World Travels With Toddlers: Packing
September 3, 2011
What to pack on a world trip with toddlers

Having kids means accepting that much of your previous carefree life will be packed away in the metaphorical attic, never to be seen again. Regular nights out with the boys / girls, movie dates to see the latest blockbuster, boozy ski breaks - gone. Even simple pleasures such as a Saturday morning "lie-in" past 6am can seem dimly remembered echoes from another life as turbo-charged babies take a pre-dawn bounce on your exhausted head.

Similarly, packing for a world trip with two boisterous toddlers we had to clear out our kit from previous adventures. To make room for all the extra nappies (diapers), toys, snacks, medical supplies and other kiddie stuff something would have to give.

What we took last time:

  • To Sleep: Tent and camping gear, toiletries, mosquito net
  • To Eat: Camping stove and ultra-light titanium cooking and eating set
  • To Wear: c.7 changes of clothes, including dry, wet weather and beach gear
  • Tech Gear: Laptop and speakers, masses of adaptors, fancy SLR camera and several kilos of lenses (including the mighty and much missed 500mm telephoto zoom!)
  • Getting Around: Hard copy of guide books for all countries we would visit
  • For Fun: Guitar, clarinet and harmonica; novels related to the countries we visited and a pack of cards!

Winners and losers this time around:

  • To Sleep: Mosquito nets and toiletries only – we would stay in hotels and hostels: if we needed to camp we would buy cheapo gear at the time
  • To Eat: Nothing – we would take the extra cost of eating out all the time to avoid carrying a bunch of camping gear
  • To Wear: Only 4 sets of clothes but rely on merino wool - ultra-light and doesn’t smell after multiple wears! Also no shoes (!) but only one pair of close-toed Keen sandals which work for the beach but can also handle reasonably arduous trekking terrain
  • Tech Gear: Trade and shrink our laptops for the latest ultra-thin models; miniaturise our camera kit to dramatically shrink the size of our kit without losing too much processing and focal firepower
  • Getting Around: Use E-Book versions of our travel guides on a featherweight e-reader like Kindle to save on the book weight
  • For Fun: Travel ukulele does the trick!

But of course the space in our packs quickly filled up (and more) with kiddy essentials:

  • To Sleep: Pajamas, pull-up pants, nappies (diapers) and cuddly toys
  • To Eat: Little tummies need regular snacks and drinks, so an emergency food stash is required at all times. In places with exotic food like South Korea, the little ‘uns would just have to eat the same food as everyone else there!
  • To Wear: At least 10 changes of clothes as (what with over-excited pooping, peeing and messy eating brought on by new places, jet-lag etc.) we could get through 3 changes of kiddie clothes in just 1 day.
  • Tech Gear: Two iPhones – useless for Zoe but with a magical power to turn a tantruming 3 year old Maxwell into a cartoon-watching zombie in seconds flat!
  • Getting Around: A controversial but ultimately vindicated decision to bring a Phil ‘n’ Ted double stack pram. As a back-up we also bring a baby carrier for ‘off-road’ hiking.
  • For Fun: Small toys (lego being Maxwell’s favourite and mini-baby dolls for Zoe), each packed into a pack that the kids could carry themselves – get them pulling their backpacking weight early!!

Of course, some things have worked out better than others: the pram turned out to be a god-send, giving control over our crazy kids in busy train stations (but less handy going up and down subway stairs); the child-carrier allowed us to take the kids on a multi-day trek in New Zealand and the ukulele has brought joy to neighbouring rooms in hotels across Japan and Korea (well, maybe…!). On the downside, e-books are not as easy to use as an old-fashioned print, we couldn’t survive without running shoes to keep us in shape and the kids needed a regular refresh of their toys and books to keep them interested.

The Bottom Line: We found packing to travel with kids worked out fine: just keep your grown-up kit to a minimum. Also remember the obvious fact that there are children everywhere: you can most likely find any essentials wherever you are in the world. Be ready for a few embarrassing interactions, though, like Magnus mistaking the label for ladies sanitary pads for nappies (diapers) in a Japanese store!

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World Travels With Toddlers: Destinations
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World Travels With Toddlers: The Fear Factor