I’m learning that nothing sets off a shopping spree like planning to travel with kids. Mr. M. and I have recently booked a trip overseas with BamBam, who is one and a half. Infants under age two can fly without the purchase of an additional ticket, which is all the excuse we need.
While I’ve done plenty of backpacking in the past, this will be my first big trip with a toddler in tow. We’ve put a lot of thought and research into our packing list. These are some of the items that I’m adding in order to succeed at backpack travel with a young child.
Our List for Travel with Kids
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When BamBam was 6 months old a friend lent us her Organic Ergo carrier. This buckle carrier became our favourite. Wearing baby has always been an important part of our parenting toolbox, but it will be essential for our upcoming trip. After hours of research I have ordered a Lillebaby Complete All Seasons carrier. I was considering other brands in toddler-specific sizes. However, after another mom in a Facebook group suggested I look at Lillebaby I narrowed in on the All Seasons.
My reasons for choosing the Lillebaby All Seasons is that it accommodates newborn up to 45 pounds without an infant insert (BamBam is only 25 pounds, so this will be fine for us). It also includes lumbar support. The centre panel zips down to mesh—ideal of the humidity of Asia—while still offering more coverage while we’re in Canada. It also allows a front carrier for some stages in additional to my requirement for a comfortable front and back carry.
An “indestructible” (rugged) camera
While we have taken our big cameras on trips before, the tight packing required for a trip with a child demanded something smaller. We also want to be able to use our camera without fear. We needed something with good rugged reviews, a long battery life, and a decent video function. We also didn’t want to completely break the bank. We ended up buying a Panasonic Lumix. We have been very pleased with it so far, and BamBam can’t injure it by dropping it off the deck. Also on my wishlist is this floating wrist strap. Mr. M. and I love snorkelling, and no amount of rugged will save a camera that disappears 100 feet into the depths. That’s how Mr. M. lost his first wedding ring.
Child harness and “leash”
I never thought I would purchase one of these items. However, I know how hard it can be to keep track of my wandering toddler at a market in my small town—never mind at a busy festival overseas. Mr. M. came up with the compromise of purchasing a leash that we can wear around our waists. We settled on this one, which has a bungee that can slide around the belt. To go along with it we chose this comfortable and adaptable child’s harness.
For many family trips a guide book won’t be necessary. However, if you’re venturing into unfamiliar territory, especially if you don’t speak the local language, some guidance can be invaluable. While I’m travelling with my child I know that comfort and security will become much more important.
I have always relied on the Lonely Planet brand when it comes to guide books. They publish unbiased reviews with extensive and updated information (this is not a paid post. I’m just sharing my experience). I would love to read the Lonely Planet publication Travel with Children: The Essential Guide for Travelling Families (only $6.09 on Kindle, so maybe I’ll get the chance). For this trip I have ordered Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.
I was going to use this space to endorse my current backpack, but I’m saddened to see that it’s no longer listed on the Mountain Equipment Co-op website. That said, I don’t recommend buying a backpack off the internet anyway. It’s probably the single most important piece of equipment you will use on a backpacking trip, and you need to kick the tires, so to speak. If you’re in Canada definitely head to your local MEC. If you’re American then you’ll probably want to start at an REI. Here is a MEC article on How to Choose (and Fit) a Backpack. Also see this write up on Packs for Kids if you’re travelling with an older child (although it addresses school bags more than travel).
Water purifying system
Full disclosure: I have not yet solved the drinking water conundrum. Mr. M. and I have a purifier pump similar to this one, but I don’t think this is the easiest or cheapest solution, especially for young families. For many destinations you may simply be able to drink the tap water. Unfortunately, for other locales, it is not a risk worth taking, especially with children. One option is a LifeStraw, although it’s probably not the most practical way to get toddlers to drink water. I would also love to try an ultraviolet light purifier. I have met travellers who have used this system with success. These reusable options will be cheaper than bottled water in the long run, as well as being so much more ecological.
Let’s face it—when we travel we often eat out. When we eat out (especially with littles) we often choose food that comes in throw-away containers. While I’m overseas I really love to get street food, but so often this means using disposable products that are very likely to end up in a water source. Alternatively, if I throw lightweight alternatives into my day bag I feel so much better about the whole thing.
This metal straw set is ideal with a carrying case, different straw sizes (hello bubble tea), and cleaning brush—trust me, you will want a cleaning brush. For cutlery I honestly just bring a teaspoon from home, but something like this bamboo cutlery set would be a dream. Dishes/containers are a little harder to choose. I like this bowl/plate/spoon set because it’s stainless steel. However, its also nice to find something with a lid that can double as a dish/mug.
Again, you may want to give these a pass if you’re on a road trip to visit grandma. However, if you’re wandering around in a foreign country a money belt is a good piece of security. We have ordered two of these. I’m convinced they’re a cheap and effective form of preventative insurance.
I got my first wet bag when I started using cloth diapers. That said, parents should have one on hand anytime they’re out of the house. These bags are water resistant and hold in smells. They work great for swimsuits, soiled clothes, or toiletries. I expect to find a whole new gamut of uses on the road. I like these Bumkins ones for the two compartments, snap handle, and price. You can even buy reusable food safe ones that are perfect for toting around snacks.
So there you have it. That’s my shopping list, based on my experiences as both a long-term backpacker and a (so far) short-term parent. I can’t wait to meld the two together. Have you ever done long and/or overseas trips with your children? What essential but unexpected items would you add for travel with kids?