HOW TO TRAVEL MINIMALLY:
I see loads and loads of Travel with Kids lists that just drive me batty to read, let alone travel with all of that extra stuff. I am 100% a minimalist travel packer. I wish I were in my home, but eh, I really like home design. But Traveling and lugging around bags for several days, weeks, across airports and train stations and up and down elevators and crowding hotel rooms. I.just.can’t.
You can find our trip to Cape Cod here
I know that when you begin a trip you think, “Now how in the world am I going to entertain Amy?” Surprise! You’re taking her on a trip! That’s how! I have never, nor will I, stack up on dollar store activity books and bought new toys to entertain on flights or car rides. I love those of you who want to do that. I really, really do. But for the, possibly very few, ones who want to travel with just the necessities, this is how I do it.
You can find this trip to Sanford, ME here
What we bring –
- shoes- if we are traveling somewhere warm and it is warm in our home base, we wear one pair of sandals while traveling and maybe, but not always, will bring a second pair. We will not wear a pair of shoes for the travel day if we have zero use for them during the trip. You might have five pairs of sandals that you love, but really pick one or two and then promise the others you’ll wear them as soon as you’re home. Those sandals will not be sad they did not get packed on your Caribbean vacation. If it is cold where you are going and you’ll need boots, we always wear the boots on the travel day because they’re bulky and take up unnecessary room in the luggage. If you know you will be in boots the entire time, just bring that one pair and wear them with everything. The exception would be rain boots. If you need rain boots, then pack those, because they don’t make for comfortable travel shoes, though my kids have traveled on planes with them and been fine, but my kids seriously go crazy about rain boots.
2. Jackets- if you’re traveling during the colder months, carry that jacket. But bring just that one. Don’t worry about how you have a variety of coats that you really want the kids to have to chance to wear this winter. But Bobby has a puffer coat, a peacoat, a raincoat, a fleece hoodie, and a denim jacket? That’s really great for Bobby, but Bobby needs just one of those on your trip. So, pick the one that will cover his needs the best. One is enough. Regardless if it matches everything else they’re going to be wearing. Don’t put it in your luggage, coats are easy to bring as carryon items and once you have your bags stowed in the overhead bin you can easily lay your coats over them.
You can find our winter trip to Quebec City, here
3. Shirts; one a day. Pants; make two-three days of use out of one pair. One pair of underwear, socks (per day). One pair of pajamas for every four nights. Unless you’ll be willing to spend some time at the laundromat, you can pack half of this and then wear them all again.
our trip to New Orleans here
4. For women and girls, I suggest wearing dresses while traveling, because they take up less space in a carryon, and it’s fairly easy to get two uses out of the dress on your trip.
Colombia with kids, here
5. Toiletries- we always get a big bottle of children’s hair and body wash, pack it in our checked bag, and we all use this as our soap and shampoo. It’s efficient enough for everyone in the family. There is no need to carry a ton of your favorite body products.
6. If we are going to a swimming destination we bring two bathing suits each; they’re easy to fold down really small so we splurge on the double one because nothing is as uncomfortable as trying to put on a wet, cold bathing suit that hasn’t dried out all the way. So, we alternate the suits every other day. If your younger kids need pool floaties to assist with swimming, we bring just the blow-up arm ones, because they’re easy to deflate and store in your bag. I know the larger life jacket kind is maybe what you use at home, but for traveling purposes, we bring the more compact ones.
7. Carseats- we have done both; brought them all, rented them all. But, by far the easiest is the rental for the infant or any four-point harness seat. If you’re flying and you have a purchased seat for your kids, you can always utilize them in flight. Or you can gate check them before you board the airplane. Or, you can even check them in when you check in your checked luggage. Most airlines allow car seats to be checked for free, so if you don’t mind carrying them around, this is a great and cost-efficient option. We usually rent because four car seats are just too many to travel with on top of bags. For the younger two, we rent through the car rental agency. For our older boys, we have begun using our mifold seats which are really great because they bring the seatbelt to the proper level rather than the seat lifting the child up. This means that the mifold seat is very compact and can easily be in your bags, even a child’s size backpack will be able to carry this seat. If you do choose to check your car seats, we recommend buying this storage bag because the bags do get handled fairly roughly and they can also get quite dirty while being put in the belly of the aircraft. So, to be safe, a storage bag is really a great option. If you do forget to have one, ask the gate agents when you check-in before security, oftentimes they’ll have large plastic bags to wrap them in.
8. Snacks- we bring some, yes, because we are traveling with kids and you never know when they’re going to be hungry. But we bring minimal ones. I’ve seen parents blog about bringing the grocery store with them and that’s great if that is what you want to do, but our secret is baby food pouches. For all of our kids. Even the nine-year-old. These work out great because the fruit doesn’t get bruised up, you get to sneak vegetables and avocado into their snack, they’re filling and nutritious. We have them for the travel day, but we also have them to hold them off in the mornings in the hotel room before we head out for the day. Other options we bring are fruit strips and breakfast bars.
9. We bring minimal toys and books. Maybe a favorite stuffed animal to sleep with. Five books at the most (because no matter our best intentions, a dozen varieties will never all be read). Some crayons and paper or a coloring book. And a handful of small toys. Maybe 5 Schleich horses, not all 20 of them. Two Calico Critter families, not every single one. It’s mostly about bringing things that bring comfort to the kids, not worrying about entertaining them. I have learned that kids are absolutely fine traveling around with zero toys and just finding things around them to entertain themselves with. And sometimes its really nice to just allow the kids to watch tv in the hotel room so you can have some time to yourself to unwind. It is a vacation, after all. This is also the time that we allow our kids to play on tablets of some sort. They don’t have them at home at all, so this is their time to really live it up. And I’m okay with that. Another reason why I’m okay with that is because apps take up zero space in my bag, so you’ve brought the entertainment and you’re not carrying their entire room with you. But kids can explore nature a lot easier if they don’t already have a toy in their hands.
10. If you do have your kids bring toys and books, have them carry them in their own backpack as their carryon item or in their carryon case. Sometimes we use our jetkids suitcase for the kids and this is also really handy because the kid can ride on them and if their legs are not long enough to push themselves around, you can always use the strap to pull them behind you. Which saves space on needing a stroller through airports.
11. If you want to bring a stroller, bring the most compact size you possibly can. Sometimes with all of the bags, trunk space is not in abundance, so the smaller it can fold down, the better. If we bring a stroller, we bring this travel Diono one. It folds down small enough to fit in the overhead bin which we love.
I think that basically covers all of what we bring. We usually can fit all six of us into two carryon size bags for a long trip and we can fit into one carryon sized bag for a 4-5 night stay somewhere. If you practice and slowly weed out what is just the extra stuff you love, but don’t really need on the trip, I’m certain that you’ll be able to pare down what you’re bringing with you.