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A Summer in Europe with Kids is an entirely different proposal

Author: Mary Keating

For:  Family Living Magazine

Date:  May 2004

            770 words (including sidebars)              

Me?  An International Traveler!  I don’t think so.  I am a homebody.  I need order.  I need specifics.  I need safety.  With two small children, a seven month old and a three and a half year old, it is easier to stay put. 

Everything in its place and a place for everything.  And, the most important, a safe environment.

Can you try to image what went through my head when my husband announced last summer that his company would be sending him to Avezzano, Italy for two months.  Chills spiked down my back.  My first question: “how in the world do you expect me to pack the house into a suitcase?”  Well, that wasn’t exactly how the conversation transpired, but for our purposes here, we can pretend.  Furthermore, how can those suitcases be carried to the Salt Lake Airport, loaded onto a plane and then lugged around Europe?  Not only do the suitcases need to go, the two children need to go. And their two car-seats and the double stroller need go – everywhere.  Logistically, it is a nightmare.

After drafting the first couple of packing lists for the two children and myself, I realized that ninety percent of the list must be scratched or we would not even begin to fit into the car that would take us to the airport.  After tossing these packing lists, I recalled my travel motto:  “If you forgot it. Run to the local super store and pick it up.”  No longer would I stew about whether or not I had packed enough diaper wipes or remember the Tylenol.  However, Avezzano, Italy is not known for its super stores. For that matter, what are the Italian equivalents?  How does one spell them?  How do I ask in English when everyone speaks Italian?  I desperately needed a new packing motto.

“It is not bad weather, just bad gear” floated around my head for a couple of days.  I quickly decided that I needed to pack just the basic:  warm, wet and dry.  Warm clothing in case of inclement weather, wet clothing in case of warm weather and dry clothing once one had become wet. Seemed pretty basic.  The clothing dilemma was solved.

The second part of the packing equation was a bit more complicated.  What about the Elmo Potty Seat, toys for a 7-9 month old and for a 3 ½ year old, and swimming pool equipment?  The three-year old was used to using her Elmo seat in the bathroom – would the sudden disappearance of the padded little seat in the bathroom disrupt her independence in that area?   As for toys, what needed to be packed in the plane bag to keep the two of them busy and happy for the 20-hour trip that loomed ahead? And, what could possibly hold their attention during the two months of hotel living?  You must remember that the TV would be in Italian and we would not be able to find PBS kids to occupy them while mom jumped into the shower.  And, do you pack the blow up swimming seat and the inflatable suits for use in the pool? 

After many trial runs, I was able to get my life into an over-sized duffel bag with wheels, a duffel carry-on for me, a toy bag for the children for use on the plane.  On top of just the basics, we had two car seats, a double stroller, my husband’s luggage and a computer.  We were definitely headed for more than just a three-hour tour!

For all the mothers out there, the potty seat stayed home.  I choose not to wear it on my head as the latest in fashion.  And no detrimental consequences occurred due to the missing Elmo seat.  The swimming equipment, crushed paper-thin, fit in the bag and I learned that no toy can hold a child’s attention for two months while living in a hotel.



 Pack the basics:  Warm, Wet and Dry (see story for more on that).

  • Always take an extra set of clothes (for everyone) on the plane – lightweight stretch pants work the best (I traveled from Los Angeles to Pocatello with wet pants because my child spilled orange juice on me).
  • Most flights no longer serve food – be prepared with juices, snacks:  Snack crackers, little Gerber juice bottles (the ones with the straws will cause moms to need a change of clothes.)
  • Sippee Cups.
  • Small backpack of Toys for the Little People.
  • Leap Pad and books .
  • Earphones for music and for Leap Pad book.
  • Crayons and a spiral notebook.
  • Special toy or blanket.
  • Cash.
  • Talk with your pediatrician about medication to help children sleep on long flights.
  • A Sense of Humor.
  • A Big Smile.
  • A small night light for the late night wanderings. I have found my night light to be invaluable in hotel rooms and in other homes.