The art of travelling light (with Mole and Hedgehog).

One of the highs of train travel with little ones has to be spreading ourselves out across four seats with a table, at around hour four of the journey, by which time the picnic is long eaten, the books have been read, and everyone is burnt out and settling into a snoozy nap time cuddle, while watching the views swish by, and maybe getting a cappuccino from the trolley as it goes past, which I can have to myself because Mole and Hedgehog are oblivious and fast asleep.

One of the other fab things about train travel is that Mole and Hedgehog are not strapped into their car seats for hours on end. I believe the reason they have the inevitable meltdown so much more often on a car journey is because they are forced to sit still, which is completely counter intuitive for a child who naturally wants to play. On our last train trip they played ‘how many times can we scamper off to the loo before mummy loses her sh*t’ game', the answer is four times.

One of the lows of train travel with little ones is the delays or even cancellations, which totally scupper your best laid plans, driving you head long into rush hour, where you end up standing for two hours packed in like sardines, managing two toddlers and a buggy, praying that neither of them has a meltdown in a confined public space, although to be honest you wouldn’t blame them, since this is exactly what you feel like doing right now.

Our most common train journey right now is visiting Granny Purple Hair in Wales for half term hols, sans Mr M&H. It’s a five hour journey from Milton Keynes to Aberyswyth, with one change at Birmingham, which is doable with some incredibly light packing.

To begin with I thought that ‘light’ packing looked like this -

  1. One small rucsac each for Mole and Hedgehog, which they can carry with their choice of toys in.

  2. My own shoulder strap weekend bag.

  3. Hedgehog’s nappy bag.

  4. One large canvas bag with three days worth of clothes for Mole and Hedgehog.

  5. Picnic bag for the train ride, including colouring books, crayons, games etc.

It turns out I was way off. Light packing in fact goes like this –

  1. Ourselves, standing in our clothes.

  2. My handbag.

  3. A picnic bag and books for the journey.

There were so many things that I thought I would need to bring and in fact didn’t. The buggy was a prime example. We didn’t use it once while we were away, but bringing it with us on the train made the journey almost impossible. This is largely because I hadn’t banked on the high speed trains with narrow doors and steep steps, that obliged me to get everything out of the buggy and fold it up, totally defeating the purpose of it.

Over various trips we’ve made with the car, I’ve deposited more and more things at Granny Purple Hair’s house, things that live with granny, so to speak, which means that we don’t actually have to bring anything. I find this is the best strategy for travelling between family and friends in general – to just make sure that all your supplies will be taken care of at the other end. All holidays should be planned in this way in fact. Not bringing your house on your back like a snail, really is the best policy, when travelling on public transport anyway.

Here endeth the lesson. I hope that some of you can relate to it, and that it may make your future train journeys lighter and happier.

Lord knows what train journeys will look like once bambino #3 comes along. I am reserving judgement on that one.

On the subject of being minimalist and light, I’m doing quite well in terms of preparing for bambino’s arrival. Usually one buys lots of new stuff for the baby, but I’ve focused more on clearing any non-essentials and making more space in the house.

Our coffee table is a prime example. I chalk painted it a couple of years ago with bright pink hand and foot prints of us all, so it had sentimental value, but it just wasn’t serving us anymore as a piece of furniture. So it went to the tip one morning, and now there is a beautiful space in our living room where we play on the floor together, do board games or story time, I can do yoga without being squished up next to the French windows, and I’ve devised little side tables by the sofa so we can still put our drinks somewhere.

Mole and Hedgehog’s easle is also demoted to the shed. They just didn’t use it enough, so the ‘painting and craft box’ is now under the kitchen table, ready for whenever they want to have a session, and that gets used a lot more.

I’ve downsized my wardrobe and used my second chest of drawers for the baby clothes. The baby will of course inherit all of Mole and Hedgehog’s old clothes, which are a mixture of girly to gender neutral. I’ve had a few comments from people about how much easier it will be if the new baby is also a girl, for clothes reasons.

To be honest, the baby is going to be dressed in ex Mole and Hedgehog clothes regardless of what gender it turns out to be, because a) I’m not about to go buying lots of new outfits that look more ‘boyish’ simply to satisfy outward expectations of what you are supposed to dress baby girls or baby boys in, b) the baby won’t know or care what it is wearing until it is at least three years old anyway, and c) It will be fun confusing all the old people by dressing my son in flowery onesies.

Finally, I’ve been having a minor conundrum about where to put the new baby. I had always assumed it would go in the third bedroom, which is currently the study slash music room. It will be in our bedroom for the first six months anyway, we’re putting the moses basket at the foot of our bed, although we all know that the baby will spend more time in bed with us than in the moses basket, if Mole and Hedgehog are anything to go by.

But after that, do we put them in the third bedroom, or simply put the cot at the foot of our bed and continue like that until they are three years old and big enough for a proper bed?. Does a baby really need a room all to itself?. It occured to me that Mole and Hedgehog spent most of their babyhood and toddler years trying to ferret their way back into our bedroom from down the landing in the dead of night. It is all making me wonder whether it isn’t simpler to just let the baby be in the same room as us. Maybe we would all get more sleep that way?.

I’m still undecided. I guess we don’t have to decide until the baby is six months old anyway, which will be next June.

Until then, I’m enjoying the peace before the storm arrives.