Our fabulous New Hotels and Kids Collection Editor, Nadine Mellor, has always been the adventurous type – and having 2 children has done nothing to dampen her spirits. Following her latest long-haul adventure with the family, she gives us the low down on how to pack without the pandemonium…
Earlier this year, we had the good fortune to take an extended family trip to South America. Our 2 kids were aged 4 years and 6 months. Friends and family were amazed that we were being so adventurous, but in truth, it was much easier than we thought.
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
I’ve always had the best results when I think everything through before I actually start to shovel stuff into a suitcase. Doing your research and making an essentials list way in advance of your trip always pays off. Start packing a few days before you leave – or the day before at the very least. For our trip we devoted a whole day to a pretend packing exercise a month before departure. We assembled everything we thought we needed and packed our bags as if we were leaving the next day. We were ruthless about what made the grade and then had time to source what we were missing.
Allocate responsibilities for the whole trip between parents and children. I did all the physical suitcase packing, while my husband held onto documents and passports. I was in charge of clothes, books and toys, and my husband looked after electronic equipment, adaptors and chargers. We made our daughter responsible for counting the number of bags at every juncture, which became a fun game.
When travelling with children, take wheelie suitcases rather than the type you carry – you’ll want to save your muscle strength for when you have to carry the little darlings! We had one suitcase each for the kids, and one each for us. Our 4 year old carried her drawing board, favourite doll, books, a hat and a small tube of sunscreen in her own backpack. Our carry-on bags were compact and held napkins, healthy snacks, flask of water, rubber bands, a travel sewing kit, crayons, travel toothbrushes and paste, and nappies. Also, keep a change of clothes for each child in your carry-on bag.
The Rule of Ten
My favourite rule of thumb: whatever the category, make sure there are no more than 10 items or less. This rule can be applied across the board: 10 books and magazines, 10 toys and, for longer trips such as ours, 10 tops/blouses/cardigans etc. And even for kids whose clothes get dirtier faster, the rule of 10 still applies well.
Small is Beautiful
Luckily we were going during summer so bulky clothes weren’t required, but I’d always advocate taking the smallest suitcase or bag you think you can get away with. It makes manoeuvring so much easier and it’s harder to over-pack. Plan outfits in advance rather than choosing a random selection of things you like to avoid those unworn items that don’t go with anything else – this applies to both adults and kids. We jettisoned things we really didn’t need en route. Remember there will be laundry services in hotels and washing machines in rentals. Don’t bring huge quantities of consumables such as nappies or baby food if there are shops at your destination. We decanted all our toiletries into small bottles and brought travel-sized toothpaste and petite tubes of suncream and insect repellent.
People are very generous to children and they’re always acquiring gifts from hoteliers and kind strangers, as well as travel goodies from airlines. Plus you might want to buy souvenirs of your exotic adventures – we’re delighted we left space for our Argentinian horse blanket turned bathmat (as inspired by Finca Valentina).
There’s no end to the ingenious playthings one could take travelling, but be selective! Be careful not to bring too many books or toys; we probably took more than we needed but actually children are just as excited by travelling and seeing new things as adults. These were our most indispensable items:
• iPad or equivalent – we uploaded some favourite kids’ films and one of the great drawing apps for entertainment. It was also indispensable for backing-up our photos
• Headphones – essential for noisy planes and airports
• A fabric baby chair – there are heaps to choose from online. They can be wrapped to any chair to allow for much needed hands-free meals for parents
• A lightweight, easy to fold buggy (stroller) and/or a baby carrier for smaller babies – we opted for the carrier
• A travel diary/workbook for older kids – children love collecting memories too
• A magnetic erasable drawing board – we made friends easily despite language barriers by asking strangers to draw pictures for our kids, who had to guess what they drew, and vice versa
• A prop for dressing up and imaginative play – we brought our daughter’s cloak with us. It provided endless amusement and was her costume for Carnaval in Rio
• Luggage straps – ours were red and helped to identify bags quickly when we were dealing with tired children at luggage collection
• Surgical tape – It takes up less space than a box of plasters and sticks better!
• Swim nappies
Be creative! For example, we didn’t take the bucket and spade, just the spade, which worked out fine.
…remember that the best things in life aren’t things, so if you forget/break/have something stolen, life will go on regardless – and much more happily if you don’t care too much about losing anything you bring with you!
So, travelling with kids doesn’t need to feel like herding cats after all. Feeling inspired? Why not check out our Kids Collection. And if you’re travelling with a baby, take a look at our Baby travel: packing list for more words of wisdom.