2 Kids, 6 Bags And a Flat Mule: Baggage Woes!

Luggage, every traveler’s bane and many traveler’s only worldly possession. Do we own it or does it own us? Sometimes I really wonder.

Looking back, when Micki and I started traveling together on our first year long RTW adventure in 2003, we each had a moderate sized backpack and a smaller daypack for our daily jaunts. In the first few weeks we arrogantly convinced ourselves that those bags would be all we ever needed. Boy, how wrong we were…

Wedding Luggage
Ah, the days of just one backpack…

You see, some people can go for days without washing their clothes and don’t seem to mind walking around in what I lovingly call the backpacker funk. Most travelers go through times where laundering your clothes just isn’t easy, however there are some backpackers that truly revel in it.

Then there are the ultra lightweight travelers who use their t-shirts as towels and wash their only underwear every night in the sink. To put it simply, those guys are too energetic for me and the reality is that I need a change of clothes every now and again.

To make me feel even worse, there are hundreds of posts out there where travelers are marveling how they’ve never been so happy since they limited their clothing to only a few items.

Frankly, we aren’t those people.

The reality is, on that first trip, our bags were full from the start and as our trip wore on, somewhere along the way we were forced to pick up another large backpack. You might think that it was from all the souvenirs we horded, however it wasn’t. There are still two boxes in our storage locker that are full of all the things we shipped home during that trip that have yet to see the light of day.

Part of the problem was that we’re probably the only backpacking couple that carried a tuxedo and wedding dress for eight months of their travels. 

Since we got engaged a few months into that first trip, we decided to get married before we returned to Canada. As a result, I had a tux custom made for me while we were in Thailand and Micki had her wedding dress designed there as well.

Now don’t get me wrong, we never intended to carry them with us for so long, however our wedding date kept getting pushed back further and further on that trip until finally we decided enough was enough and made it happen. Of course, by then we were almost on our way home so our tux and dress went back into the backpack until we got back to Canada.

That trip told us a lot about our travel habits, what we could live without and what we considered essential. In the few years between then and starting a family, we even managed to reduce and refine our gear to what we considered the ultimate compromise of needs versus wants.

That perfect luggage period was ridiculously short lived.

As soon as Cole was born, all semblance of order was thrown out the window. Extra diapers, extra wipes, blankets, sheets, clothes, portable crib, emergency pharmaceuticals, you name it we carried it. It’s hard enough to travel with a baby, never mind having to pack for every possibility.

Back then we still felt guilty for wanting to continue our travels and God forbid that something went wrong. We would have had to face the accusations of the grandparents and family who thought our errant travel days should be over now that we had started a family. To be on the safe side, back then we packed enough to flatten a donkey.

I’m not going to lie, traveling with young kids is never easy. Not only do you have to deal with all the crap that goes with having little ones at home, but you also have their extra gear and safety to worry about while on the road. It’s still possible to enjoy travel but our days of simply grabbing our backpacks and jumping on a plane were over.

Don’t tell anyone but one of the happiest days of my life was the day we packed up for a trip and left the diapers, blankets, strollers and baby seats behind since our youngest was finally at an age that she didn’t need any of it. Glory days were definitely upon us!

Family Luggage
And here’s what bags for a family of four look like…

This trip we went in a new direction and decided to test out the rolling luggage approach. It has been an interesting change from just the backpacks however, besides for the pain of wheeling something with tiny wheels up and down Spain and Portugal’s steep and winding cobblestone streets, it’s been working.

For any of you wondering, on this trip we have two large rolling suitcases, a backpack we first used on that trip in 2003 as well as three daypacks. Considering there are now four of us, I keep telling myself it’s not that crazy.

The smaller daypacks usually hold our electronics while the other one holds travel snacks, spare clothes and toys for the kids. The two large rollers carry our clothes and some extra toys like Lego and a few small stuffed animals that the kids refuse to part from. The large backpack carries extraneous items like our snorkeling gear (two masks and snorkels), schoolbooks, craft supplies and learning activities for the kid as well as a  first aid kit and a few small bowls and cups for those non kitchen equipped stays.

In theory, between the four of us it’s manageable. We also generally long stay in places so the bags are sedentary most of the time.

Of course, that little jaunt we made to Portugal for three weeks kind of went against the norm, but we also had a rental car for that leg of the trip so lugging our gear usually only meant hauling our stuff up and down three or four flights of stairs and then a block or two to our parked vehicle.

Towards the end of our time in Portugal, the joy of staying in charming, old historical buildings on tiny streets was quickly losing against places with ample parking and blessed elevators..

Though we did have a hate on for our luggage in Portugal, so far what we’ve been traveling with has been working.

That said, we just got back from Morocco and frankly, our luggage wasn’t invited. The thought of all the touts and mayhem there was just too much for us to deal with.

I told Micki we were either taking the kids or the bags. I didn’t think the kids could handle hanging out in a locker for a week so I hope our bags enjoyed their little break. I hate to ever leave anything behind, but my nerves and my back enjoyed the break even more.

The worrisome part is that for the most part, we didn’t miss the stuff that was in the two big bags we left behind. Are we finally reaching the point of a small bag for each of us? Probably not but for the first time in years I think there is hope ahead.

Have a horror story about your luggage or some tips about handling baggage and kids? If so, we’d love to hear about it.