Are you looking for the best tips for packing for your next family trip? With kids and babies in tow, when it comes to packing it’s tempting to take more than you need and before you know it, you are surrounded by suitcases and bags that are bursting at the seams. We’ve learnt that we can get away with surprisingly little so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to pack more efficiently. You can read the reasons why on my What to Pack page. This time we are away from home for more than six months, so the pressure is definitely on to get it just right.
To be fair, over the past few months I’ve become a bit obsessed with travelling light. And with two young children to pack for too, this is no mean feat. I started by searching the web for helpful advice and was astonished by the range of baby and toddler packing lists, with dozens of items to tick off before you go. How could these teeny-tiny people possibly require so much stuff? Taking loads of things may be fine for some trips, for example for holidays where you are based in one place the whole time. But as we will be visiting dozens of destinations over the coming months, I could think of nothing worse that maxing out our baggage allowance with massive suitcases.
Why does it even matter? Simple. Less stuff equals less to worry about. It means that I can spend more time with my kids and less time unpacking at each new destination and packing up when we leave. No more lugging around heavy bags, as well as tired children. Plus if you take very little and pack smart, it makes individual items much easier to find.
I feel like it’s pretty liberating to get by with the bare minimum, within reason! That’s why I’ve pulled together my tips for packing in a list of 7 simple things that you can do to help take the pain out of packing, by ensuring you only take what you really need and no more.
1. Ditch the suitcase and pick smaller bags
Without a doubt, we are definitely a backpack family; not a suitcase family. Our bags are pretty small. I have a 38 litre Deuter Futura Pro rucksack – it’s incredibly lightweight and exactly the right size. Once packed up with our gear, it weighs just over 11kg. If you have big bags, it’s guaranteed that you will fill them up. With that comes the misery of carting around bulky, heavy bags. No fun with small kids in tow.
My husband has a larger rucksack – primarily because he is lugging around a drone; a DSLR and three lenses, plus a tripod(!). Rather him than me. He uses a 70 litre Lowe Alpine rucksack.
2. Chase the heat and choose warmer destinations
If you want to travel light, choose your season or destination carefully. Packing cold weather gear for our family of four would almost double the amount of baggage we take. If your dream destination just happens to be the French Alps in winter, then of course you should go, but you should also expect to take a ton of baggage.
If you really want to travel light, you should choose somewhere more suited to shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. This is one of the reasons why we have travelled back to Asia time and time again. Even with monsoon-like conditions, you can still get away with the bare minimum, as long as you remember the lightweight waterproofs!
There are plenty of online resources to check out potential toasty-warm destinations. I like to use Skyscanner’s holiday weather planner. If you want the most up to date weather conditions and forecasts, then Meteoearth is a total winner, especially if you are a map-geek like me.
3. Leave that car seat at home
Car seats for young children are incredibly bulky, particularly when you have more than one child to think of. Toddler car seats in particular are huge, so trying to cart one about is pretty unbearable.
But how do we manage without one? We tend to rely on public transport whenever we can – it’s cheap and often the quickest and most enjoyable way to get about, particularly in cities. We also walk a lot, as I believe that there is no better way to truly discover a destination than by exploring an area on foot. Some of our best days travelling have been spent wandering alleyways in a foreign city, getting lost and stumbling upon hidden delights. If in a bind, we will get a taxi if we absolutely need to.
If you are hiring a vehicle, most car hire firm will also hire out car seats. For older children, there are some fantastic products on the market like the Mifold booster seat – but our little ones are too small for these yet.
4. Clothing – the five set rule
We take five sets of clothing each and no more. Plus flip flops, walking shoes, a lightweight waterproof, swimmers and a hat each. That’s it.
This may be a step too far for some, but not for us. Why? It saves a load of space and makes decisions about what to wear incredibly easy. Yes, it means that we need to do laundry more often, but one of the perks of travelling is paying someone else to do my laundry. And I hate laundry with a passion. So for me it is a no-brainer really. We often stay in apartments too, which usually come with washing machines.
5. Keep up the love for reading
The vast majority of travellers already know that a Kindle is an indispensable traveling companion. I never leave home without mine.
What are the options for younger kids? Our family loves to read and storytime is a really important part of our bedtime routine. How do you keep reading fun and interesting without packing an entire library? Well, I’ve recently introduced my three year old daughter, Zoe, to chapter books. These are longer reads but still with some pictures; importantly they are often in the form of a compact paperback.
There are so many fantastic options to choose from at this age. Winnie the Pooh has kept us going for weeks and she is happy to have it read to her over and over again. Next on our reading list is a fantastic compilation of bedtime stories. For my youngest, I have just one picture book, Where is the Green Sheep? Chosen because it is one of the only books that I can bear to read over and over again. Every single night. For months… Needless to say, I hope to swap it out somewhere along the way!
7. Shop local for nappies, baby food….and everything else!
Although it can be tempting to take tried and tested baby supplies, one of my tips for packing is to take only what I need for a few days and no more. Nappies and baby food are incredibly bulky and can be quite heavy too. Unless you are travelling to the most remote corners of the earth, you will almost always be able to buy what you need at your destination. Plus shopping in foreign places can be great fun.
In terms of nappies, depending on where you are travelling to, the quality may differ from what you are used to. I found out the hard way that one Indonesian nappy brand did not quite handle my daughters ‘poonamis’ quite as well as our usual brand. But after trying out a couple of different sorts, I found one brand that worked out just fine.
When it comes to baby food, I don’t tend to take any special food with me. My youngest, Abi, is six months old and has just started on solids. I’m avoiding prepackaged puree and introducing things that I know will be in abundance at our destinations. For example, fresh fruit and vegetables, rice and scrambled eggs are at the top of my list of foods that we will rely on over the coming months. She is still breastfed so I’m not carrying any additional feeding equipment.
For bottle-fed babies, these Playtex bottle liners mean that there is no need to sterilise while on the go. Alternatively if you have access to a microwave, Medela Quick Clean Microsteam bags are an excellent and compact way to sterilise.
7. One in, one out – keep your baggage in check
Inevitably as you travel, you will buy things you fancy, or discover clothes that you definitely did not need to bring. Don’t be afraid to ditch those rarely used things, or post them back home. You won’t miss them and it will ensure that everything fits comfortably into your original bags.
Do you have any tips for packing with kids and babies? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below.
Please note that there are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase something through an affiliate link, don’t worry, it won’t cost you any extra money – but a small percentage of the sale goes towards funding our travels.