Packing for Extended Stays

When packing for extended stays there are a lot of things to take into consideration. My children and I tend to do extended international stays that span seasons and continents, but most people do extended stays state-side with family. Whatever your stay looks like there are still some packing tips to be had and a beginning list to use as a jumping off point.


Things to consider when packing for extended stays

  1. What are your travel seasons?
  2. Are you in the United States where Amazon prime is heaven sent and target exists everywhere?
  3. Are there children in the family that you can borrow from?
  4. What does your living situation look like? i.e. in-laws home? renting? moving around?
  5. Are you driving or flying?
  6. What excursion type situations are already planned and what theoretically could be needed?
  7. Toys, books, entertainment. What is actually needed?
  8. Are you in-charge of the finances and/or any major things happening with property, etc?

What to pack and what not to pack that is the question

You may be thinking “I can pack for myself easily enough, but what in the world do my kids NEED?” The answer is quite simple; Almost nothing. Children NEED very little. For being the greedy and Christmas magazine circling crazies that they are, they actually require almost nothing to function AND you will discover that if you pack it they won’t use it! When packing for your children, less is more. Truly. This is the part where I typically lose mom friends because they always say things like this “But if Charlotte doesn’t have her fuschia dress that matches her ballerina polka dot leggings she will just flip out and never stop.” No Karen, that will not actually happen. When it is not an option it is not missed. I promise.

What they actually need: five total outfits, especially if they are carrying it. This includes undergarments and socks. In addition to these outfits you need one “nicer top/dress” this is not an Easter formal, this is something typically with a collar. This is not a tulle tutu, this is preferably a solid color and versatile enough that if you lose outfits along the way it can be used in daily wear. Maybe the most important things to pack are a pair of leggings/sweat pants and a sweatshirt. You only need one, but my goodness do you desperately need that one. My theory is that you can ALWAYS take off layers, but you cannot always find layers to put on.

I have been that person, on more than one occassion, who was stuck somewhere “experiencing abnormal weather for this time of year.” It follows me, it really does. If you tend to lean towards good luck, then you may experience only fair weather, but there will always be that really cold swim before the water was ready, or that fever that just wouldn’t break, or that really long flight sitting next to the sweaty man who won’t close his air vent. You will use this sweatshirt and leggings.


Extended Stay Seasonal Secrets

When crossing seasons I choose convertible pants for my boys’ alotted 5 pairs of bottoms. The lower portion easily zips off into shorts when the seasons change and I do not have to pack 5 pairs of pants and 5 pairs of shorts this way. I understand that dressing a girl may be quite different, but they make them for girls as well and they are quick dry so if you are abroad where dryers are yet to be a trend you will be incredibly grateful for quick dry fabric. If you find yourself needing more options for a girl then pack 2 or 3 pairs of pants and then an additional 5 warmer weather outfits. Everything below 10 full outfits is perfectly acceptable. The deciding factor is who is carrying it??

For my children I also pack two pairs of Pajamas and two pairs of shoes; one pair of tennis shoes and a pair of water friendly hiking shoes or heavy play shoes. We prefer Keens. If you find yourself crossing numerous seasons I suggest packing a heavy fleece jacket; our Columbia brand jackets have held up nicely and a pair of gloves. Stocking hats are easy to find abroad, but finding children’s sized gloves is an absolute nightmare. . .There’s another story there.

Last but not least for clothing, a swim suit and/or rash guard along with sun hat and sun glasses. These items are all easily replaceable across the globe so do not fret over how long they will or will not last.


Packing for extended stays: What will my children do without their things?

When packing for extended stays one of the things that typically is at the forefront of most everyone’s mind is “but what about the toys?” I think everyone can agree that regardless of the amount of toys a child owns, they will inevitably ask for everything in the store while you’re running errands, or claim that birthday party gift for Susie as their own. This is just how kids are. We can also agree that last Christmas the favorite present was the box. Your child will survive.

