If you’ve been following our adventure so far, you know we traveled to Germany and India last month with our one and a half year old son. We’re thoroughly enjoying sharing our lessons learned, highs and lows of traveling light with a highly active toddler boy, and the unexpected joys and challenges we experienced while visiting both unfamiliar and known cities and countries as a new family right here in this space. This kind of thing is deeply rooted in our veins, and we love sharing what we’re learning. So thank you for reading!
Right now we’re talking about Germany. We landed in Frankfurt, which would serve as “base camp” and spent the first day settling in and doing just a little exploring in the evening. We also spent a day in Heidelberg. If you’ve missed it, head here to read all about it.
The next day we hopped on an early morning train, after another filling and delicious breakfast (God bless our hotel find), and spent the day in Würzburg.
Würzburg sits in the region called Franconia, in Northern Bavaria, and marks the start of the “Romantic Road.” If you haven’t heard of it, that’s a route that runs through the bottom half of Germany connecting a series of picturesque towns and castles, ending at the very famous Castle Neuschwanstein. The region is also famous for wine-production, which at least one of us sampled while there and can now attest to the fact that it deserves its fame. There were so many sights we wanted to see here. For example, the local World War II exhibit, which showed in miniature detail the ninety percent of the whole town that was destroyed in 1945 during the British air raids. We actually did see everything we wanted to see here while going at a relaxed pace, and giving Johann his much needed “running breaks.”
We arrived in Würzburg after a short train ride. We had walked about three quarters of a mile towards the Altstadt (old town), when I noticed that Johann – riding in the Ergo on Ryan’s back – had chucked his sun hat somewhere along the way. The hat is a high-quality one, and was meant to fit his head for the next three or four sizes of growth (supposedly). So we retraced our steps, and finding nothing we gave up all hope, sad to start our day with a small but sad loss. But, to our surprise, a kind stranger had perched the sun hat atop a post mere steps away from where we had discovered it was missing.
Setting aside the hat-chucking incident, and a harrowing train-catching incident yet to come, we loved our day in Würzburg.
One of our first stops was the World War II exhibit at the town hall. The magnificent churches, castles, and town buildings we marveled at were almost completely reduced to rubble, then painstakingly reconstructed to prior accuracy in the decades that followed.
The accompanying text said that the town wanted to remember the tragedies it suffered through, and never wanted to face anything like that ever again. The whole thing was a humbling paradox of an experience, one that made us feel very blessed and fortunate not to be living in times of war devastation and also one that showed us how normal life can seem one or two generations later. Like it was nothing.
It was easy to find beauty and joy in everything we saw here.
But the churches here were especially beautiful, and we explored as many as we could.
That is, until Johann discovered echoes. As in, his own very loud echo inside a church. While someone was giving a talk. The more he heard it, the more thrill he got out of it. Yep. So I went in with the other tourists who knew how to be quiet, and took the keepsake pictures. But that wasn’t all of Johann’s church-related mischief. At another church here (one that was completely deserted except for us, thankfully), Johann decided to take a break from running when he inadvertently discovered that the cushions could be pushed off. The excitement grew when he discovered all the cushions could slide off in a long line down the pew.
We broke the day up with a nice, leisurely lunch at a picnic table in the Altstadt Marktplatz.
We all shared one huge German Pretzel. Johann inhaled his share of lunch then sped off to run around the square and play peekaboo with random but friendly big German guys enjoying their lunch break while we ate and drank. We couldn’t help but smile the whole time. As a side note, we were able to eat really cheaply in Germany, with the abundance of picnic stalls and summertime pop-up vendors, and ended up spending less than $8 per person per day while we were there, which included all the water, snacks, gelato, and other drinks we bought too. Getting a free daily breakfast helped greatly, but we were still pretty proud of ourselves since we came in well under budget for the whole trip to Germany and India.
Another highlight was the Residenz and its gardens. An enormous palace commissioned in the early 1700s by the Prince-Bishops of Germany, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inside of which pictures were strictly verboten. But the whole interior, particularly the tile and woodworking details were indescribably exquisite. We then walked around the impeccably manicured gardens with its millions of varied flowers, and were able to take pictures outside while we took a snack break and waited for Johann to wake up from his afternoon nap.
