FreeToBeZ and I have just returned from a hot and lazy 10 days in Morocco with FreeToBeB. Well, I’ll take credit for the ‘lazy’ part (not something I usually have the chance or inclination to describe myself as) as I readjust to being back with both of my children and not having a man around who does all the cooking and cleaning (strictly speaking – in order not to discredit my dad’s amazing hosting skills! – this will be true as of three days’ time when we leave my birthtown and really return to the life of a lone parent family in another part of the UK).
Apologies for the lack of live travel blogging but all my good intentions were thwarted by our trusty technology; between an unreliable wifi connection and a dodgy computer, my attempts to get some posts out resulted in frustration and failure.
However, a good amount of writing got done out there and I hope to make up for my silence by posting more frequently over the next fortnight in order to update you on our trip.
From reflections on Ramadan, to tips for taking children to Morocco, to feedback on the reality of our Paltry Packing, to cohabiting with cockroaches (!), I have a variety of musings I’m looking forward to sharing with you.
In the meantime, here’s my favourite non-FreeToBeZ shot of the trip – always good to get a “mummy milk” picture, whatever the species!
This visit includes the festivities of Eid El Fitr and invites to two weddings (not 100% confirmed; this is Morocco we’re talking about – “in two weeks” could just as easily mean “in two months”).
We’ll be going with just two small backpacks and a handbag.
I fully intend to have a Mary Poppins-style experience when removing my belongings from my bags at my destination, with much more than seems possible packed into our modest hand luggage. Yes, I’ve trimmed back a lot in order to travel lightly (so it won’t seem as if everything but the kitchen sink is in there) but what should be apparent is a sense of what is truly necessary for us.
We’re flying with Ryanair, who are notorious for being stingy with baggage allowances. Therefore, I decided on the backpack option rather than going for my usual cabin-sized suitcase – I’m not going to risk them charging me an arm and a leg for chucking my carefully crafted ‘hand luggage only’ trip into the plane’s hold just because a cabin bag’s wheels take me 5mm over the maximum allowed dimensions or something.
Having a backpack on my back is also a lot easier to handle than needing a spare hand to wheel/carry a small suitcase around.
On the plus side, Ryanair have recently made an allowance for an extra, small bag per passenger as well as the usual cabin bag allowance. The additional small bag allowance fits the dimensions of my usual handbag perfectly.
Both FreeToBeZ and I are each allowed to board the cabin with a 55x40x20cm bag and a 35x20x20cm bag.
FreeToBeZ’s toddler-sized backpack actually fits the dimensions of the latter, so for our return journey I’ve factored in the option of another bag (a fold-up one which will be taken, outbound, in my main bag). This will come within our hand luggage allowance yet ensure we have an appropriate carrier for our return journey for any gifts or other purchases we may wish to come home with.
In the case of not having the option of the additional small bag, I usually take a small shoulder bag – big enough to fit the important and valuable possessions (e.g. passports, boarding passes, purse, phone, ipod, medication) yet small enough to discreetly tuck under a cardigan or coat so as not to be penalised for taking on extra items that won’t fit into my already crammed cabin bag.
So, here’s what we’re actually taking with us:
This is a ‘laptop’ backpack (i.e. a slim backpack that has a compartment specifically to fit and pad a standard-sized laptop computer, plus a main compartment, a smaller compartment on the front, and two pockets). Its dimensions are 50x30x20cm.
Clothing and accessories:
2x pairs of knickers
1x pair of socks
1x thin, light summer dress
1x thin, light long-sleeved kaftan-style top
2x short-sleeved tops (for either under or outer wear)
All-in-one shampoo/soap/body wash bar
Olive oil soap bar
Salt of the Earth travel-sized deodorant
2x folding toothbrushes
2x disposable razors
Mini nail clippers
Spare glasses in case (that’s both ‘in a case’ and ‘just in case’! I’ve always been fearful of broken glasses whilst away from home as the extent of my short sightedness deems them an absolute necessity. FreeToBeZ once accidentally flung my prescription glasses overboard on a ferry from Motril to Al Hoceima after whipping her hand up to point at something. They RIP in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, this is definitely one of my more sensible packing policies.)
