By the end of this trip, Isla will have spent 8 of her 21 months of life overseas, and as she’s grown up, it’s been interesting to see how our traveling habits and attitudes have developed. A lot of people ask me about travelling with Isla, and what our biggest tips are, so I thought I’d knuckle down and share with you my thoughts on travelling with Isla. We are by no means experts, and are always tweaking and changing the way we do things, but I wanted to share how we are approaching things at this stage in life!
So it’s not too long, I’ll be dividing this into three posts: one on what to pack, tips for flying/travelling, and tips for when you are at your destination.
What to pack
It can feel pretty overwhelming needing to pack for yourself, your partner and your child(ren)! The biggest suggestion I can give you is to pack lightly. When push comes to shove, it’s surprising how little you need to survive, and how many things you can live without, while still feeling comfortable. We left for Paris with one suitcase, a travel cot, pram, a nappy bag, and two small backpacks. This still felt a little excessive, especially as we were travelling with a large travel cot.
Think carefully about what you’re going to pack everything into. In the past we’ve done backpacks (both small, and larger hiking packs), 2-wheeled carry on suitcases, and this time, one 4-wheeled suitcase. We’ve loved having a 4-wheeled suitcase this trip because it’s so easy to manoeuvre, and as it’s only the three of us, having the one suitcase between us is easily manageable. As our family expands, we may decide to do things differently, but this has suited us really well thus far.
To help with packing lightly, plan on staying somewhere where there is a washing machine available, or at least a laundromat nearby. This will mean you can pack less outfits – you’ll be surprised by how little you need to get by. We also did a lot of hand washing when we were on the go last year, or didn’t have washing facilities. We’d just make sure we had laundry detergent on hand (or hand soap if we were in a pinch) and washed clothes in the sink.
Invest in travel friendly baby products. The best things we’ve bought for ourselves have been our Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller, which folds in one piece (small enough to use as a carry on, which means no stresses about the airline losing or damaging your pram!). It’s light and still super durable, unlike other lightweight umbrella strollers. We’ve also seen a lot of BabyZen YoYo prams while we’ve been in Paris, that fold up like the Mountain Buggy, though they are a little pricier. Check out Household Mag’s review of using their BabyZen YoYo while travelling.
We also bought a Mountain Buggy travel highchair, which folds up to a tiny size, perfect for fitting in your pram basket for on the go, or clipping onto the dining table at home. This has been so good for us, especially as Isla gets really distracted while eating, and eats best when she’s sitting in the one place.
Get a baby carrier. Ours proved invaluable for the Camino de Santiago hike we did in Spain last year, and was also great prior to Isla being able to walk. We’ve only used ours a couple of times this trip, when we’ve gone on a bike ride, and Isla has been carried on Dave’s back. We have the Ergobaby Performance, but for our next baby, we’d love to try the Ergobaby360 as it faces forwards, which is something we missed with Isla when she was young. I’d love to hear people’s recommendations if they’ve used it! UPDATE We have since got the Ergobaby Omni360 and it has well exceeded our expectations. I’d highly recommend it to everyone, especially as no newborn insert is needed!
If you’re travelling to more than one place, I’d highly recommend bringing along a cot for ease of mind. We stay in a lot of Airbnbs, and the majority of places haven’t had cots available. When we travelled for a few months last year, and were constantly changing our accommodation, it was so good to be able to have one with us wherever we went. We got ourselves a Phil & Ted’s Traveller, which is light and compact (exactly what we’re after when we’re always on the go!). For this trip though, we opted for a larger, more comfortable cot, as we are only staying in the one place, and we wanted Isla to be as comfortable as possible – as she’s grown older, she’s become a little fussier with where she sleeps!
This trip I bought a backpack that I used for my carryon, and that I’ve been using as a nappy bag while we’ve been in Paris. It has been the best decision ever, especially as Isla is walking and more mobile now. It is so easy to have it on your back, out of the way, while still small enough to pop under the pram when we’re out and about. I got mine from Target, but I’ve had my eye on a few for a while now – check them out here, here, and here.
Make sure to bring a variety of small, versatile toys with you. We brought stacking blocks (which we also use as bath toys), a small car, a maraca, a couple of books, a teddy, and a small toy horse and doll that we gave as a present to Isla on the plane. They’ve been more than ample in keeping Isla entertained, as they all serve different purposes, and allow her to use different elements important to play (coordination, imagination, visual learning etc).
Buy essentials when you arrive. Pack your toothbrush, nappies needed for your flight (plus a couple extra for the first day), makeup etc, but pick up the rest at your destination. A pack of nappies can take up so much space, and wherever you go, there will be some available in some capacity. If you feel nervous about leaving a bulk amount of nappies and wipes behind (or formula, or whatever it is you need), hop on the internet and research the area you’re going to be staying in so you know in advance where you can go to get your hands on the necessities. Pharmacies are basically on every corner in a lot of European cities, and will always stock the basics of nappies, wipes, formula, and things like nappy rash cream etc.
At the end of the day, you want to make the trip as easy and stress-free for your family as possible, so my biggest piece of advice is to do what works for you. Every family is different, with their own individual needs and ways of working, so if something feels good for you, do it! And if it doesn’t sit well for you, then try something else.
I’ll post our thoughts on flying in the next couple of days; do let me know in the comments section below if you have any particular questions!