How do you pack to travel the world for nine months with three kids in tow? We haven’t been on the road very long, so this answer is still evolving. I fully intend to do a follow-up on this post at the end of the trip with a comprehensive list including what we should/shouldn’t have brought.
In case your curiosity is piqued, these are a few of the key pieces of what we bought and brought for our trip around the world.
Compression sacks are, hands down, the only way everything fit into our bags. We roll all of clothes, shove them in the bags and then zip them up. Justin, the baby, and I all got new sacks for this trip that have double zippers allowing for even more compression. These bags keep all of our clothing organized and separated by color. I love organizing!!
We sprung (and by “sprung” I mean paid $30) for blow-up foot rest pillows for the kids, as we will be on at least eight long-haul flights this year and we hope that these will help the kids sleep better. They served us pretty well on our first trip across the Atlantic. Be sure to check with the airline to see if they allow their use, but in my experience and what I’ve heard is that it is a case-by-case basis with whether the flight attendants care/know the rule or not.
Hygiene and Medical Supplies
We prepared for everyday emergencies with a hearty first-aid kit for international travel. We are lugging around Milo’s gigantic nebulizer, which is a necessary evil. We don’t mess around with breathing. Our physicians back home wrote us prescriptions for daily medications that will last us the entirety of this trip, though locating medications abroad would not be too challenging. We have international health insurance. Luca’s one-year well-baby check is scheduled for a few weeks from now, so we will test it out then.
Other than my favorite hair product and deodorant (seriously, it’s the best), we basically brought travel sized hygiene items and bought full-sized when we got here. I did not bring a hair dryer because even long term rental apartments generally provide one and the power conversion on heat producing appliances never works well in my experience. But, bet your bottom euro that I went out and bought a flat iron my third day here.
I obsessively thought about what clothes to bring for months. We will mainly be in warm climates, which aided simplicity. Here is what it came down to:
- We each have eight outfits – eight tops, eight bottoms, eight pairs of underwear, etc. There are only two times on this trip where we will be on the move for about two or three weeks at a time. Eight outfits allows for rewearing twice before needing to do laundry. Noa wears dresses a lot, so her sets look a bit different. Luca has a few more things because he’s a gross baby. Justin would rewear the same pair of shorts for 18 days if I let him, so he doesn’t have eight bottoms, and I never did find my dream travel midi skirt. Eight is the magic number because it’s one week of outfits plus a laundry day.
- Being a Colorado gal, I can dress in layers like it’s my job. We all have one long-sleeve shirt, one cardigan (babies in cardigans = the cutest), one sweatshirt, and a rain resistant, lightweight jacket. For bottoms, we each have a pair of jeans (you should always bring a pair of jeans!) and soft “travel pants.” Everything else is for warmer weather – shorts, tees, tanks.
- Everything coordinates with more than one thing. I favor earth tones and black/white/gray and found this pretty easy to make happen.
- About 80% of what we packed was new and I fully anticipate to wear these clothes into the ground.
- We will definitely need to buy the baby clothes. Luca turns 1-year in September and is pretty true-to-size, but I packed mainly 12 and 18-month clothing for him. Even so, he is pretty tough on clothes.
How do you pack for a human that’s going to grow and whose needs are going to change so drastically over the course of nine months? He will go from a crawling baby to a walking, talking, almost-toddler by the time we return to Colorado. I tried to focus on what his needs are now and will soon be, and I plan to purchase things if needed. I brought a few little toys that fit in the diaper bag and two books, but one week in and we already made a trip to El Palacio del Bebe (Baby Palace) and bought him a shape sorting toy because the kid was just plain bored and causing havoc.
I packed a few things for feeding and drinking. Luca is breastfed, which makes traveling with him a lot easier for me and requires a lot less gear. We received a portable highchair as a gift and it has come in tremendously handy in our apartment which does not have a high chair. I worry a lot about Luca learning how to feed himself, use a spoon, make a mess, etc. without a proper place to sit. This setup has eased some of my concerns and affords him some autonomy while eating.
Our LilleBaby carrier has been with us since the twins. I experience chronic lower back pain, and this carrier remains fairly comfortable for long periods. Luca likes it quite a bit and, being a third child, he is pretty used to being hauled around in it.
I think that anyone who has traveled with young children has wrestled with the question, “Should we bring the stroller?” We knew we wanted the ease of a stroller, and after much deliberation, we ditched our souped-up gigantic double stroller with rider board for the exact opposite, a QB Pockit stroller. I intend to do a full review of this stroller when this trip is over, but so far it has served our needs incredibly well. It’s basically an expensive umbrella stroller, but it folds up teeny tiny and can fit in an overhead compartment of an airplane.
One of our eight bags is a standard diaper bag. I am a sucker for a high-end diaper bag that doesn’t look like a diaper bag. I have a leather one back home, but something about toting a heavy, $200 leather bag around the beach didn’t sit well with me. Nonetheless, I love the functionality a diaper bag affords (the pockets!!). The winner was a JuJuBe Classical Convertible bag, which is a trimmed down version of their BFF that retails for about $140 less. Sold!
We tried to bring toys with a lot of creative possibilities and obviously things that are small and pack easily. The kids packed the majority of what we brought for them in their own backpacks. Here are a few of the kids’ and our favorite things they brought:
- PLUS PLUS Building toys – We brought these in two sizes.
- Playfoam Pals – There are endless possibilities with playfoam from creative play to preschool activities like shaping letters. Noa really likes the “creatures” that come with these and we bought a bag of the tiny toys she’s collected.
- Crayola Write Start Colored Pencils – These are like a cross between crayons and colored pencils, can be sharpened, and don’t roll. The big kids have been very into coloring and cutting (I brought a pair of training scissors), and we purchase coloring books along our way.
- Petite Collage Magnetic Tins in Little Travelers and Robot Remix.
- Good, old fashioned Legos in a pencil box.
I questioned bringing the twins’ stuffed animals and blankets from home. They take up a ton of space and most places do have blankets. In the end, I’m a sucker for a comfort object. “Bear,” “Hop Hop,” and the kids’ baby blankets will all be toted around the world, for better or worse.
What we purposely didn’t bring
We have a nice DSLR camera that we chose not bring. This may seem crazy to some people, especially photo-loving people. We already have eight bags between two adults, because let’s be real, 25% of the time we end up carrying the four-year-olds’ backpacks. Bringing a large camera would mean an extra or larger bag. I also really don’t like bringing a big, expensive camera everywhere I go. I have an iPhone X, it takes pretty decent photos, I can keep it in my pocket, and not feel like a slave to my DSLR.
Luca sleeps infinitely better alone and in a crib, but we did not bring any sort of pack n’ play. Our rental in Valencia, Spain provided us with a portable crib and if any place we stay long-term doesn’t have one, we will buy one for the stay. We always check ahead of time with hotels and request a crib, and sometimes Luca co-sleeps with us and we are all miserable.
We did not bring any car seats for the kids. In the rare event that we are in a vehicle on this trip, we will rent car seats, but we intend to utilize public transport in almost every circumstance. A car seat is the safest place for a baby or small child on an airplane, and we encourage you to do your own research before choosing whether or not to bring car seats on your travels.
What would you have packed? Is there anything that you or your kids can’t live without while traveling?