Time to travel? While in the past that meant a twenty minute collective of what was needed, what were carry on essentials and what was the maximum you could squeeze into a 20kg checked bag…oh how things have changed!As a South-African living in The Netherlands with my wife and baby-girl, Christmas is spent alternating between the two countries. With our daughter being six months around Christmas time, we thought it was time for her to meet her uncle and aunt + cousins in Johannesburg.

The safari backpack with all its years of travel experience across the world was emptied completely for the first time  (including the three different containers of mints, post-it notes, pens and travel sunglasses) and thrown into the washing machine. It transformed from a safari backpack into a baby-carry-on backpack.

Travel essentials for a baby came next: three sets of clothes for emergencies, enough diapers to keep us going for at least two days, baby food jars, three bottles for feeding, powdered milk stackers for eight bottles, two packs of wet wipes, a changing mat, three essential toys, her favourite ‘cuddly friend’, a few clothes for face whipes and a sleeping mattress and blankets. All in all that leaves the backpack pretty full…so what about the travel headphones, binoculars, our own change of clothes, cap, iPad, sunglasses, reading glasses, travel documents, GPS, and all other travel essentials?

Travel experience round 1
(keep your eyes peeled for future experiences)

My efforts to travel lite and keep to one backpack were foiled…and after a short deliberation I opted for a second carry on – the trendy leather hand duffle that says “smooth and experienced traveler” – and filled it with all my own essentials and off we went.

Two checked bags, a baby bed, a stroller and three carry-on bags later – I was pretty impressed we had managed to accomplish that for a two week holiday. (Until we traveled home.)

Christmas with our family in South Africa is somewhat different to those in most parts of Europe, the day is warm and spent outdoors in the swimming pool and around the braai…always shared with family and filled with presents – its a time of giving. Having a new addition to the family who lives on the other side of the world means extra presents…way way extra!

We always travel with a light weight duffle which we throw into our suitcase – it can be useful for easier packing on the way home or those additional items you pick up along your travels. But in this case we needed a second duffle, kids toys aren’t ergonomically designed for travel or conveniently packed so they fill up fast. We closed our trip off with four checked bags (thank goodness for the luggage limitations on KLM), a baby bed, stroller and three carry-on bags – just a little (ahum) heavier than the way in.

So what did we learn?

1- We loved the ability of being able to give away our daughters old clothes to charity. We took two bags of clothes our daughter no longer needed and liaised with an organisation in Cape Town to donate them to the township of Khayelitsha.

2- Be brutal when packing, and then cut 10% out.

3- Tell family and friends ahead of time: don’t buy any presents but rather contribute to a saving fund for your new family member.

4- Ziplock bags are your best friend (old dirty clothes smell and half used bottles leak).

5- Limit flights as much as possible – if you can fly direct and avoid transits its a better option even if you pay a little more.

6- But then: make sure you rent a car that can take all your luggage, the baby carseat and yourselves!

7- Invest in a stroller or pram that can be taken on board as hand luggage. We took our expensive city stroller but hardly used it. It was a pain on flights as we had to fold it and leave it at the gate, it’s a mission to fit it in a car and ours got lost in translation for three days!

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