I've shared my packing lists on various occasions, but I have some travel tips that just don't fit in with a packing list. Some of these tips are better for longer trips and some apply across the board.
Pack a hamper!
After years of being frustrated with the dirty clothes piling up on the floor or hanging out of an open suitcase, I found a solution. We have a pop up hamper that takes up no space in our luggage. As soon as we arrive at our destination, I pull it out and in goes the dirty clothes. If we have a washer/dryer where we are staying, I try to get most of the laundry done before we leave. If we don't, and we are driving home, the whole hamper just goes into the trunk of the car filled with the dirty clothes and that way it goes straight to the laundry room when we get home. If we are flying, one suitcase is designated for the dirty clothes, and that suitcase goes straight to the laundry room as well. It makes unpacking SO much easier when you don't have to sort through your laundry.
Pack in Zones
I use Shop Blop’s cubes to pack toiletries, and anything that goes in a bathroom goes in those comunes or alongside them. When we take beach trips, all the things we take down to the beach get packed together inside the beach bag. Kitchen/cooking related items all go together too. For clothing, items are grouped by type - like PJs, swimsuits, shorts, etc. This makes it easier to find things when I’m looking for them and it functions just like it does at home.
Keep Things Ready to Go
Things like toiletries, hairbrushes, over the counter meds, and chargers are always packed in a closet and ready to go. When we return from a trip, I replenish anything that needs to be refilled/replaced, and it’s ready to go for the next trip. It saves me time and stress while I’m packing.
Use Those Trial Sizes!
Instead of lugging around full size products or refilling travel containers, stock up on trial sizes of products you love. I get one or two things every time I go to Sephora, and I use my points t the register for their trial size rewards. They’re perfect for shorter trips and I still get to use the great products I love!
Dump Whatever You Can at the End
Those trial sizes are perfect for tossing at the end of a trip. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than coming home with less than we left with, honestly. I make sure to squeeze out every last drop and then toss it in the garbage once it’s done. This goes for toiletries, medicine, and anything that is consumable.
There you go! Those are top 5 packing tips. What would you add to the list?
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We are spending this week on a beach in Florida. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and Florida's numbers have been rising steadily over the past few weeks. In the days leading up to our trip, I kept wondering how safe it would be, whether we would be forced to cancel last minute, and God forbid, what we would do if one of us ended up sick. Because we were headed to the beach just a few hours' drive from us and were heading to place where we could essentially do the same thing we have been doing at home, just with a different view, we felt comfortable going ahead with the trip.
As the days came nearer to our trip, we realized we were going to be able to go after all, and my anxiety started creeping in. I packed all of our cleaning products, and I made sure I had extra things that I may not always bring with us on vacation, like a thermometer and a pulse oximeter.
We arrived at the hotel on July 4th in the early afternoon, and it looked like the place was slammed. There was no parking to be found, and there was a steady stream of people checking in. All the staff was wearing masks, but it made me so nervous to see people gathered by the pool and even on the beach that first day.
After checking in, my mom and I disinfected our room extra, spraying Lysol and Clorox bathroom cleaner everywhere we could. The kids still managed to touch everything and drag themselves all over the floors.
I somehow forgot to take my allergy medicine on Saturday night, and I woke up Sunday morning feeling wheezy and congested. Of course, my mind raced and I started thinking of who I had come across while not wearing a mask (that number was one I was proud of). I started to feel like I was going to have a full blown panic attack. I took my allergy medicine, we headed out to the beach early that morning and I immediately felt better. We have been going straight from the room to the beach, people are being responsible and respecting one another's distance, and the hotel isn't operating at full capacity, either. We have been eating in the room, too, since we have a full sized kitchen.
I don't tell you this to scare you - I tell you this to make you understand that having feelings of anxiety and self doubt during a pandemic is completely normal. We are all adjusting to this weird new way of living (I refuse to call it a new normal because seeing people in masks everywhere is NOT what I would consider normal. Necessary, sure. Normal, no.). And while I know we need to be cautious, I also know that mental health is important, too - not just for us, but for the kids as well.