Everything was going smoothly, and we were having fun. We walked around a little more, stopped to buy the one and only souvenir we bought during our time in Germany – which, because I know you’re all dying of curiosity, is a bottle of Franconian wine, to open and celebrate after baby number two comes – then headed back to the station to catch our train. Which brings me to the train-catching incident that shall forever live on in our memories as THE train-catching incident. Let me elaborate…but first, this cuteness.
Waiting for the train is like waiting on a high dive board. The platform is a narrow space, it’s hot (95 F) and you’re nervous so you try not to move too much. On this high dive board you also have an active, sweaty toddler, and also about a hundred other people. Johann did not want to be held, which was okay because it was hot, and there was no breeze to make it even remotely comfortable. He was also cranky now, after being an angel all day, which makes complete sense since it was after 5 p.m. now and it had been a long day. He had a mostly empty apple juice bottle that provided some excitement, and he carried that around while Ryan made sure he didn’t get too close to the edge of the platform. Sort of like the old game of pong. My son and husband bouncing back and forth between the two platform edges. There was one exciting moment when Johann bolted for the edge and tripped. He and the bottle in his hands went flying and Ryan had to choose which one to catch. He chose correctly, unfortunately though the bottle added to the litter next to the tracks. This bothered both Johann – since he lost his entertainment – and Ryan who loathes litter.
I watched all of this play out while trying to figure out what happened to German precision and punctuality. Forty minutes after the scheduled arrival there was still no train in sight and the digital signs on our platform with the train information had yet to change. Then, without notice or announcement, the signs changed to show a different train. Not ours. Slowly, as the wave of awareness swept through the sweaty crowd on the platform, a garbled announcement came over the PA system. Something about our train changed and platform four, which was not the one that we were waiting on. Suddenly the crowd that had been simmering in the heat started to move like a herd of cattle beginning to stampede. The ones closest to the stairs started to move and then everyone started to funnel down into the tunnel between platforms. Getting Ryan’s attention, ensuring we had our daypack and of course Johann – who was very excited to be doing anything besides waiting – we pushed into the herd. It was unclear when the train would be arriving but the leaders of the herd seemed to think it was pulling into the station as they bolted to the new platform. Of course the rest of the herd follows so we ran too. Had we known what was to come we would have conserved our energy. The new platform was just the next one over, eager heads turned to look down the track and saw nothing. The slow members of the herd arrived in plenty of time, basking in their calm while the rest shimmered in their sweat.
Finally a light on the tracks. Using the handy map that the Deutsche Bahn had put on the wall, we figured out where on the platform to stand so that we could board straight into our car when the train stopped. Standing confidently, we watched as the train came in and started to roll by and keep rolling by, finally stopping. Our car was not in front of us nor were we even close to our car number. Taking off at a quick pace we ran towards the end of the train, unaware that no one else was coming this way. We realized why when it dawned on us that none of the doors on this section of the train were open. Looking behind us, we saw everyone boarding the train back where we had been standing. Now, in a panicked full run, we made for the first open door we could see, back the way we came, pushing a Chinese tourist group and their enormous wheelie bags in ahead of us. We all jumped inside the door with seconds to spare. If we had to do all of this pulling suitcases full of stuff behind us, we would not have made it. One active toddler and one small daypack was enough for this sweaty five-months pregnant wife and spouse! Johann was securely in the Ergo carrier, and was now laughing hysterically because of all the running. Turned out, our car was just the next one over, in the opposite direction of all the closed doors (of course). We sank hippopotamus-like into our seats, and spent a full ten minutes recovering before tearing into the sandwiches we had grabbed for dinner.
We had saved our last full day to see more of Frankfurt. After another filling breakfast, we took the U-Bahn to the Altstadt. Side note: getting around Frankfurt was really easy by U-Bahn. We also got lucky being there on weekdays. Since the city is mostly all about business-activities, the best time to see the city is during the week.
