Gearing up for Travel

Travel light. 
Live light. 
Spread the light. 
Be the light.

This is the mantra I’m trying to keep in mind while packing for our family trip to Denmark (quote was taped to a light switch at my Grandmother’s!). While I obviously don’t want to forget anything essential, I also don’t want to schlep our crap half way across the globe due to a fear of scarcity.  

So we’ll be taking one large roller bag, one small roller, kids’ backpacks, Hubby’s small backpack, a beach bag (overnight carry-on initially), and purse for me…oh, and a car seat and a booster seat…still debating about a stroller/carrier.

In order to pack efficiently, I splurged on Eagle Creek pack-it systems for each family member.  My globe-trekking Twin Sis has sworn by them for years now, and I was glad to see they have some nice ones for dress clothes…no need to bring the shoulder-busting dress bag. I managed to buy them all on a 25% off sale at REI.

I also just bought Girly a sweet little owl backpack that she was ready for regardless of the trip (keeps stealing her brother’s bag!) I had a handmade backpack very similar as a little girl, hand embroidered by my hippie mama with buckskin straps…sadly I’m not as crafty, but I do seem to find what I want online…

One of the bulkiest items we’ll be packing is diapers and wipes. Unfortunately, Girly hasn’t quite gone cold-turkey from diapers yet and they are expensive enough in Europe to make it worth our while to pack as many as possible.

Snacks will be another must for our kiddos. While I definitely plan on indoctrinating them in  delicious Danish food, I also know all too well the rate at which they mow through snacks. I’m planning to bring lots of fruit leathers and enough snacks to get us across the globe and well-settled before we venture into foreign snack territory…figuring that good old-fashioned fruit will be the perennial snack.

While I’m approaching the whole packing thing with simplicity, I’m also going to be pretty systematic. So, I’ll share my final pack list once we return from Europe for any of you who want to copycat for your next family trip.

What gear does your family travel with?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Exchanging Currency and Money Tips for Traveling

With our pending departure to Denmark (less than 10 days at the office!), we’re getting to the point of exchanging money.  Since I no longer have a Danish bank account, we’ll have to rely on exchanging dollars for kroners .

As I suspected, travel guru Rick Steves warns that exchange fees have gone skyward in the last decade. But he also gives lots of practical tips for using cash and credit in Europe. Use your debit card at ATMs to avoid additional credit card fees, and getting out more cash at once is preferred. Rick Steves also recommends calling your bank to find out what fees they charge, apparently One PacificCoast Bank doesn’t charge a fee if you use an All Point Network ATM…we’ll be looking out for those! He also reminds you to call your credit card/bank to let them know you’ll be traveling so they suspect theft.

We are planning to use almost all cash, partly because it’s easier to budget and gauge how much you are spending. We will exchange $1000 to begin, which will hopefully last us a while…

On TravelPortland I found a coupon for waiving currency exchange fees, bonus!  There are some easy  online currency converters , but thankfully with close to 5 kroner to a $1, it’s an easy to calculate in your head. 

How much cash versus credit do you use on vacation?

Don’t you just love the Danish kroner, writer Karen Blixen makes a lovely 50 kr?!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

10+ year Fluevogs

Hubby just resoled his 10 year old Fluevogs. It’s hard to believe, but he still gets lots of compliments on them…probably for the style, not the scuffs. But they are still super comfy, and he wears them every day.

Fluevogs aren’t cheap, today they range around $200 (I think his were a spendy $100 when he bought them). But he bought them with the intention of resoling and its worked out for him, which he’s did once already after five years of use.

Shoe resoling ran him $40 at Derek’s Shoe Repair, a local place in downtown Portland. But I also found NuShoe online shoe repair that looks like they do a fantastic job.

A few years ago I wanted to resole a pair of shoes, but it turned out they were just too cheap. The way I see it now is that you’re either going to pay up front or pay later. But if you buy quality shoes, you’ll likely be more comfortable and feel more stylish. Plus, you’ll be responsible for one less pair of shoes in a landfill.

If you’re really crafty, I found a great site for How to Resole Shoes and another about the green benefits of shoes resoling.

I only wish that Danskos could be resoled…then I’d be in business too, for now I’m just glad that I have a few pairs that have lasted me almost ten years too…

Does your family buy shoes that can be repaired?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Simplicity Parenting – Book Review

I just finished reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, and it really inspires me to take simple living to the next step. The book was both fascinating and practical. 

The fascinating aspect was his many case studies detailing how badly kids react to the modern norm of filling family life with lots and lots of stuff and adding a booked calendar on top. As a psychologist, decades of experience showed how children with post-traumatic stress disorder paralleled the ill effects of overwhelmed kids. I’ve felt instinctively for some time that kids don’t need all this stuff, but I never realized/reflected on the damage that it could do.

The practical aspects came on many levels, and he really had sage advise for simplifying virtually all realms of family life. There were many areas where we already try to live those values, but we surely have room for improvement. We’ve tried to limit gifts from family members and not overwhelm birthdays with stuff , but it’s not always easy. 

I felt relieved that I found this book when my kids are still young and we haven’t gotten on the over-scheduled child treadmill.  Our Big Guy just finished his first season of t-ball, and even though he loves the game, I’m ready for him to take a break until next year. Hubby would prefer to sign him up for soccer in the fall, but the most I want to take on is a once a week swim class a few block walk from home.

Ironically, we we’ve been so busy camping that I haven’t had the time to really take action toward increased simplicity, but my major goal this autumn will be to cull toys and purge the basement (which never seems to get done!) Even though they probably have about half the toys of peers, I know our kids barely use a quarter of their toys on a regular basis, so I really want to set up a toy rotating system and simply get rid of lots.

This brief trailer of Payne’s insights really gives the essence of his philosophy on parenting, and hopefully will inspire you to read his book and take action in your family life:

Simplicity Parenting from Kim Payne on Vimeo.

Have you read Simplicity Parenting? 
What steps are the most important to simplification?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Travel Countdown!

Now that we’ve had a week away camping and week to recoup, it’s time to get busy with the countdown for our trip to Denmark. I still have to pinch myself when I think of all the people and places I’ve missed for so many years…I can hardly wait to reconnect and show my family the beautiful little country that feels like part of myself.

There are plenty of pre-trip tasks, but thankfully I think we’ll manage just fine with almost three weeks to go. I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of my renewed passport…after I made the bonehead mistake of filling it out in pencil…not panicking yet…

I’m also realizing that I was a bit conservative on our original travel budget, which makes me really glad that we bought our tickets for a great price on Icelandair.

Initially I thought we would spend almost all of our time with my many lovely hosts families, and while we still plan on spending the majority of our time together, I agreed with Hubby that we need to take some time to explore Denmark as a family. 

I just booked 2 nights each at youth hostels near Legoland and Skagen at the tip-top of Denmark. 4 nights at a hostel with a private room for four will run us 1400 dkk or $488. The good news is that Danish hostels set a very high standard and are typically very clean and come with a nice Danish-style continental breakfast. I think it will be well worth the effort and expense to travel so extensively. I can also feel good about sticking to a budget…I actually booked an apartment rental for $379 for just two nights before we decided that we really should stay on a “hostel budget.” It makes me more grateful than ever for all of my generous host families.

What are you saving up and counting down for?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.