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Whether you’re travelling around the world, road tripping with family, or travelling solo with your kids, minimalist travel and packing light can essentially make or break an epic family holiday with kids.

Our family has been an advocate of packing light and minimalist living. It’s this approach that has allowed our family to focus on our journey with the kids more than anything else.

There has never been a time when I had regretted not bringing something. Instead, I always find myself using only half of what I’ve packed.

In this post, we’ll share 17 travel tips on how to pack light with kids on your vacation and explain why less is more when it comes to travelling with a family.

You can also find our interactive minimalist packing list for road trips and packing list for beach vacations here.

How to pack light travel tips for parents packing light with kids featured

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Why packing light?

There are 3 main reasons why you want to pack light when travelling with kids – convenience, time-saving and less stress.

Life is so much easier when we have fewer options. Skipping the queues at bag collection on arrival, getting into your hotel rooms quicker, spending less time picking what to wear, having less to organise and you get to places so much quicker.

Little things like these will make your vacation much smoother and more enjoyable. Here are 17 obvious ways how you can pack light for your next vacation.

1. The ‘this or that’ rule.

Kids tend to have a hard time choosing when presented with too many options, resulting in unnecessary meltdowns. For each category of items, we give our kids 2 options to choose from – the ‘this or that’ rule. No negotiation, no buts and no fuss.

When you’re on the road exploring new environments, kids usually don’t need a lot of toys to keep them entertained. Apart from the lovey my toddler likes to sleep with, we usually limit to 1 toy per child.

2. Pack only one item under each category.

Bring one piece of clothing in each of the essential categories. For example, one dress, one shirt, one skirt, one singlet and one cardigan. This way, you can layer up if need to and mix and match while still packing light.

10-days holiday for me & my toddler

© Photos by Kida

3. Ladies, bring more dresses.

Pack lightweight dresses if you can. They look good on camera and they cover your top and bottom all from one piece of clothing.

4. Leave the ‘just in case’ things behind.

What are the things that you had only used once or twice on previous trips? Those are the things you can leave behind when packing for your next vacation. Don’t overload yourself with bags when you need both hands (or more) for your kids. You can always buy essential items at a local store, probably for a better price.

5. Roll up your clothes to save space.

Roll up your clothes and towels instead of folding them. Not only it’s easier to pick out the clothes you want, but you can also pack more in.

Girl Solo China Travel Light Minimalist Packing Luggage
My luggage for a month-long China trip

© Photos by Kida

6. Bring one large suitcase as opposed to many small bags.

If you have check-in luggage, try and pack everyone’s belongings in one large suitcase. It may be fun to lug around a ride on luggage for each child but how often do they actually ride on it? Perhaps you can get away with domestic travel, but a few extra toy luggage definitely adds to the weight when you’re travelling abroad.

7. Wear your bulky clothes.

Wear the bulkiest clothing if your destination is much cooler. If you’re travelling to a winter destination, bring one quality piece for each category.

For the majority of us, we’d rather chase the sunshine and go on summer vacations. You can find an interactive beach vacation packing list here to bookmark for your next beach holiday.

8. Bring clothes/things that are near the end of their life

Do you have any clothes or things that you wouldn’t mind leaving behind in a foreign country? Those are good alternatives to bring. For example, do you have an old hat that’s been sitting in the wardrobe collecting dust? Bring that one and leave it behind before coming home.

Photo © Unsplash

9. Don’t bring more organisers, bring less to organise.

The more things you bring, the more organisers you’ll need. So change your mindset and ditch the travel organisers. Bring just one large cosmetic bag for all miscellaneous loose items and one toiletry bag. That’s all you’ll need.

It may sound like a good idea to organise everything in bags and boxes, but how likely will you continue to keep them organised while travelling? And what if you need to get something out at the airport? The last thing you want is flipping your bag inside out, looking for the nail clipper that had just beeped under the x-ray. (Yup, that had happened to us.)

10. Do you really need check-in luggage?

If your vacation is only a couple of weeks, consider bringing just one carry-on luggage for each person. That way, you can skip the queue at the airport luggage collection.

Checking in stroller only, jumping the queues.

© Photos by Kida

11. Do you need all the accessories?

A friend of mine wouldn’t go travel without her entire wardrobe of fashion accessories and her makeup bag. The bottles and brushes alone take up a carry-on suitcase. While I respect her way of travel, it’s not very practical travelling with kids.

Unless you’re travelling for a special glamorous event, time is of the essence. Would you have time to perfect your makeup each morning when there is so much to explore? Who dresses up rushing to the airport and goes hiking in heels anyway?

It’s okay to have one or two going-out clothes and accessories, but don’t go overboard. Learn to be happy with yourself just the way you are.

Photo © Unsplash

12. Are you bringing the whole DSLR kit?

Some families are serious about taking travel photos and videos that they bring the whole kit – DSLR, GoPro and Drone. Camera gear usually comes with a lot of accessories such as batteries, chargers, cables, tripods, housing, remotes and cleaning solutions. Unless you do travel photography for a living, consider upgrading your smartphone to the latest camera phone instead.

I vouch for Google Pixel phones and have been using one myself for years. Most of my travel photos now come from Google Pixel and the qualities are just as good for web use.

In this post, why I sold my entire DSLR kit for a smartphone to travel the world, I explain the pros & cons of bringing a DSLR kit vs a smartphone and whether the difference in quality is worth the hassle.

That’s all we’re bringing on a one-way ticket to LA.

© Photos by Kida

13. Do you really need your laptop?

Vacations are for switching off, reconnecting with your family and detoxing from social media, right? So think twice about bringing your laptop and its accessories. If you really have to, bring a tablet instead.

14. Are you really going to read those books?

One thing we all like to do is pack our favourite books to read on a vacation, thinking ‘this is the time we’ll do some personal development’. My partner is guilty of that, he brings the same book to every vacation and has never read past page 5.

There are many in-flight magazines and entertainment to keep you busy. Unless you’re travelling alone to a remote island, the chance of you having the free time to zone out into a book is pretty slim.

If you’re bringing a tablet, try downloading an eBook or audiobook that doesn’t require any extra space in your luggage.

Photo © Unsplash

15. Don’t bring expensive or valuable items.

It’s draining to constantly worry about your valuables getting stolen when there is so much to think about already. Leave that Chanel bag and diamond ring at home. Travel low key, keep the thieves away.

16. Don’t buy a whole lot of souvenirs.

When you’re still having the travel buzz browsing through the local markets and souvenir shops, stop yourself from buying souvenirs on impulse. Especially if you’re in a country that has a weaker currency and the place is surrounded by tourists who are also buying. That’s a tourist trap.

Every time I bring back souvenirs, I kick myself for paying a premium for something that holds little value. If you really love something, check online first to see if you can get the same item on Aliexpress shipped to your home for less.

And if you’re the type of tourist that can’t leave the country without a souvenir, don’t buy souvenirs that are fragile and bulky.

Toddler Trunki Baby Luggage Packing Light Travel Minimalist
No more room for new toys, sorry!

© Photos by Kida

17. Free your mind, make room for adventures.

Travelling light also means carrying less on your mind. Declutter your mind, leave your stress behind and stay present with your family.

Travel does wonders to our souls. It’s a good time to open up to your surroundings, experience new things, broaden your perspectives and set new goals. Lighten up.

Go anywhere and everywhere.

© Photos by Kida

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