Summer is prime family vacation time. Which often means hauling countless bags of stuff through airports–or on minivan roof racks. If you’re like me, that sounds like the exact OPPOSITE of relaxing vacation time! So today I want to share 5 way to travel light with your family, not just this summer, but for always. Enjoy!
A few years ago, Josh and I took the kids on a 6-day trip to Mexico, and–true to my minimalist roots–I was determined to pack all five of us in one bag. Okay, okay… it was the biggest bag we own, but I felt a bit better knowing that the last time I had packed this bag, I’d filled it completely with my own clothes for a one-week trip. Could this same bag meet the packing needs of my entire family? I was ready to accept the challenge.
We managed to fit all our stuff in the bag, but I learned a few things along the way that might help you if you want to pack a bit more lightly with your kids.
Tip #1: Start with a list
Good packing starts by thinking about what you actually need while you’re gone. I keep a running packing list on my computer, subdivided by the types of trips we usually take (subtitles include things like: camping weekend, Christmas, Mackinac Island, etc.). These are annual trips and it helps to look at last year’s list when I start packing the next year. It also helps me not forget things! For this trip, I thought about how much time we would be gone (6 days) and whether I’d have easy access to laundry (no). I also considered the types of activities we’d be doing (mostly swimming). As a result, my list looked something like this:
Kids – Large Suitcase:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 pair pajamas
- 3 outfits each
- 6 pairs underwear
- 2 pairs socks
Kids – Carry Ons:
- Pencil cases
- Travel journals
- Coloring books
- 1 stuffed animal
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 pair undies + change of clothes
You can see that I divided my list between the big suitcase and carry-on. This was very helpful and gave me piece of mind knowing that we’d have enough to get by if our luggage was lost. Someday I’d like to pack my entire family in just carry-ons, but hey, this minimalism thing is a process!
Tip #2: Enforce a dirty-stinky clothes changing policy
“If your clothes aren’t dirty and they don’t smell bad, put them back in the drawer,” I proclaimed the first night at our hotel. I knew my kids only had a few changes of clothes each, I didn’t want to waste any item of clothing that could be re-worn. I think Orlando ended up wearing the same T-shirt four times, but you know what? It wasn’t dirty and it didn’t smell bad, so it was fine. In fact, I started wondering why I don’t enforce this policy at our house. It would certainly save me some laundry!
Tip #3: Shampoo and a hotel sink will get you pretty far
I was surprised at how chilly some of the evenings were, so I did have to wash out some of my daughter’s leggings in the hotel sink and hang them up to dry. Which was totally fine. I learned a good lesson: if you run out of clean clothes, you can go old school and wash it by hand and all will be well.
Tip #4: Even when you think you’ve packed lightly, you’ve still packed too much
I could not believe that with only four changes of clothes total, every member of our family was left with clothing we didn’t wear. I attribute this to the dirty/stinky clothes changing policy. For future similar vacations, we could probably get by with just two changes of clothes each. Yes, that sounds crazy (even to me), but it’s doable. And what’s the worst thing that could happen? We have to wear a shirt with a stain or we buy some new clothes. Neither of those is really a big deal.
Tip #5: Minimize the kid entertainment
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I bought an iPad mini just for this trip since I was so nervous that my kids would break down in the airport and embarrass us all. Lucky for me, my good friend Angela (who travels solo to Africa with all three of her kids – go, girl!), looked at me a bit strange when I explained this and said, “You don’t need that. You’ll be fine.” She was right. I left the electronics at home and my kids got by with a coloring book, bag of colored pencils, and one travel journal each. They entertained themselves by looking out the window, talking to us, and snuggling their stuffed animals. This was a big lesson. I’m sure if the technology had been available, they would have played with it… and fought over it… and missed the beautiful scenery out the window.
I hope this post has inspired you to pack lightly, even with those kiddos in tow. I’ll keep you updated on my eternal quest to pack lightly for future trips. I’d love to hear some reader feedback on how you travel lightly with your family!
To summer, travel, and packing light,
PS Want some inspiration to live lightly in your home? Grab my FREE Minimalist Starter Guide and start your own minimalist journey today!