Packing light has become my focus lately. With 2 toddlers, it is very easy for us to over pack our bags. We have traveled with so many bags that between the two of us, we couldn't carry all the stuff and the kids. That is not how I want to travel. We want to be efficient, but also have all of our necessities when we arrive.
Here are 11 ways we cut the excess and streamline our gear for whatever travel we are doing:
1) Pack Early. One thing we do is pack in advance, then we unpack and repack the bag. This really let's us see what's in the bag. On our last trip we spent 20 days in Europe with 2 adults, 2 toddlers and ONE bag. By packing early, we were able to cut about 7-10lbs from our overall baggage weight.
2) Use Packing Cubes. Since there are 4 of us, packing cubes have become our best friend. We typically each get our own cube and once its full, its full. This really helps us visually see how much we are bringing. On our last adventure, we were able to get both of our kids clothes into one medium packing cube, which saved us weight, but also time on the other end. We always knew where the kids stuff was and packing back up was simple.
3) Evaluate need vs want. I love having all of my comfort items when I travel, but it isn't always necessary. For instance, I cut my make-up bag down to 1/4 of what I normally have access to. We brought 3 loveys for each kid (need), but chose to only bring one small packing cube of toys (want). Do you NEED it? Or do you WANT it?
4) Ask yourself, can I get this on the other end? The big items that stand out to me here are diapers, wipes, baby food, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Almost everywhere in the world sells these items, so pack what you need in your 72-hour bag and get the rest when you get there.
5) Arrange travel beds in advance. One thing that we always do is arrange for a travel bed (pack n play) at our destination. We have never had to travel overseas with one. We contact our Airbnb host or hotel before we book to be sure they can provide one. This is a must for us. Domestically, we may travel with our own pack n play if we know we can travel with it for free, i.e. we don't have to pay for it as a checked bag. We've arranged a pack-n-play in 15 European Airbnbs/hotels & many hotels across the USA.
6) Wash your clothes. For us, we always book accommodations that have a washer/dryer. This allows us to re-wear outfits over and over. Jimmy and I both only brought 5 shirts on our last trip -- we wore each one several times, but they were clean! Oh and when our son spent 2 full days in Paris with the Norovirus, we were able to wash sheets/clothes the entire time.
This image shows where you can select "Washer" on Airbnb to be sure every apartment you see has one. We still recoomend double checking with the host, but this should get you started.
7) Pack with a Purpose. One trick I've found is packing my essentials first, then adding in other items I could maybe live without last. For instance, I am bringing my camera & my clothes, so those are going in first. I can buy diapers when I arrive, so any extra I may want to bring in our checked bag are going in last. This process helps you stick with the bag you want to bring and helps evaluate those need vs. want items.
8) Get a Luggage Scale. Before we left on our last trip, we knew that in the middle of the trip we would be flying from Switzerland to the Netherlands. We knew we were only allowed a single 23kg checked bag. We packed our bag and weighed it so many times before we left. Check your airline's "overweight" limit before you pack so you know what your weight limits are. PS - when we checked in, our bag was only 20kg -- we were so proud!
9) Use the Postal Service. At least once a trip (on long trips) we mail a box home. This saves us weight along the way and allows us to trim the fat on what we packed. This past trip we mailed home a 6kg box. (13lbs) We were 13 days into the trip, so we mailed home some wine we picked up, excess clothes and items we didn't use like our son's headphones.
10) Donate. The same day we mailed a box home, we also left a large bag for donation with our Airbnb host. We packed some winter clothes for our kids that we no longer needed. We decided to leave them behind for other kids to use. We also left behind our travel books for other travelers to peruse.
11) Pack a "Flex Bag". We always travel with a duffel bag that collapses into a small zippered bag. We are able to use this bag to capture any additional items we pick up along the way, stuff our coats into for the flights, pack away our Tula, etc. This bag has been worth it's weight in gold. I highly recommend having something like this for longer trips to help with transitions or to bring home any last minute souvenirs.
What tips do you have for packing light?