Pack smart, travel light

There’s no need to strain your back on the next family trip


Kit Bernardi

There is a reason why "lug" is packed into the word luggage. It’s the part we hate most about travel, lugging bags from here to there. Add a baby to the itinerary and bags line up like delayed flights on O’Hare runways.

We’ve learned. After logging thousands of family miles crossing state lines and international borders, we carry tons less. Here are some load-lightening strategies we’ve learned along the way that take the lug out of luggage.

1 Buy when you get there. It’s unlikely that your destination is so remote that a discount retailer isn’t within an hour’s drive. Pack enough diapers, juice boxes and Cheerios for the flight and buy the rest when you get there. We’ve bought inexpensive play clothes, beach toys and umbrella strollers or preshipped things.

2 Call before packing. Family-friendly hotels offer a myriad of kid items, sometimes for a fee. Before packing water wings, goggles and fins, call the concierge to find out what’s available.

3 Stop searching. Suitcases become black holes. To find things easily, pack similar small items, such as pacifiers, socks and underwear in different colored cinch sacks or resealable plastic bags.

4 Survival pack. Like a superhero utility belt, my travel backpack arms me to address most needs. A mini medical kit and wet wipes are in the front pocket. Inside is the food bag with bottled water and clear apple juice (in case of spills). Small icepacks keep the food cool.

5 Baby beds. You just can’t cut corners here. Don’t be tempted to take the pillows and construct a makeshift pallet in a drawer, you increase the risk of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. Nor should you push an adult bed against the wall. Babies can actually get trapped between the mattress and wall, according to Betty McEntire, executive director of the American SIDS Institute.

"We know that a baby should be in a crib, sleeping as close as possible to the mother without being in an adult bed, sofa or chair," she says. Only a fitted sheet and the clothes the baby needs to stay warm should be in the crib, pillows or stuffed animals should be kept out.

So, either drag the portable crib and sheets with you or call ahead to rent a crib.

But ask the housekeeping department what brand of crib the hotel offers, and check with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, (800) 638-2772;, to see whether it has been recalled.

Kit Bernardi is the mom of Will and a writer living in Oak Park.

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