Tip [tip], noun: a useful hint or idea; a basic, practical fact (www.dictionary.com)
- I thought it would only be appropriate to start off a page of lists by saying: WRITE A LIST! I know it seems obvious, but trust me, write a list. Especially if this is your first trip with the babe(s). You will be amazed at how much stuff is needed. I am a notorious underpacker – my husband and I usually share a backpack for trips of 1-2 weeks. So on our first vacation with our son, it pained me to have to use our full luggage allowance: one suitcase for the two of us, and one (bigger) suitcase for our six-month old son. If you're really anal...err...organized, you can categorize the list by person, then subdivide into categories like "clothes", "toiletries", "entertainment", and don't forget "miscellaneous". It's also helpful to either flag or create an additional list of things that need to be packed last as you'll be using them until right before you leave.
- Pack an average of 1.5 outfits per day, plus any additional outfits if you have a special occasion, like a wedding, during your trip. Even if laundry will be available, we all know by now to expect the unexpected and those extra onesies will be used up before you can say “Donde esta la lavanderia?”
- Pack a good book or two – you’ll be spending a lot more time in the hotel room than on previous trips!
- Don’t forget the creature comforts: the nightlight will be a godsend, especially since you won’t be in a room you’re familiar with, stumbling around in the dark. Make sure all necessary bedtime components are packed so that bedtime routines aren’t shaken up too much. (Unfortunately, these items are also the last to be packed since you use them every night! WRITE IT ON THE LIST under “To be packed day of departure”)
- Bring a bottle of your own laundry detergent if you think you'll be doing laundry to avoid possible skin irritations with a change in brand. Dollar stores sell great little flip top bottles and you can also save those samples from magazines and stores - they'll finally come in handy!
- When JR was 14 months, we traveled to Asia for a friend’s wedding. The 25 hours of travel time struck a chord of fear in my heart. The last time we had done a long-ish haul flight, our son was only 6 months old and the flight was only 5.5 hours long…here’s a sneak peek at what my carry-on held: Painter’s tape, pipe cleaners, wrapped gifts from the dollar store, 2 books, snacks, retractable measuring tape (Jack loves playing with it), a pair of baby legs (makes changing diapers in an airplane bathroom WAY easier), toddler headphones, stickers, and the lifesaver of all lifesavers: the iPad. (As an aside, although this was for my 14 month old, it may be appropriate for a younger or older child – every kid is different, so pack according to your child’s motor skills, attention span and interest. And remember, you’re in close quarters on a plane so things that you may not let your child play with at home while s/he wanders around the house, might be okay on a plane since you’ll be closely supervising. Those things that are ‘taboo’ at home will probably be a huge delight on the plane.)
- If you’re traveling with your partner, a great idea is to get him or her to board early with all the luggage while you wait at the gate, letting your kid(s) burn off as much energy as possible before strapping them into their seats. When it’s just about time for last call, you can calmly board the plane knowing that everything will be set up for you inside the cabin. (Feel free to look smug as you walk by all the other parents struggling with kids hanging off the luggage as they try to shove it in the crowded overhead bins.)
- Do NOT, under any circumstances, throw out your boarding passes until you're safely back home and everything is accounted for. After the above-mentioned 25 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at Ho Chi Minh Airport and were standing in line to do our Visas on Arrival (note to self: stop procrastinating next time and get the Visas in advance. Standing in line for 40 minutes after 25 hours of travel with a toddler is not a good idea). Understandably, JR was exhausted and started to get cranky. My husband took him out of the stroller and I parked it to the side. I waited in line while my husband entertained our son. Then, JR wanted his mommy, so I continued to stand in line while trying to soothe him. Finally, after what seemed like a deliberate attempt to push my son's saintly tolerance to the very edge by processing everyone else's Visas but ours, we were approved and off we went to collect our luggage. A few hours later, as I lay wide awake in bed at 2 am, I rolled over to my husband and said "we left the stroller at the airport". SIGH. The next day I trekked back to the airport and thanked my lucky stars that we hadn't left our boarding passes on the plane, or chucked them in the garbage when we got to our friends' house. There was no way I was being let back in to baggage area to claim the stroller without my boarding pass. So please, tuck those passes away and hold on to them for dear life because, next to the iPad, they just might be the most valuable thing you travel with!