Everything was crowded because of the Fourth of July, but the rest of the week has been relatively quiet. There are people on the beach, but everyone is maintaining a great distance. As the days have gone on, I have felt better and more comfortable with the decision to come, and we've experienced a few moments of, dare I say, normalcy. It has been therapeutic to be able to sit on the balcony and watch the sun rise, or sit on the beach and watch the kids playing in the sand on the shoreline for hours.
So whatever you do, continue to take every precaution - wash your hands, wear your masks, limit unnecessary contact with people. And when you reach your destination, and are away from everyone, breathe in a deep breath of fresh air and enjoy the moment.
In the midst of a global pandemic, being outdoors is really one of the places where I feel safe. With plenty of sun and humidity, and a pretty natural affinity to stay away from other groups, the beach makes sense for us. Especially if we are able to keep our distance from others. For us, the beach is truly our happy place. I get to sit (sometimes) uninterrupted while the kids play in the sand, and then we all go splash around in the water together for a little bit, and then I get another break. The beach usually means an early bedtime, or at least solid sleep, and being outdoors just makes us all much happier humans.
We've managed to make it out to the beach a few times, including once when I went without hubby, and we are currently staying on the beach for a week (more on that next week). My beach bag looks pretty much the same from year to year, with the exception of a few updated products.
Because the kids are getting older, it's starting to get much easier to pack for things like a day at the beach. Chloe being potty trained makes a huge difference for sure! Either way, here are my beach bag must-haves in 2020. I didn't include things like beach chairs, umbrellas, or towels, because those are pretty much a given for us. We have these really great beach chairs that you can wear as a backpack, they lie flat, and they have two zippered compartments on the back of the chair - one insulated, one not.
There you have it, our beach basics! What would you add to this list?
To me, London was the most difficult part of our trip. I had really been looking forward to it, because I had never been there, but jet lag had the kids acting all kinds of crazy, and I know I was off too. It was the first leg of our trip. We could easily have spent another couple of days in London, and still had stuff to do. But for this trip, I think we were able to fit in a lot!
I don't have any restaurant recommendations, really. With the kids it was basically wherever we could be seated right away and where we all fit. Anything I do recommend for food is included in the list below!
Park Plaza Westminster London Bridge
We stayed here 2 nights and we loved this hotel for a few reasons.
London Heathrow Marriott Hotel
We had an early flight to Luxembourg on a Monday morning and we didn’t want to chance missing it with traffic and all of that, so we stayed one night at the London Heathrow Marriott Hotel. This was also a great property, although we didn’t really get to experience much of it. There was a shuttle to the airport, which was helpful. The rooms were comfy and clean.
Our time was limited, since we really had two and a half full days in London, so there were things we weren’t able to see in more detail - many of them we just drove by on the tour bus. I’m adding them below so you can try to squeeze them in if you can!
Natural History Museum
Covent Gardens Markets
Diana Memorial Gardens
Tower of London
Churchill War Room
Tell me in the comments, what did I leave out?
Earlier this month, we returned from a 12 day trip to Europe. We had gone to Paris with Caleb when he was 8 months old, but Paris was our only destination for 10 days on that trip, and he was just barely mobile. This time around, our itinerary was a little more complicated, it was winter, and there were two kids to deal with as opposed to just one. We survived and we made some great memories, but it definitely was not an easy trip.
While I admire families like The Bucket List Family, the reality is that we are not them and this is not our full time gig. Traveling with small kids is a lot of work. We made some beautiful memories, but it is NOT for the faint of heart.
We decided to take this trip because Eddie's cousin (who is Chloe's godmother) had a baby girl in September and we wanted to meet her. They live in Luxembourg. But we also figured if we were making the trip, then we were going to add a couple of stops while we were there.
We booked everything on this trip ourselves and did not use a travel agent. I checked fares for a few weeks until we found something we were comfortable with. (A tip: Use Google Flights or Skyscanner to help you find the best combinations out there. You can't book it on Google, but it will send you to the sites to book with the rates they find.)
