Tuesday tips: Traveling light (with children)

Tuesday Tips Traveling Light with children

Summer vacations are around the corner for us and we have lots of exciting travels coming up that we’ll be sharing with you soon. In the meantime, we have been thinking about packing tips — isn’t packing suitcases for a family the biggest job ever? Personally, when I’m packing, I prefer my kids to be out of the house, so I can prepare in total focus and with ultimate concentration. It usually takes me almost a full day to pack — and then I’m not even counting the prep work of washing, folding, and sorting beforehand!

The biggest challenge when I’m packing, is to pack as little as possible. We mostly travel by car, and with the 6 of us stowed in the car already there is not a lot of room for luggage. Or, if we fly, we usually try to pack in small, carry-on suitcases. So here are some tips for packing practical and light — please do share your tips as well (I need them)!!

Layering: I like bringing some cardigans or hoodies to layer over t-shirts and summer dresses. A few pairs of knee socks keep feet and lower legs warm. Leggings are great layering pieces as well.

Footwear: Saltwater sandals, Crocs or Natives are waterproof, easily cleaned, and can be worn over above mentioned knee socks if necessary. Flip flops are so easy and small to pack. (I try to avoid taking wellies but for some trips they’re mandatory…)

Pac-a-mac foldable raincoats: the kind of raincoat that fold up inside a pocket and can be strapped around your middle. We have one for each member of the family, and they keep us warm and dry when needed. We take no other coats than these. (Added bonus — we have bright coloured macs in one colour — great to keep an eye on the kids in busy places!) You can find them here, here or here, for example.

Turkish towels: so much smaller to pack and quicker to dry than terry towels. They double up perfectly as picnic blankets or sheets, by the way. (Available here.)

Personal backpack: each child carries a small backpack with a notebook and a pencil-case, a sunhat, sunglasses, a thin and royal sized square scarf (doubles as a blanket, play mat or sun screen), one favourite doll or stuffed animal, a little pouch with some tiny toys for imaginary play (like Schleich animals, Playmobil characters, cars or trains), and some small games (a deck of cards, Uno, Dobble or memory are good examples and fun to play as a family).

A small umbrella stroller (and/or small carrier): even though for city living I prefer a bigger, more comfortable stroller, for traveling we prefer the lighter, smaller type of buggy. (We have an old MacLaren Volo for this purpose. I recently saw the Babyzen YoYo on a trade fair and it also looked really cool, and small!) If your child is big enough, you could think of taking a Micro Scooter instead of a stroller (ok, this is maybe not packing ultra light, but they’re great to take if you can!).

Argan oil and Shea Butter: I love argan oil when I’m traveling — I put it on my face, body, and hair. One bottle for everything — less is more! Shea butter is also lovely for face, lips, hands, dry patches of skin, hair even.

Shampoo and samples: a little bottle of shampoo doesn’t just wash hair, body and hands, it’s also great to use as laundry detergent — to quickly hand-wash some underwear or t-shirts when on the road. Also, I was just talking to Courtney, and she mentioned taking samples for toiletries instead of the big bottles — so save up the little sample bags that are given to you in the beauty department!

That’s what I came up with… Again — please share your tips for light packing. I can use them, I promise!

xxx Esther


Comments (16)

June 16, 2015

Thank you for sharing your useful tips!

I always make sure to go easy on the colours- so that layering top actually matches the T-shirt and the trusers… Not to many stripes, flowers, Peppa pig tops, so no time is wasted on matching clothes together before going out for a pizza.

Also, no socks with sandals is an unbreakable rule. I know, I should relax, it’s the kids and it’s summertime. But still no 🙂

June 16, 2015

Perfect post on a perfect timing! Thank You!

June 16, 2015

Super useful! Thanks.
Last time we went away, I packed for myself and the kids and I must have been very tired because when we arrived I realised that I forgot to pack spares. So we did some washing in the evening and survived the trip non the less. It taught me that we really don’t that much, but next time I’ll pack a marseille soap. 🙂

Have great and adventurous summer, everyone.

June 17, 2015

Thank you, I was hoping you would do a post on this! i actually need someone to just come over and do the packing for me. I am good a packing light just a little too light. i forget one essential item every time! Once I forgot a nightie, another time i forgot my jumper and froze, another time i didn’t pack any socks, one person is missing a hat, one less tooth brush…It goes on on – every time for years now. I need a list a la Joan Didion.

