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Packing list

29 Jul

It’s been a while, but I’m pretty proud of my packing skills, so I’m moved to blog again. I remind myself somewhat of a truly annoying American I once shared a Sicilian train carriage with, who ground up his soap flakes in a blender and sawed off the end of his toothbrush to save space. He was one of the most boring people I’ve ever met, and the journey was long and excruciatingly slow, but I still remember him over 20 years later, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

So, packing.  On Thursday we’re off to Greece for four weeks, yes, I know, we’re jammy, and yes, Steve is able to get that long off work, one of the advantages of never getting pay rises. We’re flying Ryanair, as they’re £500 cheaper than Easyjet, which translates into an extra week in Greece.  But I’ve not heard great things about Ryanair and losing luggage, and they charge through the nose for check-in bags, and the queues for check-in at the airport are ridiculous, so we’ve decided to go hand luggage only.  It’s not as mad as it sounds, last year we flew hand luggage only to Switzerland by mistake after a fire alarm meant we almost missed our flight and had to hastily re-pack our bags and sprint straight through security. The kids are old enough to carry a decent sized bag; the boys have age appropriate kids’ backpacks and Eve is using my daypack. Steve and I have our trusty RTW backpacks, which we’ve taken the back support out of to make them shorter (I’ve obsessively measured everything about three times) and I’ve packed them very lightly so they’ll squash into the bag measurer. Then when we reach Greece we’ll re-pack so the kids aren’t carrying much and our bags are full.

Here’s what we are taking:

  • 1 fleece each
  • 1 hat each
  • 1 swimming outfit each (kids have rash vests as well as bottoms)
  • 2 swimming towels
  • 1 pair of flip flops and 1 pair of trainers for me
  • 1 pair of crocs for kids
  • 1 pair of hideous but practical trekking sandals purchased in Broome, Australia for Steve
  • 1 pair of PJs for adults and Eve and 2 pairs each for boys
  • 2 pairs shorts/skirts each for adults and Eve
  • 3 pairs shorts each for boys plus one pair extra
  • 3 tops each for adults
  • 4 t-shirts each for kids
  • 1 pair of trousers each
  • 1 long sleeved top each
  • 5 pairs of pants each and 2 bras for me
  • 1 silk sleeping bag each
  • travel sized shampoo, toothpaste, suncream, moisturiser etc which we’ll replace with normal sized ones in Greece
  • earplugs
  • sanitary protection
  • packet of tissues, hand gel and packet of baby wipes
  • hair brush
  • flannels and ziplock bags for cooling down on the go (put wet flannel with added ice cubes in freezer before you leave the house)
  • first aid kid including steri strips, gauze, piriton, paracetemol and sting stuff
  • 2 inhalers and spacer
  • passports, print outs of ferry tickets, insurance stuff etc
  • 2 iPhones, iPad mini with apps (games, Kindle, Greek language), audio books and a couple of movies and Kindle with books for kids and adults
  • travel speaker
  • charger, leads adaptor, headphones and splitters
  • 2 re-usable shopping bags
  • 4 guide books
  • 3 paper novels
  • kid’s activity book and blank notebook
  • felt tips and pencils
  • 1,000s of loom bands
  • man bites dog card game
  • dice game
  • inflatable beach ball

I’ve packed the fleeces, but obviously we’ll be wearing one outfit, long sleeved top, trousers, pants, and all the shoes will be worn except for my flip flops.  We plan to visit a toy shop in Athens and buy the kids a couple of souvenir toys or games.  If we buy lots of souvenirs, we’ll have to post them home to my mum, but I’ve also packed mostly really old clothes, so some stuff may stay in Greece.

That’s it! It all fits easily in the bags we’ve got and I don’t feel like we’re having to do without. There will be quite a bit of washing to do, but if you’re going away for that long, you expect it. I’m pleased that we’ll be able to hop on and off ferries with relative ease.

What have I forgotten?

