I travel a lot. Like, a whole lot. My three oldest children have been to 44 states in the U.S., 3 Canadian provinces and in a few weeks they will visit Spain which will be their 4th European country (actually more than that if you count the 3 international airports we’ve been to and the 5 minute trip to Armenia that we had!) within the last 8 years. I can honestly say that I am an experienced traveler when it comes to traveling with kids. There are some things about traveling that I have learned along the way and I’d like to share with you today what not to pack for your trip .
With costs for luggage increasing every time we step on a plane and with the very tight fit that is required for putting a large family in a vehicle for a driving trip, there are some things that I rarely pack for trips because it saves us money and sanity in the long run. Also, if you are going to need a taxi/rental car upon arrival at your destination, it’s very rare that you can fit more than two suitcases in the trunk, so if you have excess luggage, you are faced with paying for two vehicles, which increases your costs again.
Added to that on some airlines, you have to pay for a stroller as if it were a suitcase if the child is more than two years of age. On our recent trip to Latvia flying on AirBaltic, we were graciously waived the fee when we let them know that our daughter has a physical impairment that requires the use of the stroller.
In addition, some airlines will not permit you to use a carseat on-board which means you need to check that (read: pay for that) as well.
All these costs add up very quickly and can blow your budget out of the water before you even start your trip.
I want to share with you my secrets of what not to pack when packing light– without losing your sanity.
I can pack for one week for a family of six in two suitcases and one carry-on (though we usually let the girls bring their own small carry-on just so they can learn the responsibility of it). My husband take cares of the suitcases and I can push the stroller with my three year old in it.
The Ultimate List for Families: What NOT to Pack
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Body Wash
- Excessive snacks
- Wet wipes
- Extra clothes
- Lots of shoes
- Random medications (I do pack things I know we will need: allergy meds, teething medicine, etc.)
There are some things on that list you might be wondering about.
No, I do not plan for my family to stink on vacation. Or wear dirty clothes.
When I’m traveling full-time in the U.S., I am going to allot a specific amount of money for household necessities and groceries just like I would if I were going to be in one stationary location.
I also know that just about anywhere that you can go, there are going to be grocery stores of some type. The people in those locations buy their food and needs somewhere, right?
So, with those things in mind I schedule it into our plans to shop for those items when we arrive. If a thirty minute grocery trip for bathroom essentials and good healthy snacks (which will save us from needing to eat in restaurants all the time) can save me from needing to pack an extra suitcase, I’m all for it. Even if I have to pay for a taxi to take me to the store, it’s not going to cost as much as an extra suitcase of food.
For diapers and wet wipes, I bring extras in our carry-on in case we get stuck on a layover (been there…done that), but I don’t bring an entire week’s worth. When we get there I buy enough for the week. I also pack some snacks and an extra pair of clothes in our carry-on for the same purpose. I was stranded in the Munich airport due to a blizzard once for an extra 24-hours with three kids and my mother-in-law, so I know that delays happen.
In all of our trips, we have had very few times that we ended up sick or with a sick child- so carrying meds every time is just a waste of suitcase real estate to me when you can just do a pharmacy run at your destination.
Excess clothes and shoes are definitely on my “what not to pack” list. I take into consideration the clothes that we will actually need for the trip. Each child gets the pair of shoes they wear to the airport and one pair of extras (usually their church shoes because we visit a lot of churches as missionaries).
I choose simple, but nice clothes for the trip. Thin layers rather than bulky accessories. One pair of clothes for each day for the kids. For my husband and I we can usually mix and match clothes to enable us to take fewer pieces along.
I don’t take toys outside of for the airplane ride because I expect for our journey to provide enough entertainment
What Not To Pack: Debunking Common Arguments
You may be thinking, but I have small children and your youngest is three years old.
True, my oldest daughter is 11 now, but we’ve been traveling like this for 8 years, so I’ve had tiny babies, toddlerhoood, preschool, on up.
Or, I have a special needs child and we can’t do without _______.
I totally understand. World War III would commence if I failed to bring the proper sippy cups or plan ahead to make sure that a form of milk my daughter can drink is going to be available. (Because if our usual milk is not, I’ve got to transition her to something that will be available weeks ahead of time.)
If your child absolutely needs it, by all means, make sure that it is packed. But if you are packing something because you think that, maybe, your child might want to play with it, then it’s probably not an essential.
Here’s another nay-say, “plan for the unexpected.” We must pack extra clothes, pack random medications, etc.
Seriously, I don’t even begin to understand how that would be possible. The unexpected is, by definition, not expected. If, by chance, you get your clothes dirty, you can wash them.
True story, I packed a quart of rice milk for my daughter in my suitcase for a trip to the Ukraine. (We were told they weren’t going to have her milk.) Super well padded in my clothes. Everything was fine until they threw my suitcase across the airport floor at our destination. Milk all over all of my clothes. So, in our planned trip to the grocery store we picked up some laundry soap and I washed all my clothes. Life went on. Didn’t mess up our trip a bit. She also did fine on an alternative milk that week, and milk is definitely on my “what not to pack” list.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can lighten your load when traveling with your family! Trust me, if I can move to a foreign country with two toddlers for a year with only 8 suitcases, you can pack for your vacation with a little bit less too.
Try it out! Let me know how it goes! What’s on your list of what not to pack? Do you like traveling with less or does it make you too nervous?
Kim has traveled to more than 4 countries, 44 states and 3 Canadian provinces with her husband and kids in the last eight years. They have homeschooled through the whole journey. She writes about their journeys and homeschooling fun at Life Over C’s. Check her out for tons of ideas in education and travel! One of my favorite posts is “You really can travel the world with kids- and enjoy it!”