We recently embarked on a two-week road trip of France, Switzerland, and Germany with our three children. They are all under five, and are used to being carried in slings by both me and my husband. We took our own car and boot space was limited, so we knew that we’d be taking slings rather than our biiiiig buggy. This is our account of how we found our almost-buggy-free holiday.
Preparing for the trip
While packing, we assumed that it would be warm (in excess of 20C) where we were going, so we needed something breathable and light, that would provide some shelter from the sun. As we would need at least two carriers, we wanted something small that could be stored under the buggy or in a rucksack. Finally, we needed to use the chosen slings for either of our 20-month-old twins or our four-year-old. We decided to pack two JPMBB Physiocarriers, an Isara (to get to know it), and an Ali Dover size 4 woven wrap.
How did it go?
We arrived in France first, and I suddenly thought, why didn’t I bring more slings?! I would have liked a ring sling for the wedding we’d be attending, as the structured carriers would have looked odd with my pretty dress! The combinations worked well though: we could carry on front or back, either of us could use any of the slings, and carry any of our children.
Taking the slings was a godsend. The places we visited – even towns – were definitely not set up for buggies. There were hills, cobbled streets, and a distinct lack of pavements. On one day visiting Chambord, we started off with the buggy (at my request) and got about 200m down a dust and mud track before I admitted that it wasn’t a good idea. Luckily, my husband is a good sport and took the buggy back to the car, returning with the slings!
In Saumur, there was a huge hill from the car park into the town. It was fine on the way down, although I wouldn’t have liked to push a buggy over the steep cobbled streets. On the way back, it was incredibly difficult to even walk up the hill, so I don’t think we would have managed with the double stroller. It was still hard managing the incline with the smallest two in slings, but carrying them in-arms would have been worse.
My husband liked the Physiocarrier with our 4yo on his back, and was comfortable carrying a twin in it on the front. He preferred the Isara and used it on the front or the back. If we went out for the day, he carried a child on the front and a rucksack on his back.
I liked the Physiocarrier on my back and found it kept me cool on very warm days. I really liked using the wrap during the wedding – it inadvertently matched my dress well, and I didn’t feel too hot although it was a very warm day. During the evening meal, our toddlers were very tired and getting cranky. With the wrap, I could snuggle our daughter in close and give her the shelter from overstimulation that she needed.
I really liked using both structured carriers with my eldest. They were supportive, and although I wouldn’t like to carry him for miles, it was about as comfy as carrying a 4yo can be. My eldest loved being carried, and on one occasion was in a sling while his brother toddled along beside us – both boys equally happy but we did get some funny looks!
What didn’t work?
Guy didn’t find the Physiocarrier very comfy in a back carry with either of the twins, as he couldn’t adjust the shoulder straps tightly enough. This is a common problem for him with buckled carriers, as he is very slender and finds that the waistband slips down, or the shoulder straps don’t cinch tightly enough.
I am no longer used to carrying for several hours a day, and I had a few aches and pains from the effort. It was nothing serious but there were a couple of days when I opted for the buggy just to give my shoulders a rest.
During the second week, we took the buggy with us less frequently than at first. On a couple of day trips, our eldest started to get really tired and had no choice but to keep walking. He was pretty annoyed that we hadn’t brought the buggy (or a third sling) so we couldn’t carry him. We made sure he was well-hydrated, had plenty of rest stops, and we always walked at his pace.
There were a few days where the heat made the idea of carrying unpalatable. On these days, we used the buggy and kept a close eye on the toddlers’ temperatures and hydration. One on such day, the temperature in Strasbourg reached 41C…unsurprisingly, we didn’t spot any slings.
What did we learn?
Even with three small children, it would have been feasible to leave the buggy at home. We carried the children on most days anyway, and just made sure we had a big rucksack for the food, drinks, nappies, and other paraphernalia. We took a buggy to the zoo one day and wished we hadn’t, as there were lots of steep climbs and non-accessible areas!
I’ve certainly grown more confident to embark on day trips without the buggy. It was nice to not have to contend with stairs, inclines, and busy tourist areas. We had freedom of movement and the little ones felt snug and safe close to us.
Summer slings and keeping safe: http://www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/summer-slings-and-keeping-safe/