Packing List

17 Oct

Right, so here goes, our full unexpurgated packing list.  If you’re not a fan of lists, look away now…


Each person will have:

  • lightweight fleece
  • pack-a-mac
  • sun hat
  • thermal leggings and long sleeved thermal top
  • three short sleeved cotton tops
  • one long sleeved cotton top
  • one pair of longish trousers (or in Eve’s case, a dress)
  • two pairs of shorts/skirts
  • swimming costume
  • four pairs of pants
  • two pairs of socks
  • one pair of sandals (to be worn with the socks, obviously)
  • on pair of walking shoes/trainers with grippy soles
  • pyjama bottoms that could double as a pair of trousers in an emergency
  • tshirt to use as pyjama top
  • Dickon will have five tops, bottoms and pants.  That child can make more mess than anyone I know.
  • The children will each have a second pair of swimming shorts and a long sleeved rash vest.
  • I will also have two bras, incase you were interested


  • Samsung N140 netbook and charger
  • Nikon DSLR camera, USB cable, battery charger and spare battery
  • Sony ereader and cable
  • iPhone
  • 3 x iPods and headphones
  • two apple chargers & two extra USB cables
  • cheap SIM only four band phone and charger
  • external hard drive
  • flip movie camera
  • extension cable to charge four appliances at once
  • international adaptor

First Aid Kit

  • paracetamol for adults and children
  • piriton for adults and children
  • travel sick pills
  • asthma stuff for me and Ned, including copy of prescription
  • immodium
  • rehydration salts
  • temporary filling kit
  • glasses repair kit and Steve’s prescription
  • assorted plasters, including steri-strips, blister plasters and that gel stuff that turns into a covering when it dries
  • microporous tape and a few dressings
  • tweezers
  • dry antiseptic spray
  • Bandage
  • Tiger Balm
  • tea tree oil
  • mosquito bite zapper

Wash bag

  • five toothbrushes
  • tube of toothpaste
  • bottle of shampoo to be used for hair, bodies and clothes
  • deodorant
  • disposable razors
  • shaving oil
  • lavender oil
  • hairbrush
  • hair elastics
  • sun cream
  • ear plugs

Poo bag (patent pending)

Our youngest child has an unerring ability to need a poo as soon as you are nowhere near a loo.  We therefore always carry a small bag with the following:

  • nappy sacks
  • tissues
  • baby wipes
  • antibacterial hand gel

Speaking of which, we are also taking pull ups for night time.  I’ve admitted defeat.

Children’s toys and school materials

  • teddies and blankies
  • snorkels and masks
  • Uno
  • pack of cards
  • plasticine
  • a handful (literally) of tiny cars, dinosaurs and animals
  • felt tips, pencils, rubber, sharpener, glue, sellotape
  • exercise book each
  • stickers
  • tiny paint palatte and paint brush
  • inflatable ball
  • a few miniature versions of our favourite books
  • a Lett’s Guide for each child in literacy and maths
  • two handwriting books provided by school
  • national curriculum print outs provided by school


  • two tupperware boxes (yes we are that rock and roll) for the many picnics we will be having, also useful for storing cables
  • three sporks
  • three camping bowl with lid type things, so the children can have breakfast in hotel rooms
  • two 750ml water bottles and one 500ml one

Other stuff

  • five silk sleeping bag liners
  • four travel towels
  • three head torches
  • travel washing line
  • sarong
  • sewing kit
  • Point It, visual dictionary
  • Swiss Army knife
  • miniature Sharpie for labelling parcels and naming stuff
  • small roll of duct tape for emergency repairs
  • travel clock
  • two laundry bags
  • one waterproof swimming bag
  • three booster seats (for the first few months we’ll be hiring a lot of cars)
  • reusable shopping bag
  • Lonely Planet guides for first two destinations

Paperwork and money

  • passports
  • tickets
  • print out of intinerary
  • vaccination records
  • international driving licence
  • UK driving licence
  • spare passport photos for border visas
  • vast numbers of credit and debit cards in the hope that at any one time, something will work
  • temporary tattoos for the children with my mobile phone number (very useful present from Paula)


  • 65l zip open backpack
  • 45l top opening backpack
  • 3 x children’s backpacks
  • messenger bag which folds flat, to use most days
  • small shoulder bag
  • two money belts to keep valuables safely out of sight
  • packable duffle bag for booster seats during early part of trip and extra space or an overnight bag

Amazingly, everything on the list fits into the luggage except for my camera and our bigger shoes.  And if you’re still reading, you deserve a prize.  You can choose between sachets of gelatin or some previously used, but not dried out, Play Doh.  Leave your address in the comments.  Don’t say I’m not good to you.

Three Weeks

11 Oct

Three weeks.  Three weeks.  THREE WEEKS!  That’s not very long, is it?

