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Europe with Kids // What We Packed in Carry-On Bags for 3 Weeks

A few of you have asked me what we packed for our trip to Europe. Three kids for three weeks and only carry-on bags–I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but we did it! I spent a lot of time thinking about our planned activities, weather conditions, and complimentary clothing. Overall, we packed well, but I made a couple of errors, as you’ll soon see.

Note: I’m only discussing the kids’ and my own suitcases. Elliott packed for himself about 15 minutes before we left for the airport. To each their own, right?!

SUITCASES

I researched the carry-on requirements for the airlines we’d be flying: Norwegian Airlines to and from Europe, and SAS and British Airways within Europe. They all had slightly different carry-on baggage size requirements, but the smallest requirements were 20 inches tall and 9 inches deep. We didn’t own good carry-on bags that were that size (U.S. airlines generally allow carry-ons that are 22 inches tall), so we made the pricey-but-right decision to invest in 4 carry-on suitcases that should last us quite some time.

We purchases these Rockland suitcases from Amazon. They are not super amazing, but after our trip they still look almost new, so I am happy with our purchase. The kids loved them, too!

They were also larger than I expected. I could fit all my clothing items plus a couple of books and my toiletry bag in mine. For the kids, Gil and Forest could share the red suitcase with room to spare, and Lena shared her purple case with some schoolbooks, paperback books for me and Elliott, and two white noise machines.

BAG BREAKDOWN

In the photo above, you can see the total amount of bags and items we brought on those two carts. We had:

Most airlines now charge for any checked bags, but they will not charge for “baby items.” We could check the car seats, stroller, and travel bed for free. We then carried all the rest of our bags into the cabin with us for free.

On the cart on the right are our additional carry-on bags:

Quick note about the last two items: We didn’t purchase food on our flights (and the European airlines we flew did give out any food or drink unless we purchased it — even water!), so we brought a lot of food with us.

While in Europe, we also used this reusable shopping bag and the water bottle daily for our excursions and picnics. These things were some of our most essential gear!

OUR SHOES

After studying the weather, talking with Elliott, and emailing my friend in London, I finally decided not to buy waterproof shoes for our time in England. I knew I might regret it, but it seemed unlikely that we would be outside for a long time in a lot of rain. Besides, rain boots are hard to walk in for long periods, and we don’t even own them anyway. We live in San Diego!

So, in the end, I packed two pairs of shoes for each of us: one pair of comfortable but stylish walking shoes and one pair of sandals. For the kids, I packed their Saucony Jazz velcro sneakers, Gil’s Natives, and Lena’s Saltwater Sandals. For myself, I packed my New Balance sneakers and Saltwater Sandals.

These were perfect choices, thankfully. All our shoes were already broken in and already our favorites. Also, we had glorious weather in England and France, and it never rained.

BECCA’S SUITCASE

Ok, now I’ll explain what we had in each of our suitcases. Just so you know, I love to shop secondhand, and I love getting good deals on high-quality clothing. I also like recycling; most of our furniture was purchased secondhand, and even the diamonds in my engagement and wedding rings were “recycled” from older rings to avoid blood diamond conflicts. Purchasing secondhand clothing is more eco-friendly, too, especially if you are concerned about sweatshop labor. It’s not a live-or-die rule for me, but in general Elliott and I are huge proponents of recycling, including our clothes.

So, even though you are about to see a lot of nice clothing brands listed here, please know that almost all of these clothes were purchased in excellent used condition on eBay, Poshmark, or on my neighborhood yardsale site, or (in a couple of instances) were generous Christmas gifts from my parents.

From L to R, top to bottom: Old Navy long-sleeved white shirt, Anthroplogie pink t-shirt, Bravado nursing tank, Gap striped t-shirt, Lululemon t-shirt, and two Anthropologie shirts.

For myself, I packed one long-sleeved t-shirt, five short-sleeved shirts, and one nursing tank. I wish I had packed more long-sleeve t-shirts, but I don’t own many in San Diego. I layered shirts with sweaters–sometimes two sweaters–and it was fine.

From L to R: J. Crew wool sweater (super warm!), Anthroplogie sweater, Patagonia R2 fleece that I have had for about 10 years and still wear about once a week.

