Saturday, November 7, 2015

Minimalist traveling with a toddler

There aren't many things I go minimalist on.  I get too sucked into the "but I might need that!" mentality, or caught up by sentiment (though that is getting less the older I get).  However, I do hate to travel with more than I need.  In some cases, this has led me to travel with less than I need (don't ask what I packed for our honeymoon--I was thinking "autumn in Alaska" but we went to "end of summer in Italy" and roasted myself), which isn't ideal either.  But I'm getting better at knowing what I really need for myself, and what I don't.
However, adding a child into the mix makes it a whole new ball game.  The Munchkin and I are in Pasadena visiting my brother, his wife, and their sweet baby girl.  You'll notice, HusbandX is missing from this.  He's at home, still working on, well, getting work.  So I've traveled alone.  With a toddler.  Clearly, I have gone mad.  I wanted to do this now, though, both because I'm super excited about my niece (yay!), and because the Munchkin is still a free lap baby for another couple of weeks, until her second birthday.  A free traveler?  Yes please.  Combined with the insanely low airfares ($76 each way!) this was hard to pass up.
Lest you think that I've basically discovered free travel, the Munchkin and I are staying in a hotel, which is not cheap in this area.  Even after trying my BIL's girlfriends' super-secret discount passcode for hotels (she works at a hotel), it was still not as cheap as I'd hoped for.  On the other hand, we're only a few blocks away from my brother's place, so we can walk.  So we didn't need to rent a car.  Yay!
Then we got here and...crap, how am I going to get there without a car?  The plan was that my brother would pick us up from the airport.  That's a fairly normal plan, right?  Hardly seems worth coming up with a backup.
Until it becomes necessary by exploding tires and life and such.  I had to get myself and the Munchkin and all of our stuff (including the car seat--never forget the car seat) to Pasadena from LAX.  WITH NO BIKE AS A BACKUP!!!  Nightmare.  After talking it over with my brother, we took the lovely FlyAway shuttle bus ($8) to Union Station downtown.  Since there weren't two seats together in one row, my thoroughly travel-weary toddler had to sit on my lap AGAIN.  And protest by slumping into a puddle in the aisle while squealing at me.  Multiple times.
After we made it downtown, that's where I had to pay (with toddler trying to run amok), then grab our luggage and go through about 1/4 mile of underground (or more?) to get to another kiosk to pay for the metro train ($2.75), then back up one flight (we took the elevator) to the train station, where the toddler promptly tried to run over to the edge to see what this new place was all about, at which point I abandoned our stuff to the mercy of whatever thieves LA had on offer at that particular time, to grab my child away from eminent danger and explain to her that she'd scared me very much.  She ignored me in favor of waving hello to the pigeons.
All of this is really to say that I am so happy I've learned to travel lightly.  If I'd had a lot of stuff, this wouldn't have been possible.  I'd have had to take the more expensive shuttle, or break down and rent a car.  As it was, it was barely doable.  And I'm patting myself on the back for having the foresight to look up lightweight car seats when we were researching them (it's 11 lbs.) as well as compact ones (for our small car).  If it had been a bigger car seat, that would have been the tipping point, because even our small one was bulky, heavy, and generally a pain in the ass when being carted around manually rather than strapped into a vehicle.
 But other than the car seat?  Damn, I did a great job.  We're here for four days and the Munchkin is potty training so we have both diapers (for sleeping times) and underwear (ALL the underwear, in case of accidents) so there's more stuff than we will have when she's totally done potty training.  (Please, please let that be soon....)  And still, I managed to fit it all into one rolling carry-on, plus a laptop bag full of entertainment stuff (including, you guessed it, my laptop).  Other than that, I have one soft baby carrier (our Ergo), which doesn't really have storage but was probably the best thing I brought because she couldn't run away when she was strapped to my chest, and I didn't have to juggle her as well as luggage and a car seat in my hands.
How did I pack so light?  The first thing I did was figure out what I would need in terms of clothing.  If it had just been me, I could have packed for myself in the laptop bag.  Two outfits, enough clean underwear for each day, a small bag of toiletries, and my entertainment.  With a frequently sticky and messy toddler, I needed more though.  But how much more?  It turns out, not much.  I made sure my clothes go together and packed: one pair of capris (it's LA, after all), three shirts, and clean underwear.  I wore my skirt, a tank top, and a light sweater (just in case), and packed one extra pair of pants just in case.  (Mostly, just in case the toddler has a potty accident while on my lap.  She did that to HusbandX once, peeing herself so bad that she peed his pants as well.  And that was with a diaper on her.)  I also threw in some pajamas.
For the Munchkin, there were wet bags (for used diapers), cloth diapers, covers, and the inserts to make them extra absorbent overnight.  One comfort blankie, her Sleep Soldier, the ever-important Bunny, two pairs of jammies (in case of an awful nighttime potty accident), three shirts, two dresses, and one pair of leggings (which technically goes with the dresses, but could also match with any of the shirts).  Once again, extra clothes just in case.  But I really did come up with the very worst I could think of and decided that, really, we don't need a whole boatload of clothes just in case, and that I can always take stuff to a laundromat if needed.

Poor Bunny was stuffed into the Barf Bag by the Munchkin.

I went minimal with my own toiletries, so they fit into about a sandwich-baggie-sized bag I have, plus toothbrushes and hair brush.
All of this fit into one rolling suitcase with lots of room to spare.  I didn't even have to utilize the zipper expansion.  It helps that toddler clothes fold up so small, and that I have a small toddler.  (She's just growing into 2T clothes.)  But really, I know plenty of adults who can't make it away for a weekend with less than a full suitcase for themselves.  And this is me, planning with the Worst Case Scenario: Toddler Edition in mind.  I fully expect to go home and think to myself, "Well that was stupid to pack.  We never used it!"
A few books for her, two books for me, the laptop and cable, one reusable water bottle each, and we were all set.  (Plus wallet and phone and all of that, but lip balm doesn't exactly add tons to the weight and size of the bag I carried.)  Considering how today ended up, I am very thankful that I packed light, because now, despite the unexpected adventure, I feel like it was overall a pretty good day.  I won't lie and say this wasn't a hassle to deal with, but it could have been SO much worse.
We made it to Pasadena, where my brother picked us up (car all fixed) and had a lovely evening together filled with chili and UFOs.  Getting to see the Munchkin give her baby cousin a kiss made any and all efforts to get down here Totally Worth It.

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