One suitcase, four people, no problem

how to pack lightly even with children so you don't take all these bags!

For the past few trips away with our boys we have taken just one suitcase for the whole family. It’s worked really well, and we’ve still come home with clothes that we haven’t worn! The main reason for keeping our packing to one bag is all the extra things we have found we need to take away with us – the pushchair, two car seats, (until recently) the travel cot, and all need to be balanced on the airport trolleys or squashed into the boot of the car.

Packing tips for holidays with small children

I hope these tips and tales of how we pack for our holidays will help you, too.

Clothing

At home I keep the boy’s clothes folded in the Marie Kondo style. This allows us to see all of the items of clothing at a glance. I write a “drawer map” for Rob so that he can keep to it when he’s getting the boys dressed or putting clothes away (in practice this means he doesn’t put clothes away and leaves them for me… but anyway).

if you store clothes Marie Kondo style then you can see them all in the drawer at a glance. I label photos or leave a piece of paper in the drawer to expalin where each type of clothing should be.

Ignore the fact the vests aren’t standing up like all the others – this photo was taken in March 2014, when I was new to this! When it comes to packing for our holiday, I can easily grab a selection from the drawers and put them in the suitcase without much fuss. This way the clothes take up much less room and they’re easily visible in the cases.

Be ruthless. Do you really need an outfit per day? Could you manage on a 7 day trip with 4 t-shirts? Of course you can, especially if 90% of the holiday is going to be spent by (or in) the pool. Do you need 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of trousers and a skirt and dress? No. You will probably end up wearing those shorts that flatter and that summer dress that makes you feel all flirty and tanned and the others will go unloved in the suitcase taking up space. So don’t pack them!

A sturdy suitcase

We use a medium sized Revelation suitcase by Antler. It’s great because it has wheels that pivot individually and in all directions, which makes it easy to push or pull when you’re holding hands with little children!
Inside the suitcase we use bags for life as section dividers. Basically we divide the suitcase into thirds using three bags. James’ clothes share with Rob’s and mine go in with Noah’s. That way we can tell between the boy’s clothes without too much of an issue – Noah is already wearing age 2 clothes and they aren’t that different from James’ age 4 things! Rob gets part of the third bag because his trousers and shorts are bigger than everyone else’s.

Toiletries

Toiletries go in IKEA food bags and share the third bag for life with shoes, too. Keep hold of hotel freebies and put those in a food bag in your hand luggage.

A photo posted by Helena (@underfoote) on

Shoes

Two pairs of shoes for everyone – trainers and sandals are pretty much all you’ll ever need (although I often sneak a third pair in for me – trainers, flip flops and a pair of wedges) – of course everyone is wearing one pair of shoes while we travel so only the spare pair need to fit inside the suitcase.

Hand luggage

We always, always make an overnight bag. This includes at least one spare outfit for both boys, spare tops for Rob and me, and essential toiletries. A sling for Noah will usually sneak in, too (I put that inside an IKEA food bag too). Of course we make sure to pack the chargers and electrical adaptersalways take a spare sling when travelling with little children, even if the'y're not regularly slung. You just never know when you'll need it! in this essentials bag. This bag will go with us as carry on if we’re flying, or will be the first thing we grab on our way to check into a hotel if we’re road tripping.

Toys

When packing toys to take on holiday, this is not a time to be considering every eventuality. Think practically! If you’re going on a sunshine holiday where you’ll spend most of the time at the pool during the day and will have evening entertainment, you don’t want many toys at all. In fact, consider buying pool toys while you’re away, and if you must take something then stacking cups are brilliant because they will work in the water or in the hotel room.
If you’re on a road trip then think about where you’ll be visiting. If you plan to sneak in a couple of museums then will you buy souvenirs? If yes, then you don’t need to take many toys on holiday. Will you eat at McDonalds at all – if yes, then you’ll be getting a toy or book then, and that will be plenty!
Sticker books don’t take up much room, and can be done as entertainment during the journey. A well loaded iPad will come in handy too, if you’ve got a child who enjoys screen-based activities.

You’re (probably) not going to the end of the earth

If you run out of something, or decide you really needed to bring something and didn’t pack it, the chances are there’ll be a store nearby that sells it.

And finally…

My super top tip for packing for a holiday is – wash your clothes! If you’re going to a villa then make sure it’s one with a washing machine. Motels in the States usually have a laundry room. If you’re travelling near or to stay with friends, be cheeky and ask if you can do one load of washing while you’re there. If you’re on a resort, take washing liquid and use the balcony to dry your clothes. If not, then use the shower curtain rail while you’re exploring when on a city break. It makes a massive difference to the amount of clothes you need to take with you if you can wear things more than once. And not having that huge pile of laundry to do when you arrive home is a great relief.

What are your must-dos when packing for holidays with children?

For the past few trips away with our boys we have taken just one suitcase for the whole family. It’s worked really well, and we’ve still come home with clothes that we haven’t worn! Here are my tips for packing light on vacation with kids

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10 Comments

  1. July 7, 2016 / 9:38 am

    I have that book, I need to actually sit down and read it I think!! Seriously though, I’ve learned the secrets of light packing ever since I started travelling on my own, especially if you don’t drive, you just can’t take a massive suitcase! This is such a great post and I love your organised drawer, don’t suppose you would like to come and sort mine out?

    • July 7, 2016 / 9:45 am

      I would indeed but ONLY if you keep it tidy!!

  2. July 7, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    I’m really impressed! I thought I was quite ruthless with packing but I look far from it now haha

    • July 7, 2016 / 12:58 pm

      It’s all in the preparation, I think Ami. Giving yourself a small space helps to concentrate the mind into essentials only.

  3. July 7, 2016 / 3:22 pm

    Fab tips! I need to take a fresh t shirt every day for my three as they are just sooooo messy but they wore their shorts twice this year – esp if it was only in the evening as they were in swimwear through the day.

    Beach towels take up quite a but of space for us.

    Girls are SO much easier to pack for as one tshirt dress rolled up takes hardly any space.

    I still don’t think we could manage with one case though x

  4. July 7, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    We managed to get four of us into three suitcases last year and this year we are going for 2 cases… ARRRR!

    • July 8, 2016 / 7:00 am

      You will do it Rachel! You will do this!!

  5. July 17, 2016 / 7:26 pm

    Love this – I can only aspire to this level of organisation! I’m a pack-everything-just-in-case type, and my house is a similar state (I have the Marie Kondo book but actually need to read it!). That said, we did manage four of us in two cases this year so I’m pretty chuffed with that. #MondayEscapes

    • July 17, 2016 / 7:56 pm

      Ah, let’s not talk about the rest of the house, Katie!!

  6. July 25, 2016 / 8:14 am

    Great tips – I thought I was good at packing light but you smashed that out of the window. I love food bags for toiletries we do that too – and I roll roll roll all our clothes! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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