There will be things that bring comfort obviously; for us it has been legos, paper and pencils and daddy dolls, but they will occassionally collect things along the way as well. Personally, we have found great joy in collecting and sorting rocks and sea glass. My four year old is obsessed with boat making. How you ask? Out of trash, sticks, rubber bands from the butcher, etc. This brings him hours of entertainment. My oldest is harder to please, but has developed a love of simple card games and drawing. What do I suggest you pack?


Extended Stay Entertainment Packing

  1. two deflated beach balls. BECAUSE while you are unpacking a ball can bring a ridiculous amount of distraction. Two balls because one will die.
  2. Boogie boards. I love these things. They are a plane ride’s best friend and because they are not really electronic (one small battery) you will find that friendly flying neighbors are more apt to play with your child.
  3. packing a Deck of playing cards (can also be used for school!) and an additional deck of cards such as uno or spot it.
  4. Colored pencils, crayons and empty paper. I say empty paper instead of a coloring book because you can also create paper planes, play tic-tac-toe, etc.
  5. The app Epic! The app is $7.99 per month and is an app catered to your child’s age with a huge array of books. Some of which are read aloud books, which has come in so very handy on those nights that we are all sleeping in the same hotel room and I’m trying to get the baby to sleep.
  6. Sticker books, personally, I prefer Usborne, but sticker books can entertain for hours.
  7. I did not pack these because my boys are not interested, but if you have a child prone to dolls, paper dolls can be a great deal of fun and new clothes can be made for them along the way.

Packing for an Extended Stay for Mama

Ok Mamas, I’m going to tell you something that you aren’t going to want to hear. You need to pack 10 full outfits or less. You will only wear about 6 on a good week. The additional 4 are to give you the illusion of options. To be perfectly honest, I wear the same three continuously. One of my favorite clothing items is a sports skirt. Great to hike in, wander streets and chase children. The shorts portion underneath saves you from leg rubbing and flashing everyone.

You also need two pairs of pajamas, swim suit and accessories, a nicer outfit (I suggest a sun dress with sleeves) and of course a sweatshirt or cardigan and leggings. Your leggings will double as pajamas, lounge wear, sick pants and most importantly a bottom layer for those colder exploring days. Here comes the part you are really going to hate. . .three pair of shoes mama. Ouch. I know.

You need a pair of hiking/water capable shoes, once again I prefer keens. Merrills are good as well. Then you need a nice pair of sandals. Not fancy sandals, but the shoes that you wear day in and day out to chase children in your yard. Personally, those are trusty old Birkenstocks, but I’ll let you decide. Your third pair of shoes need to be something comfortable that you can walk long distances in, but are nice enough to wear with a skirt or sundress. I love my salt water sandals for this. I can walk anywhere for any amount of time. They are red and a bit dressier looking so they double as my “dress up shoes.”


Maintaining Perspective During Extended Stays

It is very easy to over pack. Even with 6 outfits for the kids and 10 for myself, I over packed, drastically. Too many outfits has given me the illusion of options though and with that has come a great deal of shopping control. I do not feel like I need that pretty shirt I saw because I have shirts that I have not worn yet on this trip. Keep in mind that I had to pack for a stay that was either going to be 5 months or 11, hahaha. Adjust this information accordingly for your family, but the clothing allotment remains the same.  While on your next adventure, keep in mind that anything clothing or shoe related that you think you are missing can be found and purchased abroad. The goal is to keep the pack you are carrying as light as possible so you aren’t burdened by your things while you are trying to enjoy yourself.

Lego Immersion Program

Lego Immersion

In Northern Europe, you can find a small village of rural farms that goes by the name Billund. Billund, Denmark still exists because of its ties to the Lego company founder. Ole Kirk Christiansen was born and raised in Billund, Denmark. He was a carpenter until the Great Depression when he decided to start making wooden toys. Shortly after, the Lego was born first from wood and later from plastic. In keeping with his roots and bringing ecotourism to the area; Christiansen created the lego metropolis that is the center of Billund town and all the surrounding areas.

