We’ve been back from Ireland for almost a week now. And I’m surprisingly glad to be back. I was worried that I would feel discontent being back in the concrete melting pot of Hamtramck. But God was gracious. I came home to HUGE blooms on all my flowers (thanks to my neighbor who took care of my babies while I was gone). And our first Amazon purchase since being back was a flag pole to hang our Irish flag. We can’t decide on placement of the flag quite yet, but it’s fun to see it waving in it’s temporary position alongside our American one.
Ireland was our first long distance trip with all five of us. Actually, Neil and I don’t travel without the kids basically ever, so this was our first long distance trip together. Period.
And after our 3 hour drive to Dublin, 8 hour flight to Chicago, and 4 hour drive back to Detroit, we had narrowed down some intentional and accidental travel hacks from our trip. Things we were glad we brought, what we wished we hadn’t brought, and the holy grail answer of what to do for dinners when you get back home to your empty fridge.
What we were glad we brought:
- Keens for the kids. These shoes were an all around winner for travel. They are great for hiking, walking, climbing on rocks, and even water wading. We threw them in the washer toward the end of our trip, and they look brand new again. We bought ours on eBay at half the price and I’m thrilled with how long they will last. I cannot pull off the look of Keens, and spent most of my time in Ireland trading between my Saltwater sandals and a pair of comfortable leather ankle boots.
- Everyone in our family likes to sleep with white noise. It becomes a necessity after having kids – either I don’t want them to hear me while they sleep, or I don’t want to hear them while I sleep. It goes both ways. Naturally. So, we packed two soundmakers that took batteries (remember: American plugs don’t fit into Irish outlets), and I ordered a miniature fan since I sleep better when the air is moving. It’s been this way since college – just ask my roommate about the silent fights we’d get into all night long as she would turn the fan off, and I would turn it back on.
- I tried to only take one suitcase. We ended up taking two, but in order to help organize the packing and the unpacking at our Irish home, I ordered a bunch of eBags. It was nice to roll up everyone’s clothes into a separate zippered bag instead of having everything roam free inside our large suitcase.
- And finally, I took two Better Life Bags with me and was SO glad I had. The Harper was my carry on/diaper/exploring/hiking/anything-with-the-kids bag. I have one in all leather with the additional side pockets. I don’t have the elastic inside pockets as I probably wouldn’t use them, but I do have the zipper pocket and a handful of nesting pouches that I use to organize myself and the kids. I also took my all leather Alicia bag. I used this more than I thought I would! Anytime I was going out without the children, I downsized to Alicia. She was the perfect companion to carry my BLB wallet, sunglasses, phone, and lotion. I would probably argue that these two BLBs (plus the Clara tote) are the most essential ones that a person needs.
- And while I’ve already alluded to these unmentionables and totally embarrassed my brother, I have to mention them again. I was going to get a visit from my monthly friend while overseas. All I brought was this and these. (Click at your own risk, boys). It was a risk since it was my first month using both products together without carrying anything that you normally throw away. And I was out for HOURS exploring castles during one of the days. Worked like a charm.
What we wish we had NOT brought:
- Backpacks for the kids. Our three children all carried Harper backpacks as their carry on. They were full of goodies to keep them occupied on the flight. Not only did they barely open it the entire 8 hours thanks to the personal movie and game screens on the back of each seat, but Neil and I ended up carrying all of them through the airport. Never again.
- I also brought blankets for each of the kids since our initial flight was a red eye and I was hoping they would sleep. Those blankets were a pain to stuff into bags and I think they would have done equally as well with the provided pillow and blanket from the airline.
- I didn’t touch my curling iron once. Vacations need to be JUST THAT. Leave your hair products at home and embrace the wild natural side of your God-given hair texture. Even if I had curled it, the Irish rain would have messed it all up.
- We didn’t even open the eBag that carried our swimsuits. I knew we would visit a beach while we were in Ireland, but I had no idea how cold and windy it would be. Clara did get into the water, but she just wore her clothes and she was fine with that. So unless you have a pool in your Irish hotel, no need to pack swimsuits!
Our most genius travel hack ever:
- Since were gone for two weeks, we used up or got rid of everything in our fridge. I’ve never seen it that empty. When we got back to Detroit, we realized that we didn’t have anything to cook for dinner. A quick peek into our freezer and we realized we had an entire frozen meal PLUS a loaf of bread that we had stuck in the freezer before leaving. Not only did we have a great dinner that night, the kids had toast and PB&J for lunch the next day until we could get back to the grocery store. I wish we could say we did that on purpose, but we sure will from now on!
We can’t wait to take our next adventure. While it may not be as far away or as long as this one, traveling is something that our family really enjoys. And as we get more proficient on bringing just the right things, it will make picking up and adventuring that much easier!