I used to think I was an absolute pro at packing light and going carry-on only, especially when I used to hop around a lot for work as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young professional. I would zip through airports smugly with my black heels and little wheely bag, ready to take on a bustling city with vigor and enthusiasm.
Then I had kids.
My days of packing light were over (likewise the vigor and enthusiasm for air travel), and now not only do I have to pack clothes for two small people who seem to go through more outfits per day than Kim Kardashian, but I also must think about bringing emergency supplies, snacks for hungry tummies and solutions for constant entertainment. In our home, I usually take charge of all the packing for the whole family so that we don’t forget or double up on anything, so over the years I’ve come up with some techniques for making sure we have everything we need without going overboard.
Make a list for each type of trip and save it. I now have lists saved for “long weekend resort trip”, “Canada winter”, and so on. This way I’m not making a new list every time we travel, and I can tweak it based on what we’ve needed and not ended up using. Think about what you’re going to do on the trip and plan your outfits accordingly instead of randomly dumping everything into your suitcase just in case.
When selecting your clothes, think about packing outfits instead of just individual pieces of clothing so things will always coordinate. Pick a colour theme so you don’t need to worry about clashing or just go with neutrals that match everything. Be strategic with layers – if you’re going to a cold place, bring only a few bulky sweaters and wear layers underneath that you can change.
When getting ready for a big trip, I usually have the kids hovering around getting in my way as I pack since they’re SO excited to get going. I’ve started getting them involved, asking them to pick out their own clothes and roll them up for me. Benefits are three-fold – they start taking some responsibility for their own packing, they can’t complain that I forgot their favourite t-shirt, and it keeps them out of my hair when I’m trying to get everything else organized.
Be A Smartie With Your Space
I’m going to say this straight up - no, you don’t need so many pairs of shoes. Bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes, a nicer pair for evenings that go with everything, and a pair of flip flops for the beach. Lay out all the clothes and shoes you were planning to bring, and then remove a pair of shoes, a couple tops and a dress, I dare you. Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes or boots on the plane. Same goes for your poufy winter jacket – wear it and stuff it into the overhead bin (or certain airlines will even hang it up for you!)
I am a firm rolling convert. It really does save a ton of space in your suitcase. Put bulky items like jeans and sweaters on the bottom and pack your lighter items around them. Utilize all available space – stuff underwear and socks inside shoes, t-shirts inside hats and handbags, etc. It uses up space and helps these items keep their shape.
Pack multi-use items and space saving items, like reversible swimwear that can be used for two-looks in one or swimwear that can double as activewear. Light-weight Turkish towels can be used as a plane blanket, sarong or beach blanket. Choose dresses that can pull double duty for daytime or a casual dinner. Bring solid toiletries as much as possible – solid shampoos, conditioners and soaps – they take up less space, are lighter and won’t leak. Repeat after me: "I will not need a full-sized bottle of shampoo for a one-week trip." Transfer to those travel sized containers, my friend!
If you're going away for more than 10 days, I highly recommend planning to do laundry instead of carrying 2-3 weeks of clothes with you. Hotel laundry might seem expensive, but think about the cost of bringing excess baggage on the plane. Bring a small quantity of laundry soap with you so you can do a quick wash in the sink in a pinch.
Think about what you’ll need first and pack that at the top – if you’re arriving at your destination at night, PJs and toiletries should be the last to go in so they’re within easy reach when everyone is cranky and ready for bed; if you’re going to a resort, put a swimsuit for each person at the top so you can jump right into the pool on arrival. Pro tip: take some photos of the inside of each suitcase before you close it. Saves so much rummaging or wails of, “MAMA! Where is my blue super dino robot hat?”
Always pack a lightweight bag such as a tote or fold away backpack; we always use ours as a beach bag, carry all for sightseeing or shopping bag. Don’t forget to pack a spare t-shirt, undies and socks for everyone in the carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.
So I know we all TRY to not to depend on devices for the kids’ entertainment, but well, desperate times, ya know? Long-haul plane travel with young kids is a matter of survival, and I, for one, will not judge you. But aside from relying on Netflix downloads to keep the whining at a minimum, many public libraries have now gone digital and have e-books you can borrow on your device, including kids picture books. This will save you from lugging a bunch of heavy bedtime books around, and you won’t feel SO guilty using the iPad for this since you’re still reading stories together. Plus it’s totally free, and you can return and borrow new ones as often as you want!
I hope these tips were helpful as we all start travelling more again! Bon voyage!
August Society Founder & Creative Director