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Minimalist Packing: A Two Week Family Trip to Europe

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The time has come! The family and I are finally off on our rescheduled two-week trip to Europe after a major passport fail this summer. Public service announcement: kids’ passports expire every five years – not ten like adults. Lesson learned. The hard way. Onward!
minimalist packing
I’ve yet to meet a kid or teenager who likes lugging heavy suitcases around, and we all wanted to feel unencumbered and fancy free, so for this trip I challenged myself to pack lighter than ever! Read on for all the details and tips for how to pack faster, lighter, and better for your next big trip.

 

The Prep

 

Weather: Before any big trip I like to set myself up for success by prepping a few things ahead of time. I always check the weather a week or so before, so I can buy or borrow any necessary gear. In this case, rain was in the forecast, so I ordered a compact lightweight umbrella (I am a real minimalist when it comes to umbrellas – read: we have none) and made sure my girls had warm enough, but inexpensive lightweight jackets (since they have a reputation for losing every single jacket I have ever bought them).

 

Socks and Underwear: Funny as it sounds, it’s crucial to make sure you have plenty of socks and underwear before a big trip – especially if you won’t have access to laundry. I like to pack enough pairs of each for the number of days I’m away, plus a few back-ups.

 

Chargers and Adapters: Not all countries charge the same. I always make sure to double check that I’ve packed the appropriate chargers and adapters for each place I’m going. This travel adapter kit has been a game changer and covers 150 countries around the world.

 

Vitamins and Prescriptions: About a month before a big trip I try to make sure we are stocked up on vitamins, medicines, and prescriptions. Some items can be difficult to find while traveling so best to get your kit ready. I have also started to pack out a mini pharmacy of over the counter cough, cold, upset stomach, and pain relief meds so I don’t need to go wandering around a strange city looking for relief if someone gets sick.

 

Tipping and Foreign Currency: Before leaving the country, I will do a quick search to understand tipping culture and see if I need to have any cash on hand.

 

Passports, Flights, Accommodations: As I found out this summer, it’s crucial to check passport expirations, not days or weeks, but months before an international trip. Regulations are frequently changing, and even if your passport expires within six months you can be rejected at the airport. Make sure to set aside some time to ensure that your passports and credit cards are up to date, and your flights and accommodations have all been confirmed.

 

The Packing

 

There are almost no circumstances in which I will willfully check a bag. Each member of my family owns a single small carry-on bag ,and that’s all we ever use no matter where we’re headed, or for how long. A few things I like to think through before I roll up my sleeves and start packing: What is the nature of the trip? What activities will we be doing? How do I want to feel? Will there be any events or dinners to dress up for? Will there be laundry available? Are there any cultural norms to keep in mind out of respect (i.e. covered shoulders etc.)?

 

For this family trip I knew we would mainly be walking, exploring, and eating, so it was easy to keep our packing list super light and basic. I like to pick a basic outfit formula and simple color palette when I travel to make packing even easier. For this trip I started by picking my jacket (a light trench) and shoes (white sneakers and my favorite light as air waterproof boots). Then I just added a bunch of basic t-shirts, blouses, a chambray, two pairs of pants, a wrinkle-free dress, and a cozy hoodie. Done and done.

 

When it came to my kids, I just plopped down on their beds and had them pull out the following (note: we are not dress-up people, especially when we travel).

 

12 pairs of socks and underwear
10 tops
3 bottoms
1 dress
pjs + sleep camis
Sneakers, sweats and a puffer for the plane

 

It literally took five minutes to pack up their clothes into packing cubes (I use these), place them in each of their respective suitcases, and call it a day. We were all very pleased.

 

Last Minute Additions

 

Once I’m packed up, I like to add a sticky note to each bag as a reminder of any last minute additions. Typically this includes a hairbrush, toothbrush, chargers, vitamins, electronics, water bottle, toiletries, and snacks. Now that the girls are old enough, they each pack their own tote for the plane which includes toiletry bags, headphones, snacks, and a few books.

 

Each time I travel, I am reminded of how little we really need, and it feels liberating to take a light bag and focus on the adventures ahead.

 

In case it’s helpful, I’m linking my packing checklist RIGHT HERE which you can customize for your next trip.

 

Safe travels! x

 

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson

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18 comments on “Minimalist Packing: A Two Week Family Trip to Europe

    1. Of course! They are the Brooke rain boot from Freda Salvador. A bit of a splurge but light as air, super comfy, and waterproof. Here’s the link and you can use the code 15SHIRA for 15% off: freda-salvador.sjv.io/9Woz43

    1. I’ve been using the smallest carry-on from Away for years and it’s held up well. I also love that it meets European carry-on standards which is smaller than the US size. Xx

  1. Thanks for sharing! I love this, and aspire to travel this way with my three kids. I’m also a serial bag seeker, seeking out the perfect bag and have yet to discover it but I’m curious which bags you use as carry-on for kids? I was debating on trying out backpack-only travel (when we have laundry access) with them though they’re still elementary age…

    1. Freda Salvador! They are a splurge but very high quality, super comfy, and waterproof. Here’s the link and you can use the code 15SHIRA for 15% off: freda-salvador.sjv.io/9Woz43

  2. With regards to medication, always have a script from your doctor for your medications, my husband is currently in Tbilisi, Georgia and one of his medication is a controlled substance in that country , it could make customs clearance difficult, especially if you don’t speak the language.
    Where are you headed too? I live in Portugal and even though we have a mild climate compared to most of Europe I would need warmer clothing than what you have described, I hate being cold, I would definitely need more warm jerseys.
    Enjoy your trip

    1. Thanks for sharing! I run quite warm so need less layers than most but so far my light trench and sweatshirt has been perfect for the cooler days in London and Rome. x

  3. Since I straighten my hair I had large roller brush and regular brush and either flat iron or curly iron that take up tons of space in my carry on. I have had to be careful to make sure where I am staying has a hair dryer only recently stopped bring portable hair dryer. But I always have to sacrifice something to allow for space for these items. 🙁

  4. Thanks for sharing! I’m trying to narrow down our weekend traveling with a baby. How do you pack your daughters toiletries and the medicine/mini pharmacy?

    1. We just use simple pouches for toiletries and medicine and remove all bulky packaging like cardboard and plastic to maximize space.x

    1. My pleasure! I bought once secondhand when I found out it was supposed to be raining but also loving the non-waterproof version from The Curated. x

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