Packing Light

Heading to Minnesota tonight

I am flying the kids out to Minnesota so my daughter can attend a specialized camp. Luckily I have tons of relatives in that state so my son and I will stay with relatives while my daughter is at camp.

The “pre-trip” to Minnesota is a great way to test out our current bag situation while we are still stateside. Right now our bags are too big for my liking. However, my daughter’s bag also has twice the clothes she needs as she is going to camp. My son has more shorts than he needs. I did pack ski bibs in both kids bags but I have decided those are coming out.

My parents will be visiting my uncle a few days after my son and I leave his house so the winter gear and my sons clothes will likely stay there and then my parents will bring them to us. My daughters items I will be shipping home to a neighbor.

Hopefully this time next week our bags will not be as big!

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Travel test run number two

We are heading to California today for my brother’s wedding. I am using it as a way to test packing.

The kids and I are all using our new bags.  I am planning on checking two bags and using one as a carry on. So, the ones that are being checked I tried to pack as much as I could into them. Originally I had started out with the three bags and a travel tote bag but then I had a realization that I could fit everything that I had in the carry on into one of the other bags, and move some of the stuff that I did not need in a carry on from that bag into another bag. That seemed to work perfect and it is one less bag to keep track of.

I packed stuff I wanted to test out. I bought two large size travel towels. They really don’t take up much space in the bag. I am also planning to use one as a blanket on the plane since I get cold.  I also packed the camera and mini-tripod to see how that works. I packed my daughter’s binoculars as I plan to bring them to the big trip and wanted to make sure they would fit. The only thing I did not pack that I wanted to pack was my daughter’s camera…it is slightly on the large side but I am confident I have enough space.

I am trying out a new black fleece that I bought two months ago. I wanted a jacket that I could wear under a shell, but I also wanted something that was dressier than my normal fleece. So I will see if I like it. Hopefully I do as it will be my essential piece for my luggage this summer.

One thing I realized while I was packing for this trip is that I need more packing cubes. I love those things. They are so convenient and I recommend them especially for little items. Granted you could use ziplock bags but the cubes are so convenient.

I am also NOT going to be packing our snow pants. You can rent them at ski resorts in New Zealand and we will only ski once. They will take up too much space in our bags to only wear once. When I pack in a couple of months I will have to reread this post and remind myself NOT to pack them.

So, we shall see how the next five days go and what my thoughts are after that.

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Travel test run number one

I headed to California this weekend for a bridal shower. I used it as an opportunity to figure out what I am bringing to Australia and New Zealand.

The “I am leaving at home” items:

One thing that I am not bringing is my water bottle. I love it because it fits 16 ounces but the water bottle I have is just a little too big to be convenient. I also have a water bottle that is collapsible and I think I may stick to bringing that one instead, if I decide to bring one. 

Another item I am no longer bringing are my travel pillows. They are ok, but not worth the valuable space in my bag when I am trying to pack light. 

I am not going to bring my travel blanket. It is not functional enough for me to carry around on our big trip. However I am always cold and I also use it as a pillow sometimes. I think instead of bringing the blanket I am investing in a sarong swim cover up. Someone suggested I look into that as I need one for Australia and I could also use it as a blanket or pillow.

I have decided to leave my running shoes behind as well. I have been thinking this past month about what shoes to pack that are comfortable and can be worn with shorts and jeans. I already know I am bringing my hiking shoes and kept thinking about bringing my running shoes. But I felt they are too similar to both need to come with me. Finally when I was shopping for a dress shoe this weekend I saw low profile casual sneakers. I am going to look for a pair that is comfortable to walk in and that goes well with the shorts and jeans I plan to bring on the trip.

The “I am thinking about it” items:

An item I am debating about bringing is a set of portable luggage wheels. On one hand, it makes it easy to carry my bag, but on the other hand it is a pain to take the suitcase off of it. The problem is the kids are not strong enough to carry their bags which do not have wheels. However, I prefer bags without wheels as it gives you more luggage space.

The “Coming for sure” items:

The new suitcase I bought worked GREAT. I love it. I love that there is a separate section for my laptop. I know when we fly out West that I am not going to check my suitcase, but will check the kids. I plan to mix our clothes between the three suitcases in case something happens to our baggage. Then we are not stuck with no change of clothes for a few days. But I need to figure out how I will carry my work laptop for our shorter flights. Those flights we will need to check bags as the planes will be smaller. 

