The long-haul carry-on bag

kid's back pack for travel

packed up and ready to roll

After several flights with E, I’ve developed a few rules for our carry-on bags to help make our journeys more enjoyable. While every flight is different, and needs change as E grows, we have a few tried-and-true items we never leave home without. Will they eliminate the possibility of melt-downs? No. Will they end all boredom and wiggling? No. But hopefully they will give us at least a bit of peace and quiet and keep us from being that family on the plane.

E’s backpack

Fjallraven mini back pack

Kid’s backpack, perfect for long trips and short hops.

E loves to carry his own back pack and pick out the things that will go inside. I got him this yellow Fjallraven for a few reasons:

  1. It is mini-sized, so it won’t make him top-heavy.
  2. The top handles make it easy for me to grab if I need to keep him out of harm’s way.
  3. The bright color makes him easy to spot and and the backpack hard to accidentally leave behind.
  4. The straps adjust all the way to grown-up length, so if he decides to ditch it, I can put it on and keep my hands free.

It doesn’t hold a lot, which I think is a good thing. He can find what he’s looking for and there aren’t’ so many items that I can’t keep track of them when he invariably pulls them all out and dumps then on the floor.

In his back pack, we tend to stash the following:

  • Crayons and Post-it notes in an old Altoids tin (thanks Pinterest!)
  • A stuffed animal
  • A Melissa and Doug Water Wow tablet
  • Snacks
  • A few books
  • A  rubber dinosaur
  • Fuzzy pipe cleaners
  • Tape (Tape is awesome. Make tape balls, stick it on your face to make funny faces, re-seal snacks, label stuff…)

I carry my trusty L.L. Bean Quad backpack which has traveled with us on several trips and holds an amazing amount of gear and flotsam.

L.L. Bean Quad back pack

L.L. Bean Quad back pack

In my back pack:

  • Toddler water bottle
  • E’s blanket
  • Overnight essentials dopp kit (toothpaste and tooth brush, facial wipes, contact lenses and glasses, etc.)
  • Diaper change pack
  • Set of clothes for E
  • Set of clothes for me (Do not discount this one. If your child gets motion sickness, the person they throw up on will not be themselves. Trust me.)
  • iPad and charging cord!
  • Travel documents and wallet
  • Headphones for both of us (one noise-cancelling set, one ear-bud set)
  • Snacks
  • A few small, wrapped toys to use in a emergency

Will we forget something? Of course! But we are not traveling to a remote or desolate destination. We’re traveling to a major international airport. As long as we have enough diapers to get us through any delayed flights and tarmac-sitting, I think we will be OK.

You gotta roll with it

Sometimes the best memories come from those times when you decide to give up making plans and just let the day happen.

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Ready to hit the trail.

With the husband out of town and the bigger kid not around, E and I had Memorial Day to ourselves. The weather was scheduled to be rain-free for most of the day, so I decided that a bike ride was in order. Our hand-me-down bike trailer was already hooked up and ready to roll, so I consulted the Trail map and decided a simple out-and-back bike ride on the Cedar Lake Trail would be a good morning activity.

The bike trails of the Twin Cities are legendary for their ease, proximity and extensiveness across the metro area. The Cedar Lake Trail has the added draw of the lovely Depot Coffee House, where bikers and neighborhood folks gather before, during or after their ride.

Cedar Lake bike trail

Paved and shady. A great bike trail for hauling kids!

So on my ancient, broke-ass Schwinn and hauling 50 pounds behind me, we set off. I didn’t realize how much that extra weight and limited gears would slow me down, but we weren’t trying for time. And the more deliberate place forced me to slow down and really have a chance to observe where I was.

As we entered the trail near the NordicWare factory, a pair of geese and their goslings greeted us. It looked like they had set up a nest somewhere next to the factory. (Maybe they get free bundt cake?)

Geese outside the NordicWare factory

Our escorts for a portion of our bike ride.

One of the parts of urban trail bike riding that I like best is the chance to see a familiar place in a whole new way. We biked over Minnehaha creek, next to St. Louis Park’s beehive monuments (which I’ve always wondered about when I pass them on the highway) and through wooded areas I never knew existed. The trail was full of other bikers, runners and Rollerbladers, but never felt crowded.

Returning from our half-way point, I noticed that all the bikers were smiling at me. “Isn’t it nice that bike riding puts everyone in a good mood,” I thought. Nope, they were bemused by E in the trailer. The fresh air and gentle movement had put him to sleep and he was curled around the harness and slumped over, snoring.

He woke up as we entered Wolfe Park. We pulled in to the playground—they have equipment for both big kids and pint-size versions for toddlers. He played for a bit, but then heard music….We had stumbled upon the Memorial Day concert. E and I sat on the grassy steps and listened to the St. Louis Park community band play a variety of patriotic songs and a medley of Lerner and Lowe. E loved it and sat still, just watching the band and listening for about 20 minutes.

Memorial Day concert

Giant baby eats community band! Film at 11.

Note to self: More community concerts. I’m sure if I had tried to plan it as a specific outing it wouldn’t have been nearly so special. But because it was pure happenstance that brought us there, we could enjoy it for as long as E’s attention allowed and then move on to the next thing with no pressure.

All in all, a great way to kick-off summer.

St. Louis Park community band

The coolest chicks are always drummers.

All photos by egkralick

Transporting toddlers

toddler travel in backpack

Anytime is nap time with the right gear.

When you’re even a bit off the beaten path, the big SUV stroller isn’t going to cut it. While great for malls, sidewalks and airports, we have dirt paths, cobblestone streets and tight quarters ahead of us. The little legs of a three-footer can only go so far–or too far. Traveling with toddlers means both energy and containment are going to be issues. We do have an umbrella stroller for some outings and city exploration (a completely disposable one purchased on sale for $20 at Target. And bonus: it looks like a shark so E truly enjoys riding in it.) But for the most part, we have found the secret to toddler travel success is a really sturdy backpack. Even better, ours was a hand-me-down from a similarly adventurous family. So it was road tested, yet still in terrific shape.

We carried E along mountain trails, zig-zagged through street festivals and up and down dozens of flights of stairs without a problem. He got a great view, up and away from dirt, feet and dogs. He often fell asleep in it, which while not ideal, is of course better than no nap at all. And it help a TON in the storage pocket, so all the diaper stuff, bottles and toys were with E, which meant the parents could split up without accidentally stranding one with a fussy baby and no supplies.

I’ve seen a few other products that are worth exploring. This belt system from Obi-Baby-Carrier seems to work for bigger kids and eliminates the bulk of the backpack, which would be great during the to-and-from. It’s compact enough to throw into your daybag as an option for kids who get tired along the way.

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photo from obi-baby-carrier.com

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photo from obi-baby-carrier.com