Lululemon  jacket (that I also wear at least once a week) and J Crew cashmere sweater (the softest and warmest thing I own… and purchased for $5 on my neighborhood yardsale site).

Anthropologie linen roll-up pants, J. Crew sweats, Urban Outfitters high rise black jeans, AG teal ankle jeans, Anthropologie jean shorts, Lululemon shorts and capris.

I packed a pair of blue jeans and then pulled them out at the last minute, thinking I had too many pairs of pants. I was wrong. I only wore shorts one day in France, never in England, and so I wore those black and teal pants over… and over… and over. When in doubt, pack jeans!

Patagonia down vest, J. Crew Downtown Field Jacket, Patagonia waterproof shell

Mostly my outerwear was warm enough, but I run cold, so even with these layers I sometimes wanted more warmth. I wish I owned a down jacket that I could roll up into a tiny ball and stuff into my suitcase. I’m waiting to purchase one of those when we live in a colder climate.

I also wish I’d packed a scarf. I did pack one and then pulled it out at the last minute, too. (Can you see why Elliott is always sighing over my under packing tendencies?) Lesson learned!

LENA’S SUITCASE

Shirts in the first column are from Mini Boden, second column are from Tea Collection, and third column are from Crewcuts. 

For all of Lena’s shirts and pants, I tried to choose items that would mix and match with each other in multiple combinations. I also chose things that would hide dirt; no white or solid-colored shirts here!

Top row: two pairs of thick and stretchy jersey cargo pants from Tea Collection, black jeans from Joes, blue sweats from H&M, and blue leggings from I-have-no-idea-where! Bottom row: skirt by REI, jean shorts from Old Navy, and exercise shorts with built-in stretchy shorts by Champion.

As with all the kids’ clothes, I also chose things that fit them perfectly and that they already wore every week and loved. In this case, Lena already always picks these clothes out for herself. They were safe bets because I knew she’d be comfortable in them.

Raincoat borrowed from a friend that she never wore! Down jacket from Patagonia, two sweaters from Crewcuts.

I bought my J. Crew wool sweater secondhand so Lena and I could match, as I knew we’d be wearing both of them a lot in England. We had fun twinning, as you can see here!

GIL’S SUITCASE

L to R, top to bottom: Gymboree appliqué shirt, Genuine Kids shirt, suuuuuper soft knit t-shirt made locally that he wears every day (“This is my Coronado shirt, Mama”), Gap appliqué LS shirt, super soft knit Corduroy shirt by Out of Print, striped knit polo by Johnnie-O, and LS shirt by Tea Collection. The last shirt is filthy… I took all these photos while unpacking!

L to R, top to bottom: Ralph Lauren polo shorts, Gymboree shorts, Carters blue cargo shorts, two pairs of jeans by Joes.

Gil’s two pairs of jeans are both size 2T. My skinny little dude!

Sweaters are from Winter Water Factory and Crewcuts. They are strategically positioned so you can’t see the huge stain on the blue and gray sweatshirt; everything was headed for the wash.

We packed Gil a lined rain jacket that I loved, but he lost in somewhere in France. Such a bummer. I was looking forward to seeing Forest in that one!

FOREST’S SUITCASE

Two sleep sacks (one summer weight by Aden + Anais and one fleece by Halo), multiple pacifiers by Natursutten (I think I packed eight of them!!!), Homemedics white noise machine that we used with batteries the whole time, and a Leveret sleeper.

Shirts are from Carters and Genuine Kids.

Pants: Carters lined cargo pants, Genuine Kids black jeans, Genuine Kids gray sweats, and Milkbarn fox leggings. 

Top row: two fleece footed sleepers by Carters, one (and two more not pictured) cotton stretchy footed sleepers by Carters, and “Ruff Night” romper by Hatley.

Bottom row: short-sleeved summer romper by Winter Water Factory that he never wore (too cold!), Kickee Pants romper, Mini Boden fleece-lined romper, and Hanna Andersson romper, arranged so you can’t see the full extent of how filthy it is…

Even with all these long-sleeved rompers and sleepers–I count nine, in addition to all his pants and shirts!–I still had to do laundry every few days* to keep Forest in clean clothes. With a busy, crawling baby who is learning to eat solids, I changed his clothes at least once a day. I’m so glad I didn’t under pack for him.