I finally feel like I’m getting there, like my to do list might get done.  Have a look at it, it’s a forest of felled tasks.  There are still quite a lot of things in cupboards that need to be put in boxes, but I don’t think it’s an unmanageable job.  School harvest festival on Thursday is going to come in very useful on the kitchen cupboard front.  I’ve done a fair amount of the necessary admin, there’s more to do, but a lot of it is last minute stuff.  I’ve accepted that there are some things I simply won’t get round to.  And that’s OK.  Our new bedroom curtains can wait.

I’ve even started packing.  Normally I’m a night before sort of packer, but for nine months, that’s possibly too lackadaisical.  So a corner of our bedroom is piled high with first aid kits, thermal underwear, swimming costumes and craft stuff.  Expect a full unexpurgated list soon.

The children have eight days left at school.  That’s eight more mornings of, have you cleaned your teeth hurry up and put on your shoes where is your water bottle.

Our recent weekends have been a blur of social activity, and it’s due to get busier.  I’ve also been squeezing in as many lunches and coffees with friends as I can while the children are at school.  Much to their chagrin.   Although it’s sad to say goodbye to people, it’s also been a real pleasure to see so many friends in a relatively short space of time.  Too often, I let these things slip.

Having spent three years batting this around in my head and worrying about the tiny details, I am strangely calm.  And properly, genuinely, fizzy feeling in my chest, excited.  Not long now.

Who needs toys?

4 Aug

People often ask me about our packing list, and what we’re planning to take.  What about toys, they ask.  Just a little art stuff I say, that’ll keep them busy.  Maybe a frisbee, or an inflatable ball.  We don’t want to carry too much.

The truth is, my children don’t really play with toys very much.  They’d far rather utilise a household impliment in an innapropriate way.  But when it comes to travelling, I think the old ‘in my day we had to make do with a sharpened stick’ thing, will come in very useful…


27 Jun

They are a bit frayed, a dull grey colour caused by years of saliva, and they don’t smell very nice.  But although I am ruthlessly jettisoning many of our belongings and enjoying the fact that and our house is finally starting to look a little less full, some things are so precious they will never be thrown out.  This collection of fiercly loved friends will be circumnavigating the globe with us, and hopefully returning safely home again.

This week’s Writing Workshop and Gallery prompt is ’emotions’.

Maintenance Issues

25 Mar

I’m often asked, what are you going to take with you?  You’ll have to travel very light.  And I reply, yes, yes we will, just a few clothes, hardly any toys, only what we can carry.  It’s OK I say, we can wash our things every day.  We’ll only need three or four outfits each.  The conversation usually stops there.  I can tell that they think I’m weird.

You see, pillows and mince aside, I’ve always been quite low maintenance.

OK Steve, you can stop spluttering into your coffee now.  You have no idea how lucky you are.  I could be spending your whole salary on shoes.

Grooming is like a foreign language, spoken by other women. I know the essentials, how to order a beer, say, but will never be fluent.  I’m mystified.  How do people find the time?  And the inclination?  How do they know what to do?  Armpits get shaved if I’m going swimming, legs are waxed when it becomes too hot to wear opaque tights, eyebrows are always bit less kempt than I’d like.  When I get one thing under control, something else sprouts.  If I lived in record obsessed India, I would try for the hairiest legs medal.  As it is, in our hairless culture, I’m constantly playing catch up.

I don’t own a hairdryer, get embarrassed at the hairdressers when they ask.  I rarely wear makeup.  When I do, I don’t really know how to put it on.  I struggle to look smart.  In my younger, more corporate days, this was sometimes a problem, suits didn’t suit me.  I like pretty, pointy shoes but I only own a couple of pairs, and can never wear them without pain.   I can’t understand how you could possibly wear them all day.  I’m usually to be found in Birkenstocks.  Weddings and black tie events don’t come around very often, but when they do, I sweat for weeks over what to wear.  I never get it quite right.  If I remember the earrings, I forget the hat.

But when it comes to travelling, minimal clothes, no hairdryers, few shoes means less weight in my backpack.  And that’s a very good thing.

I can use one bottle of shampoo to wash my hair, body and clothes.  I can wear the same sandals and t-shirts for months on end.  I won’t have to accessorise or try to keep up with the shiny, groomed women I normally see around me.  It will be liberating to let go of this constant battle.  No one looks smart when they’re camping or staying in budget guesthouses.  I’ll fit right in.  I will be in my element.

So if you happen to be in South East Asia next spring, and see a scruffy woman with fuzzy legs, trailed by three small, rather grubby children and a stubbly husband, do stop us and say hi.

