Minimalist Packing Tips for Family Road Trips

Packing simply for a family road trip may seem impossible--but if we can do it, so can you!

Before having kids, my husband and I did our fair share of traveling. He and I have both lived in other countries for short seasons and have visited several others. Since having children we haven’t traveled out of the country, but we have flown with them a couple of times and taken long road trips together, which you can read about more in my last blog post. Over time, we’ve learned how to pack more efficiently. Here are a few tips for packing minimally for a family.

1.Pack a Travel Bag and a Destination Bag

This tip may not seem very minimalist, but it’s a big help on multi-day road trips when you have a final destination. I talk about this a bit in my last post. Pack a bag of clothes for your road trip and a bag of clothes for your final destination. For ease, think of it like a carry-on bag and a check bag. Keep the carry-on bag near the front so it’s easily accessible, and keep the check bag in the trunk. Your carry-on should (or could) be smaller than your check bag, as you won’t have as much to pack. Pack the amount of clothes you’ll need for the amount of days you’ll be traveling, and pack your toiletries in your carry-on bag, too.

2.Pack the Adult Bags and the Kids Bags Separately

This tip only applies to your “check bag.” Ideally, you could pack both yours and your kids clothes in the “carry on.” But for your “check bag,” pack one adult bag and one kids bag. So, my husband and I pack our clothes, shoes, and toiletries together in one bag, and then, we pack the kids clothes and diapers together in another.

3.Pack for One Week

Only pack for the number of days you’ll be gone up to one week’s worth of clothes. If you’ll be gone longer than a week, chances are a washer and dryer will be accessible so you can wash clothes, if necessary. I generally have a couple of pairs of pants, one pair of shorts, and a swim suit. Then around 6 or 7 shirts. I rarely wear dresses, though this would be even more minimal. For the kids, I follow the same rule, though I usually pack around 7 different outfits for them not including pajamas.

4.Pack a Cooler

This is something else I mention in our last post. Pack a cooler of food for your road trip. It requires a bit of pre-planning, but having healthy food accessible and ready to go saves time and money. Long road trips are hard on your body, and this way you can stop anywhere whether or not food is available nearby. We packed breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner, and we brought our Aeropress along so we could make our own coffee. I pre-made most of the meals so we didn’t need to bring along a cooking method, as we camped on the way.

5.Pack an Extra Bag

So in addition to our normal luggage, my husband and I will often bring a separate backpack or  tote bag along to use when we reach our final destination. In our backpacks we’ll bring things like our laptops, a notebook, pen or pencil, camera, headphones, computer chargers, book or kindle, phone chargers, etc. Packing these items separate from our normal luggage makes much more sense to us.

Those are a just a few tips for packing minimally as a family. Full disclosure: I’m not an expert on minimalism, but my family does travel as simply as we can. We were able to fit two adults and two toddlers with their carseats, as well as a large cooler, camping gear, and our luggage for a two week road trip into our Prius without luggage racks. So, if we can do it, you can, too!

Categories: It’s Simple