*Thankfully, doing laundry often was not an issue. We house-sat in England, stayed at a research/study center in France, and otherwise were in Airbnbs — and all of these places had free laundry. I did laundry and then, European-style, I hung it out to dry!

Top row: Ralph Lauren knit sweater, Carters cotton pullover. Bottom row: Patagonia nano down jacket and Patagonia fleece vest.

Buying that coat was a last-minute decision for me. I looked at many different options, and in the end I am so happy with this choice. It was the perfect light layer that kept our baby toasty warm.

We also packed a JJ Cole Bundle Me that kept his lower half warm when he was in the stroller. You can see a picture of it here.

Hanna Andersson pilot cap, Zutano sun hat, dirty (!) bandana bibs by Copper Pearl (I think I packed six total), well-loved shoes by Shoe Too and Freshly Picked.

Other items for Forest that are not pictured:

SUNDRY EXTRAS

  • Multiple adapters for European outlets, all borrowed from friends
  • Schoolwork
  • Activities for the kids
    • Lena’s sewing project from American Girl
    • Magnetic checkers game
    • Coloring books and pencils/markers
    • Discman, about 5 CDs (music and Adventures in Odyssey), both kids’ headphones
    • 10 thin paperback books for reading aloud
  • Two white noise machines with lots of extra batteries (we only ever used one, just for Forest)
  • Medications
    • Kids’ Tylenol
    • Kids’ Melatonin for the plane and jet lag once we arrived
    • Thermometers (infant and adult)
    • Ibuprofen
    • Benadryl tablets and lotion
    • Bandaids
    • My favorite super-safe sunscreen (which was 13 milliliters too large for European carry-on requirements and got confiscated… boo)
  • Nail clippers (infant and adult)
  • Multiple small bottles of shampoo and conditioner from various hotels over the years

And I think that’s about it! Epic post! But hopefully this will be a good reference for some of you who might be preparing for upcoming travel — or for me in years to come! (Gotta get wear out of those new suitcases we bought, right?)

Do you have any advice for us for next time?

7 :: in family, travel, tutorials

5 Secrets to Help Your Baby Sleep in His Own Bed

becca-garber-5-secrets-help-baby-sleep-bed Let me paint a picture of my life about a month ago.  Nine AM on a weekday.  Elliott would have left for work, I would be holding the fort down at home.  At about this time, Gil would already be fussing, refusing to be set down and unhappy in my arms.  Nap time.  After setting Lena up with something safe to do, I would turn to the task of putting Gil to sleep, an ordeal I well know could take 45 minutes.

I would take Gil into a dark room, swaddle him, nurse him, give him his pacifier, and then hold him to my chest as I started walking with a bouncing step, pacing the room over and over and over.  Gil would almost always spit out his pacifier, arch his back, cry, and scream.  I would keep working with him, shushing and rocking and pacing until finally — finally — he seemed to be asleep.

I would wait another 5 minutes, still bouncing and pacing, until I was sure he was really asleep.  Then, ever so gently, I would lay him down in his co-sleeper cotand creep away.

Outside his room, I would have just smiled down at Lena and said, “Yes, Mama can play with you now,” when I would hear a snuffling sound.

He had woken up.

Sighing but not surprised, I would go back into the room and start the process over again.  This time I would put him into the baby swing (conveniently located right next to his bed).

Another 30 seconds later I would hear the same impatient “eh-eh-eh” as Gil realized that he had been left once again.  I would start the process for the third time.  Finally maybe this time he would sleep.

I would leave his room, look at the time, and groan.  Just 9:45 AM.  How much of this day stretching ahead of me would be spent in this Groundhog Day drama?  I was so tired of this and Gil was just 2.5 months old.  When would he sleep in his bed?  What was I doing wrong?  Why wouldn’t he stay asleep?  How long would I be using this swing?