We got the Altstadt and started with the Kaiser Dom. The cathedral itself was beautiful in its gothic architecture, and interesting.
But then we climbed up three hundred and twenty-eight steps straight up to the top of the bell tower.
The spiral staircase was old, and narrow. There was almost no room for the couple that passed us on their way down. We got to the top and were the only ones there for most of the time. It was the perfect place to enjoy the 360 views, let Johann run round and round, take a snack break, and change a poopy diaper.
Next, we headed into the Historiches Museum. What a pleasant surprise! The museum is shiny and new, built only within the past few years and it turned out to be the thing we enjoyed most in Frankfurt. We walked in, and Johann promptly fell asleep. I guess the soothing lighting and quiet atmosphere of the Museum was too strong a sleep inducer. We learned a few things in the medieval and World War II exhibits, then headed to the attached tower.
Johann woke up just in time to enjoy pushing all the buttons that simulated different church bells hundreds of years ago, and look through kid-friendly telescopes to see what medieval Frankfurt had looked like. We left and had a nice picnic style lunch in the plaza, and did a little more sight-seeing before heading back.
We packed, then put Johann down to bed, and enjoyed one last sunset on the balcony, feeling extremely grateful for such a wonderful time in Germany. The next morning we would be boarding our flight to Chennai, India. And things continued to go smoothly. We took the S-Bahn back to the airport and caught our plane. There were no lines anywhere through the airport, and God must have shown us mercy because we had an empty seat next to us. I don’t need to say, but I will anyway, that the 9.5 hour flight that day was the smoothest one we’ve ever had (even including our pre-baby days). What an amazing trip so far.
My next post will be my last and final post on this series, will cover how it all went in India, including how we dealt with the weather, Johann’s adjusted schedule, and car travel. Thank you for sharing in our journey!
We took our toddler to Germany and India last month, traveling with little more than a backpack, a carryon bag, and a daypack. We booked this trip months ago, then promptly forgot about it until a couple days before we left. Why? For completely self-inflicted reasons. The month of May was a conglomeration of backpacking and camping trips, and family visitors from out of town the week before we left. Then there was some unpleasant business with the visas that took a little time, effort, and expense (!) to sort out, which only subtracted from the trip excitement. We knew these months would be busy, but it didn’t hit us until the end that we were leaving in a couple of days on our big trip. Now, all of a sudden, we were excited, eager and ready to be off.
The evening of June 1st arrived and Ryan and I went to bed like little kids on Christmas Eve, too excited to sleep yet so eager for the morning’s excitement. We were about to see a new country! No one was looking forward to the long flight, especially with a squirmy toddler on our laps, but an exciting new experience awaited us on the other side and so we were anxious to get to Germany. We knew we couldn’t possibly “see it all” in just four days, so this took a lot of pressure off and we were ready to relax, simply explore, and have a good time.
FLYING WITH A TODDLER IN YOUR LAP
Our direct flight to Frankfurt took nine hours and thirty minutes. And it was rougher than we were expecting. Ryan’s high points were walking up and down the aisles with Johann, and exploring the aircraft with him. My high? The approximately ninety minutes of sleep I got while Johann also napped, which kept me mostly sane until our next official “bedtime” at Frankfurt thirty-six hours later. Johann’s favorite plane activity was running up and down the aisles. While seated, snacks were the biggest hits. His other highs included swapping smiles with strangers, enjoying many compliments from the same strangers on account of his “empirical” cuteness, making his captive audience laugh when he figured out pretend-sneezing during the first flight then doing it non-stop for the last thirty minutes, and playing on the floor beneath our seats. (We got over that one real quick, and while the thought of him playing on that filthy carpet beneath our legs was not appealing, he seemed pretty happy down there and he couldn’t get into too much trouble as long as he was close by.)
