Is It Possible to Take Only Carry-On Bags for a Week Away With Kids?

Is It Possible to Take Only Carry-On Bags for a Week Away With Kids?

We had been planning on spending the full 3 weeks of my children’s Easter break in England hanging around London and tramping around the countryside. Dorset and the Jurassic Coast has so many things to do for kids that we could easily fill up our time.

I was sitting on the beach at Lyme Regis on a perfectly pleasant day watching all the kids play when I realised that I missed not just sunny days but the actual warmth of the sun.  In the UK, it is not unusual for a beach day to consist of full winter coat, trousers and Wellies (Wellington boots).  Even though I have lived in England for yonks, I had completely forgotten about the wellies for my kids.  So they were running around in cold, soaked sneakers thoroughly enjoying themselves and probably getting ready to catch a chill later.

kids enjoying themselves at the beach in England

Kids enjoying themselves at the beach in England

Somewhere in that moment of realisation that I really was not cut out for the British seaside experience, I decided we needed sunshine AND warmth as a combo package. A quick search of my favourite luxury travel discount site, Secret Escapes, flagged a 4-star hotel with a pool and a water slide in Malaga in Spain.  EasyJet had cheap flights and we were set for a few days of of Spanish sunshine.

going on vacation with children for a week using only carry on luggage

I am usually not this impulsive with my trips but I’ve also had bad news about my father.  He’s been recently diagnosed with a rare terminal disease and we were preparing to go to the USA to spend Easter with him.  He wasn’t having any of it though.  With the recalcitrance of a toddler, my father has a there’s-nothing-wrong-with-me-those doctors-are-all-wrong attitude.  He doesn’t want any sickbed visits.  If I wasn’t going to Pennsylvania, then I might as well drown my stress in some sangria in the sunshine.

As you may know, Easy Jet charges for everything extra. It cost almost as much to put a suitcase in the hold as it did for our flight.  With two children, that adds up.  Frankly, they were only going to play in the pool anyway.

So my friend, Andrew who blogs over at Dish Our Town and is an expert packer helped me put together a week’s worth of carry-on clothes for my two children in their cute animal carry-on suitcases from Samsonite. These cases weren’t even as big as the best carry-on luggage but they still held all of the kids’ stuff.

Knowing what to leave at home is an essential part of packing lightly! I always have so many ‘what if’ scenarios in my head but he was able to convince me that I could make with what we packed.

carry on bag for children

Left to her own devices, this is what my daughter packs in her hand luggage.

My children have these little carry-on sized rolling bags from Samsonite which they usually fill with their own random things.  My son once had an England rugby ball in his carry-on bag taken from him because it wouldn’t go through security.  Unless the rugby ball can be deflated (it couldn’t), the airport guards were worried that you could stick something inside and it’s a security risk. Go figure.

So how do you pack only carry-on bags for a week away with kids?

Here are the basic packing lists.  If you have room (and you should), you can always add an extra item or two.

a packing list for little girls using only hand luggage for a week away in the sun

a packing list for little boys to take only carry on luggage on a week's summer vacation

Yeah, so I’m a bit frazzled.  I’m very grateful to Andrew who helped me pack simply with only a carry-on bag each for the kids.  I did not have any at the time but Andrew swears that using packing cubes is the way to go to be a more efficient packer.  come in lots of different sizes and I’m now a firm believer in them.


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Top Tips For Carnival in Rio, the Greatest Party on Earth

Top Tips For Carnival in Rio, the Greatest Party on Earth

Like many people I thought Carnival in Rio de Janeiro in Brasil was just one giant party over 5 days.  In fact, Carnival in Rio consists of a number of different events (samba parades, balls, and blocos).  Here are my top tips for Carnival in Rio if you are thinking of going to the greatest party on Earth in the future.

Top tips for making the most of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro Brasil

Main Carnival Events

There are four days of samba school parades at the Sambadrome, followed by the choosing of a winner and 9 runners-up who will strut their stuff in the Champions’ parade at the Sambadrome the following weekend.

There are also balls in the tradition of Venetian balls.  The Copacabana Palace’s legendary Magic Ball has a full-blown red carpet entrance which my friends arrived in time to watch.    The other balls are neither particularly pricey nor exclusive. For example, the Scala ball happens every night of Carnival.  The Gay Gala ball is so famous that it is broadcast to the rest of Brasil.

There are lots of blocos (street parties) around the city spread out over mainly the 5 days.  For Carnival 2016, there were 505 official licensed blocos and countless other spontaneous street parties.  Not all the streets were busy at all times.  The city lists the official blocos and everyone is welcome to attend.

Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

At the blocos, you can either watch from the sides or join the parade.

Top Tips for Carnival in Rio

Dressing Up for Carnival

If you are going to carnival in Rio, you simply have to get dressed up.  The outfits fall into distinct categories.  The women wear something skimpy and dress up with accessories.  For men, anything goes but there’s a lot of cross-dressing. Children like to wear Disney or movie costumes.

Top Tip! There are lots of street vendors. You can buy outfits or accessories fairly cheaply.
    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    Accessories for sale by a sidewalk vendor.

    If you are going to get to Carnival in Rio, expect to get dirty.  The streets can get muddy, beer can get spilled and garbage cans overflow.  Don’t wear clothes or shoes you care too much for.  On the other hand, I was surprised by how quickly the city cleaned up after itself for the next day’s festivities.

    The Carnival Atmosphere

    Everyone we met seemed to like having their photo taken.  Not only do they enthusiastically agree if you ask to take their photo, they will occasionally ask you to take their photo. Entire sidewalks will be full of people taking selfies.

    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    This little boy is attending his first carnival before he even enters the world.