The Lego Experience

You will arrive in Billund via one of three routes; bus, train or plane. When Lego became the house name that it is, the Christiansen family put in an air strip for all of the new found tourism traffic. After our visit, I would opt for renting a car in order to get around. The reason is this; unless you are staying at the lego hotel, all other lodging options are 15 to 25 minutes away by car/bus. The buses are lovely and efficient, but this area of Denmark is vastly unpopulated so driving is very easy and would give you a lot more freedom to stay at airbnbs, hostels, etc. The hostel we stayed at was an additional mile walk past the bus stop down a dirt road as well. A car would have been helpful.

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Lego House: Why you should go there first

The first stop of your lego experience should be The Lego House. Recently opened in September 2017 and absolutely incredible. I recommend the Lego House before the amusement park for many reasons, but primarily because you learn so much about the history and the family. You also learn a great deal about how the park and house came to be and what the Christiansen name has done for the village. Inside the Lego House you will find seven different experience zones. They are color coordinated and range from duplo pits and activities for small ones, all the way up to designing cities and creating virtual lego sea life. My Grandmother had never been to Denmark and therefore she opted to join the kids and I for this portion of our travels. She was dreading lego house. Everything about 7 experience zones of screaming children translated to 7 layers of hell for my Grandma. By lunch time on lego house day she simply said, “it’s incredible. Very impressive.” Because it WAS! From the vast amount of things to do for every age (including Grandma) to the seating and gallery displays, there was so much to love. The best part, the staff. I have never encountered staff members like these before. They were a dream. Not only do they know the full Lego company history, but they know the Christiansen family history as well. To make it EVEN better; the staff are all huge lego fans. They refer to the lego designers as the rockstars of the company and they their groupies. The staff also shares with you the ins and outs of working with such fascinating people. As one staff member shared with me, in regards to the designer who created all of the huge city displays; “his name is Stewart, he walks around his art work all day long with a little ziploc bag of parts and fixes and adds to his masterpieces. Nothing looks the same two days in a row, he is constantly adding to it.” That means we will have to go back.

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Lego House to Lego Land

From Lego house you can easily access Lego land. Both attractions lie within a few blocks of each other. In my opinion, it is a walk you should definitely do because the streets you navigate are owned by lego company and are full of warehouses, design offices, idea offices, creator labs, etc. You get a wonderful sense of what it actually takes to create and mass produce this toy. Legoland is very similar to the legolands you find in the United States (Carlsbad, CA and Winter Haven, FL) with the exception of; you will be the first to try and ride many new attractions as the Legoland Billund, Denmark is the test site and original park. Visiting the Lego House first also answers a lot of questions that arise from your. children once you are in Legoland amusement park. For example, my children are always asking me ‘how did they make that??’ These are some of the things that you learn inside Lego house, as well as who the first designers were for the massive scale of the amusement park. Little bonus information: The very first designer to come up and execute a creation for legoland park was a woman, Dagny Holm.

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How much time is necessary to enjoy the Lego Empire?

Both the Lego House and Legoland amusement park each warrant a full 8 hour day. Passes are available so that you may re-enter both if you wish. More than likely it will be Lego House that you wish to re-enter because there is so much to do, see and learn. Give yourself three full days, especially during the summer as rain is a common occurrence and you or your children may need a day by the Lego hotel pool as well. The entry fees for both places differs drastically. Legoland amusement park is very expensive and Lego House is very reasonable, even cheap I would say. You may also want to spend an extended period of time driving through Denmark. It is a small country, but has so many wonderful things to offer any visitor, but especially those entranced by Viking history.

