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Traveling with kids
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The things we carried from public transportation to camping in Yellowstone

riding_luggageA last minute trip to Yellowstone, traveling with a lap child, and this is everything that came with us in full detail…

Sure, it was a bit rushed and crazy since we had to get a bigger tent the night before we left since camping attempt one was rough on us.

We booked last minute (within 48 hours) frequent flier mile tickets to Billings, MT.  We really needed to get in a few more trips before Wyeth turns 2 and this seemed like a reasonable way to use up miles before he diluted their value by requiring us to get a third seat.  Just over a month ago, United removed fees on last minute bookings using frequent flier miles, making this trip possible.  The availability of tickets shifted around and in evaluating the options for flying a number of cities around Yellowstone, these were the only ones available and they only became available 2 days before we wanted to leave. So off we went…

Alas, the new baggage fees hurt when you are traveling with kids.  The airlines have publicly stated that they want to cut down on excess baggage.  I think what they really wanted to do was cut down on the number of kids on the planes and the reduced weight in luggage was a bonus.  (Southwest Airlines does remain kid-friendly and does not charge for the first 2 checked bags.)

For the record, we lugged all of our stuff a mile down the street to public transportation (subway), which we took to the airport.  Each time we travel, this gets harder and harder and carrying camping gear did not help.

I estimate that we brought 150 lbs. of luggage in total.  The young lady in front of us, however, had individual bags over 70 lbs. so maybe we weren’t doing too badly.  Hopefully she had more than a week’s worth of stuff, unlike us. A bag over 50 lbs. is charged a $100 fee.   I do not understand why large suitcases are even sold anymore.  Our largest suitcase is 26*40″ (XXX – check this value) and it represents the maximum size.  Pack it full and it measures 50 lbs. +/- 5.  If it gets weighed like ours did on the way there, I took out 1 pair of jeans and the weight was under 50.  If the weight limit ever changes again, we will most likely get an appropriately miniature-sized suitcase.

So here’s the list:

  • Item 1. Suit case – checked (50 lbs.)
    • Large suitcase – full of clothes more or less. Other random things thrown in include toiletries (contact lens solutions add weight!) and ~20% used for camping stuff.
  • Item 2. Large duffle bag – checked (~35 lbs.)
    • REI Half Dome 4 tent (9 lbs.)
    • Sleeping bag
    • 2 camping pillows
    • 2 sleeping pads
    • Small camping stove (Jetboil), and some utensils
  • Item 3. Graco – Pack ‘n’ play – checked 25-30lbs.
    • With last minute packing, there was random stuff like blankets and diapers stuffed in along the side too
  • Item 4. Stoller – checked at gate
    • Peg Perego (Pilko P3 Classico – bought used and beat up already)… Veteran traveler – lost a handle on a flight a year ago, good for naps on the go and doubles as a decent feeding seat. Has a great sun/rain shade – key for being out and about. A bit heavy but travels pretty well.
  • Item 5. Suitcase – carry-on size (~30 lbs.)
    • Diapers, books, camera bag
  • Item 6. Backpack – carry-on
    • books – adult (not sure why we bothered…)
    • books – baby
    • diaper changer
    • extra diapers, wipes, snacks, water bottle
    • baby blanket and puppy
  • Item 7. Handbag – carry-on
    • more food, snacks, water bottle, pens, baby passport
    • assorted crap

What might we do differently next time?

BABYBJÖRN Travel Crib

So the question is: how can we pack lighter?  Or how can we avoid more airline fees?  Along the same vein, what if we weren’t able to rent a huge four door car? Or if we had more kids, how would this work?

The pack ‘n’ play is brutally heavy and not easy to wheel (too awkward to rest well even on our biggest wheeled suitcase) or carry (nothing but a handle – no shoulder strap).  We would love to cut down the weight of this.  One of the best options out there seems to be the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light at about 7.5 lbs. that folds into a little briefcase-like bag.  We are continuing to research the choices and seriously considering this one as it sure looks better for plane travel. At $225 ,the price is steep but at least on Amazon.com, 60 of 73 reviews give it 5 stars (12 4′s and 1 3), which is promising.

Another option (that won’t change the fees, but will change the weight) is an umbrella stroller. We haven’t spent much time looking at those because we’ve already got some working wheels. For the time being.

New suitcases. They only last so long, especially the wheels.

Potty training. Diapers take up a LOT of room. One option is to buy the diapers at the other end, but somehow you always manage to carry quite a few (either on the way there or on the way back). Plus, it’s not something you want to be without (tip: put some in every bag in case one is lost!). We’ve got a bit of time yet, but having a potty-trained child will do wonders for the bulk in bags.

In the end, it’s hard not to pack a lot when traveling with a kid… or more than one kid! They need extra clothes, a couple toys, books, shoes, blanket, etc., and that’s not really ever going to change. Maybe someone will start a family-friendly airline…

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