    People like to to drink and party. We, however, did not see violence.  With the party atmosphere and the free-flowing beer, if Rio’s carnival took place in Britain, you know fights would have broken out, people glassed and the ambulances would be out in full force.

    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    Whether you are straight or gay, lots of men cross-dress.

    You should, however, be careful with your belongings as pickpocketing is common.  My friend saw a chain being snatched off someone’s neck right in front of her face.

    We wore our money in those traveller pockets that strap around your body under our shirts. Other people wore belt bags that they wore with a shirt untucked over the top. Frankly, not flashing your cash and keeping your money on your person is a good general tip for visiting Brazil anytime of year!

    We kept small bills that were easily accessible for buying drinks, snacks or souvenirs in our pockets.  Women tucked their phone into their bras.  Men who weren’t cross-dressing tucked their phones into their speedos. Yeah really.

    Top Tip!  Don’t take a bag if you can help it. Use a belt bag or similar to keep your personal items safe.


    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    It’s not like he has many other options where to put his phone. The sign says ‘yes’ by the way.

    Everybody wants to be your new friend.  Brasilians are friendly and no more so than during Carnival.  I had any number of people warn me to be careful with my camera. I didn’t have my expensive DSLR but the Olympus mirrorless camera I bought in Japan.  It was still relatively flashy.

    Brasilian time is flexible.  Don’t expect things to start on time.  Don’t worry about being late for anything.  If you are going to carnival in Rio, the mantra “don’t worry, be happy” could not be more applicable.

    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    Clown hair and a sequin top. Why not?

    Carnival Logistics

    It’s a public holiday from Friday evening until noon on Ash Wednesday.  The banks are not only closed but the doors to the ATM’s in the foyers are locked to prevent vandalism.  Some of the shopping centers have ATM’s that work but they do run out of money by Saturday or Sunday.

    Tip:  Make sure you have enough cash before the bank holiday starts. You can change foreign currency at the airport even during the bank holiday.

    Getting a taxi during peak carnival times can be difficult. Taxi drivers need to party, too! Streets get closed randomly and routes rerouted for the blocos.

    Top Tip! The new Rio subway system is clean and efficient.  If you don’t want to deal with public transportation, stay in Copacabana or Ipanema where there are lots of street parties (blocos) happening.  There will also be chartered buses to take you to and from the Sambodrome leaving from designated hotels.

    The parties mostly start in the late afternoon and run into the wee hours of the morning.  Most people are probably sleeping off hangovers during the fierce daytime heat.  If not, they are baking on the beach.

    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    A sea of colourful umbrellas on Ipanema beach

    Tip:  February is the hottest month in Brasil.  Be prepared to stay hydrated and to wear sun protection.  The humidity will also make you wilt, and not in the glamorous way the Cariocas do.

    Everything in Rio gets more expensive for Carnival.  They know they have you by the party whistles so there is nothing you can do about prices.

    Carnival with Children

    We took our children to Carnival because we went with friends who also took their children.  Our friends also brought their nanny with them which was handy for sending the children back to the apartment relatively early around 9pm – before the real partying starts!

    Top Tip!  You should be able to organise babysitting through your hotel.  Alternatively, bring a nanny or relative along to help with babysitting.  Trust me, you will want to go out until the early hours of the morning.
    Going to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

    A family outing to a Bloco

    The children really enjoyed the Children’s Bloco as well as seeing the samba schools perform at the Sambadrome.  For children, there are also the children’s samba school parades on the tuesday (Fat Tuesday) which is free to attend at the Sambadrome.

    We saw lots of families with kids (both locals and tourist) out and about during the day.  It’s really your judgment call on whether you think your child is able to handle the crowds and noise of carnival festivities.  The issue wouldn’t be safety so much as the intensity of the experience.


    How to Reduce the Costs of a Trip of a Lifetime to India

    How to Reduce the Costs of a Trip of a Lifetime to India


    Traveling to India for the first time can be a daunting prospect and one in which needs to be planned meticulously to help minimize costs. If you live outside of South Asia then the chances are that such a journey will be extremely expensive and the focus on saving as much money during the planning stages are essential.

    Taj Mahal India

    It’s been well documented when it comes to travelers incurring additional costs when abroad and therefore eating up large parts of their traveling budget. The modern-day traveler has all the resources available to them via online websites offering useful information like what you will find in this article. So, below we have shared some useful tips to consider when devising your itinerary for your trip to India.

    It’s also worth noting that many travelers never consider the lead up to actually getting to India regarding saving money, so this is the area in particular we will focus on.

    Book hotels in advance

    November and December can be extremely busy times for travelers in India so it’s best to book your hotels well in advance. Like when booking flights, make sure to book around 8 weeks before your date of departure. Leaving it late could result in higher costs or even worse, there could be no accommodation available at the hotel you wish to stay. Always use reputable travel websites like ours or Tripadvisor for the most up to date reviews on hotels.

    Search online for pre-booking parking options

    Horror stories are rife on the Internet of people arriving at parking lots and being startled by the costs of long stay parking. That’s why it’s best to take advantage of the ability to pre-book for most of the major airports services. Leading passenger hubs around the world, such as London Gatwick, have affordable short and long stay parking lots.  However long stay options will save you more money in the long run if you’re traveling for more than a couple days.

    Download travel apps to save money

    The savvy modern day traveler will never step foot on foreign soil without being armed with an array of useful travel apps in their armory. Top 10 Travel Apps published the essential apps for trips to India including apps such as India Travel Guide and Hindi Translation to help you on your way. This will eliminate the added costs of tour guides or buying city maps during your journey.

    The above is an affiliate post written by Sam Channing.