Packing is hard! Packing for world travel with kids is extremely hard! Packing the right amount for 7 people without over-packing or missing anything essential is near impossible! But, after a LOT of agonising and second-guessing, I think I may have beaten the odds.
I am an over-packer from way back. I think it comes hand-in-hand with my extreme indecisiveness and inability to let go of anything. Until recently, I was one of those people who would hang on to a jacket that they hadn’t worn in 9 years, simply because there was a very small chance they may want to wear it again one day. It was only when we made the decision to travel that I was able to see the ridiculous amount of ‘stuff’ we owned and really didn’t need, and with some effort, learnt to be smart and ruthless and get rid of so much. And this now applies to packing too!
In the past I have not just over-packed, but over, over, over-packed. I recently found the diary I had kept from our USA trip and the opening sentences read ‘Spent hours packing last night. Realised that 3 suitcases weren’t going to be enough so we added a fourth. Just hope we can keep under the weight limit.’……. and this was for 5 weeks with 3 kids! Then there’s our Aussie caravan trip. We only wore probably half the clothes we brought if that and don’t even get me started on the amount of toys and odds and ends we didn’t need or use. In fact, when it came to selling the caravan and emptying all of our belongings out of it, we couldn’t believe how much unnecessary stuff there was. We sold the caravan in Tasmania and flew back home to Melbourne and you should have seen the amount of luggage we brought on the plane, and that was after leaving a pile of stuff behind that we simply could not carry. I guess it’s easy for that to happen when you travel with kids. You want to make sure not only that the dirty, snotty, messy eaters have enough clean clothes, but also that there is always something to entertain them with when needed.
When we most recently found ourselves once again packing for world travel with kids, I was already one step ahead. Not only did I have the experience of our past over-packed travels behind me, but having only selected 2 lots of 20kg checked luggage for several flights, we didn’t leave ourselves with much choice but to be very selective. The funny thing is, even with the hours of careful planning and packing I spent before we left, we have already realised, just in our 2 weeks at the Gold Coast, that there’s many things we don’t need.
So, here it is – what we originally packed, and what we have whittled it down to:
The biggest change we have made is our carry-on. At first, on the flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, each child had their own backpack full of toys and activities etc. I think this came about by a combination of excitement (“we’re travelling and this is all my stuff to keep me happy and entertained all over the world and have so much fun on the aeroplane with”), and worry that they may at some moment get bored (“let’s make sure they have plenty to keep themselves entertained so they don’t annoy the other passengers and embarrass and stress us out”). Rookie mistake! Firstly, four kids is a lot to handle. Four kids with four full backpacks is ridiculous. It is way too much to carry (especially when little kids get tired and can’t carry them themselves), takes up way too much room and gets plain crazy when each kid wants something different out of each one. The original plan was to place four of the carry-on bags inside the suitcases when we are transferring from airports. This was manageable but it made the cases very heavy and difficult to haul on and off buses or up and down stairs.
The problems with the kids carry-on was not just on the aeroplane. We learnt pretty much the day we arrived in our apartment that each bag held about 20% things the kids really love and use all the time, and then 80% things which seem to serve no purpose at all but to be strewn all over the floor while searching for something from the aforementioned 20%! So, we have now culled and amalgamated and created one single mother-ship kids entertainment\carry-on bag! This, along with a small nappy bag, a laptop bag and our camera bag will now be our only carry on.
Our original two large suitcases were pretty well used and starting to get a bit worn and bent out of shape so we decided that as we are streamlining our luggage and trying to reduce carry-on while still sticking to our 20kg checked bag limit, it would be a good idea to get new, good quality and lighter cases. After a bit of back and forth about whether we should go with large back-packs or cases, or something else, we decided we’d be better off just wheeling two suitcases when transferring, rather than having all that weight on our backs while trying to attend to all the kids. We ended up finding a sale locally where we got a good price on American Tourister Applite Large 82cm soft-side suit-cases. After a bit of hunting around and researching we found these to be a high quality, well made, sturdy and light option.
To check out prices and more info on these and similar cases click here.
By removing some other unnecessary items from our checked cases (mainly clothes) we have managed to fit everything that was in our other carry-on, into the cases. Now these small items of carry-on will fit easily into and on the pram and the two suitcases are lighter and more manageable when we are transferring to and from the airport.
And now, what we will leave from the Gold Coast with:
We have experienced many different temperatures and weather conditions over the last two weeks and really got a feel for which items of clothing we most need and want as well as figuring out how long we can go without needing to do some washing. I have also realised that not all items that we packed are clothes-dryer friendly and therefore non-practical (or no longer wearable……..).
The final list of clothing for each of the four older children is as follows (keeping in mind, if you haven’t figured it out already, I do tend to change my mind a lot, so there is every chance this may change dramatically in the next two months): 2 jumpers/jackets, 2 pairs trousers/jeans, 2 pairs leggings (or extra trousers for Korey), 3 long-sleeve tops, 5 t-shirts, 2 singlet/singlet-tops, 5 pairs of shorts/skirts, 1 dress, 7 pairs undies, 7 pairs socks, 1 pair sneakers, 1 pair thongs (flip-flops!), 1 pair bathers, 1 towel. I have packed considerably more for Ben who usually throws up on himself five seconds after I take his bib off. Peter has packed quite modestly for himself, but still with enough to last several days and as for me, who wore a different outfit every day for a week on our USA trip, I have packed so little it kind of scares me. I have enough for several days but I may need to go shopping at some point. Clothes shopping overseas, sounds horrible…….
As well as the cases and carry-on, we also have with us a Baby Jogger City Select 2-seater pram, a Baby Bjorn baby carrier and a Baby Bjorn travel crib (which hangs on the back of the pram during transfers). All these are such great products for travelling with kids and worth every penny for their long-lasting quality and ease of use.
The travel cot in particular is so handy in that it packs up so small and light-weight, folds out and packs away in seconds, and has a comfortable and supportive mattress. The pram is mainly for Ben but it’s great to put Korey and Lucy in when we are in a busy crowded airport and we need to get quickly through the crowds and out to the road side to catch a bus or train, or if we need to walk a long distance. All airlines that we have encountered so far are happy to check the pram and travel-cot at no charge (with an infant ticket) which is great. The carrier comes in extremely handy as Ben is usually in it when we board a flight so we have both hands free to carry bags and wrangle children.
We have also brought a small amount of books and stationary for the kids “schooling” as well as a laptop, an iPad, a small portable DVD player, DVD folder, two Nintendo DSs, cameras and all the associated chargers and cables.
So, the final result of packing for world travel with kids (and re-packing…….) is a lot more manageable than what we originally set out with. Check-in at the airport should hopefully be a lot less stressful and crazy than it was in Melbourne and hopefully we will cruise to the boarding gates with calm and ease…………..and five noisy, excited children………