He played for a little while with the small pull-back cars we had brought for him – best purchase ever from the $1 bins at Target. Those, a couple of cheap wind-up toys from the local pharmacy, and snacks got us the most value for money. Other than that, he fussed for about half the time. Yes, truly. We didn’t know this then, but that first plane ride would be the worst one of the trip. By the time we got on our next flight, approximately ten hours from Frankfurt to Chennai, Johann had become more familiar with the iPad apps and understood the purpose of the headphones, and so figured out how to actually get something out of the combination of them. These things had been brand new to him on the first plane ride, and so he just kept ripping the headphones off his head, and mostly ignored the iPad. We had all the other usual stuff to distract him: stickers, crayons, paper, etc. but those were hit or miss. The second, third, and even last flight were dreamy in comparison.
By some miracle, on our second flight there ended up being an empty seat next to us. It made all the difference in the world, and we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to sprawl out (especially considering we would never have paid the $1k+ for the extra seat).
Johann was quite comfortable stretched out on a seat all by himself, and napped like at home, for three hours straight.
At the end of the day, flying with a toddler is so much more work than flying with an infant. But still worth it.
We were expecting all commerce and steel. Boy, were we wrong! There was some of that, for sure, but there was also art, beauty, culture, and history. We really enjoyed Frankfurt, but felt that two days there was enough. The neighborhoods were compact and walkable, and it was easy to get around further by the U-bahn.
We arrived in Frankfurt around 8:30 a.m. the day after we left Seattle. This was both Ryan’s and my first time in Germany (not counting several airport transits) and we weren’t really sure what to expect. During the trip, we realized that Germany truly is beautiful, and just as we had imagined.
We took the S-bahn from the airport to the main train station, and made our way to our hotel, which was just a block away. We fully expected to drop our bags and leave for a few hours until they could get our room ready, but they said they would check us in within one hour. What a blessing! We walked around the neighborhood a little bit trying to find a cafe while we waited for our room, and couldn’t help but notice that the environment was a little “odd.” We booked this hotel because it was cheap, being geared mostly towards business-travelers and that was fine by us. We also loved the location, knowing we’d need to come and go from the main train station for our day trips every day. The best of the reviews we read before booking described the hotel, and the neighborhood around the train station on the whole, as “slightly seedy.” Liars. What we didn’t know, and what became obvious while we were wandering around the streets behind our hotel, with our toddler son at 9:30 a.m. looking for breakfast, was that we were smack-dab in the middle of the sex district. At least the open doors had closed curtains and we could only imagine that not all of the drug activities were happening out in the open streets. Yes, this was at 9:30 a.m. Walking as fast as we could while carrying little Johann, we beelined for the “better” side, back on the main road, and immediately stumbled upon a quiet coffee shop. The cafe was perfect, and had a large empty room in the back just for Johann – who was completely wired and functioning quite well on less than three hours of sleep over the past twenty-four hours, jet lag shmet lag. What a morning. In hindsight, isn’t this the kind of stuff that the best family travel memories are made of?
The hotel itself was great. One of the highlights of our fifth-floor room was floor-to-ceiling windows that opened out onto a balcony. We sat out there after Johann went to bed, and decompressed from the long days, enjoying the balmy breeze, sunset glows and skyscraper views. Another highlight was that we got a free full breakfast every day, and it was a huge spread. Johann gorged on all the fresh fruit, yogurt, eggs, and German pretzels he wanted to, and we didn’t have to bother with ordering a variety of local fare because it was all right there in front of us. We fueled up every morning before heading out for the day. The only real lows were that Ryan’s allergies kicked into high-gear the minute we arrived in Frankfurt, and this area of Germany started experiencing a heatwave the same day that we arrived, which made our room on the fifth floor stifling. No air-conditioning, either. This meant that the windows were open a lot, the room got very dusty and rendered the daily housekeeping completely useless.
But we were here now, and ready to see Germany.
Right after breakfast on our second day, we hopped a train to Heidelberg. It was a one hour trip, and we enjoyed the scenery. Heidelberg is a charming city, and home to Germany’s oldest university. Another interesting thing is that the city was almost completely spared during the Allied bombings of World War II, so we didn’t see the reconstruction and restoration that we saw in a lot of places across Frankfurt and Würzburg.