June 17, 2015

Great tips! When we make our big trip every summer to the NW, I always try to pack us all into one large suitcase. 4-5 outfits per child for the month long stay plus a few sets of pjs – and it works great! Like your kids, they get to choose a few special things to bring along in their backpacks – it’s always a lively debate on how many soft animals they can bring :).They always want to bring more than I allow!

Kylie b
June 17, 2015

I agree with backpacks for each child, teaches them responsibility as well. I always make sure they also have a drink bottle to put in it. Taking less clothes and making sure you can do some washing as you go saves space. And if you are traveling by car scooters instead of bikes. Totally agree with layering as well

eva lingvist
June 17, 2015

For little boys: swimming trunks that can be worn as shorts are great. We tend to travel hand luggage only, so we don’t bring a small backpack for each of the kids (they’re still reluctant to carry and will count towards number of items!) but one bigger backpack and one slightly smaller that both hang over the handles of our (chicco) buggy (we use a larger herschel america and the adult sized kanken on top of one another and it works great!). Buggies with open handles are ideal as the two straps of a backpack can go over them. And parents can carry a bag each (on their back?).

Light scarves also work well as sunshades in rental cars, just attach by rolling window down and up again with the scarf in between.

I love mini colouring books that fit into a pencil case with the crayons and we tend to pack an entertainment pouch/pencil case for each of the kids containing either the colouring stuff or a few cars, animals etc, whatever they like to keep themselves busy in cafes snd restaurants, but never more than a pouch each. And although we refuse to hand the kids our phones/ipod (we don’t have an ipad) in public spaces (like cafes) we do tend to use them as our secret weapon during flights. They’re small and the novelty of the games and cbeebies downloads keeps them entertained when all else fails.

June 17, 2015

I agree with all of these suggestions. I have to add that I always travel with a few Ziploc bags. They’re so useful to keep small things organized and easy to find like hair ties, small toys and crayons, small toiletries, snacks, tea bags
(I’m a total tea snob so I carry my own tea wherever I go :). Baggies are also handy for containing mess such as when you have to throw away a dirty diaper and can’t find a bin or when you have to store a wet swim suit until you get back to your hotel, things like that. For messes, I always have in my purse or somewhere within easy reach, some baby wipes or tissues.

I’m surprised no one mentioned bringing snacks for the little ones. I guess this is not a big thing if you’re driving because you can stop whenever you want to eat properly but if you’re travelling by plane or train, it’s always a good idea to bring some reinforcements. I bring baggies of nuts, dried fruit, and individual sized milk boxes or juice boxes.

I think Zima, above, really hit on the key to travelling light. Chose outfits in coordinating colors so you don’t have to take as many things and it’s easier to dress the kids. If you’re bringing patterned shorts, bring lots of solid tops, for example. And of course this depends on the length of your trip, but if you’re going somewhere for only a week, just take one pair of shoes per person.

June 17, 2015

Since we started travelling with kids we switched from hotels/b&bs to renting apartments so we have a kitchen and laundry available. Surprisingly, it’s often the same price or cheaper than a hotel room! The washing machine is the key for packing light because it means that I can pack much less clothing for everyone. Usually I plan to do laundry if we are away 4 or more days so I pack for 4 days worth at most.

June 17, 2015

great tips!

we also have 4 children. do you have any good suggestions for hotel stays, especially in Europe where rooms are small? We will do a rental when staying a few nights in a row. But sometimes, a hotel is easier when travelling around a lot.

June 18, 2015

The best advice I’ve ever received regarding packing light is to back what you WILL need rather than what you MIGHT need.

I would also love to see a post related to Deb’s comment….Recommended child friendly cities to travel in Europe, say for a 2-3 week vacation, with young kids. For example, choose a city as a home-base and make day trips from there vs. moving around every few days. Recommended hotels, or even better apartments, sights to see, etc.

June 19, 2015

These are great ideas. We are flying to Portugal this fall for 10 days. Typically my husband and I would fly with just 1-2 carry-on’s, but figuring out how to pack for our toddler son is new for me. I love the suggestions.

June 24, 2015

This isn’t for travelling light but helps you be more organised. Helps if there are many of you. Use packing cubes. Light mesh bags for each person. Also to save on space not weight though but vacuum packed bags. If you don’t ask housekeeping for their hoover, I just squeeze the air out. Can buy much more clothes on trips!

May 24, 2016

Love this post, thank you for great tips. Will be helpful at the next packing for summer vacation 🙂

Esther in Amsterdam
May 24, 2016

Enjoy your trip!! 🙂 x

October 25, 2016

[…] is more. Esther wrote here about traveling lightly. Have only what you need, and nothing out of arms reach. If your bags are […]

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