(NB: any liquids/creams are to go in a separate, clear zip-lock bag in my handbag for airport security)
First Aid bag (small plastic bag stored inside toiletry bag):
5x individually wrapped antibacterial wipes
Individually wrapped plasters of various sizes
Paracetamol (just a few to get by as these can be easily purchased at my destination)
2 packs anti-diarrhoea tablets
6x sachets rehydration treatment
2x wound dressing pads and first aid tape
Small roll cotton wool
First Aid guide leaflet
(NB: any liquids/creams are to go in a separate, clear zip-lock bag in my handbag for airport security)
NHS maternity notes
Pad of paper and pens
3x muslin cloths (as quick-drying hand towels and also to use to cool down: drench in water and place over body if necessary).
2x plug adaptors
Mini speaker (gift for FreeToBeB)
Old smartphone, charger and accessories (gift for FreeToBeB)
Spare, foldable bag (48x31x15) for the return journey (this will count as one of our main cabin bags on the way back if we decide/need to use it)
This is a small toddler backpack, dimensions approximately 31x25x16cm.
8 disposable nappies
Pack of toilet-training wet wipes (smaller pack than standard wet wipes)
Small changing mat
Spare, lightweight shoes (plastic, slip-ons)
3x thin short-sleeved tops
1x thin long-sleeved top
Hair fasteners (bobbles and hairclips)
Small soft toy
Paper, crayons and stickers
4x mini board books
‘Travelling treasure sack’ (a small bag which includes small trinkets found around our home such as old jewellery, crystals, coloured feathers, plastic rings, etc, to keep FreeToBeZ occupied with ‘new’ things).
This has three compartments and three small pockets, which makes it really practical for staying organised. Its dimensions are 30x20x20cm.
See-through bag of liquids/creams for presenting at security – 3x inhalers (asthma treatment); 100ml toothpaste; 100ml children’s sun lotion; 30ml antiseptic cream; 20ml Arnica cream; 10ml patchouli essential oil (my ‘perfume‘); 10ml tea tree essential oil (for First Aid kit and general antibacterial use); 20ml Rescue Remedy; 2x 50ml hand sanitising gel; 100ml handcream; 10ml lipbalm; empty 100ml spray bottle (for spritzing ourselves with water in the North African heat)
Travel documents in a plastic wallet – in here I keep our passports, plane boarding passes, coach or train tickets, accomodation documents (if applicable), EHIC cards, travel insurance documents, copies of our main passport ID pages, international driving permit, and a card of useful numbers in Morocco
Purse (emptied of loyalty cards and other such things that are useless on foreign soil; ideally restocked with cash)
Smartphone (including Kindle app full of potential reading material) and charger
Ipod, earphones and USB lead
Sunglasses (in their case)
USB stick (loaded with any work I need to do – in Morocco, I have the option of using an internet café or FreeToBeB’s notebook laptop)
Tangle Teezer hairbrush
2x packs of travel tissues
Plastic bags for rubbish, FreeToBeZ’s dirty clothes, etc.
PLASTIC CARRIER BAG
This will contain food and drink for the journey. It is certainly not packed 6 days in advance, but will consist of something like:
2 x 500ml bottles of water
2x small cartons fruit juice
Homemade sandwiches in sandwich bags (enough for lunch and a later snack)
4x packets of crisps
Packs of dried fruit
2x Kinder chocolate bars (FreeToBeZ’s favourite)
ON THE JOURNEY
To purchase in the departure lounge:
Mineral water for the plane journey – pricey, but not as pricey as on the plane!
