Welcome back! I hope you're learning lots from our experience and that this has been helpful :) We're calling it "Travel Thursday" this week instead of Tuesday - oops! What a busy week... and I'm only posting once as this is a SUPER LONG post!
Oh - this was one of my favourites... I LOVE shopping for travel! Love it. Love it. Love it. My husband is a good sport about it too. Here are some must haves on the trip! Hang onto your socks though, this is a LONG one...
Luggage: Suitcase & Packing Cubes
Our FAVOURITE luggage is our Heys luggage that we bought at Sears before we trekked around NZ and Aus for a month - so these suckers are STURDY. They have survived several trips and are still holding strong! Notice you can buy BRIGHT colours - making them easy to spot on the luggage carousel.
Yup. That's us. Nearly 6 weeks in Europe and we had 1 suitcase, 1 collapsible stroller, 1 "diaper bag" (a small backpack that was basically our day bag - it contained a large water bottle, Baby K's diaper cube, a nursing cover, a change of clothes and anything else we needed for the day) and an extra backpack (with diapers and extra clothes for Miss K) for the initial flight in case they lost our luggage. We packed it in the suitcase for the remainder of the trip.
Another Heys product that we LOVE are their Packing Cubes.
I'm not sure if there is anything else like them on the market, but quite honestly, we have travelled extensively with these cubes and we never regret using them. Thankfully we were able to borrow 3 different colours of them, and so each of us had our own colour - that way it was easy in a giant suitcase to unpack and repack clothes. Each of us used a large one for our clothes. Miss K had the next size filled with spare diapers, and another filled with a few toys, a swimsuit and some extra toiletries (such as nail clippers). She also had a small one that we kept in the diaper bag containing her diapers for the day (we packed 5 for each day), bum cream, changing mat, wipes and hand sanitizer. It was easy to dash off to change her with just that small cube, whether on the plane or sight-seeing or ..... you get the point.
Heys gets a few other props from us...
Power Adapter: Heys All in One Power Adapter - a must-have if you want to charge your iPhone, camera batteries... etc where their outlets and power supplies are not "North American". What I love about this one, it's one using so I can't lose plugs.
Luggage Scale: Heys Luggage Scale - when we fit EVERYTHING into 1 suitcase, we had to make sure we weren't overweight, this little device is small and accurate. We could whip it out anywhere to check if we were within the restrictions.
I went to Toys R Us and I purchased their cheapest collapsible stroller - in fact, I think it was even on sale for under $20 at the time. It was perfect - it was lightweight and easy to fold on the go (which we needed a few times trying to catch trains and subways!) We didn't want to take an expensive one and end up with it being wrecked as we knew we would be travelling lots. This stroller lasted our entire trip through Europe while she was 5/6 months old and then again when she was 9/10 months old and we were in the Dominican Republic. She napped in it, caught the sights in it and at times even played in it when we couldn't put her on the floor for various reasons.
Drawbacks to this cheap stroller - the wheels didn't always roll nicely on smooth airport floors. The "umbrella" was also a bit of a joke, however we remedied this with a muslin swaddle cloth tied to it and draped over in a variety of fashions depending upon what we needed it for. We also packed a small roll of duct tape just in case... though we didn't need it.
Before Miss K arrived we purchased a Baby Bjorn carrier 2nd hand for a STEAL. It is definitely pricey if you buy it new. But if you can score it as a gift or one in good condition that's second hand, it is WELL WORTH IT! We used it every day - when I had to pace with her on the plane to help her snooze (though you can't wear it during landing/take off), on trains and subways, on boat rides, walking around when she was fussy in her stroller, in museums (ex. the Sistine Chapel!). The only real downside to it is baby-wearing can be quite warm! On hot and sunny days, when she was stripped down to just a onesie, we used a muslin swaddle cloth tied to the clips to provide shade for her without adding too much extra heat (just like this photo below - and if she was sleeping, we could tie it even higher to cover her arms too)...
If we were to do it again, I definitely have my eye on an Ergo. I think my tired back would have appreciated it some days ;)
Muslin Swaddle Cloths:
I've mentioned these a few times... they're amazing for summer travel! If you don't have an muslin swaddle blankets, they are well worth the investment. I think I picked up 3 for $30 in store from Toys R Us, but really, you can get them from just about anywhere that sells baby stuff.
