My husband and I rarely travel. People wonder what our problem is. Go to Italy! they say, practically pushing us out the door. You'd love Chicago! Or take a riverboat thingy down the Rhine, like we did!

My husband and I rarely travel. People wonder what our problem is. Go to Italy! they say, practically pushing us out the door. You'd love Chicago! Or take a riverboat thingy down the Rhine, like we did!

We tell them we can't afford it. In fact, we can't, but that's not the real reason we don't go anywhere. The real reason came to us a few weeks ago, before we went away for the weekend with our kids and grandkids.

"That's going somewhere," you interject, and it was, but to anyone who really travels, who flies to Thailand and then runs up to Juneau for a few days before heading to French wine country, this was an itty-bitty baby trip, a trip with training wheels, a trip too wussy to hang around with the big boys.

Still, my husband and I might have been leaving for 16 months in the International Space Station. For days in advance, we walked around with furrowed brows. We sighed deeply. We audibly fretted.

The circumstances of the weekend were not the problem. We'd be with two daughters, two sons-in-law and two grandchildren, all of whom we're crazy about. The problem was that two nights away meant taking a few items with us. We'd have to pack.

Yes, pack, as in get out the suitcases, stare into our closets, read weather forecasts, review our itinerary and stare into our closets some more. Selecting one or two items kicks off the "What if?" questions: "What if something spills on those jeans?" "What if it turns cold again?" "Or boiling hot?" "What if I don't feel like wearing that top on Sunday?"

We dream up a series of unlikely scenarios, because anyone with a smartphone knows these things actually happen in real life: Our clothes might be stolen, or blown up by the Copley, Ohio, SWAT team in a freak case of mistaken luggage, or accidentally taken away by, say, young Mormons leaving for two years of mission work in Africa. Exactly how these calamities would come about isn't clear, but life is full of surprises.

We might learn only after we arrive that we're all going swimming before attending a formal dinner. We were visiting northeast Ohio in March, and our group at this juncture included a daughter almost nine months pregnant and two children who have not yet celebrated their third birthdays, but I can imagine these circumstances and many more. I'm flexible that way.

Furthermore, how could I be sure we wouldn't do something on the spur of the moment, like strip some furniture? We might go horseback riding, or replace a sump pump. We couldn't possibly predict.

I don't need to be reminded that here we are, adults, as yet without such items as oxygen tanks, CPAP machines or walkers, carrying on about packing for two days away, while my daughters and their husbands quietly and systematically pack for themselves and their toddlers on a regular basis.

Toddlers, as you may know, require stuff. Lots of stuff. Clothes and toys and books and blankets and extra clothes and definitely more toys. Toddlers travel with toys the way adults travel with phones and car keys. Their own things keep them grounded, keep them busy and, in this case, keep them from pouncing on every single priceless antique in the inn, many of which were toys for little Victorian children.

"Do you know what this is?" one of my daughters asked her son when they came across an ancient rocking horse.

"It's something else I'm not allowed to touch," he said.

We once were like them. As 20-somethings, my husband and I filled two backpacks for four months of European travel without hesitation. I didn't ask, "But what if I need a little black dress?" "What if I get sick of this top?" We went with the flow. We coped.

I once believed coping was like riding a bicycle: Having learned how, you knew it forever. Now I know better. I'm trying to balance, but I'm swerving drunkenly and crashing all over the place. No, wait. It's more like I'm frozen with indecision. Or maybe it's both.

Write to Margo Bartlett at