04 February 2009

Travelling light with kids: packing list

When you travel with kids you can take a ridiculous amount of STUFF with you. BUT, you don't have to! We find that travelling light with kids is completely liberating. There's less stuff to lug around, and there's less stuff to lose. We think it is the best way to travel!

It definitely makes it easier if you have a packing list to work from, as you can check that the things you need are in, and everything else is optional and probably could/should be left at home. Take your packing list with you, and use it to check that you've still got everything with you along the way... nothing left behind in hotel rooms or cars or on planes or trains!

Whenever we looked for something to include in our luggage, our rule was that it had to be small and light. Everything was weighed before its approval to be included.

Following is the list of stuff that we took with us on our recent 3 week Europe summer holiday, which was to both reasonably temperate and HOT locations.

  • 2 x 40L rolling bags/backpacks
  • 1 cabin luggage size rolling bag (a gift, not our choice really...)
  • 2 foldaway daypacks - one used as carryon luggage, the other packed in luggage
  • 1 small handbag with shoulder straps
  • one money pouch
  • one money belt
Each person took the following items. Wherever possible, these were quick-dry, breathable wash and wear fabrics. We decided regular washing was better than taking heaps of clothes. It only took about 15 minutes each night to wash everything in the hotel ensuite hand basin, and squeeze and hang it all out.

It was difficult to find quick-dry clothes for kids, so I purchased specialty fabric and made my own.
  • 1 pair of long pants
  • 3 t-shirts or blouses
  • 2 shorts/skirts (3 for the kids)
  • 3 undies (the youngest member of the family is still prone to the occasional accident, so took 6 pairs)
  • 1 swimming costume and rash vest/swimming t-shirt
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair socks
  • 1 nightdress/night shirt
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 jumper/sweater
  • 1 long sleeved thermal top
  • 1 bra (for the adult female only!)
  • 6 nappies (for the youngest member of the family only, just in case)
We kept these to an absolute minimum. We test drove our shampoos, conditioners and moisturisers beforehand to work out how much we would use over a week, multiplied it by three and added a little extra for good measure.
Between all of us, we took:
  • a small pot of moisturiser
  • 2 x 75ml bottles of shampoo
  • 2 x 75ml bottles of conditioner
  • a travel-size bar of soap
  • 2 x 100ml tubes of sunscreen
  • 2 travel-size tubes of toothpaste (one adult formulation, one child formulation)
  • a solid deodorant stick
  • 1 x 75ml bottle of dish-washing liquid
  • one electric shaver
  • one safety razor
  • 4 toothbrushes
  • one comb
  • one small hairbrush
  • one pack of paracetamol tablets
  • personal prescribed medications (and copies of the prescriptions)
  • tampons
  • hankies
Kitchen items
Because we did a lot of self catering, we needed to take some kitchen items with us so that we could have picnics and eat in our hotel room.
  • 4 plates
  • 4 bowls
  • 4 cups
  • plastic cutlery: 6 spoons, 6 knives, 6 forks
  • 2 very small plastic containers with tight-fitting lids
  • bendable thin plastic cutting mat
  • universal sink plug (you never know when you might not get one in your room!)
  • 4 empty water bottles
  • 2 drink bottle bags (purpose made to fit the water bottles - our kids carried their own water in their own bags that had a long string to sling over their shoulders)
  • washing up brush
  • 2 collapsible water bottles
  • microfibre face washer to use as a dish drying towel
Often people suggest that you should take a thin nylon bag  for dirty laundry etc. We don't bother - usually we end up buying something along the way that comes with a plastic bag. We just use the plastic bag to collect the dirty laundry for a day or two, until we wash them in the ensuite sink. This will be more of a problem as plastic bags are phased out around the world.
  • we packed a small drinkbottle with washing powder, that also doubled as a stain remover as when heaped on stains it removes them. Unfortunately it was confiscated at our departure airport because it was detergent. Next time we'll try again in bottles less than 100ml. We used handbasin soap for our washing in the end - not great, but better than nothing...
  • pegless clothesline
Car travel
We decided to take our children's car seats with us - just less hassle.
  • 2 base-only booster seats (these were packed IN the luggage)
Miscellaneous stuff
  • plug adaptors
  • 2 door stopper wedges
  • 4 postpaks (padded mailers) - for use as mailers if necessary, and our clothes packing cores
  • 4 luggage locks (all keyed alike)
  • USB stick
  • 2 umbrellas
  • thank you gifts
  • small sewing kit (no scissors!!)
  • battery charger
  • digital SLR camera, extra lens, batteries
  • tripod
  • small digital camera, batteries
  • netbook computer
  • 4 neck pillows
  • 5 sets earplugs
  • 4 eyemasks
  • packaging tape (end of a roll, so not much on it - deliberately)
  • swimming flotation device
  • swimming goggles x 1
  • ziplock bags
  • 2 small microfibre Sea to Summit Tek Towels
  • travel documents
  • photocopies of all documentation
  • 2 colouring/activities books
  • 2 childrens stories
  • 2 small soft toys
  • coloured pencils
  • crosswords (saved from the daily paper for a week or two)
  • Uno card game
  • Travel Cluedo
  • 2 child "blankies"
  • 4 lined/blank books for travel diaries
  • 4 pens


  1. such a helpful list! Out of curiosity... what is the packing tape for?

    1. The packing tape was for if we needed to mail anything back. Newspaper - readily available in most places - and packaging tape work fine as packaging. And also if a bag split or anything like that, packaging tape will get you out of a hole (no pun intended!). Its just one of those useful things, like a sewing kit, that doesn't take up much room, but can be very worthwhile.