Packing for a Toddler

5 Things to Remember Before Setting out for a Year Abroad with a Toddler for a year or more on the road can be difficult. When this means also packing for a toddler, the difficulty increases exponentially.

Looking back on things almost four months into our year-long journey through South America, at least, it did for us. I’d be lying if I said packing wasn’t made more stressful by the last minute nature in which we did things. But even had we set more time aside to properly pack, I think it safe to say we still probably would’ve fallen prey to some of the same mistakes.

In the end, nothing teaches like experience and, based on our own, we’ve come up with these packing tips to remember before setting out for a year abroad with a toddler.

It Starts with You—Let’s start by stating the obvious. When traveling with a toddler, you’re destined to have to push the ‘less is more/light is right’ philosophy to the limit. Probably you’ll cross the line entirely. At least, at first.

That’s why how you pack for yourselves is all the more important and why a willingness to go without, at least initially, is so important. We didn’t do this and, regardless of the rest of the items on this list, it was the biggest reason why, until finally putting Argentina behind us three months into things, we never left anywhere without depositing a small pile of extraneous items in our wake.

And having to do so, takes its toll. Not just in the extra cost of having to utilize taxis versus, say, the usually much cheaper public transportation options but, more importantly in stress. The stress of being forced to continuously figure out how to get the round peg into the square hole; which was what the ominous act of repacking always tended to feel like.

Food and Snacks—Our daughter took after her father early on in that she didn’t discriminate too much when it came to food. But even so, she still had what we knew to be her favorites and, being doting parents, we did our best to see to it she had them, especially for the long flight over. The problem arises, however, in packing as if, once you arrive, your child’s culinary options will be limited to little more than foraged roots, leaves and grub worms. The truth to remember is, except in very rare circumstances (your child has special dietary requirements or you’re planning on vacationing with a tribe of pigmy head hunters) some variation of your child’s food will be available on the other end. Baby formula included. Pack enough to get there and to buy you enough time for a recon shop and you should be fine as the adaptation abilities of young children is nothing short of amazing.

Clothing—A year is a long time, especially for young children who grow like weeds. Therefore, to save space, consider packing only for the immediate climate you’ll be arriving since there’s a very good chance that the warm winter jacket/summer outfit that looks great on your child when packing won’t even come close to fitting when it’s actually necessary.  We haven’t been anywhere yet where we haven’t had fairly easy access to children’s clothing and, usually, for very affordable prices. None have been brand name but, at least, for us, that was never an issue, even before setting out.

Baby Products—Bottles, dummies/pacifiers, eating utensils, nappies/diapers, sippy cups and the like, are but a few of the items, small though they tend to be (minus the nappies, of course), that can manage to creep up on you and fill a lot more space than initially expected. Nappies, of course, are everywhere which, depending on your perspective is either a good thing or bad. All supermarkets carry them along with many smaller mom and pop ‘tiendas’ as well. As for the rest, local ‘farmacias’ tend to be the region’s baby product item specialists with plenty of variety to choose from. That is, if you come to the conclusion you actually can’t live without some of this stuff. Which we were soon to learn was not the case.

Toys—If there was one area we went overboard on, this was it. It’s an easy mistake to make considering how desperate we parents are for an uneventful flight and a sense of familiarity once having arrived. Between various writing and drawing materials, Legos, a cheap tablet, dominoes and, count them, FOUR dollies, we more than covered all our bases.

So it should go without saying that we had plenty of options to choose from when it came time to bid our first work exchange stint bye after a three week stay. The purge was on and Hello Kitty and one of her companions were the first to go. It was an easy call, especially considering Kaia had taken up adopting various sized rocks as her ‘babies’.

Easy and not even as problematic as you might think since we used what could’ve been a very teary moment as an exercise in learning about sharing. Kitty and dolly weren’t getting abandoned, you see, they were simply waiting for the next little girl to come and stay in our little cozy attic room. A girl who wasn’t as lucky as Kaia and would be thrilled at giving the two dolls a lovely new home.

Kaia ate it up, we were a few items lighter and, most importantly, slowly learning from our mistakes.




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