Can any of you relate?  Little did I know, hope was just around the corner…

fast forward to 3 weeks ago

“You’ve probably read enough about babies and sleep,” my friend Bethany joked, “but I wondered if you’ve ever read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer?  It was helpful for me with my boys.”

I shook my head.  “I haven’t read it, actually, and I’m desperate enough to try anything.  I’d love to borrow it.”

I’m so glad I did, too.  I’ve read a lot of books about babies, but this one was new to me.  I was immediately captivated by the author’s cheery, conversational writing style, which made the whole paperback seem more readable than many more academic — but wonderful! — tomes.  Also, almost immediately I found myself thinking, “Wow… maybe I’ve been doing this all wrong?  I need to try this with Gil!”

I decided to put the book into practice one Saturday when I had Elliott around to help with Lena (and offer moral support!).  Then I started doing 5 things:

1. I watched Gil for signs of sleepiness and then started the process of putting him down for a nap by his second yawn.

According to the book, there are three stages to falling asleep (yawning, a dazed stare, and then nodding off to sleep).  I started watching Gil closely for signs that he was getting tired in the first stage, which included yawning as well as rubbing his eyes, turning his head away from stimulation, and becoming increasingly discontent.  Then I counted the yawns and began the process of putting him to sleep by the second or third yawn.  This way I avoided overtired screaming and — to my astonishment — he would fall asleep within 1-5 minutes instead of with 10 minutes of screaming!

2.  I began to lay Gil down in his crib when he was drowsy, not fully asleep.

To do this, I would only hold Gil for a moment or two before laying him into his bed.  Then, while he was still awake in his bed, I would gently hold his pacifier in his mouth, pat his chest, and say “shhh” until he sunk into a deep sleep.  If he started crying, I would pick him up and soothe him again; as soon as he was calm again, I would lay him down.  Gil actually seemed to like this and it made me wonder if all the rocking and bouncing I used to get him to sleep before was frustrating to him and keeping him up longer!  Also, I think the transition of moving to his bed was more disruptive to him in a deep sleep than in a drowsy state when he could say, “ok, I’m falling asleep in my bed now” and then do just that.

 3. I began to put Gil to sleep for the night around 6:30 PM.

Before I made these changes, Gil had been up and down until 11 PM each night.  This is typical for a newborn that has no routine and no knowledge of the difference between night and day.  But Gil was already 2.5 months, and every book says a baby should be going to sleep between 6-7 PM at that age.  Gil still continues to wake up to nurse about every 2-3 hours, but he knows now (and learned quickly) that he must go right back to sleep after nursing at night.  What a relief!  Elliott and I have our evenings to ourselves again!

4.  With the earlier bedtime, I also introduced a bedtime routine to signal the end of the day and to help Gil relax before bed.

Following the suggestions in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, I began to give Gil a short bath and massage at 6 PM every evening. Gil LOOOOVES this time with me.  He smiles the entire time and coos and just gobbles up all the individual attention.  He loves the warm bath, he loves the massage, he loves the quiet room and me smiling down and singing to him.  This has become a time that I look forward to as well.  I watched this DVDto help me learn some infant massage techniques and I use this super-safe lotionon Gil’s baby skin.

Now I only wish someone could put me to bed with a bath and a massage every night.  And going to bed at 6:30 wouldn’t be so bad either!

5.  Finally, I stopped using the baby swing.

It was a bit of a relief, to be honest.  Although I miss the 3-hour naps Gil took in it at one point in his earlier babyhood, I had begun to notice after about 2 months that Gil didn’t seem fully rested, peaceful, or content when he woke up from a nap in the swing.  Also, the swing is an eyesore and has a large footprint in our home.  I’m so glad to be rid of it!

We interrupt this program to admire the cuteness beside me right now…

becca-garber-gil-smiling-collage

And so there you have it.  Big, wonderful changes around here!  I have a little guy who actually sleeps in his bed now, who requires very little soothing before he sleeps, and who goes to sleep for the night around 6:30 PM.  Such an improvement for this mama… and her baby!  I haven’t said this about a baby book before, but I will say it about this one: Secrets of the Baby Whispererchanged my life.