 

 

Mainstream Ideals to Worldschooling: the shift of our ideals

Mainstream to Worldschooling

When you find out that you are becoming parents, one of the first things you begin pondering is your child’s education. We were just like any other mainstream parents. We were certain we would send our children to public school, DoD schools or maybe even private school. Gradually over the course of the first two years of our eldest son’s life we became committed to “attempting to homeschool.” Like we were test driving a car. Shopping for options. Testing my ability and confidence.


The Hippie Rabbit Hole

If you ask my husband how he has coped with the full change from mainstream adults, raised by mainstream adults to the parents we are today (i.e. homebirthing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, chemical free, etc, etc, etc and hot topics no one wants me to write about) his response would be the hippie rabbit hole theory. Once we had our first unmedicated birth and successfully breastfed and cloth diapered the other things were brought to our attention. He says it is like falling down a rabbit hole of extremes of which we now sit at the bottom of the hole waving at everyone that passes by.

When you are surrounded by people who do not do any of these things it is harder to find information and support, but once you are exposed to it you will see it everywhere. By the time our second son was born, a short 20 months later, I had never spent more than 5 hours away from my oldest child and he had developed into this huge personality that loved the outdoors. Putting him in a classroom seemed cruel to us. Not because we disagree with mainstream schooling/testing/teachings, but because of who he was. We just knew he would not be able to thrive indoors. Prior to this realization we had every intention of sending him to school, preschool even, but those plans abruptly stopped and in their place was a new dilemma of what now? I have no desire to be a teacher. How do I do this and enjoy it? Fears and Questions.

 


Homeschooling to Worldschooling

After three years of research, trial and error, with different curriculums we have finally found a series of methods that work well for our family. Without getting too deep into different curriculums I’ll just mention that daily we use the teachings of Charlotte Mason, Waldorf Steiner and Maria Montessori. Our curriculum book list comes from the Global Village School a secular homeschooling curriculum that we adore and we whole heartedly follow their thematic learning style. I will be the first person to tell you that there is no one right way to homeschool, especially if you have more than one child.

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Each of my children learns completely differently, which is why we use aspects of so many different methods. From Mason, we love the art of creating habits. From Steiner we love the lack of clutter, the imaginative encouragement, the handicrafts and fables. From Montessori we have learned the art of play, the different variations of cognitive development, and the importance of self-exploration in the home and classroom. The Global Village School helps guide these ideas into categories that are important to our family principals (peace, equality, diversity, universal justice, environmental awareness). We learned to love homeschooling through these outlets and then the leap of faith happened.


What is Worldschooling?

What is worldschooling? I like to think that worldschooling is saying yes to experiences and being open to allowing those experiences to teach your children, but on an international level. I have a very deeply rooted love of travel, culture, language and views. With a degree in Anthropology I find the study of people utterly fascinating. I want our children to know that love from their own experiences. To learn math from counting temple columns. To see primary colors become secondary colors when looking into the teal of the sea. The world is an exceptional classroom. There are many lessons that can only be taught by compromising your comfort levels when traveling. Though I homeschool our children while we are traveling, so many life lessons are being learned daily.

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I always knew that worldschooling was something I desperately wanted for our children, but it wasn’t until a year ago that I realized it was an “actual thing” that had already been labeled as worldschooling. I found a large number of people trying to do the same thing I was. Some of them doing it successfully full time, some balancing travel with having a home base. We will forever fall under the home base category due to the Marine Corps and the need for an income. We are at peace with this for now. There are so many beautiful things about a home that knows your history. A home that has witnessed you birth babies and bake Christmas cookies. I love those things too and it’s those things we miss when traveling.


