11 June 2015

Packing for Amsterdam

"How did you chose to go to Amsterdam?" is the reaction I hear when telling friends of our upcoming travels. It's a good question, after all. People must be envisioning "coffee shops" and The Red Light District, fuzzy memories from study abroad months or post-college backpacking days. 

However, our destination inspiration has nothing to do with said "hobbies" and instead was born after our friend Kate passed along this article from the New York Times. The article highlights what children around the globe eat for breakfast. In Amsterdam, it is common for a child to eat a slice of bread, unsalted butter and chocolate sprinkles called hagelslag. How fun is that? 

Within a few weeks, Kate and her husband Zach, Dan and I, were planning a summer trip to the Netherlands. While the breakfast sounds tasty, it isn't the only draw to traveling to Amsterdam as a family. The travel time is relatively short considering what it normally takes to fly internationally from Boise (or Duluth, from where Zach, Kate and Ben originate). There is one stop in Minneapolis before reaching the Schiphol Airport. 

Other draws include playing in city parks like Vondelpark, touring the canals on boats, riding Dutch bikes called bakfiets, and visiting the sand dunes at the nearby sea. While I am daydreaming about these adventures, I must first face the reality of packing for our family. Deciding what to pack can be the hardest part of traveling with a child. Maybe you are headed somewhere this summer, so let me share what goes in our bags.

(The weather in Amsterdam looks more like Spring than the hot summer weather we are experiencing now in Boise. There is also a chance of rain some days. The weather is obviously a huge factor in what to pack.)

My check-in suitcase (a medium-sized suitcase from Target) has seen it's better days. Someday I will get my dream Tumi roller suitcase, with wheels that actually roll and pockets for everything. Until then, I pack for Kiki and me in this well-traveled bag. Consolidating bags really helps to keep more hands free and is especially helpful on international travel. Less is more.

Clothing: Highs will be in the 60's/low-70's and lows in the 50's, so I plan on wearing pants and t-shirts or light sweaters. I will also bring a lightweight jacket and raincoat. I try to pack in a color scheme, so everything can be mix-matched. I usually chose grays and blues, with a pop of color in a scarf or one sweater. My go-to pants will be these and I can't wait to wear this sweater that Dan bought for me yesterday. Shoes will include my Vans I bought in Boston, a pair of broken in flats and a pair of sandals for the dunes. For Kiki, I pack neutral leggings, cute tees, a few sweaters and a lightweight jacket. I'll also be packing her raincoat which will make her so happy! She'll wear her sparkle Pumas and sturdy sandals in navy. Yes, I will be throwing in more than that, but I need to leave room for diapers, sleep sacs and souvenirs :)

Speaking of diapers, I always pack them when traveling internationally versus buying on location. I know our regular brand will fit and won't cause rashes. If you are really limited on space, you could use one of those space-saver, vacuum-sealed pouches. I pack more than I need in my carry-on (about 1 diaper for each 2 hours of travel time) and the rest in my checked bag. A smaller package of baby wipes goes in our carry-on too, while a larger size gets packed away for our destination. Regular diaper bag supplies like hand sanitizer, A&D ointment and ibuprofen suspension/syringe come in the cabin. 

The last large item we will be checking is Kiki's travel crib. I have talked about it before, but it has been a great investment and has traveled all over with us. She still sleeps in a crib at home, so having a comfortable and familiar place for her to sleep on vacation ensures restful nights for everyone.

We are still undecided about whether or not to travel with our umbrella stroller. Kiki is at the age where she doesn't love to ride in one for long distances and won't sleep in it. But, I know that airports can make for tired legs and afternoon strolls to the parks may feel good. Another option is to bring our hiking backpack (Kiki rode a camel in it last summer in Jordan). Backpacks can be great in foreign countries where streets can be made of cobblestone and lifts aren't always available. This will likely be a last minute decision. Anyone traveled to Amsterdam with a stroller? Would you recommend it?

We are not hauling the carseat this time. Kiki's legs are too long for her to sit in it on the airplane (the seat in front of her would be too tempting to kick) and we will be using public transportation that won't require a carseat. I am rather excited not to be wheeling around that extra piece of baby gear!

The most important packing is deciding what to put in the carry-on (aka survival bag). Items must keep everyone entertained, fed and happy until the destination is reached. It has failed me on numerous occasions, but nonetheless, we always arrive and soon forget the tears and tiredness. That being said, I still stress about what to pack. I think we have reached an age where the iPad and in-flight entertainment will be useful. As we speak, I am loading the iPad with appropriate "shows" and audiobooks. I am also looking for some apps that she might use, like a coloring or bubble-popping app. 

Other toys that I hope will entertain Kiki on the flights include: binoculars, ColorWonder books/markers, PlayDoh, WikiStix, stickers, 1001 Things to Spot on Vacation and a few of her favorite figurines. We always travel with her lovey entourage of Keekoo the raccoon and two pink monkeys. Do you have any favorite toys you pack for your kids? 

Snacks. Don't forget them. Sometimes, food is the only way to pass the time with busy little bodies. I pack as many mess-free foods as I can. Think raisins, apple sauce pouches, cheddar bunnies, granola, freeze-dried vegetables and cereals. On international flights, I have always been able to get milk from the stewardess. I am also packing an empty, insulated water bottle and a snack cup to ration out food supplies. 

We will be in the friendly skies before we know it. I am looking forward to sharing our trip to Amsterdam with you when we return. Follow along on Instagram for real-time photos. 

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