Packing for Long Term Family Travel

How do you pack when you plan to travel with kids long term, even indefinitely?

Packing for a month is the same as a week.

Greece 2009: See that orange shirt Matt’s wearing? Hope you like it, because it’s one of just a few t-shirts I packed for our current adventure.

In the past we’ve subscribed to the idea that anything beyond a week or two is essentially the same from a packing perspective.

We packed about the same for a month in New Zealand and the Rarotonga as we did for two weeks in Greece.

In fact, if you go back and look at the pictures you’ll see we’re wearing many of the same outfits in New Zealand that we did in Greece almost four years earlier!

While that’s largely the strategy we followed to pack for this adventure, we came across a few complications due to our chosen destinations and the significantly longer time frame.

Packing for a month is the same as a week.

New Zealand 2013: Kat liked my shirt so much she got one too.

Traveling with kids for such a long period of time also adds a few more unique wrinkles to the planning… though hopefully not to our faces!

I’m not going to write a blow-by-blow of every last item in our bags. There are a lot of packing lists on the internet already.

But I will hit on some of the major items for us, and I’ll try to share a bit about our overall strategy to pack up our lives for the road.

How much stuff did we bring?

We know from previous (not that fun) experience that you can’t actually grow an extra arm when you’re trying to exit a plane with an overtired kid who refuses to walk at the one time when your hands are totally full with luggage.

With mental images of airplane aisle traffic jams due to overburdened parents we set ourselves a goal of packing as light as possible.

Light enough that we could always have one arm free even when loaded with all of our bags.

That means Kat and I each have one medium-sized backpack, one rolling suitcase, and one small daypack.

That’s it.

We intended both rolling bags to be carry-on size, but realized at the last minute that we couldn’t slim down quite that much.

This is all of our luggage.

This is all of our luggage.

So we have one carry-on size and one slightly larger rolling bag. We plan to check them both most of the time anyway.

The backpacks are all carry-on size.

To accommodate both backpacks simultaneously we’ll sling the daypacks on our fronts joey-style.

I practiced this at the airport on the way to San Francisco, and even added Aurora sitting atop the daypack, facing forward, with the best view in the house (I couldn’t see so well).

Unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of this but next time we’ll snap one and post it for you all.

Starting with this idea of the total volume we had to work with helped us in limiting the individual items we planned to pack inside.

How do we decide what goes inside the bags?

Clothes

We jammed all this and more into our few bags.

We jammed all this and more into our few bags

We have learned well during our past travels that you just don’t need much clothing.

We’ve gotten pretty good at washing things in sinks and tubs, and being creative about finding places to hang clothes to dry.

You may get tired of seeing us in the same clothes in all our pictures though!

The key is to carefully choose items that:

  1. can go with everything else in your bag
  2. are easy to wash
  3. lightweight
  4. small to pack

The first item is personal style so whatever looks good to you is ok!

The last three are best accomplished with some of the technical fabrics specifically designed for hiking, camping, and traveling.

These synthetics are great because they are durable and very easy to wash.

Most times you can wash them in the sink in the evening, hang them over a door, and they will be dry by morning. They are also often stain and wrinkle resistant which helps when traveling.

Kids Educational and Entertainment Materials

Some of the educational materials we brought for the kids.

Some of the educational materials we brought for the kids.

This stuff is taking a lot of space in our bags, but we think it’s justified.

One concern we have with our plans is how we will keep challenging the kids and keep up their education.

Obviously they will learn from the experience itself, and it will be a unique “school” that few have the opportunity to attend. We appreciate that fact and it is one of the reasons we are choosing to follow this dream.

At the same time Kat and I value “traditional” education.

Kat did an awesome job of essentially packing a mobile version of the stations found in a preschool classroom.

Everything else.

Our pile of items cut at the last minute.

Our pile of items cut at the last minute.

Everything else in our bags has a specific purpose. We try to think through what a day on the road will be like and what challenges we’re likely to encounter.

But we can’t bring stuff for every “what if”  scenario, so where do we draw the line?

For every item we ask this question:

Is there any other way we could solve the problem with something else in our bags or something we could buy cheaply wherever we are going?

If the answer is yes then the item doesn’t go.

We ended up with a decent size pile of items that didn’t make the final cut.

Six bags.

Six bags. About 150 pounds of stuff.

That probably sounds like a lot to some people and not very much to others.

To us, when piled together it doesn’t look like much for a family of four traveling indefinitely. We’re proud of our packing efforts.

We definitely could have had even less though, and maybe we will eliminate the excess as we go along, and as we get smarter about what we actually need.

Of course we’re bound to bump into some amazing souvenirs along the way, which may take the place of whatever we jettison!

In the meantime, let us know how you think we did in the comments – and pass along any tips you may have!

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Author: Matt

Husband to the lovely and talented Kat. Father to Aurora, Jasper, and Piper - the smartest, cutest, funniest, and most adorable minis on the planet. Traveling the world with all four. Overall a pretty lucky guy.

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4 Comments

  1. You did an awesome job…Russ and I take more “stuff” when we go away for a weekend:) Have an amazing time…we look forward to following you on your adventure and thanks for sharing!!

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    • Thanks Barb! Great to hear from you!

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  2. Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any support is very much appreciated.

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    • Hi Debi, thanks for writing and sorry for taking ages to respond! I use Antispam Bee. I was getting TONS of spam and this cleared up the vast majority. A few occasionally sneak through, but it’s manageable. Good luck.

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