We used them as sun shades for her stroller and carrier (see the above photo); she played on them when we were outdoors... and we could cover her at night with them. They are quite large (1m x 1m?) - and they are EASY to wash and they dry super fast. Because of this final fact, I also used them as burp cloths instead of the burp cloths I packed because they were already out and accessible. They were always dry by the following morning too, which I can't say for all of our clothing......
Back Packs/Diaper Bag/Passport pack:
Okay - MEC is probably my favourite store. If I could I would spend lots and lots of money there. Maybe just on bags.
We had 4 different "bags" from MEC with us on the trip:
1) Both of us adults wore Cactus Creek hidden money belts: ($12 each)
Surprisingly, it fit under my jeans and under my dress! Perfect for passports, extra cash (always carry some cash when you're travelling - you never know when you might need it! We had this problem on the island of Gozo, when the gas station suddenly only took cash and wouldn't accept our credit cards. Grumble, grumble!), credit cards, etc..
2) Our Day Pack/Diaper bag: ($20)
We easily carried our Nalgene water bottle, diaper cube, and any extras for the day in this bag. (This bag has seriously been my "old faithful" - I bought it back in 2004 when I travelled around Europe the first time ... it has gone to university, travelled to far off places and now is our day-to-day diaper bag).
The only minor draw back with this bag was when my husband sweated... one day we had our "itinerary" folder (paper copies of our tickets, etc) right next to his back and it was soaked. Eww :)
3) Toiletries bag: ($14.50)
My hubby and I shared this bag.
4) "Just in case" Back Pack: ($45)
This is my other "old faithful" pack. I've had for 14 years now - I used it all throughout high school (after going through at least one pack a year in junior high, my parents finally caved and spent a little more - though really not that much more) - it has travelled through South Africa, Europe, Brazil, Canada & the US... and I can't remember where else. It is still going strong!
We had it as a spare for the first leg of our journey just in case our main suitcase was lost so we would have the essentials for our daughter. It collapsed nicely into our suitcase when we didn't need it.
The straps and back have extra padding for sweating and extra heavy loads! The only reason we didn't use it for our day-to-day bag was it was too big! We didn't need all that space.
While on the subject of MEC... a few other things we purchased there:
MEC > Baby K's Sunglasses: ($10)
We practiced with these glasses before leaving (and actually in the store before we purchased them!) - and she took well to them! Score! (Just make sure they're not too tight....)
MEC > Water Tablets: ($9.75)
We didn't want to risk tummy troubles from drinking local water and we didn't want to have to wait too long or have that "yummy" extra flavours that some tabs add to the water - these were perfect!
MEC > Nalgene Water Bottle: ($12.25)
As a 1L bottle it was the perfect size for the tablets (I realize we could have bought a bottle with a fancy filter on it... but we already had the bottle and we were trying to save some money and not add to our already full cupboard of water bottles, travel mugs, etc). We just kept filling it up wherever we were and added more tablets - the downside? We shared it! ;)
An added benefit is that it provided countless amounts of entertainment for our daughter ... we're still not quite sure why.
MEC > Keen Mary Janes:
Okay - so I wish I had these in black. Mine were "salmon", but they were on sale ;)
I wanted something that I could use for "hiking", but didn't want to pack my regular hiking boots as I knew they would be heavy. I could wear these with or without socks. They were super comfortable for walking long distances, they looked decently formal (though I did pack a pair of fancy flats just in case!) and I could wash the inserts, which part way through the trip I definitely needed to do. Many, many days of sweaty feet and no socks.....
Nursing Cover: aka the "Hooter Hider"
This doubled as a nursing cover and also "shade" once she was finished nursing and had fallen asleep on planes, trains... wherever.
I only had one time when some very nosey ladies seemed to misunderstand that the reason that I was using the cover was for privacy. I was tucked away in a corner at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, nursing Baby K, and these ladies were quite offended that I didn't want to show them my baby. Um? I'm covered for a reason, thank you very much! Apparently we missed something in the translation....
My husband bugs me that I'm addicted to mine, but they are SO handy! I remember searching and searching for internet cafes the last time I was in Europe... but this time, I didn't have to bother because I had an iPhone. I could compose as many emails I wanted, snap some photos for quick updates, and have them all sitting in my "outbox" until we had wifi.