Our first stop was the ruins of Heidelberg Castle, theworld famous Schloss.
The castle grounds were a great place for Johann to do some solid running.
The castle above ground was beautiful, but so were the dark wine cellars down below.
After we left the castle, we enjoyed walking around the compact Altstadt (old town), crossed the bridge to the other side and back, and saw a number of churches. At one particular church, Johann discovered pews and what fun it was to run through them and come out on the other side.
All this while Ryan and I were marveling at the medieval history and sheer age of these places. Toddlers don’t quite appreciate these things the same way, I guess. But, at the end of the day, on our way back through town to catch the bus back to the train station, we stopped at a playground. This was our first playground stop in Germany and it looked to be tailor made for toddlers. There was a large sand pit, and all sorts of other cool stuff. Johann was in heaven! He quickly made a friend named Luca, and we enjoyed chatting with Luca’s mom while the boys played.
Everyone we met in Germany was nice to us, but we particularly enjoyed talking to this local family. Sometimes, simply being a parent is all one needs in order to find common ground that spans cultures. Kids are really the same, no matter where in the world you are. If Johann could talk, he would probably say that playing in that park with the boy named Luca was one of the highlights of the trip. It truly was “down time” and quite relaxing. We were also in the shade here, which was a nice break from the high eighties Fahrenheit we had been walking around in!
With a full day behind us, we caught our train back to Frankfurt and grabbed some pretzel sandwiches from a self-serve cafe at the station to eat for dinner back at our hotel room. Johann hadn’t napped much during the day, so he crashed in the Ergo on the less-than-ten minute walk from the train station to our hotel.
Yep. He was completely worn out. But he was pretty happy to wake up to shower, eat dinner, and to do some reading before bedtime. We were having a wonderful time!
Next up: Würzburg, more about Frankfurt, and onwards to India!
If you saw the snapshots I posted, you know we just traveled to Germany and India. Yep. We packed up our backpacks and our kid once again, and headed off on an overseas adventure. Just like our awesome backpacking trip through Spain last year, we wanted to do something “fun” again this year, and we wanted to travel as light as possible. (Read on below for our full packing list.) And, once again, we were open to the destination. So we saved up for the trip, and prayed about it for a few months beforehand. We spent four days in Germany, followed by ten days in Chennai, India, with a few days of travel time and four long-haul flights thrown into the mix.
We were away from home for almost three weeks, which is a long time to be gone when one of you has an office job and the other one is five months pregnant and has regular checkups with her doctor. So, it had to count. And it did!
One, it was a “babymoon” of sorts as we’ll have another baby in our household come this Fall, and who knows what our life (and travels) will look like in the near future. Two, my whole family is in India and even though my mom was here when our son Johann was born, the rest of my family has been eager to meet him. While my husband has been several times now, this would be Johann’s first time to India…a big milestone for him and our family. Three: Our connecting flight would be through Frankfurt, so we decided to stay there a few days en route so we could see Germany! Germany was a new country for us, and we were excited about that. Plus, we could get the most out of the long-haul flights that had to happen anyway, rather than planning and booking an entirely separate trip somewhere (which would also be more expensive). Four, as Johann is only one and a half years old, we’re still in that sweet spot of only needing to buy two adult tickets so it was a great chance for Johann to get to go across the world – essentially for free – and we wanted to take advantage of the timing.
Was it fun? Heck, yes! Was it a trip that gave us memories to last a lifetime? Absolutely! Was it easy? Not all the time. But no one said it would be. Traveling (and life in general) with a toddler can be as hard as it is rewarding. There were hard moments, just like there are at home. And there were moments that make you want to pull your hair out, just like at home. We didn’t go on this trip because we thought it would be easy. We did it because it’s part of who we are. Our why. Sure, there were one or two stressful situations. When we’re out of our element, and trying to figure out a solution knowing there’s a tiny person entirely dependent on us, there’s bound to be some pressure along with the unknowns. But as long as we were relaxed, calm, and not completely falling apart, Johann was fine too.
