Maximize your travel experiences by minimizing your luggage on your next trip with these helpful tips how to pack light for family vacations.
When you think of family vacations, do you conjure up visions of having to hire porters to carry all of your family’s luggage or do you follow the experts’ lead by knowing how to travel light?
One of the biggest mistakes for families who want to travel together is that they are overburdened by too much luggage and gear. In fact, the number one complaint by families who travel is that they never fully use all that they have packed and squeezed into their luggage.
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The reason? The main tendency is to anticipate every weather change or activity, so that by the time you are finished packing you need sherpas to carry all of your luggage from place to place.
Take veteran traveler, Rick Steves, who is famous for his international traveling series: Rick Steves’ Europe. He always tells travelers to pack light. And, he should know. He practices what he preaches and limits himself to 20 pounds in a 9″ × 22″ × 14″ carry-on-size bag.
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He explains that most of one’s travel occurs between traveling from point A to point B, which usually includes walking. So if you are trudging a 50 pound rolling suitcase or even hand-carried one (ugh!) through town, that can be a heavy burden, indeed.
Must-Know Tips How to Pack Light for Family Vactions
So, how can you and your family travel lighter? It’s as easy as following these three handy tips:
Choose the Right Luggage
Think flexibility when packing light for your next family vacation. It’s always best to start out with the smallest size luggage possible and then expand it as needed.
The luggage that gets high reviews from traveling families like mine, is Rick Steves’ Mother Lode TLS Weekender. We have used this bag for traveling around the U.S. and overseas in Europe. The best part of this bag is that you can separate your belongings, plus reduce or expand the main chamber accordingly (think souvenirs) just by zipping or unzipping the outer compartment.
What’s great too is that the Weekender acts like a backpack with strong straps and is very adjustable. Even our children who were young at the time didn’t have a problem with carrying it, because it fit perfectly with their size, thus making it easy to move between hotel and train station or even to walk through airports easily.
Pack to Carry On
If you are considering flying for your next family vacation think carry-on luggage.
You’ll want to make sure you carry everything you need for at least a day or two. It is also wise to pack any medications, make-up, and toiletries in this bag, as you might find yourself on a layover and needing to freshen up.
We have used lightweight daypacks for years as our carry-on go-to and has served our family well. Even now as our children are traveling with their friends, they take this pack with them. It is rugged and wears well, no matter the weather. And if it gets wet, it dries quickly.
The wonderful part of this kind of carry-ons is that you can also use it as a day pack. And, for those days that you want to hike or tour, you can put in a small umbrella, snacks, water bottle and even a first aide kit.
Choose the Best Clothes for Traveling Light
Traveling light also requires that families choose the right clothing for travel. Unfortunately, most often, we pack way too much and the size and weight of our luggage show this very clearly.
In addition, there’s always the thought of “what if.” What if we run into bad weather? What if we get snowed out? What if we want to swim, or boat, or kayak, etc., etc., etc.
The list could go on. For simplicity’s sake, consider when and where you are traveling and make a list of all of the activities that you and your family will be enaging in. Your clothing choices should follow this itinerary, plus one more–that of specialty dining or visiting a formal setting. It’s always best if you pack at least one “nice” outfit for such an occasion, even if you plan on roughing it in the wilds–you just never know.
If you are traveling during a season that has great high and low temperatures, you might have to include clothing that can be layered or removed to keep you warm or cool, respectively.
Layered clothing is great because you can also dress up or down depending upon what you have planned.
What hasn’t been discussed is the fabric choice for your clothing. Cotton outfits are perfect for keeping one cool. It wears well and is versatile. Polyester, on the other hand, may or may not keep one cool. But most polyester is wrinkle-free which makes it ideal for traveling light. Even so, the downside of polyester is that it isn’t very warm, so you’ll need to wear layers when heading to chillier climes.
Jeans and chinos are great for traveling but they are also heavy. To avoid overloading the luggage, I’ve found that one pair of jeans is more than enough for a week’s worth of travel, especially when paired with a lighter slack.
And, if you choose a multipurposed clothing like an oversized shirt, you can use this as a coverup for your swim suit, or cinch with a belt to dress it up–which, by the way, just made your wardrobe go even further.
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Family Pets Should Also Pack Light
Even Rover needs to pack light for family trips. This means that the only large thing that should be going into the family vehicle is a kennel (if needed) and a collapsable container that does dual work for food and water. It’ll only take up a couple inches of space.
Some families opt for their pooch to take his own pack. While that is good for, say, a labador or other large breed, that isn’t a good idea for smaller breeds. The weight is usually too much for them to carry and they will tire more easily.
For day hikes with Fido, be sure to pack a pet first-aid kit, a collapsable food/water dish and food for Rover in your own day pack.
Kennels aren’t a problem, especially if they are collapsable. Even the large ones work well. So why not take one? Sometimes when you are travel you might have to stay at a hotel. And, keeping Rover in the car may not an option (if it is too hot or cold outside), so keeping him safe in the hotel room makes perfect sense.
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Also, by Rover being in a kennel, the hotel’s house-keeping staff can do their job more effectively and quickly without having to worry about their own safety. Keep in mind that sometimes pets become scared or protective of their space when their loved ones are not there and that could lead to more issues in the long run. Err on the safe side and make sure Rover is taken care of properly.
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More Family Packing Tips
- Be sure to provide locks for all zipped compartments. That way you will be assured of reaching your destination with everything you packed. This is important not only when checking in your luggage or bringing it onboard.
- Don’t forget to make sure your pet has ample water and food, especially if you are planning a long day away from your hotel room. Better still, seek the assistance of a local pet sitter who let Fido stretch its legs while you play.
- Pack extra plastic storage bags for keeping cell phones or clothing dry or for keeping wet swim suits from dampening the other contents in your luggage or daypack.
- When packing for longer travel, remember to leave room for souvenirs.
Finally, I highly recommend these two books to use as an ongoing reference for all your travel needs: Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Back Door (it’s updated each year) and The Packing Book. Each offers a plethora of hints and savvy advice for easy family travel.
I have used both of these resources successfully, I might add. Each offers plenty of tips for packing light on family vacations and other helpful travel tips to make your family adventures pleasurable ones. Happy Travels!
For more handy tips for family travel, be sure to check out Wisconsin Homemaker’s Travel Section.