Earlier this summer we did our first camping trip with the girls. Back in the day, our packing list for camping included pretty much just a tent, sleeping bags, hot dogs and beer. Let me tell you, camping with toddlers required way more thought. I know this probably sounds crazy coming from the family who decided to go all the way to Chile with only a week’s notice but I’m not kidding you, camping is harder than international travel. I’m serious. Dead serious.
Okay, sure, there are things about the latter that might be a bit harder. Squirmy toddlers on 10+ hour plane rides are no walk in the park but at least packing is easier.
Years ago, the wife of one of my husband’s coworkers told me that someday when Andy and I have kids, it wouldn’t be that hard for us to travel with them. I remember this conversation so vividly because almost everyone I’d ever mentioned our ambitions to had told us otherwise. Even now. Even after three successful trips to foreign countries with twins. They still tell us otherwise.
This person was a mom and she’d not traveled, if I remember correctly, ever. When I told her that her view was refreshing and very unusual, she pointed out that Andy and I already knew how to travel, which was the scary part about traveling with kids. Her reasoning was that having kids is, in itself, a scary adventure into the unknown, but that happens whether you’re sitting in your own living room or sitting on a plane. The scary part that you can’t control is travel and if you don’t feel like it’s scary, then you may as well bring your kids.
The reason I mention this conversation is because holy cow folks, don’t make international travel a mountain when it’s seriously just a molehill if you’ve ever tackled camping.
For camping I had to pack up everything we would need. Pack it into a car. Everything we would need. For three whole days. That’s crazy. Then, I recalled some of the conversations I’ve had about our big trips and I realized some people are sort of thinking that’s what we do for those too. We don’t; that would make it impossible and frankly, not much fun.
Also I should note that someone on Facebook supposed that maybe the reason packing for camping was harder was because we couldn’t count on all those hotel amenities. Most of you guys probably know better than to assume we’re staying in fancy pants hotels that have things like amenities but in case some of you are new, let me tell you, we’re not. We stay in budget hotels or basic Airbnbs. I mean, you stay in a hotel with a butler one time and suddenly everyone thinks you’re some highfalutin jet-setter.
But back to packing… sure, you have to pack some things. I’ve always half-joked that all you really need is a passport and a credit card. With babies I’ve added in pacifiers, a little giraffe named Twigs and an elephant named Trunks. But still, other than that, you can pretty much buy the essentials anywhere.
But still, people asked, “What about diapers?”
“What about formula?”
“What about baby food you can trust?”
“What about medicine?”
Okay this one is half-valid. Just like you would do for yourself, you should pack enough medicine to get you through until you can get to a pharmacy, which we did. But in Panama, when the girls got their first colds, we were easily able to buy name brand infant Tylenol, just like the stuff in our medicine cabinet at home.
“What about somewhere for the babies to sleep? Do you lug pack n’ plays everywhere?”
No way, we pack light. Plenty of hotels have some sort of crib for one baby. Our problem is that we have two babies and regardless, we prefer to stay in apartments. While we’ve encountered a few cribs on the road, most of the time we used our little travel tents.
By the time last spring rolled around and we went to Chile we just plopped them down on a mattress we’d moved to the floor.
“What about car seats?”
Nope, we avoid cars and opt for trains, buses, planes and walking.
“What about toys?”
Really anything that’s not a weapon or someone else’s breakable belongings can be turned into a toy. Travel favorites are anything with a zipper and also dirt.
“What about a stroller? They’re so bulky but such a necessity.”
We have a small double umbrella stroller that folds up tiny that we brought to both Panama and Europe. In Panama, Andy and I also wore the girls in Baby Bjorns. For Chile though we were like, eh, they know how to walk and we’ll just keep our expectations in check as to how far we can go.
“What about clothes? Don’t you have to bring so many? Kids get so dirty!”
Yeah, kids get dirty but wearing something that they wore the day before won’t kill them… or the day before that… or the day before that. I mean, so I hear.
So there you have it. That is why it took an entire car’s worth of stuff to make it through a weekend but we can go across the globe with two small suitcases. And to anyone who has ever taken their family camping and felt like that was your limit, I dare you to go further. Seriously, buy those plane tickets, book that hotel and leave the sleeping bags, tents, camping chairs, paper plates, paper towels, coolers and camp stoves at home, it’s easier than you might think.
Except the giraffe and elephant, obviously.