We kept electronic copies of a variety of documents stored on (passworded) apps connected our (passworded) phones as well - just in case. These days you have many options for online storage - Google Drive, Microsoft Sky Drive (or is it now One Drive? I can't keep up!), Dropbox, Box, Evernote..etc. Pick something you trust and store extra copies of EVERYTHING - even if you have to photograph it with your phone because you don't have access to a scanner. Just in case.
Okay - I love my DSLR, but let's be real. We're travelling for 6 weeks with a baby - we needed to be practical. In addition to our iPhone cameras, we also took our Canon PowerShot D10.
As a waterproof, freezeproof and shockproof camera, it's a pretty sturdy little sucker! Not that we're in the habit of passing our camera off to our baby, but when you're rushing to get things packed/unpacked or whatever the situation, something small, compact and sturdy is necessary. I didn't want to be fussing with lenses or have ANOTHER bag to carry with us. One of us was already in charge of the suitcase and the other in charge of the baby. We didn't have time for extras.
The flip-side? It really does take nice photos and video too :)
Other items for Baby:
-her FAVOURITE blanket (the one she had been sleeping with every day since she was a baby - it made sleeping in new places every few nights so much easier!)
-Vitamin D drops, Tylenol
-Diapers (I planned on 5 per day and researched before we left for where I could buy more while we were travelling - there was no sense in packing for the entire trip... they took up too much precious space!)
-Swim diapers (because they're pricey and we only needed a few)
-Diaper wipes (don't want to risk an allergic reaction to unfamiliar ones)
-Diaper cream (same reason as the wipes - did research ahead and found where I could buy more)
-Norwex Face cloths (2) - though don't buy them from Amazon, but them from a Norwex sales person instead (for guarantees, etc).
-nail clippers (we could have used ours, but with some times it's just easier to use hers with the over-sized handle!)
-sleepers x3 (2 lighter-weight and 1 fleece) - we could use these on cold days and for sleeping
-UV Hat with tie (so she couldn't rip it off! Banz is a popular brand)
-socks x3 (she was a barefoot babe on hot days!)
Other items for us: (okay, so I won't include our whole packing list... but some of our must haves that we've learned about along the way...)
-make sure all of your clothes MATCH - then it makes it easier to mix and match as you go and you don't look like you're wearing the same thing all the time
-neutral coloured scarf (great for when it's cooler - like on the plane! - or for dressing up an outfit)
-8-in-1 dress (sounds crazy - but super easy to change up!)
-foldable travel hat (they can be quite stylish!)
-try to double-up items, for instance pack swim shorts that you can wear as regular shorts
-one dressy shirt
-sports shirts (wicked away sweat, fast drying when washed)
-a few various sizes of Ziploc bags (for food.. or to double as a plug - when half-filled with water - in a hotel shower when your baby needs a bath and there's only a shower!)
-small packages of laundry soap (Tip - washing clothes in hotel rooms is a breeze - just make sure to use those extra hotel towels. Lay your wet clothes on the towel and roll it up to soak up extra water. Clothes dry much faster! It will also save you some $$ if you don't need a laundry mat)
-ear plugs/eye covers for noisy hotel rooms/planes (though if it's your kid making the noise....)
Things we did not pack...
-a travel crib - we requested that all of the places provide us with one. Only one place wanted to charge us more, and when we refused they ended up providing it complimentary when we arrived anyway. On some occasions Baby K slept in bed with us, other times we used extra blankets and made her a bed on the floor. This was just one more thing we didn't have to haul around with us! Having her special blanket along really helped.
Things we wished we packed...
-an umbrella (good for rainy days and hot, sunny days!)
-an air freshner for our luggage (after 6 weeks my clothes being packed with my husband's were not the freshest smelling!)
-UV swim shirt instead of a swimsuit (that way I could leave her in a regular diaper until we were going swimming and switch her out at the last moment)
Things we wished we hadn't packed...
-burp cloths (see Muslin Swaddle Cloths!)
DISCLAIMER - I was NOT paid to endorse any of these products. We purchased them (or family and friends kindly let us borrow theirs that they had purchased). These opinions are my own based upon my family's experiences with them. However if any of the companies I mentioned ever stumble across this blog and wish to hook us up with some "testers", it wouldn't hurt my feelings ;)
Curious about more travel tips? Check out the rest of my series!