What our “school year” looks like in 2018. It began last August with two hours a day of traditional homeschooling and perfecting our Charlotte Mason habits. We spent the early fall months checking off numerous domestic travel spots. From September to December the children and I covered nine states: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and North Carolina; Before jet setting to Mexico City and busing from the city to Guanajuato, GTO, MX in January and February. We returned to our home in North Carolina for 5 weeks to pack up, move out and celebrate our now four year old. January 21st we flew from Baltimore to Iceland and Iceland to Amsterdam where we spent the next two weeks learning about Dutch Painters and tulips. From the Netherlands we went by train to Hamburg Germany then onward to Denmark where we enjoyed the rural beauty that surrounds the Lego House Experience and explored Copenhagen for another two weeks. After a very fast month, we made our way to Athens Greece and began our slow travel adventures. We are spending three months in Greece; between Athens and Crete. From here the plan is tentative, but will be something along the lines of; Italy for six weeks, Germany for a month, Spain for 3 weeks and then back to Mexico for two months before returning to the U.S. for Thanksgiving with family and to be reunited with our Marine who is returning three months before us.


Not every school year will be this internationally extensive, but the hope is to do annual Mediterranean and Mexico trips to enhance the boys’ chances of becoming bi/tri lingual. There will be many long seasons of domesticity along the way, hopefully a fourth baby that will ground us for a few months, military moves and Christmas cookies to be baked and shared. Adventure is in the eyes of the wanderer. It can take shape in the form of traveling to family, that favorite grocery store an hour away, or long weekends with the people you love. Our vision just happens to be world embracing.

Postcard Destinations of Greece

Many of you have seen photos of Greece on postcards and added it to your bucket list. I am here to tell you that it is just as stunning in person. It should get moved up to the top of your bucket list! Over the course of two different three month Greece stays I have managed to make my way to eight of the Greek islands. The boys have now been to three islands; Crete, Santorini and Evia. The thing about Greek islands is that they are all COMPLETELY different. In order to prioritize a vacation you need to know what kind of tourist you are.

SANTORINI

is the postcard island. It is stunning, but it is expensive. You can achieve Santorini on a budget, but if you need constant entertainment it is not the island for you. If you LOVE museums and cannot sit still on a beach go to Crete or Rhodes! 

 

Santorini is picturesque Greece. A must do on the Greece bucket list. If you choose to venture to Santorini you will benefit greatly from renting a car, or a four wheeler, if you are two or fewer people. It is cheaper to rent in the port area rather than once you’re on top of the island, but rentals are everywhere. In the off season October to May you can get a car for as low as 20 Euros per day. The island is very easy to drive on, but there are wonderful beaches; like the red beach, which is accessed only by car or on foot.

Must do’s on Santorini:

  1. Akrotiri (ancient ruins of the civilization destroyed by the volcano)
  2. Red beach (just down the road from Akrotiri)
  3. Perissa beach, also known as the black beach is a wonderful afternoon in the making. Lazy cafes and lingering yachts.
  4. Oia sunset. It is a crowded tourist heavy ordeal, but it is worth it.Walk the white washed streets, have a drink among the wealthy and enjoy.
  5. If you enjoy a hot sweaty hike, take a day cruise out to the volcano. It is a fast and rather rushed tour, but the views are spectacular and the eerie feeling of standing on an active volcano that brought an ancient civilization to dust is unimaginable.

 

Exploring Crete: Crete will get its own longer post, but when trying to decide what island to see it is a must. Mostly because the history and culture are so separated from the rest of Greece. The Minoan civilization flourished during pre-palatial Greece and the culture that the Mycenaen Greeks found on the island of Greece influenced everything we know of Greece today. The first language was created and discovered on Crete. Linear B, which would later become Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, English and all of the other romance languages. The social structures of the Minoan population would later become the democracy of Greece and the judicial system that our own country uses. To walk those paths is incredible. Crete also has a very different food palate. They use a lot of snail, seafood and pork. They have some famous Greek dishes like Mousaka, souvlaki, etc but not every restaurant is selling these things unlike the rest of Greece. You can access all of the must see locations by bus, but honestly I would rent a car over and over again. If you have time to take days off from site seeing to enjoy different cafes then do, but if not you can fit the most important must sees into a week of constantly going.