I intend to bring enough snacks to take us right through the day, as we will be eating a main evening meal once we arrive in Marrakech (usually at a street-side restaurant in a suburban area where we eat a family-sized feast for all of about £4).
What I shall wear:
Underwear (this should go without saying, but you never know!)
Abdominal support band (3 pregnancies later . . . )
Thin, light, ankle-length summer dress
2x thin overtops / cardigans
Ankle boots (slip-on Doc Martens – practical, comfortable and hard-wearing for any walks or scrambling in the mountains we do).
Pouch sling (if FreeToBeZ wants to be carried on my hip for any distance)
What FreeToBeZ will wear:
Long-sleeved top (under dress)
Thin jumper or cardigan
Casual summer shoes (Clarks Doodles – nice and light but good for walking in due to being fastened up securely).
AT OUR DESTINATION
To give you more of an idea of how I’ve managed to keep our packing to a minimum, here is also a list of the things we will purchase on our first day in Marrakech (just from a local hanout – a general shop found in both urban and rural areas selling everything from loose pasta to women’s sanitary products):
Batteries (spares for camera, shaver, etc).
If you’re going to be somewhere that is inhabited by other people, there will always be a way to find most of what you need – or you’ll figure out the locals’ methods of surviving without the things we deem so ‘necessary’ in more privileged societies.
There are a number of other things that could be purchased at our destination if I wasn’t so principled (fussy?), and this includes toiletries such as sun lotion, toothpaste, shampoo and soap – you can find the standard brands of many of these things in many parts of the world, but you won’t necessarily find your favourite natural and/or eco-friendly products.
However, there are numerous natural body care shops and argan oil cooperatives in Morocco where I could potentially find many toiletries free from harsh chemicals, and this is something I hope to explore further on my next trip (watch this space!). For now, I will take my usual Green People suncare product and handmade, SLS-free shampoo/soap bar.
As for those wedding invites . . . FreeToBeB is encouraging me to purchase a takchita, (a traditional Moroccan dress) to wear to the weddings, of which there will be plenty to choose from in the Marrakchi souks. We can also purchase any wedding gifts over there too.
Things I’m doing without
There are some items of ‘utility’ equipment that I have to make do without when going down the ‘hand luggage only’ route, namely my nail scissors and my trusty multi-tool which includes a penknife.
My multi-tool usually resides in my handbag – it usually comes everywhere with me (except on this trip!) and I feel quite lost without it. However, if it was truly necessary, I could always purchase another one over the other side.
I’ve also factored out swimwear and nightwear for this trip.
FreeToBeZ is young enough to get away with not being too modest if she wants to splash about in any water, and I’m not particularly bothered about donning my swimsuit whilst pregnant.
Full nightwear is rarely desirable during sweltering Moroccan summer nights, yet I’m taking daywear that can easily double up as nightwear, including a very thin but large neck scarf that can be used as a cover for FreeToBeZ if she is without clothing yet bothered by mosquitoes in the night (whilst Morocco isn’t a malaria risk zone and mosquito nets aren’t required, they can still be quite pesky for some people).
Obviously, we all have different preferences as to what we like and ‘need’ in our lives, and what feels necessary to our personal circumstances at the time, so these lists are just a guide to how I’m personally limiting our load. I can’t imagine many people need to be concerned with packing a maternity belt to ensure their comfort!
The important thing is that I look at these lists and can think of nothing I desperately need or want in addition to them – at least nothing that I won’t be going without anyway, irrespective of what I pack (I’m thinking of my bath and half of my usual kitchen equipment!).
My hope is that in sharing our personal packing plan, I’ve provided you with some ideas of how it is possible to travel with both a child and a truly light load.
Happy travelling lightly!
Please feel free to comment on this post below. Let me know if any of this has come in useful for you (or not!) or if perhaps there’s anything you’d cut back further or substitute?
Next week: depending on both inspiration and an internet connection, I will be blogging live from Morocco next week 🙂