I bought a travel cooler for Christmas as my daughter and I have a severe wheat allergy. I tested this out on my quick trip. It was ok…it is something I will need for sure on our 15 hour flight, but on our smaller flights I think I will be checking it. 

I also used my travel purse. I wanted a travel purse that would be big enough to hold my daughter’s iPad mini and this one can fit it. The only problem I had with the purse was it had too many pockets! I guess that is a good thing. I need to start figureing out where I will put everything.

I am debating purchasing a book bag for myself that would fit my computer. When we travel my husband always steels my backpack and uses it for his laptop. My son also has a book bag and I am trying to keep our bag count down, so I may just use his book bag instead of purchasing one for myself. Perhaps that way I can tell him that he and his sister can bring a carry on but it needs to fit in that bag AND I need to be able to put my work computer in it on the smaller flights. The work computer is something I cannot and will not check.

A pair of super warm and comfortable socks for the flight. I only had my low ankle socks on my trip. I really could have used some larger socks for the flights. 

I am heading out to California again in 16 days for the wedding, so I will have a chance to refine my packing again 🙂 This time the kids are coming so I can see how much of a pain it will be if I don’t bring a set of luggage wheels. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Christmas Gifts, Part Two

Besides books on Australia and New Zealand, the kids also received items to be used for our trip:

Both kids received hiking shoes and hiking socks. Additionally they also got some winter clothes. These gifts really thrilled them 🙂

 Both kids also received new luggage bags that they can carry on (or check). My preference is that we do carry on only for the international flights. First – I hate having to wait for a bag after long flights. Second – I don’t want to take a chance that our luggage is left behind in San Francisco and we are waiting days to receive it. I am more willing to check luggage on our flights in Australia and New Zealand though. The bags are eBag’s TLS Motherlode Weekend Convertibles. They do not have attached wheels. I am not really a fan of those as they take up space that could be used for clothes. I did though also buy a Samsonite collapsible luggage cart because the bags will be too heavy for the kids to carry on their own. The rule is that everything you need must fit into one bag, so therefore you need to pack smartly and realize we will be doing laundry. Anyway, here are some pictures of what the bags look like:

 
The girl received a nice pair of binoculars. She has showed an interest in observing animals, so I am hoping she will use them to look more closely at animals and birds. That is also why she got books on animals and birds. Additionally she asked for a camera. Instead of buying her a digital camera, I bought her an instax camera based on the recommendation of my sister. I hope that the girl will take a couple of pictures a day so when we come back we will already have our first photo album.

The boy received a GoPro. We all need to figure out how to use it. I anticipate once it gets warmer out he will want to use it when he is riding his bike. I also think he will want to use it when we are zip lining. I tested it out the other day and I was amazed at the wide angle picture it took.

Anyway, the kids did not ask for much this Christmas, and as a result most of their Christmas gifts were trip related.

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Europe 2013, day fifteen: Germany and returning home

Today was the day we flew back home.  Like our journey to Europe, it would also be a long journey home.  That’s what happens when you book the cheapest tickets you can find on the East coast.

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Our flight left Dusseldorf at 12:05 PM.  Our hotel was literally right across from the
airport.  So we left the hotel around 9 AM and immediately went to the airport.  The line to check-in was HUGE but the line moved relatively quickly.

Castle in Germany

Security was much nicer to go through than US security.  I am a nightmare to go through security with. I hate the naked body scanners though I am feeling much better about them knowing which ones show an outline of you versus a naked image in another room.  Anyway, in Germany we were able to keep our shoes on and we only had to go through a metal detector.  My husband had forgotten about our French sunscreen and he had that taken away….

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We went through security and briefly glanced at Duty Free.  I don’t really understand this.  It seemed to me the prices were much more expensive than anything I could buy in the states.  Duty Free wanted to charge 3.50 euro for a bag of gummy bears.  I can buy the same bag of gummy bears at Target for under $2.00.  So we passed on duty free.

We went through passport control and headed to the gate.  Boarded the plane – once again I had reserved the bulkhead seats for us. So we were the first row in Coach class.  It was nice as we were the first to get our meal and the first to get off the plane.  I much prefer flying East to West – we had an enjoyable flight and I was able to watch a few movies.  The Rhubarb ended up taking a nap for about two hours of the flight as well.  I  had ordered kids meals for the kids but I suspect they mixed up the main course unfortunately.  The kids menu said, “Spaghetti and meatballs” but the main dish they were served looked nothing like that.

