Have Stroller, Will Travel

The first trip we took with our older son when he was 10 months old we had the brilliant idea that we didn’t need to bring a stroller with us. We knew that in the airport he would be in the front pack and we wanted our hands to be as free as possible. Of course, once we were in Madrid we would want a stroller but we wanted less to bring with us. It was before we were really packing light but it was the beginning of an idea.

Since I had been in Madrid for a summer semester in college I knew they had this wonderful store, El Corte Ingles, where we would be able to find ourselves a cheap umbrella stroller that would work for our purposes and if it didn’t make it home – that wouldn’t be a problem.

It was a HUGE success! We checked into our hotel (stayed there one night until the apartment was ready but that’ll be a story for another day), hooked up with our friends and set off to El Corte Ingles with the baby in the front pack. We had no problem finding ourselves a $25 umbrella stroller with a sun shade and walked out of the store with the baby riding in it, safely strapped in. He loved this stroller, it even had a little fish hanging down from the sun shade so if he was bored with us or the walk, he’d keep himself happy with the fish. The stroller did make it home and we even still use it on occasion. Talk about a GREAT investment.

So off we were to our 2nd major international trip with the little one and thought we would travel sans stroller and have the same success as Madrid. Boy were we wrong. You have to know your location. In Madrid I knew we would find a great deal and the exact store where that would happen. In Florence we didn’t know the area, wandered around to several different kids stores with the baby backpack until we finally found a store with strollers… couture strollers… not what we had in mind. After looking at all the options and asking the store personnel for help, we ended up with a stroller for $120. It had a lot more options than our umbrella stroller (it could recline, had a large sun shade and a rain guard) but it also ended up being a much bigger pain to steer, fold up and now we cared whether it made it home or not!

We learned a very valuable lesson that trip. If you don’t do the research in advance, it might be a drain on the wallet to travel that light. We did get a lot of use out of that stroller – it made it on several international trips and was just retired after having it for 5 years, so all in all not a terrible investment but at the time we would have rather have had a cheaper smaller option.

So keep that in mind when you’re traveling. Most airlines will let you gate check the stroller for no cost (check their website before you go so there are no surprises) so it’s easy enough to bring a stroller you already own. You may not get your stroller back in the condition in which you gave it to the airline and there will not be any compensation for that or you could do a little research before you go and pick one up once you’re there. Then you may not care if it gets a little bit banged up on the way home. And you never know, it might end up being a stroller that lasts.

Quick Packing Tips

So you have a last minute trip or just procrastinated packing until the last minute before your trip, I can help!! Here are my top tips for packing in a hurry.

1. Make a list and keep it around from trip to trip to help you remember what to pack, not necessarily quantity since that will vary based on length of trip.
2. Store your travel sized bathroom items in the required zippy bag somewhere in your bathroom.
3. Don’t overpack.
4. Store your luggage in an easily accessible area and know what your favorite travel bag is to pack quickly.
5. Know the limits of your luggage.
6. Don’t forget something to read, phone charger, glasses or sunglasses, ID and travel documents.
7. Remember that you can always purchase most anything you may need should you leave it behind.

I’ll provide my lists in another post!!

Less is… Well, Less!!

When it comes to luggage and anything that has to be carried from the house to the car, from the car to the airport, to the check-in counter, through security, to the gate, onto the airplane, off of the airplane, to the shuttle/train/taxi and finally to your destination, less is better! Less feels like less but not in a bad way. Less comes with all of the benefits of mobility, having less to control during all of those stops and checkpoints we all know and love as we travel through the airport and less gives you the ability to enjoy yourself.

When we first started traveling we didn’t have this mentality. We made sure we had enough of all of our clothes, several extra pairs of shoes (well, not me on our trip to Vienna which ended up requiring a shoe purchase but more on that later!), coats, magazines, bathroom accessories, books, cameras and anything else we could fit within the number of bags we could check for free. We never once went over the weight limit but we definitely came close. Our first international trip together to Vienna (pre-kids), we discovered 1. we brought too much and didn’t use most of it 2. our suitcase was terrible to pull across cobblestone sidewalks 3. our suitcase was too heavy and 4. our carry on bags weren’t very convenient or comfortable to carry! We tried to remember all of this on our first trip with our oldest son when he was 10 months old but with not a lot of success…

First International Family Trip

You’re thinking, it doesn’t look too bad – just a suitcase and two carry on bags… but you have no idea how heavy that suitcase was! Jeremy could wear it like a backpack but that was almost impossible due to how heavy it was. Why was it so heavy? Well, we packed enough clothes for the baby to stay two weeks (we were only there for one), we thought they might not have food there (or something!) so we packed all of the baby food, cereal, and snacks he would need, we packed enough clothes for both of us for the week plus an extra shirt and underwear and an extra pair of shoes for each of us. We also had our light jackets in the suitcase so it’d be one less thing to carry in the airport. It was a successful trip. The suitcase was much lighter on the way home because our son ate all his food and we aren’t big on buying a bunch of stuff to fill the suitcase on the way home. Once we were home we thought we could certainly do better next time…

Second International Family Trip

And we did? This trip we didn’t bring any food, had only a few extra sets of clothes for our son and a few extras for each of us. We actually ended up looking like we were bringing more! But the suitcase wasn’t as heavy, one of the carry on backpacks actually turned into a baby carrier and we could wear all of our bags to stay hands-free. So in some ways it was better but still – too much to bring along. We could do better. Less is less after all.

Less Luggage!!

We finally had better success! We used the suitcase without the zip-on backpack attachment and only had two carry on bags! It was so much nicer for us to travel with so much less, especially on this trip because we had quite the walk trying to find our rented apartment in a residential area. I couldn’t imagine how grumpy we would have been hauling a bunch of stuff by the time we got where we were going.

Yikes!! A family of four traveling abroad

Then we added a second child to the mix… when we did that, we also added a bag but it wasn’t all bad. We removed the backpack that converted into a child carrier, added a regular backpack in its place (which also happens to zip on to the front of the suitcase) and allowed our oldest son to have a small backpack of his own to carry his toys. I know plenty of people, I won’t name names, that travel with this much luggage on their own! So I didn’t feel too bad that this is where we ended up on our first international trip with the four of us.

Extras include a stroller for our friends and our travel stroller

Our latest try, however, looks like we forgot our advice. But we have friends living in Europe and they were in desperate need of a new stroller. So, being the awesome friends that we are, we said we would check it with our bag and bring it along with us if they would meet up with us in Barcelona. How could they resist?!? They couldn’t, so needless to say, on our second trip traveling with the four of us, we had more going out but on the return trip – we had LESS!!!

Every time we get ready to pack, I remind myself that Less is Less. The goal is to pack the four of us in the least amount of luggage and with hands-free options as much as possible. Just remember – Less is Less.  You really won’t miss what you leave behind as long as you choose wisely AND you won’t have the hassle of lugging a bunch of extra weight around with you. Who doesn’t want to travel with less??