Now lest I give you the impression that life with Gil is just peachy, please know that isn’t entirely true yet.  He takes only short naps (30-45 minutes at a time) and that is so frustrating to me; I wish he’d sleep longer.  I go into his room and do all I can to coax him back to sleep, but I’m rarely successful. Another frustrating thing is that he wakes up 3-5 times a night to nurse.  I know this was a habit I established early by feeding him whenever he asked for it, but it didn’t bother me so much when he was sleeping next to me.  Now that he’s sleeping in another room, getting up every 2 hours in the night to feed him is exhausting.  I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet.  In fact, I have no idea what to do about it.  My books say I should soothe him instead of feeding him… but at 2 AM all I want to do is get back to my own warm bed as quickly as I can, not soothe a screaming baby for an hour!  Other books say I should let him cry it out.

Do you have any ideas??

22 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, family, Gil, motherhood, tutorials

6 Tips for Sharing Your Bedroom with Your Baby

6-tips-sharing-bedroom-baby-image
Have you ever thought about sharing a bedroom with your baby, or — if you’re already a parent — is this something you’ve already done?  There are so many reasons to share a bedroom with your newborn, including lack of space in your house, the ease of feeding during the night, the nervousness of a new parent, and the simplicity of comforting a newborn who is sleeping nearby instead of across the hall.

Sharing a bedroom with your baby can last for a few days or a few years.  When Lena was born, we lived in a studio apartment.  We shared a room with her because there was literally no other option… our apartment was only one room!

With Gil we chose to share our room again because it seemed to allow everyone to get the most sleep.  Gil sleeps better when we’re nearby or quickly available to soothe him when he wakes. As a nursing-on-demand mother, I sleep better when I can feed him as soon as he’s hungry and doze off next to him while he nurses.

Sharing a bedroom has required some adjustments for us, though, because this is our room and our space.  There’s a lot of baby paraphernalia that does not need to occupy space in our bedroom.  The rest of the baby gear can be stashed away in Lena’s bedroom (which is really now — gulp! — the “kids'” bedroom!), ready to be used after the newborn haze dissipates and our lives take on some routine again.

I thought I’d share what has worked for us organizationally during these newborn days.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice as well!

1)    Safety first.  Prepare to share your bed with your baby… just in case he ends up in it.

In the first photo in this post, you can see that Gil is lying on a very tidy, uncluttered bed.  Elliott and I brought Gil home from the hospital and transformed our bed in order to minimize any risk of suffocation for our newborn.  To do so, we removed our thick down pillow top and our down comforter, took two pillows off the bed, and turned up the temperature in the room.  Now we can sleep with no more than a sheet on the bed and no more than one flat pillow for each of us.

It’s a drastic change in the winter when you’d really like to snuggle under a thick comforter!  But the risks were too great.  Anytime I nurse Gil in bed and doze off next to him, at least I have the peace of mind that I have eliminated as many common suffocation risks as possible.

If this advice has you nervously looking at your bed, wondering if you should overhaul everything and start fresh, clean, and simple, there is no better time! I recommend Coaster Furniture, which has a lot of beautiful bedding options, including many that would be comfortable and safe for a new baby, your partner, and yourself.

becca-garber-cosleeping-diaper-change

2)    Keep a minimum of diaper changing supplies within easy reach.

I stored the basic diaper changing supplies on our dresser: diapers, wipes, and Vaseline.  (We use Vaseline for almost every diaper change as a barrier cream to protect Gil’s skin.)  I keep extra wipes and diapers in Lena’s room and replenish the stash as needed.  I also store a bottle of infant massage oil, Vitamin D drops, a bulb syringe, and an infant thermometernearby in our room.

Recently Updated1

 3)    Have a good trash solution.

We have a Diaper Champfor cloth diapers and a hands-free lidded trashcan for disposable diapers, wipes, and other trash. I keep all our cloth diapers in a box next to the Diaper Genie.  All of these things are right next to the bed where I change Gil.

becca-garber-cosleeper

4)    Use all the storage in your co-sleeper, if you have one.

We’ve enjoyed our Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeperand I recommend it if you are looking for a safe co-sleeping solution for your baby.  I also like the co-sleeper because of the pockets on both sides, which I use to store extra burp cloths and crib sheets.  There is a storage compartment underneath the mattress that is great for storing swaddling blankets as well.

becca-garber-cosleeping-baby-clothes

5)    Stash just a few items of baby clothing in your room.

