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Packing light with small children?? Is it possible?

Our family of 4 1/2 (one on-the-way) is headed to Switzerland for 2 weeks in August. While I have longingly read posts about getting by with just a carry-on, this will not be us, as we need to check 2 carseats. In which case, we plan to check our bags (we also are only buying 3 seats, as our youngest is a lap child at 1 y.o.). I would greatly appreciate tips on packing with/for small children! The baby is in diapers (need to pack diapers, wipes, butt paste..) and still uses a bottle (need to pack those, plus bottle brush, formula, bibs…). She will need more changes of clothes (for accidents) than the adults. But the adults also need to plan to be vomited/peed on at least once(!). We also need a mountain of in-flight entertainment and snacks to get us from CA to LHR (12 hr flight) then a layover in LHR and onto Geneva, without major meltdowns.
I would love advice on how to do this/pack it all! We cannot carry anything on our backs as I am pregnant and my husband will have the baby on his. This means each adult could pull two small roller bags (1 for each of us), OR we could each pull one large rolling suitcase packed for 2 (and look just like the 'Don't Do This' picture on this RS website!).

Last, we need better laundry alternatives than washing clothes in the sink at night (baby poop does not wash out easily). Ideas? When we were in Europe last yr, we did not find laundrymats easily accessible (and, naturally, the 4 year old vomited all over her carseat and herself).
We know we are a bit crazy to attempt this trip at all with two small kids, but feel this is our last chance before #3 makes an appearance.

Thanks :)

Posted by
487 posts

I'm exhausted just from reading your post! Wow. You are one brave woman.

There are diapers and all the wipes and butt cream you need in Switzerland. Where in Switzerland are you going?

I would check bags. We don't have little ones, and we check ours.

When mine were little, I took books, crayons, finger puppets, books on tape (you might get something for the phone).

Take snacks for little ones...a variety.

Good luck! Sure hope you all are staying in one place. Any chance of an apt with washer/dryer? Or at least a washer? That helps a lot.

Posted by
5835 posts

Child safety
Did you know that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap? Your arms aren't capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.

If your car seats are approved, carry them on board and use them. Then check what you need to enjoy your travels.

Posted by
16893 posts

Swiss have a reputation for liking things clean and Rick's Switzerland book lists a Laundromat at the start of nearly every city chapter (not Murten, Appenzell, or St. Moritz). Your hotel staff or the local tourist office (or Google maps) can help you find others. See also a few general tips and resource links for traveling with kids. I'm sure you would find a slightly larger roller bag to be easier to handle than two roller bags per adult.

Posted by
139 posts

No need to worry about what RS thinks of your luggage. I am light packer now, because I prefer it, but on my first European trip I had a baby with me and we brought a a lot of stuff. My advice is use a trolley to move your bags at the airport, take a taxi, and don't move around too much. An apt. with a W&D and kitchen of some sort would make the trip bearable, maybe even fun.

Posted by
2767 posts

I've traveled with kids as young as 1.5, so not as small as yours. In my experience, the time from the airport to your car or hotel is the hardest. Navigating the airport while lugging all your stuff and dealing with cranky kids who just got off a jetlag inducing flight is not fun. This is why packing light is good (but packing light with kids is very different from without!!)

I would pack some diapers/wipes/creams (maybe 3x whatever you think you'll need in the plane, in case of delays) but unless your child is especially sensitive to brands then I would buy the majority of your diapering stuff over there. Easy to find, less junk to carry through the airport.

Luckily, baby clothes are small. If you haven't already, give up on cute baby/kid outfits and just pack whatever mix-and-match combos of shirts and pants. My son had something like 6 pairs of blue pants and 7 tops with blue in them, and multiple pairs of the same socks (so if one got lost it didn't
matter too much). Boring but easy and takes up a ridiculously small amount of room. Stretchy fabrics as opposed to denim of khaki are lighter and less bulky. As for adult clothes, just pack enough for 7 days and do laundry 2 times, since you will get dirty more with kids peeing and vomiting...

Mine didn't use bottles by the time we traveled internationally so no help there.

Laundromats can be hard to find, but if you do research ahead of time and make note of where one is in each city you are staying in (and the hours) it shouldn't be too hard. Renting an apartment with a washer is ideal, but not always feasible. You could find a laundry service where you drop off clothes and then pick them up, washed, the next day. Or, for a pricey option, if you are staying in a big hotel, they usually will do laundry.

In terms of what size suitcase, I vote for the biggest one allowable. If you are very lucky and very strategic, everything will fit in this and your carryons, one of which can sit on top of the roller and be pulled by one person. You will look like a "don't", but it's much easier than rolling 2 suitcases each. Or 2 big suitcases...still easier than 3or 4 small ones!

Snacks and entertainment are important on the plane, so don't skimp here. Choose lightweight items if possible, and if you have an ipad/ is the time for kid videos and games and ebooks. Remember you can buy snacks in the airport, so buy some and save the packed ones for the plane

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you, Mira, that is really helpful!
Based on your and Laura's replies, I think we have given up on the small roller suitcase, and will opt for 2 big ones (we're going "Tourist!"). Finding laundrymats may be challenging, I will start working on that ahead of time. I also am unsure how many layers I need to bring for each child/adult. We do plan to visit Interlaken and the Alps (Yes, we are just that crazy…).
Any other tips greatly appreciated!