I used to pride myself on being a light packer. I could head on a weekend trip carrying only my regular day-pack backpack (a school-style pack I carried everywhere). I could pack for a month-long trip in a single, carry-on sized suitcase. I could have my bag ready for a trip of almost any length within a half-an-hour for a spontaneous trip. Who wants to lug tons of luggage through an airport? And it’s much harder to jump on local public transportation [read: to travel on a tight budget] if you’ve got a lot of stuff with you.
And then I had kids.
Kids make life less predictable. And somehow, it seems like they require more things. For instance, my toddler currently requires diapers as well as a big stack of training pants. Both of my boys need to have extra clothes, because it’s rare they can wear things more than once. If you have young kids, you probably understand this intimately. So we pack about 5 outfits a person, as well as a big bag of laundry soap – sensitive skin dictates that we bring our own – so we can do laundry wherever we are. (At this point, our trips frequently involve visiting a variety of out-of-state family members, so we thankfully have access to their washing machines).
We travel with car seats, a backpack style carrier to tote my toddler when needed, enough snacks to keep us fed for a full day should we be delayed, and books, art supplies, and sometimes a few small toys to keep my boys entertained. It feels like a ton compared to what I used to carry. But each trip we’re figuring out how to pack just a little bit lighter.
True, it helps that my boys are slowly getting older. Soon, I’ll be more likely to be able to re-wear my clothes again – even if my boys aren’t quite to that point – simply because my toddler will learn not to wipe his muddy hands on my pants or to use my shirt as a napkin (yeah, both of those things happen with more frequency than I would have thought).
Even so, I now have a better idea of what we truly need on trips. I’ve learned we don’t need more than a few favorite things to entertain my boys in the car, even when we’re driving almost 1500 in two days (yeah, we’re crazy that way). I’ve realized that we really do need to bring that much food and water. And I can pack all of our clothes for each of us in one small suitcase apiece.
It still feels like a lot when our car is loaded to the gills (such is one of the hazards of driving a small car), but I see families travelling with mini vans full of things plus a roof rack on top, and know that we’re really pretty light. We’re preparing to leave on a roadtrip, so I’ll try to post about what we pack to get us through lots of days of driving as well as time visiting family.
I’d encourage you to work on simplifying what you need to carry with you when you travel. Do you really need that many changes of clothes? Do you need to carry your own hairdryer? Can you survive with a few multi-purpose beauty products? Any little bit you can leave at home is progress, and every bit will make your journey lighter. It feels good to travel light. We’re working on getting back to that point, and I’d encourage you to give it a try.