Windmill

Anyway, we landed at Newark.  We went through customs and the agent asked us if we were sure we had all of our bags.  He was impressed with our packing for two weeks 🙂  We then had to wait around for another two hours before we caught the train to Washington DC.  Once we boarded the train the Rhubarb fell asleep right away.  The family was separated on the train since we were not boarding at a starting point.  We eventually arrived in Washington DC.

After arriving in Union station we decided to try Uber to get us home.  It was very nice.  For not much more than a cab we had a Lincoln Town Car.  I also had a $20 off your first ride coupon so it probably worked out cheaper than a taxi anyway.  I spoke to a couple of Uber drivers and both seemed to imply that they loved being Uber drivers.

Eiffel Tower

Both kids were passed out on the taxi home.  We got home and both kids immediately went to bed 🙂  Both kids had camp the next day and both were wide awake and able to start camp on time.

It was a great, but exhausting trip.  We are happy to be home!

 

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Europe 2013, day three and a half: Germany, Berlin Lichtenburg train station

1084930_10200528634804885_1533704271_oWe left our hotel early enough to find our night train. We arrived at the train station and it seemed absolutely dead. For a moment we were concerned because we saw no signs of a night train. The husband decided to go check the tracks. Luckily our train was there.

Next I decided to look for dinner. When we arrived at the station there was a German sandwich shop open. I had planned to buy food there but in the time that we found the track and sat down next to our compartment the sandwich place had closed. I whispered to my husband that the kids might be getting dinner from the vending machine.

So right after I tell this to my husband the Rhubarb mentioned that she needed to take care of some business. We go down the set of stairs closest to us and I am thinking we are not going to find a toilet in this small train station. Well going down that other staircase was like crossing over the Berlin Wall. I found a food option that was still open! Back to that later.

So we find the toilet and discover you need a euro to enter. We don’t have that on us. A woman tried to give us her vouchers so we could get in but for some reason it did not work. Just our luck there was a homeless person in the bathroom who let us in. She even got us some toilet paper to use as a paper towel.

Anyway we left the toilet and I discussed the new food option with the husband. I had discovered a McDonalds. Hey – it was better than our other option of a vending machine dinner. I come back with our meal very excited. As we are eating the boy then decides he needs to use the toilet. My husband take him to the bathroom and as they are gone the Rhubarb decides to hold the French fries. She says to me that I promise I know what I am doing. Two minutes later the French fries are on the ground….

It was finally time to board the train. We literally could not all go into the compartment at the same time. Our bags also seemed to take up the entire compartment. I can’t imagine how crowded the room would be if we had huge suitcases. Once we started getting luggage situated I made the kids change into the clothes they are wearing tomorrow. Also – luckily I had packed the suitcase so that I only need to take out what we needed. I can’t imagine going through a packed suitcase trying to find our clothes. Once we check into our Garmisch lodging I am going to have to go through the bags as the contents are all jumbled up now.

So hopefully everyone will sleep. The train gets in at 7 AM. I have a feeling we won’t spend a full day in Munich as everyone will be tired….the plan is to literally wake the kids ten minutes before we arrive. Hopefully the excitement of the train will wake them up without them complaining.  I will leave you with some pictures of us on the night train:
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No more CNN International for us

The last time I went to Europe (eight years ago) I remember only being able to watch CNN international on the tv. Once I was bored with that I would read a book. This time when we travel abroad we’ll be able to watch American tv shows via Netflix or Slingbox. If we want to read a book we can do it on the iPad or on my Kindle.

The advancements in electronics also help minimize my fear of how to keep the kids entertained on our way over to Europe and back. I have put enough movies, tv shows, and games on the iPad and my phone to keep the kids occupied until the batteries go dead. Advancements in electronics will also minimize the books we need to bring. All of my travel books are on the kindle. I have enough books for the kids on the kindle as well. Furthermore, I plan to use my phone as a camera while on the trip. That means one less camera we need to bring.

