Kidlet has always been a good traveler. I feel like I have to start this post with that because everything that I'm going to write afterward depends on keeping that in mind. Whether it's an afternoon or a morning in town, or a weeklong jaunt to Luxumbourg, he's never had a (much of) a problem sleeping in different situations and he simply loves riding in buses, trains, and cars. And I've never been the kind of mom to carry around a ton of extra diapers, an extra outfit, twenty snacks, three packages of wipes, and enough toys to fill a daycare--what can I say, I'm lazy.
Laziness is also the driving reason why I'm an absolute minimalist when it comes to packing kidlet's things for trips. This is all I'm bringing with us for a 5-day trip to Maastricht: it includes clothes for me, clothes for him, all of our toiletries, snacks for the train (it's a two-hour ride), toys for a week, a grocery bag, diapers for night-time and emergencies, my planners, and my electronics (my laptop, tablet, phone, chargers).
There's nothing must-have about my travel things. I don't use packing cubes or anything like that, I don't have special games or toys, and I won't even have a stroller with me. A few things that I do to cut back on the bulk:
- I don't use separate kids' and adult shampoos and body washes. Really, it doesn't make a difference, and the ingredients are exactly the same, except for the coloring and perfumes used. So if he smells like coconut-cream instead of little stinky Minion (I did get him a Minion body wash, but that was only because the bottle was a Minion), well, it's not as if anybody else is going to get close enough to tell. And anyway, as long as you rinse them off well, you don't have to worry about irritation.
- I make him carry his own damn toys and snacks. This week was a bit of an exception, because we'll be gone for a week and the apartment that I'm using doesn't have stuff for kids. But even so, between the stuff in his little red backpack and the smaller compartment of mine (it's an LL Bean backpack, and yes, the brand really does last for-f*cking-ever), he's got enough to keep him busy for a week.
- For my end: I wear skirts-and-legging outfits. Leggings are compact. Skirts don't get too dirty. So all I really need is enough tops, and even there, I use one jacket and just change the t-shirt underneath. I'm wearing my jeans today and on our way back.
- I haven't used a stroller since kidlet turned 2. Seriously. Yes, it's a bit of a pain to get him to go when he's tired. But it means he'll fall asleep without issues in the evening, and it saves me a headache from having to lug a stroller everywhere. Win-win-lose is still winning, overall.
- I've made plans to rent a bike with a kiddie seat on the back when we get there. Seriously, if you're ever in a Dutch city and you have a toddler, forget the stroller, just rent a bike. Well, unless you're in Amsterdam--riding a bike there is just a death wish. But Maastricht is so nice to bike in, and renting a bike will save you a small fortune in transit fees.
But really, the most important thing isn't a thing: it's confidence that you know your kid and what they can handle. It's being able to accept that sh*t happens to the best-laid plans. It's treating a long trip like an adventure that it is rather than something to be endured.