Juggling luggage and kids is no easy task, so packing light can make family travel more manageable. But how light is too light?
I don’t mind toting a suitcase around and I like to travel with a reasonable variety of colours and styles of clothes. So I don’t generally see the point of travelling carry on only. Besides, with kids in tow I would rather check a medium size case or two, so we don’t have too much to keep track of around the airport and on the plane.
But the kids keep growing and those suitcases are filling up more quickly each year. On a recent trip the kids took up so much of the suitcase that I was “forced” to limit myself to a minimalist travel wardrobe.
Becoming a temporary minimalist
At 9 and 7 they’re pretty good at packing by themselves, but for this trip once their gear went into the suitcase there wasn’t much space left for me!
Rather than asking them to reassess what they packed, I thought I’d take it as a challenge to see how little I could get away with taking. I voluntarily became a temporary minimalist.
I figured the worst that could happen is that I’d have to go shopping. Given our destination was Melbourne, that’s not such a bad outcome.
Travelling with a minimalist travel wardrobe
Benefits of minimalism
A limited travel wardrobe requires more planning at home, but makes the trip itself easier –
- Possible to travel carry-on only, which saves time at the airport and avoids the risk of your bags getting lost.
- Having less luggage means less to drag around between airports and accommodation.
- Allows you to check less luggage, which could save you money on budget airlines.
- Don’t have the frustration of taking things that you never wear.
- Makes getting dressed each day simpler and quicker.
Planning your wardrobe
- Start by checking the weather forecast and thinking through what you’ll be getting up to while away.
- Trying your outfits on before you go helps avoid discovering that they don’t work while on holiday.
- Consider taking an extra layer (eg leggings or a light knit) in case it’s colder than you expect. Or a lighter option for unexpectedly warmer weather.
My 10-piece travel wardrobe
We would be in Melbourne for about 8 days. With the weather forecast to be around 21˚c, I chose to take –
- 2 long t-shirts – white and striped
- 2 dresses – day dresses that could be layered
- 2 shoes – flat ankle boots and sneakers
- 2 jeans – charcoal and blue
- 2 jackets – casual blazer and denim jacket
With the weather being cool I was happy to wear everything twice. I didn’t do any washing while away.
Travelling light on trial
The kids and I were travelling with a 67cm high medium-size suitcase. Hubster flew down separately to join us on day 6.
As you can see below, by the time they squished their gear into a large and a small packing cell each, I didn’t know if I would fit!
Out of the wardrobe above, I wore 1 dress, 1 shoes and carried on 1 jacket and a scarf. The balance went into the suitcase together with another scarf, underwear (including 2 pairs of coloured tights), toiletries (more details below) and pyjamas. And I’m still loathe to travel without my hairdryer and straightener, so they got squeezed in too.
Interestingly, during this trip I did a bit of shopping for the kids including dressing gowns and slippers. I thought I might have to post them home, but I ditched the packing cells, and had no problem fitting it all in.
Minimal toiletries and make-up
Taking a small make-up bag rather than my big toilet bag saved a lot of space. My bare minimum was (as pictured) –
- Face moisturiser and firming booster
- Body moisturiser
- Toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner from a previous hotel stay
- Razor, tweezers, cotton buds
- Basic makeup – mascara, lipstick and perfume
I also took some makeup removal wipes, brush, comb and hair styling products.
9 days of outfits created from a minimal wardrobe
We stayed with family and spent most days catching up with family and friends, so our day-to-day activities were mostly decided in advance. This meant that I could plan my outfits more easily based on the weather forecast and our plans.
My outfits were pre-planned for specific days, but for a “normal” holiday you can have a bit more freedom. Just as long as you’ve got enough outfits!
Day 1 – Flying out
Our travel day meant dressing light for a mild Sydney day, but packing leggings, scarf and a jacket in carry on in case Melbourne was freezing. Outfit picture above.
Day 2 – Shopping with Mum
A day of hanging out with Mum and Dad is the first order of business on a Melbourne trip.
Day 3 – Scienceworks
Scienceworks is super brilliant and easy to get to on public transport. My parents-in-law joined the kids and I for a fun day running against Cathy Freeman in the Sports section, watching lightning demonstrations and heaps more.
Day 4 – Playground with the kids
Hanging out with Mum, Dad and the kids made for a relaxing day in between our two big outings.
Day 5 – Werribee Open Range Zoo
We hadn’t been to Werribee Zoo for a few years and, after our epic Sydney to Dubbo drive to Taronga Western Plains Zoo last year, I now more than ever appreciate the awesomeness and convenience of this beautiful open range zoo.
Day 6 – Lunch with hubster’s extended family
Today was a big family lunch at my parents-in-law’s place with aunties, uncles and cousins.
Day 7 – Brunch with my family
Headed to Birdie Num Nums, a cool kid-friendly cafe in Carlton, for a catch-up with my family. Although my kids are a bit past the sandpit in the courtyard, its family-friendly environment makes for an easy and delicious inner city option.
Day 8 – A night away at QT Melbourne
A trip to Melbourne means an opportunity to leave the kids with Mum and Dad and get away for 24 hours with hubster. Being big fans of QT Sydney and Gold Coast I was keen to break out of our Crown Metropol habit and try the new QT Melbourne. In true QT style it had a unique personality and a fabulously eclectic design.
Day 9 – Fly home
After a leisurely morning and late checkout we picked up the kids and headed home.
Would I go minimalist again?
I found my outfits a bit repetitive, so would prefer to at least take an extra top or two if I could squeeze them in. But if I did take just the two tops I would choose ones that were more different from each other in colour, so my outfits looked and felt more varied.
Although there were limitations to a small travel wardrobe, I loved not having to think about what I was going to wear each morning. I would definitely do it again if I thought it would make the trip easier.
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What does travelling light mean to you? Is 10 items still too many for a week away or do you prefer a more generous wardrobe?