This week I picked this prompt in the Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop: “Describe a ‘letting go’ that made you happy, rather than sad”

Please could you sit on my suitcase

17 Nov

This week, my fellow blogger, the lovely Josie at Sleep is for the Weak asked in her writing workshop “You’re packing your bags and going off on an adventure with your children. Where are you going? How are you getting there? What would you pack, but more importantly, what would your children pack?”  Now I’ve pretty much covered the first three questions in my Gear, and Our Route pages above, so today I’ll tell you what I think our children would pack, given half a chance.

Packing is a subject which consumes many of my waking hours and a more than a few of my sleeping ones.  Carrying everything we will need as a family for nine months in two large backpacks and three small ones will be a challenge, to say the least. I go over and over the endless permutations, ensuring that everything we choose has at least two uses or is something we absolutely can’t do without.   A year before we depart, I already have a favourite brand of sock (Smartwool if you’re interested, you can wear them for days without smelling) and as a lover of most things gadgety, my head is home to a rotating tag cloud of electronic items which circle as I try to decide which we really need, and which would merely be quite useful.

The children will be carrying small packs, appropriate for their strength and size, into which I should be able to fit most of their clothes.  I know that my biggest packing problem will be preventing them from bringing sackfuls of their precious belongings.  The children’s packing list starts off easily, as we will most definitely be carrying a selection of ‘blankies’ that are essential for their going to sleep at night and therefore for my peace of mind.

In age order we have Eve’s blankie, a stinky grey rag which started its life seven years ago as a new white muslin and is now, much sucking and sniffing later, half its original size, frayed around the edges and NEVER to be washed.  If, in a flurry of tidying up, it mistakenly gets put in the machine, expect tears and recriminations for at least two weeks.

Edward must have two things.  The first is a grubby pram blanket with a silky edge, which gets tucked under his body when he sleeps.  The second, his beloved white and pale blue Miffy, which Eve chose for his first Christmas.  She is about 20cm high and he likes to suck her ears.  I once made the horrendous mistake of allowing Dickon to take Miffy to nursery (I know, I know, I was busy trying to get them all shod and not paying attention) on the Friday before the start of half term.  When I broke it to Edward that Miffy was sitting in a suitcase in the home corner and we wouldn’t be seeing her for a week, big, fat, sad tears rolled down his cheeks and he sobbed “I love her Mummy, I love her as much as I love you”.  We shan’t be leaving Miffy behind.

Dickon has those rabbits that are specially designed for small children to love, with their soft heads and limbs knotted in the corners of the handkerchief body.  We’ve probably got through about a dozen of these creatures, as he used to take them everywhere, and are now down to four, who mostly live in his bed.  He shows them affection by biting their heads.

Now we’re moving into the trickier area of toys they want to bring, but don’t absolutely need, and I don’t mean the ones which will keep them usefully entertained on long journeys.  Eve is a soft toy type of girl whose bed is home to an ever growing menagerie of furry animals, all of whom are interrelated.  So if we take Birthday Bear, we have to have Valentino as well, because they’re cousins, and Mummy Penguin and Baby Penguin obviously can’t be separated.  Then there are  two Otters, Big Bear, Gabriella, Teddy, Deer, Lucy and Angel, all can’t-live-without toys, which she is going to have to live without otherwise we’ll need a separate seat on the plane.

Edward is turning into a caricature of a testosterone-driven boy, with Power Rangers, Ben 10, swords and guns as his play things of choice.  There is no way I’m carting his precious red-Power-Ranger-on-a-motorbike all the way around the world and I’m very glad his only guns are those he’s made himself from milk cartons and kitchen roll tubes.  I don’t fancy our chances at getting even a not very realistic looking toy gun through security.

Dickon is still in the intractable toddler phase, with no concept of luggage weight or compromise.  When asked what he’d like to pack he announced firmly “my rabbits, all my dinosaurs, an umbrella in case it rains and a baby elephant”.  I think he meant a toy baby elephant, but I can’t be sure.  Given half a chance, they’d probably also bring their Looping Louie board game with it’s aeroplane flying on a rotating arm, a singing dog hand puppet, a giant bucket of Duplo for tower building, a roaring dinosaur torch and their bikes.  Aside from the absolute impossibility of squeezing all of this into anything smaller than a steamer trunk, I think it would be a good idea to leave some space in our backpacks for the souvenirs we pick up along the way.  Did I tell you we are planning to visit the Hello Kitty theme park in Tokyo…?