We wanted to go as light as possible. What did we take? One 45-liter backpack, an 18-liter daypack that functioned as a diaper bag, one carry-on “wheelie” bag, the travel crib in its own carry case, and my messenger-style travel handbag. That’s all! No carseat, no stroller, no heavy suitcases. We put Johann in his Ergo baby-carrier, which Ryan mostly carried on his back. The original plan was to take two big backpacks and our messenger-style diaper bag. But my 20-weeks-along-and-rapidly-growing belly meant that the weight I carried had to stay as low as possible, so instead of my regular backpack plus the separate diaper bag, I opted to use the wheelie bag (not packed full) and use a small daypack as the diaper bag, which worked out much better. (Note: I still carried Johann on my back for short stretches during the trip, but at 24lbs he still weighed less than my backpack would have for a two-and-a-half-week trip!)
Each of us still had at least one-free hand, and it was great to be able to move quickly through airports, up and down stairs, and crowded streets. We were generally headed into summer weather, but needed to pack for different environments and activities (long-haul flight days, walking days, train-travel days, hot-sweaty-car-travel days, beach days, etc). But going light meant no bulky baby gear or heavy equipment. Compared with our backpacking trip through Spain, when Johann was eleven months old, our packing list was not that different.
HERE’S WHAT WE PACKED:
CLOTHES & SHOES
Four outfits each, plus one extra for Johann just for plane emergencies.
Pajamas for all of us.
Our swimsuits, and Johann’s reusable swim diaper. (We would have beach and pool days in India!)
Extra pair of shoes for all. (Ryan and I both had comfy walking shoes – handy for the daily average of seven or so miles we walked in Germany.)
Flip-flops for the adults.
An extra pair of socks each – totally unnecessary in hindsight, as we arrived to an unseasonal heatwave in Germany – it was only early June! – and we didn’t wear socks at all in India.
Three extra pairs of underwear for the adults.
Sunglasses for the adults, and sun hats for Ryan and Johann.
Two scarves for myself – which were “nice to haves” that I’d thrown in mainly to get the most out of my four outfits – but didn’t use at all, due to the aforementioned hot weather throughout.
DIAPERS & WIPES
We used disposables for the trip, and packed enough for four days. We stocked up again before we left Germany, then replenished again in India.
HEALTH & GROOMING ITEMS
Small things that didn’t take up much room in our packs. Infant Tylenol, diaper rash cream, basic nail-clippers, disposable razors, travel-sized containers of hand-sanitizer, sunblock, moisturizer, toothpaste, toothbrushes, Q-tips, etc.
With only four outfits, we knew we’d have to wash our stuff in Germany somehow, but we would have access to a washing machine in India. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve heard me tout the glories of our Scrubba wash bag. We love this handy little thing, and you bet it was the first thing to go into our backpacks! Along with three Tide-sink packets. With space at a premium, and wanting to keep our luggage as light as possible, the Scrubba was a great tool to have at our disposal.
TODDLER FEEDING ITEMS
Sippy cups (two) for milk and water.
One reusable bib.
Ten organic food pouches. Mainly for our travel days. We brought a third of them back home.
Snacks: Three snack-sized baggies filled with raisins, cheerios, and goldfish crackers. We used some on the plane rides but brought half of them back home.
Burp cloth. Why? Who knows. Out of habit I guess. It was completely unnecessary.
Once we added our small electronics, iPad, camera, travel documents, plane snacks, a book each, toddler headphones, and an empty water bottle, our packing was all done.
Since you’re probably wondering about some of these other key elements, let me elaborate:
In Germany, we only planned to use public transportation and trains. A carseat wasn’t even a consideration for India. This meant Johann wouldn’t need a carseat for the whole trip. We’re starting to see that, with babies and toddlers, sometimes it pays to travel internationally – to places that either have a fantastic public transportation infrastructure, or a place that has no carseat laws whatsoever and anything goes! This doesn’t apply to domestic travel so when we fly within the US, if we’re not meeting family who can provide a carseat on the other end, we have to lug our own around. As much as I want all our kids to be safe, this is quite a pain.
