Several friends have asked me HOW we do our backpacking, so I thought I’d write a bit about it:
On all of our out-of-Germany trips so far, we have traveled on an airline called RyanAir. It has enabled us to travel extremely cheaply – some of our tickets were only $12 each! There are two downsides to this airline though: 1) the airports they fly into are often an hour or so outside of the major city it advertises, and 2) if you want to check a bag, any bag at all, there are hefty fees. The first we are able to adapt to quite easily. There is always some sort of bus or train that will take us into the city, and we plan ahead to make sure we have enough time built into our plans to get where we want to go. The second is resolved by not checking bags. This means that we are backpacking with 3 young kids, 1 of which needs to be carried and another who cannot yet carry a backpack, since she gets too tired.
I’m going to use our most recent trip (to Barcelona) as an example of how we packed. We were gone for 4 days and 3 nights, and we took 2 backpacks and a purse with us. We also took our Ergo carrier for our youngest – she’s 1 (almost 2) and a very heavy 34 pounds.
The first backpack contained only Bunches’ pop-up bed. It collapses into a circle, and the bed/tent, air pump, and air mattress all fit neatly into this small backpack:
Our other backpack held diapers for Bunches, and overnights for Squirrel. She’s potty trained, but still needs one at night. It also held all of our clothes, toiletries, and entertainment – in the form of 2 iPod touches and a charger.
We had one gallon-sized bag of clothes for each of us. We wore our jeans, sweatshirts, and shoes the whole time, so I only had to pack extra shirts, shorts to sleep in, and socks and underwear. Our big backpack has 2 large side pockets. We use one for toiletries, so we can easily pull them out at security. We use the other for our iPods and headphones, so we can easily pull it out on planes and buses for cranky kids.
The last thing we carried was a small purse. I got this one on amazon.com, and it has worked perfectly! The strap is long enough to wear across my body (the way they say to protect yourself from thieves), and I wore it under my sweatshirt for an extra layer of protection. In the purse, I carried a few diapers and wipes (because this was all we carried once we left the other bags at the hotel), our passports, money, plane and bus tickets, a straw and spoon, a bib and our high chair (more on that in a minute).
For our “high chair”, I saw this video on smockityfrocks.com, and knew right away that I had to make one. I didn’t need something to make her elevated enough to reach the table, I just needed something that would hold a squirmy one year old in her chair while the rest of us ate. Note that I didn’t use bandanas for mine like she did, I just used scrap material.
Here are a few photos of it, one of me holding it to give you perspective on how small it folds up. It’s about the size of a deck of cards and a half tall, and about that thick and wide.
So that’s about it! That’s what we carry, and how we pack. Throughout most of the Barcelona trip, my husband carried Bunches in the Ergo (due to me being pregnant, otherwise we would have switched off). I carried the purse, and we took turns with the blue backpack. Stomper carried the small one with the pop-up bed. We took one extra bag on our longer (2 week) trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland last fall, and that was just to carry all the extra diapers we needed.
I know a few of the things we invested in to make backpacking possible were a bit expensive, like the Ergo and the pop-up bed. However, considering that the fees to check a bag would have been 200 Euro (about $265), they more than paid for themselves in just one trip.
See, backpacking with kids IS possible!