We bought this handy basket at IKEA.  It’s just the right size to store about 5-10 onesies, a couple of hats, some socks, and a few swaddle blankets.  That’s all we’ve needed on a regular basis these first few weeks.  As he grows his wardrobe will get a little more elaborate (…if his mother has the energy to elaborate beyond a onesie!).

becca-garber-cosleeping-bed-baby

6)    Buy or make an easy on-the-bed changing pad.

I folded this waterproof quilted sheetin half and pinned the sides together with a few safety pins to keep folded (even in the washing machine).  Gil loves lying on this soft pad in our warm bedroom.  He’ll often look around peacefully and kick away without wanting to be held or tended to.  All my diaper changing supplies are within easy reach right behind me on the dresser and extra clothes are at my feet in the basket under the bed.

——–

I have to admit I haven’t peeked into any of my friends’ bedrooms to see how they handle sharing a room with their baby.  It never even occurred to me that there could be a system to it until Gil came along, space was limited, and simplicity was my goal.  With two kids under two needing constant attention, there was no longer room in my brain for color-coordinated tote bins!

How have you made simplicity and organization work in small spaces with your baby?  Or what have you admired in friends’ homes?

22 :: in Baby Numero Due, Gil, motherhood, tutorials

How to Organize Your Kitchen Storage Containers in 5 Easy Steps

Sometime around when I left for college, my mom overhauled her plastic storage container stash. I came home one weekend to find her plastic containers neatly stacked and their lids meticulously organized. Although it took a little more time to keep things organized her way (as opposed to, you know, just tossing them into the cupboard after I pulled them out of the dishwasher), I liked the sense of order and I loved always being able to find the right sized lid every time.

Motivated by her method, I have tried to keep our plastic containers equally organized. Here are 5 things I do to keep the storage container cupboard tidy:

photo 1

1) Buy only one kind of storage container.

This is really the secret to my organization. Having a dozen different types and sizes of containers makes it hard to establish any kind of organizational system.

Our one kind of storage container is the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid sets. I put these on our wedding registry because I was entranced by the price (less than $20 for 40 pieces) and the fact that the lids were interchangeable with different sizes of containers. I also liked that they were BPA free. It seemed like this style of container would be around for awhile, too, and so I thought I could easily replace my containers as they went missing over the years. Recently I did just that, and now I keep a box with new, extra containers so I can replace containers as they disappear.

For Lena’s snacking needs, we bought the Gerber Graduates Bunch-a-Bowls that are also BPA free and come with lids. Recently I also bought sets of IKEA’s colorful cups, bowls, and plates for Lena (and any young visitors) to use at mealtime. Bonus: these make great stacking toys!

photo 4

2) Organize all your containers by size.

We have 6 different container sizes but only 3 different lid sizes. I can nest my shorter containers inside deeper ones, which frees up a lot of cupboard space and helps me see at a glance what is in my cupboard.

photo 5

3) Store your lids by size.

I put my lids inside larger, inexpensive containers that I probably won’t ever need to use. You could also use containers that have lost their lids. I looooove having all my lids organized so that they can’t go slipping and sliding all over the cupboard.

photo 3

4) Store seasonal or little-used items in the back of the cupboard.

I keep my plastic drink pitchers out of the way right now. One of them stores all our sippy cups that are not in use. In the summer I might rotate these pitchers to the front of the cupboard (or just keep them in the fridge full of limeade!).

photo 2

5) Keep a stash of giveaway containers.

When you want to send some extra soup or leftovers home with a friend, or when you’re providing a meal for a family, it’s nice to have some containers on hand that you don’t mind never seeing again. Plus, a new mom loves not having to keep track of your Pyrex (or your nice Rubbermaid containers!) to wash and return to you.

I keep my giveaway containers stored on the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard, tucked up next to the teapot we hardly ever use and the cake storage container that, sadly, I use even less frequently than the teapot.

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And that’s how I keep my food storage containers organized! I’d love to know if you have a system. Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

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