For hotels, we had points with several of our credit cards, so we browsed their sites and booked what was most convenient for us and what fit in with our points value. We then booked our travel arrangements from one city to the next. We flew from London to Luxembourg and we took a train from Luxembourg to Paris (it was significantly cheaper and way less time consuming than sitting in an airport). We also booked a rental car for the days were staying in Luxembourg.
We did not book any tours or activities in advance because we weren't sure what the kids would be up for. We decided to take it day by day.
This was a winter trip, and we were expecting temperatures in the thirties, so we wanted to make sure we packed accordingly. However, because of the transfers and traveling to different cities, we wanted to keep our packing as minimalist as we possibly could. We didn't totally succeed, but we had very few pieces of clothing that didn't get worn on the trip. We ended up with three suitcases - one large one for Eddie & I, a medium one for Caleb and Chloe, and a small carry-on bag that we used to carry a change of clothes for each of us and prescription medications.
Fashion and perfectly curated looks were not a priority - I mean we all still looked put together, but my outfits were probably not the most stylish. I went for function, convenience, and being able to use pieces multiple times. I stuck to a color palette - in our case black, white, and grey, and threw a few more colorful pieces in for each person. We each had two pairs of shoes, but we all could probably have left one pair behind.
We packed plenty of light, thin layers that we could add or remove depending on the weather, and each of us had a puffer jacket. We made sure to have enough socks for layering, gloves, hats, and scarves.
For Chloe, I packed enough diapers to last us through the day of travel and two days after. I ended up stopping in a grocery store and picking up a small pack of diapers once during the trip (they had the exact brand of diapers we use for Chloe - Pampers Pure).
We packed all the medications we knew we would need on a regular basis, and all the regular emergency medications. Things I wish I had: the nebulizer and an extra bottle of Benadryl packed in one of the suitcases. They took our children's Benadryl at security in London Heathrow, and we couldn't get anymore while we were there.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Before this trip, Chloe has never been on a plane. I wasn't sure how she would do. All things considered, she did pretty well. We booked an 8 hour overnight flight from Miami to London (Virgin Atlantic) in the hopes that the kids would sleep. We arrived at the airport early, and we were able to get bulkhead seats and a toddler cot. Caleb slept about 2 hours at the start of the flight. Chloe didn't fall asleep until about 5 hours in. Once we were able to transfer her to the cot, it was much more pleasant.
From London, we flew to Luxembourg, but that was a very short flight. We flew British Airways. The security line at Heathrow is pretty insane and they are very particular about liquids. We had our Benadryl taken away here and there was NO getting around it with them.
Once we arrived in Luxembourg, we had a rental car waiting for us. We booked directly through their website (Sixt) and we rented car seats for this kids. We ended up with a BMW X3 and it was perfect for car seats, two strollers, and all our bags. Having a rental car was one of the nicest things we did on the trip. We were able to take multiple day trips, and being able to leave things in the car was nice. Plus, the kids are used to being in cars, so their behavior was usually much better in the car than in other settings.
We took a train from Luxembourg to Paris, and that was pretty fun, too. However, France's transit workers were on strike so our first train got cancelled. We were able to rebook, thankfully, but the train was PACKED when we got on it. I would definitely recommend "splurging" for the first class train - we were able to sit at a table and had large, cushioned, comfortable chairs; and have a game plan for getting bags, kids, strollers, etc. on and off the train.
Our final flight was from Paris to Miami. We flew Air France, which has to be one of the most family/kid-friendly airlines I've been on. As soon as they noticed that we had small children at the boarding gate, they ushered us to a separate line for families. We were able to board after the first and business class passengers, which is always helpful with small kids. As soon as we were in the air, the crew handed out kids activity kits, and for the meals and snacks, kids were always served first. Their meals were really kid friendly and appropriate, too.
What Did We Learn? SO MUCH.
If you're planning an international trip with small kids, I hope this helps you!
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