As far as getting around otherwise, we would be walking. Ryan and I actually had a brief conversation about bringing our stroller. (We only have one and it’s pretty small and lightweight.) We decided against it after mentally reviewing images of families we’ve seen overloaded with kids’ stuff as they slog through the crowded airports. I know not everyone has the choice. And we may not either once our second child comes along. (Single parents who travel with little ones – my heart goes out to you, I don’t know how you do it.) But, as long as we have the option to travel light, we will. So we left the stroller behind, and just brought our Ergo baby carrier, which worked out really well. I love how easily we were able to maneuver through airports, crowded streets, train stations and such. Johann walked (actually, he ran) quite a bit on his own, and Ryan found it easier to just have him ride on his shoulders for short stretches when needed.
Our hotel in Germany kindly provided a crib in our room. Johann’s naps mostly happened on the go, and that was fine for just four days. At night, we usually all turned in at the same time, but much later than normal which is, again, a good MO on vacations. Easy peasy. Our sleeping arrangements in India would be a bit more complicated. We expected to spend a lot of time at home in my Grandmother’s flat and needed a safe place to put Johann down for his naps and nighttime sleep (since we don’t co-sleep unless we’re camping). Plus, the whole family went away one weekend to a beach resort. I had asked a few friends who have traveled back to Chennai with their kids what their sleeping arrangements were, and most suggested bringing something like a pack n’ play. There seemed to be no easy way to get an equivalent item locally, so, before our trip we ended up finding a gently used but excellent condition lightweight travel crib on Craigslist to bring for use in India. It’s a Baby Bjorn Travel Crib and we specifically looked for it on the recommendation of a good friend. We love it! It weighs only 13lbs, zips up into a briefcase-sized thing, and is perfect for travel. It sets up in less than twenty seconds, which was awesome at 1:00 AM when we deplaned in Chennai and arrived at the flat. Johann was very comfortable in it, slept like a champ for all ten days, and didn’t climb out.
One other thing is that mealtimes with Indians are very different than what we’re used to back in the States. So we compensated by putting Johann down for a morning nap and a later afternoon nap, which is different from the one-nap-a-day schedule he’s had for the past eight or nine months. He still got less sleep than usual (around 10-11 hours total sleep a day vs. around 14-15 hours back home) but it was enough to get through the long days.
Didn’t bring any except for a few small plane distractions and a very small set of beach toys which packed easily and weighed next to nothing. (More on how we got through the flights in my next post.) Johann would mostly just find things to play with from whatever was around him, and make up his own games. It was wonderful to see his little imagination at work in his creative play. His favorite spot/play space on the whole trip was the balcony at my Grandmother’s flat (where we stayed). He loved watching the myriad distractions on the street, and opening and closing the balcony doors (when the street got boring, I suppose). He only jammed his finger in the door once, and scooped up and ate a fistful of birdpoop off the balcony floor once. To boot, the birdpoop incident happened the morning of our flight home to the States. But to his credit, he came running straight to us when he realized he’d eaten something that didn’t taste like food, and held out his hand with the rest of the evidence still on it. Which brings us to…
Besides the Ergo and travel crib, the only other “baby gear” we brought was a small nylon travel booster seat which we had borrowed from a friend. It fit neatly in our backpack and self-inflated when ready to use. We were able to use it on most dining chairs we encountered, but it was especially useful for the meals at home. It was awesome! Johann has been a self-feeder ever since he started solids and we all do so much better at mealtimes when he has his own chair. We probably could have gone without this, and just sat him on our laps, but it was so nice to have.
So that’s all we had. One main backpack, one small daypack, one carry-on “wheelie” bag, and the travel crib. I can still hardly believe we traveled so light. Looking back at the two or three things we could have done without, we know there is still room for improvement but we were happy that we had everything we needed. We knew that if we needed something in Germany, we could find it there pretty easily, and knowing we would be with my family the whole time in India set us at ease.
Up next, I’ll talk more about the places we saw in both Germany and India, the sweltering heat of summer in the tropics, the things we did, and some of our highs and lows of traveling with our toddler. Thank you for reading!