With every trip, I think we all tend to hone down our pack list and really start to make sense of the travel essentials. We picked up a couple new things on this trip that did make life a little easier on the road. Because my family was traveling to a couple places in 4 different countries, it made for an interesting range of activities, terrain, and even weather. To top that all off, we were also making it a point to pack as light as possible, being mindful of how much baggage we would have to travel around with. This was our way to make it easier to make trains, airports, and transfers quick and painless.
My husband and I both carried a backpack and a personal item. We made sure that the backpack would fit the carry-on dimensions, so we wouldn’t have to check anything. Evie carried her own backpack of toys, books, markers, sketchbooks, and everything else to keep her busy while on-the-go. We did take one small sized, hard-cased, roller carry-on which was only half full in case we had items to bring back with us. It worked out that one of us would have Evie’s hand and the other would be rolling this carry-on, and we would switch off. My personal item was a large purse with my laptop and camera, and Peabe’s personal item makes for the first thing on the list:
He found the Kavu Rope Bag shortly before the trip which ended up being great for traveling. For one, considering we already were wearing a backpack, that second item needed to be lighter and smaller. The rope bag fit like a sling, and felt more ergonomic than my bulky,heavy purse. Secondly, it was close to the body in the front, there were a couple places where we were warned of pick-pockets and this bag seemed too close to be of high risk of that. Lastly, there was no digging for anything we needed; he carried important documents, like the tickets or passports, for easy access when needed at the airport and the small pockets in front were a great fit for our phones. They had different canvas patterns found everywhere from REI to Amazon, but generally all come in at about $50.
Traveling light for 3 weeks meant that we would need to some laundry on the road. In Norway, we were lucky enough to find an Airbnb with a washer and dryer inside, and lucky again to find the cabins also had ones for the property to use. In our hostel in Copenhagen, we had a laundromat available, but it was pretty small and had a lot of travelers using it. We did try to use it one night and got pretty frustrated by the amount of time needed to wait for someone to move their stuff out of the machines for others to use it. One thing we did bring with us that got a lot of use was:
Scrubba Wash Bag
The makers of LifeStraw have made traveling and adventuring easy once again. Basically a washer that folds right into your pocket. You fill the bag with dirty items, add water and soap, squeeze the excess air out of the bag, and basically roll and rub the bag like a wash cycle. There are little nubs on the inside of the bag that act as a washboard and the clasp on top makes for a leak-proof seal. About 5 minutes in, drain the water, add clean water, and close again to rinse. No laundry sitting in the bathroom sink, no waiting for the machines in the laundromat, and no wasting good vacation time. The bag fit our socks and underwear, under layers, and Evie’s whole outfit (she’s so tiny), in one washing. After a couple minutes in the rinse cycle, drain, ring out, and drape all over the heater, the shower bars, the bunk railings, and all over the room to dry. Voila! Clean clothes. Also around $50, I hope to use more of this on more camping and travel adventures.
With our clothes cleaned and our bags packed, we were off to enjoy all that Scandinavia had to offer. We went from fancy museums, to dog sledding, to design districts, to cruise ships, to snow-covered islands; what to wear quickly became it’s own issue. We had to consider light items that would be super functional, and try to not look like a cold weather hobo the whole time. Some of my favorites from the trip are here:
Light, Long Down Coat
Evie had a pretty bulky one, and it totally did the job, but would be a pain to carry once we got indoors somewhere. I had found a really lightweight Columbia jacket, with their OmniHeat technology, similar to this. The down kept me warm, the hood kept me dry, the length was nice when it got really cold, the reflective interior kept the jacket light (imagine a survival reflective blanket on the inside, reflecting your body heat back towards you), and the 2-way zipper meant I could zip up from the bottom and open up some mobility when I was riding the ATV dog sled or the bicycle. Then, I can smush it into my backpack when I didn’t need it and not have to be burdened by the bulkiness. I was great in those temperatures (approximately 30 degrees) but I’m not sure how it would be in the negative digits and wind chills of Chicago’s winters.
Wool Base Layers
Important and highly recommended layer to your wardrobe out there. Light and packs super small, you will wear this under lots of outfits. We had a couple different brands, and honestly they all worked the same. The large difference between them was the softness/scratchiness. Wool is not known to be the silkiest of materials, so choose wisely. Knowing we needed these layers early enough, made it easier to jump on deals when they came around. We would wait for REI sales or find some at outdoor resale shops to find these, hence trying a couple brands. My favorite piece was Smartwool’s Microweight Pants which felt thin and light and invisible under whatever I was wearing, including leggings.
Other items that came in handy were more regular travel things, 4 things that I don’t like traveling without, no matter where I go:
- Travel size surge protector – One thing I found when traveling is there is never enough outlets, once you have a camera and a phone charging, you don’t have another outlet for anything else. This one has both outlets and USB ports so multiple things can be ready for you at once. Both my husband and I can both charge while sharing the outlet shared on the train seat. I can use one outlet spot when plugging in my computer, phone, and camera at the local coffee shop and not feel like a jerk who takes all the outlets.
- Moleskine– always carring a handy dandy notebook, I found the selections of Moleskins fit all my needs. Peabe carries blank sketching notebooks, I carry lined to document the details that are so easily forgotten and gridded ones for quick sketching. Evie takes which ever one she gets her hands on first and actually went through so many sketch books on the trip that we had to hide our last ones from her so we still had something to write on.
- Organizing hard case- for cords, chargers, spare batteries, ear buds, extra memory cards, and so on. There’s so many out there to organize your gear, it’s best to find what works best for you. I use an external hard drive storage case like this one which basically fits all the things I may need on the go.
- First Aid Kit- I learned this the hard way after a trip to the Philippines, but a good travel first aid kit has more than just Dramamine and bandages. There’s lots of what-if scenarios that I worry about now and try to pack accordingly. Don’t forget Steri-Strips, butterfly closures, moleskin tape, antibiotics, antidiarrheal meds, all of it. Pack a good first aid kit, or consider travel insurance, but I myself would rather spend the time enjoying somewhere new than being stuck in an ER somewhere.