Nothing feels more freeing than travelling light, which is particularly true when you’re navigating airports with little people.
For me, packing twice and laying everything out on the bed in full view helps to eliminate the double ups and identify what would likely come home still folded and unworn.
I also start with packing my favourites, thinking through the various occasions as I fold – beach/pool, dinner, short walks, slow mornings..
Over the years of packing carry-on with little ones in tow, here’s what I’ve learnt:
+ Folds. Generally I fold everything the Konmari way – into a rectangle then into three, then stood up so that you can see everything in your case at a glance. For toiletries I use a small cotton bag, shoes I just tuck loose inside the suitcase with a thick rubber band around each pair to keep them flat. If you don’t already own carry on luggage, MUJI has a good range of simple bags that split either side, otherwise I just take a duffel bag if we’re only heading away for a night or so in the car. For flights, generally speaking I would go for a mid-sized expandable carry on – too small and it’s impossible, too large and it won’t meet different airline’s requirements – and tie a bright ribbon around it to easily spot it on the conveyor belt if you end up having to check it in.
+ Toiletries. I decanter my shampoos, moisturisers and body oils from the bulk store into smaller amber bottles that I have collected over the years from cough medicines and the like. I also pack a slither of laundry soap inside a piece of cloth in case I need to give a stained tee a quick scrub, which is likely with a strawberry-loving bub around. Plus of course I always pack the type of meds you find yourself needing for little ones in the middle of the night.
+ A large tote. You’re looking for one that doubles as a handbag/beach bag/shopping bag to keep a new kids library book, spare clothes, jumpers and snacks handy for the flight, to see you through any manner of situation. I also pack a couple of cotton bags for shopping to avoid plastic bags, as well as a drink bottle, reusable coffee cup, linen napkin and a flat tin filled with nuts and other deliciousness. You can’t go wrong with a trusty Longchamp tote, otherwise The Goods Co Weekenders are also pretty lovely.
+ A light scarf. Everywhere you stay will have towels so instead pack a big scarf that you can wrap around your bub to get them off to sleep, cover yourself when you’re breastfeeding or drape over your toddler’s legs at dinner time if they’re cold.
Exactly what to pack: Ok so here’s my typical list: One book only (a page turner, not that book you’ve been trying to make yourself read for six months). A small notebook and pen for jotting down personal thoughts/travel epiphanies/train illustrations. Three shoes – black trainers, leather flats and a pair of white cons for chasing after little ones down the street. Four bras – two white, one black, one sports. Pack as many pairs of undies as you like. Pack lots of basics that apply to many situations – i.e. a black cotton dress that can be dressed up or down rather than packing a beach dress as well as an evening dress. A light angora jumper rather than a heavy sweater to layer for changing conditions – Natural fibres (cotton and wool) are best, avoid polyester, always. Two jeans and jumpers (wear one pack one), three shorts, five tees (one for sleeping) and a linen shirt, two bathers, socks, singlets etc etc. Pack less outfits than you have days away, as clothes will be re-worn, and save a clean outfit for the flight home.
Also keep your SLR camera at home; nine times out of ten you won’t take it out with you because it’s too big and your smart phone no doubt takes a great pic. Youtube has some great vids for getting the most out of your smart phone camera – in a word, natural light.. and focus lock.
+ Holiday prep. The week before you’re due to go away get your hair cut, a few days out organise a wax and apply a bit of tanning moisturiser each night so you’ll be ready to get your beach on when you land and can lead by example when going into battle on the sunscreen front. Also before we go away I go through the fridge and chop up all the fruit and veg, fill a tin with snacks for the trip and put the rest in the freezer so nothing goes to waste.
+ In-flight outfit. I tend to wear my cons, jeans and a loose tee so that I’m comfortable enough to lie perfectly still with 1-2 children asleep on my face, yet dressy enough that I won’t be embarrassed if I run into someone I work with in my double-life as a child-free upwardly mobile young woman… children, what children?
+ The rest. Remind yourself to breathe and be fully present, this time belongs to your children so give them every part of you for these sacred few days together.