Our family of six, which includes two babies and their accompanying swaddling blankets, snuggly stuffed bunnies, individual sound machines, and other assorted debris, just travelled to Florida for a week with carry-on luggage only. I could act smug, as if I have always been so streamlined. But in fact, I was inspired to think beyond the original intended purpose when it comes to the gear my family has, and use it in the way that makes the most sense for our family.
Once upon a time, Greg and I loved to hike and camp. We both had all the gear we needed to load up a pack, head for the hills, and spend a day or three or four roaming trails and sleeping in lean, lightweight, expensive tents that fit ever-so tidily in our huge, expensive backpacks. We sort of envisioned that we’d continue this sort of hiking when we had kids.
Sort of. Except that the exact kind of hiking and camping requires lots and lots of gear, and lots and lots of walking, and we now have lots and lots of kids, who have very short legs and can’t go very far. So we diversified and welcomed car camping into our life, and we bought a big, cheap tent we could all sleep in on blow-up mattresses that plugged into our car lighter. And we were happy, much happier than our uppity college selves could have ever imagined we would be car camping in a huge Coleman tent.
But we’re on the brink, here, folks. The big kids are 5 and 7 and they can hike, they can really hike. Accompanying our car camping are many weekends spent roaming the hills on 1,2, or 3 mile trails, and their legs are toned, and they can fend for themselves a little bit when it comes to carrying a load. The little girls are still little enough that they can be carried and in a few years they’ll be able to do a mile or two themselves. So we began to look ahead, down the road, and we outfitted the family with awesome backpacks from Deuter so that when that day comes... man, we will be ready. Really ready.
But in the meantime? In thinking about our trip to Florida, and feeling irritated at the prospect of paying $25 for each bag we checked, it dawned on me: why check bags? We have ourselves and our little pack horses, the big kids. Let’s think carefully about what we pack, just like when we were backpacking in the hills, and let’s skip the baggage claim and the check-in process and just print out our boarding passes at home, sling our packs on our backs, and hit the road.
And so it was that Aoife toting her Junior with her clothes and a sound machine, Liam with his Fox 30 with his clothes and a sound machine, Greg with the KangaKid pack with his luggage, Fiona’s stuffed animals and blanket, and Fiona herself, I with my Act Zero 45 +15 with my clothes, the life jackets for the babies, and our grown-up Giga Office pack with the laptop, portable DVD, kids books, and snacks, plus two kids packs of activities, got on a plane and headed to Florida without a hiccup. It was amazing-- we printed out our boarding passes at home, parked the car, and marched straight to security. I’m hoping we turned a few heads, all of us trekking across the airport with our sleek, backpacked profiles, pushing a couple of strollers loaded up with carseats to boot. I feared for the scene at security with six of us and all our gear, but truly it was easy-- with each child responsible for her own things, we all just slung our own pack onto the belt and we were through just as quickly as we had been the year before with two huge suitcases heading for the belly of the plane.
The other best part, besides the fifty bucks we now had in our pockets for take out dinners when we arrived, was that we also had everything we needed for streamlined trips to the beach-- a pack for Fiona, and multiple packs for towels, seashells, and books. Looking back to past years when I actually packed a beach bag in my suitcase I almost laugh.
The moral: One need not be hard core to use hard core gear. You just have to be hard core in a different way. Using our outdoor gear for airline travel to a beach destination made our travels easier than they’d ever been before. Will we use the same gear this summer, here in New England, out in the woods? You betcha. But for now, we’re acting the part. Me, the mom of four young kids, two under two, I like to think I’m pretty hard core. So why not act it, even in an airport?