We are traveling in Europe exclusively by rail, so we need to be able to easily manage both the children and our baggage. In the early planning stages, we considered renting a car so that we could more easily haul our stuff around, but I don’t like to drive, so that would not have been a nice vacation for Scott who would have ended up driving most of the time. Also, the scope of our trip would have had to be much smaller, because driving for thousands of miles around Europe is quite a different undertaking than riding the rails. In the end, we decided that taking trains was the better option for us as a family, but for me, this decision added the challenge of packing for a family of four in such a way as to make us as agile as possible.
I first stumbled upon the packing light concept in 2004 while searching online for packing lists for Disney World. The basic premise is that no matter how long your trip is, you should be able to fit everything you need within a carry-on sized suitcase. You must be willing to do laundry, b0th in your hotel room sink, and for longer trips like ours, in laundromats. It is essential to pack clothing that matches, for instance, all tops should match all bottoms, and 1 or 2 pairs of shoes should be all one needs to pack. There are many of excellent websites devoted to packing light, so I’m not going to delve any deeper into the specifics of it here.
Now, packing light for an adult is fairly simple. Adults don’t really need much stuff: clothes, toiletries and electronics, that’s pretty much it. Children, on the other hand, require all kinds of peripherals: bottles, diapers, formula, blankies, toys… the list really can go on and on. Children are less adaptable. Our 3-year-old daughter cannot sleep without her special pink polka dot blanket and her Dora the Explorer pillow. Our 1-year-old daughter likes her stuffed giraffe and her purple polka dot blanket. I am confident that I will not be able to find replacements for these beloved items in Europe, so they not only must come with us, but also must be closely guarded against loss.
Here is a photo of the luggage we are taking to Europe:
2 Ikea rolling backpacks with zip-off dayppacks padded and suitable for carrying laptops, iPads and other delicate electronics, 1 umbrella stroller (Combi Flare), 1 ERGO baby carrier with matching backpack, 1 Skiphop bumblebee backpack for our 3-year-old to carry, and not pictured here an Ikea reusable shopping bag with a zippered top to use to carry snacks onto the plane, since we have a 6 hour layover between our flight to NY and our flight to London, and I have a picky eater.
I keep unpacking the luggage and looking for things to leave behind. For example, I dumped the separate bottles of laundry detergent, dish washing liquid, body wash and shampoo in favor of a couple of 2 ounce bottles of Dr. Bronner’s Miracle Soap. This stuff gets great reviews among light packers, so hopefully it will work out for all of the uses named above, but if it doesn’t it’s not like we’re going to be in a 3rd world country! We can buy anything we need over there, which is important to remember. This afternoon we watched Rick Steves’ Europe travel skills episodes, and in one of them he said “Pack for the best case scenario.” I’ve been pondering that advice all evening, and am seriously considering removing half the amount of diapers I currently have packed. Europeans do have babies after all, so it’s not likely I will encounter shortage on size 4 diapers! I do plan on posting the complete list of our luggage contents, but I’m going to wait until I know for sure what will make the cut. Stay tuned!