sun rise on the landscape of Slovakia.
  • Using small toiletries is helpful when you travel, but I discovered that having a bunch of small bottles is a hassle.  We carried a small deodorant, toothbrushes, travel shampoo/conditioner bottle to use in hotels where toiletries were not provided (which is common outside the US), and I had a small travel hairdryer, brush, and hairspray.  It was easier to replace the travel size items as they were used than to carry several of them at a time.
  • When Chris and I travel within the US for our jobs, we like to implement the travel knowledge we gained to make for stress-free trips.  For any trip 4 days or shorter we take only a backpack (see details on this here), adding a laptop bag if needed.  In the backpack we usually have 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts and necessities only.  Taking 1 pair of shoes is ideal, but if a second pair is needed make them flip-flops or flexible flats (women) that take up little space.  Flying this way keeps you from having to check in at a ticket counter and makes for a swift pass through airport security.  You’ll also avoid waiting at the baggage carousel when you arrive at your destination.

What do you do in an effort to travel light with kids?


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