Packing Light:  Traveling with Readers

A few years back, as my husband, sons, and I were traveling home from our annual trip to California to see family, the second leg of our flight was cancelled.  Not delayed, just flat out cancelled.  A severe weather system had set in.  Rain was pouring down and wreaking havoc on the flights that evening.  We were about 8 hours from home, and after numerous phone calls with the airline, we decided to abandon our checked baggage, rent a car, and drive the rest of the way home.  We got home the next morning and picked up our water-logged, musty-smelling luggage at the airport.  Several library books tucked into the outer pockets of our suitcases were damaged.  We wished quite a few times during that travel day that we had not checked our bags.  We vowed to try traveling with only carry-ons in the future.

airplane photo

The following summer, we took our biggest family trip yet, and flew to Italy for two weeks.  Knowing that we would be traveling mostly on planes and trains, we invested in rolling carry-on bags and decided to pack as lightly as possible.  I started planning capsule wardrobes for each of us, and made lists of essential must-haves for the trips.  We each planned to carry a rolling carry-on suitcase and a backpack.

The immediate problem:  how to fit in the books we would need for the trip. My husband, sons, and I all enjoy reading and all wanted to have plenty of books along with us to read during our travels.  But we had committed to taking carry-on luggage only, and wanted to pack as lightly as possible.

A family friend of ours tells the story of her daughter, who was such an avid reader, that she would consistently pack an extra suitcase full of books on their family vacations.  My older son shared a similar voracity for devouring books, but there was no way we could take enough books with us to Italy to keep him busy.  No extra suitcases for us.  So, what should we do?

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The solution I discovered

The solution:  eBooks.  We all prefer reading real books that we can hold in our hands, but in a situation like this, eBooks offered a unique solution.  My husband, older son, and I all had Kindles, and my younger son, only 7 at the time, was happy to pack 3-4 small lightweight paperbacks that would keep him busy.

I went on our local library’s website and searched Overdrive for books that would work.  I couldn’t find every title on my to-read list, but there were many available that I wanted to read.  I checked several out and put a few more on hold for myself, and then spent some time with my son and husband finding titles that they would enjoy as well.  We knew that if we read everything, we could probably download more when we had WiFi in Italy, but I didn’t want to count on that as a definite.  So, I downloaded more than I thought we would need.  I even downloaded the book we were reading aloud as a family!  It was easy, convenient, and would be a lightweight solution to the book problem.  Each of us only carrying one book-sized device, yet bringing over 20 eBooks with us, that was a win.

The plan worked!  We each had plenty of reading material for our trip, and as we settled into our seats on the various planes and trains we used during those 2 weeks, we pulled out our Kindles, and read.  Aaahhh, reading on vacation:  I love it!

Rome Colosseum

We read well in Italy that year!  Here are some of our favorites from that trip.

7 year old son:

Flat Stanley, by Jeff Smith

My Weird School: Miss Daisy is Crazy, by Dan Gutman

The A-Z Mysteries: The Haunted Hotel and The Quicksand Question, by Ron Roy

9 year old son:

Heroes of Olympus: Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy, by Tui Sutherland

The Last Dragon Chronicles #1: Fire Within, by Chris d’Lacey

Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit

The Island of Dr. Libris, by Chris Grabenstein

My husband:

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

Defending Jacob, by William Landay

My favorites:

The Girl on the Train, by Pauline Hawkins

Out of the Easy, by Ruta Septys

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

(I especially loved reading The Girl on the Train while on the train!  It was my book club book for that month, and a perfect vacation read.)

Now here we are on vacation again, this time back in California.  We packed lightly again, bringing only carry-ons.  I’ve made it a habit to load up our Kindles now whenever we travel, and it continues to work well for us.  Now if we can just keep our suitcases as light as they were when we came.  There is a stack of books here that seem to want to come home with us…

Happy Reading!