Packing light is an art of practicality and a test in minimalism. As the years pass and we’ve taken more trips as a family of four, I’ve received a first hand education on how to pack light on vacation.
It wasn’t always like this! I’m an ex-overpacker, it’s true. I used to pack almost our entire wardrobes to go on vacation, just to make sure we’d have everything we could possibly need. Each family member would have their own suitcase (that’s four huge suitcases taking up trunk space), plus there would be an additional mini-suitcase for toiletries, a beach bag full of towels, and sometimes I’d need another bag just for extra shoes.
The reason for all this over-packing was worry and fear. It was perfectionism in the worst form: to make sure everything was just right I would have to bring everything we could possibly need and use, so my family wouldn’t go without anything. There were different outfits for each day of our trip and for dinners at night, and sometimes there would be alternate outfits in case something got dirty or ruined, justincase! If anyone got cold, or it was rainy, or too hot, we were prepared.
But it was exhausting to pack like this. It made vacations less fun to have to carry so much around. And it would usually find me searching through piles of clothes because I know I brought this one item that I now can’t find in the sea of suitcases.
Therefore, I learned to pack light for vacations.
Since I’m the one who packs for our whole family, I’m also the one that presumably knows where everything is. The less you bring, the more likely you’ll find what you’re looking for when you need it.
When we go on trips, we try to put everything we need into two suitcases, one large and one medium-sized. The large one holds my stuff, my husband’s stuff, and our toiletries, while the kids share the smaller suitcase. Taking a minimalist mentality with packing has made it a lot easier to really bring what you need: if it doesn’t fit in the suitcase, then we’ll go without it.
Give yourself plenty of time to pack. If you’re rushing around trying to pack last minute, you’re going to forget things and add too many things – you might end up with one pair of pants and seven shirts, which I have done before. Instead, give yourself a few hours of packing time. Plan out how many days you’ll be on vacation and then pack accordingly.
Having a limited amount of space gives you more of a perspective on what to bring. I usually lay out a few outfits, making sure the pieces mix and match with each other, and pack them up. For instance, on our recent 10-day excursion to Whistler, our toddler had 3 pants, 3 shorts, 3 socks, 5 t-shirts, 1 long-sleeve shirt, 1 zip-up hoodie, 1 pair of swim shorts, and his sandals. It fit easily in his half of the suitcase, even leaving room for diapers and wipes. For our daughter, who’s eight, I did something similar, but also brought a dress and her biking gear. I should also mention that I do laundry on vacation, which also allows me to bring less.
It’s easier to get dressed on vacation when you have limited choices. It’s silly, isn’t it? The less options you have, the easier it is to choose.
When it comes to toys and activities for the kids, you need a lot less than you think. One stuffed animal, a couple of small toys (little cars or animals), a couple of books, and notebooks with crayons for drawing. That’s it. I would rather have my kids enjoy and experience the vacation than spend the whole time playing with electronics or toys inside, but they are definitely a necessary distraction sometimes.
Bringing a stroller is a necessity for us right now as well, so we need to make sure there’s room for it in our SUV. Playing the game of Tetris with luggage, bags, and strollers is NOT fun, and once you get it in perfectly, you will never have it fit in like that again. Bringing less allows for more room when you truly need it.
With less luggage you have more room to stretch your legs and really enjoy the experiences that vacations can bring. Don’t make a vacation about shopping! There’s nothing worse than taking a minimalist view on packing for your vacation, and then not being able to close your suitcases because you over-shopped while you were there!
Being on holiday can mean embracing cultures, trying new foods, embarking on adventures, and really, it’s all about relaxing and enjoying your family.
Time to pack up? It’s so much easier to do so when you don’t bring too much in the first place!
Packing too much stuff literally weighs you down and turns vacationing into more of a hassle than it has to be. It adds an unnecessary stress to what’s supposed to be a fun and enjoyable trip. Putting thought into every item you bring really makes you think twice about it, and makes you realize what’s truly important.
What tips do you have for packing light on vacation?