While we are bringing the iPad and my phone with us, I asked the kids if it was okay if we left the Nintendo DS at home. I explained to them that it required a special charger that we would have to buy. Plus, while the DS is small it also has tiny games that go with it that could be lost. Between the iPad, my old phone, and my current phone we are bringing enough electronic devices. Furthermore, I am only hoping the kids will be using the electronics while we are traveling to/from Europe or at night when we are at our hotel.

So, in conclusion our nights of watching CNN international will be replaced by watching Netflix. And those large books that I packed in the past will now be on my kindle. Much lighter than a hard back book!

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Laundry and packing

I have mentioned a couple of times that we are planning on packing light. For a family of four we are only planning on bringing two suitcases for a two week trip. I tell this to people and I can see the look of disbelief in their face.

In order to pack light we are bringing a limited number of clothing. My apologies in advance as you will see me in the same clothes many times…anyways here are some examples of some of the clothes we are packing: Two pairs of convertible pants for the kids – the legs zip off and they become shorts. They serve two purposes with one clothing item (shorts and pants). I have recently started wearing Icebreaker t-shirts. They are actually made of wool but what I have learned is they breathe really well and they don’t stink when I get all sweaty in them. They are also quick drying. Basically they can be worn a few times without a need for a wash. Two pairs of shoes per person, maximum. One pair of jeans per person, maximum. One light weight rain coat per person – this can be used with rain or on cooler days.

Other ways to cut down on items – coordination in regards to what we need to bring with us to charge things. Everyone using the same shampoo. Sharing toiletry bags. Bringing travel size items of toiletries to start with – we can always buy more once we arrive.

So my initial plan was that we could hand wash some clothing if necessary. Our biggest challenge was that we would not have easy access to a washing machine until we had been in Europe for six days. I am not trying to pack six days of clothing for each person. So I figured we would need to do a load of wash somewhere around Tuesday. I figured we would find a laundromat in Berlin somewhere or we could do wash by hand in our hotel. I got lucky though – there was a slight mix up with our Berlin rental and the guy has us set up with another rental that now includes a washer and dryer in it. So that solves the laundry problem – we will do laundry Monday night and then possibly a load by hand Wednesday night, at least for the kids as you never know when some sort of clothing emergency will happen with them….

Towards the end of our trip we also won’t have easy access to a machine for four days. I think we will just have four days to get through before we get home so again, I will do a load by hand at the hotel Thursday night. That should get us through the duration of our trip.

In conclusion, I am hoping to only pack four outfits per person. So we will all be wearing outfit one over there and only need to pack three outfits in our bags.

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Testing the booster seats

I posted a while back that I was dreading lugging a car seat and booster seat to Europe and that I was excited to find a much more portable option, the Bubblebum. (Side note: my daughter is old enough and big enough to ride in a booster, but I feel a five-point harness is still the safest option for her hence her car seat at home.) These things are so compact I can fit two in a suitcase. Anyway this past weekend I put one in my car and have had both kids try them out. Both kids say they are ok.

Below are pictures of Bubba on the Bubblebum. There is another part that can be used to secure the shoulder strap at a different height. I am not using in this picture but probably will on our trip. As an added bonus of these seats – I will be riding in the middle of the two kids for two days when our friend Angie joins us on the Rhine river. Using these seats will give me slightly more room.

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Packing for a trip to the grandparents

We visited my parents this past weekend. I decided to use it as a chance to see if I could pack two of us into one carry on. I managed to pack three of us into a carry on. I also managed to pack an extra pair of shoes for everyone too 🙂

For the kids I packed two pairs of convertible pants and one pair of shorts. They wore jeans to my parents house. One thing I did not pack enough of was underwear. One of my kids was having some issues and we actually ended up buying some more. It taught me to always pack two more than we think we will need and that worse case we can always buy anything that we need or forget.

How did I pack three of us in one bag? I used Eagle Creek packing cubes. I am a huge fan of these now. They help keep my luggage organized and I know where everything is. Each of us got two cubes. One for shirts/pants/pajamas and one for socks and underwear. This was great because then once we got to my parents I could easily divvy up the suitcase contents to each person. Also as the weekend continued I could make one packing cube for dirty clothes and one for clean clothes (side note:unfolded clothes take up more space – you may want to consider folding your dirty laundry).

So now I know that going to Europe with only two carry ons for clothes is manageable. Our goal is to only bring three bags with us for four people. I know the week before we go I will have my husband help me pack so that I don’t go overboard and try to bring more than is necessary.

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