Crete must-sees:

  1. The Palace of Knossos and the Archaeology Museum, which is located in Heraklion Old Town.
  2. Rocca la mare, the Venetian fort in Heraklion. Very inexpensive 2 euros. Pack a lunch and go explore. 
  3. Lake Kournas, stunning green lake that neighbors the sea and the surrounding restaurants have wonderful food and views. Accessing by car is best.
  4. If you are a lover of unique beaches then head towards the western side of Crete where you will find the beach and archaeology site of Elafonisi. A MUST SEE.
  5. Balos is also another famous beach that is along the national highway between Heraklion and Chania.
  6. Old Town and Harbor of Rethymnon, beautiful and novel inspiring. Wander the streets and eat the gelato.
  7. Old Town and Harbor of Chania. Chania is unique in and of itself because there are many UK expats there. There is also a naval base so there is a lot of English spoken and it is a unique blend of tradition and modern expectations. 

MYKONOS

A beautiful island painted in postcard colors of blue and white. Home to many windmills and wonderful photo-ops. You can get lost here for days wandering through winding alleys and white washed streets, BUT you do not need to go here. I said it. It is beautiful, but it is lacking in culture and history. The whole island is a tourist hub. No museums, no ancient culture, the windmills are the last standing thing that indicates any culture at all and even those have been turned into rooms to rent for tourists at $400 per night. If you have to choose between Mykonos and Santorini for a post card destination choose Santorini. If you have loads of time and money do both, but Santorini is by far a better choice on the unique-ness scale with lava rock beaches and archaeology sites versus poor money making Mykonos.

I know, it’s beautiful right?? Well this is it. Worth seeing, yes of course, but you can see this by taking the ferry there as a connection to another destination. Spend an afternoon eating right here next to the windmills and call it good.

RHODES (Rhodos)

This island has my whole heart. I even named a child after it. Talk about living and walking amongst history. The entirety of old town Rhodes is surrounded by castle walls. The knights Hospitaler in the order of Saint John built the Castle. It’s primary purpose was to act as a hospital, but now it is littered with elegant shops, painters, cafes and museums. For history lovers, Rhodes the the place to go. Not exceptionally expensive for frugal travelers, but expensive to get there as Rhodes is Greece’s most Eastern island and only a 45 minute ferry ride from Turkey (Very easy way to access the country of Turkey if your plans take you there, which they should because Turkey is amazing as well).

Must sees in Rhodes:

  1. The Castle of the Grand Master: During the crusades the island was ruled by the knights of Saint John and they built all the fortifications that you can visibly see. Rhodes has had a tumultuous past being constantly under the rule of someone other than their own people. Between Romans, Turks, Crusaders; the history is vast and well documented, which helps the unknowing visitors tremendously.
  2. The Acropolis of Rhodes, lovely example of Classical Greek Engineering.
  3. The old harbor where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. The Colossus was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. Enjoy the local architecture, heavily influenced by byzantine rule.
  4. Prasonisi, one of the more famous beaches of Rhodes. A hot spot for water sports enthusiasts .

Evia

If you are just wanting a quick day trip out of Athens, Evia island and the town of Chalkida are exactly what you need. A quick one hour train ride from Larissa station in Athens and you are dropped off in the heart of Chalkida harbor. Spend the day or the night enjoying the views and local food before hopping back on the train. The train leaves every two hours towards Athens.

Greek island hopping is a very simple thing to do via ferry from May onward. All of these locations, with the exception of Evia, have airports as well with inexpensive flights to and from the main land. If you are completely against driving in Greece you can still enjoy your stay and get around with buses and taxis, but you lose the option to stop for the best photo ops and views along the way. There are hundreds of Greek islands to explore, I also advise you to spend some time exploring the Peloponnese region of the mainland. 

If you do in fact move forward with travel plans to this beautiful and rich country please let me know. The kids and I may be criss-crossing your path and we would love to show you around.