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10 Top Tips For Minimalist Family Holiday Packing

When I mentioned to friends and family that our family of 3 would be travelling through Europe for 3 months with just 1 bag, they were gobsmacked. “But you have a toddler… in nappies!” they said. We were also crossing seasons, arriving in England in winter and leaving Italy in the sweltering summer.

10 Top Tips for Minimalist Family Holiday Packing

Here’s how we did it easily – one backpack weighing in at about 16kg on the check-in scales:

1. Multipurpose clothing will be your best friend

Rethink what clothes to take based on their multi-purpose functions.

Zip-off trousers aren’t just for hikers. They were by far our most used items of clothing. Zipped up as long trousers in winter and unzipped into shorts for summer. They’re also generally made from light, quick drying fabric – perfect!

Tights roll up tiny and were ideal as an extra layer in the winter without packing bulky jeans/trousers, and perfect in place of pyjamas.

My sarong was used as a scarf in blustery London, a pram cover as we waded through a protest in Paris, a picnic rug in Barcelona and a beach mat in Italy – and yes, as a sarong too!

2. Layer up to go from season to season

This is the only way to survive travel across seasons. As I mentioned above, think tights under lighter trousers, thin socks that can be doubled up and layers of singlets and short sleeved t-shirts – much more versatile than taking lots of long sleeved tops which wont last across seasons.

3. Segregate everything in your bag

If you don’t want to drive yourself mad looking for a pair of socks or a clean t-shirt in a bag full of clothes, you simply MUST segregate.

We segregated all clothes into packing cubes and it was amazing! Everyone got a colour – hubby was black, bubs was blue and I was green. There was a big bag that contained clothes, the medium bag was underwear and the small bag was shoes – all the same colours for the same family member. So, at any moment, you can reach into the bag and know that you’re pulling out exactly what you need.

We also had a separate bag for dirty laundry, so that never went back in with the clean clothes in the packing cubes. Once you discover this way of packing, you’ll never look back.

Packing cubes
Packing cubes

4. Roll and pad everything in your bag

When you look at the ‘large’ packing cubes which contained all our clothes, you might be wondering ‘how on earth!!?’. Well, as any seasoned traveller knows, roll roll roll and you’ll get double the clothes into the available space.

Also look at available ‘dead’ space – eg. if you’re packing shoes, pad the insides with the socks. The socks won’t be taking up valuable space and bonus is they’re easy to find when you want to get your shoes on!

5. Dump and buy as you go

Once we had left England and France and the weather started warming up, we chucked out some well-worn winter clothes that we knew we didn’t need again. When hubby tore a pair of shorts, they were chucked out. Socks wore out, in the bin. DO NOT lug around any more than you absolutely have to and definitely do not take along sentimental clothes that you’ll have a hard time throwing away.

And if you do need to replace anything – unless you’re travelling to deepest darkest Africa – I can absolutely guarantee you’ll find shops and clothes, underwear, socks, shoes, toiletries, nappies etc. If the locals are wearing it, they’re buying it from somewhere!

6. Laundry day made easier

We chose to stay in apartments our entire trip for a variety of reasons, including easy access to a washing machine. This helped immensely with having enough clean clothes to wear. If you’re packing a minimalist bag, this will make your trip much more comfortable. Also, be prepared to lower your standards – hand washing socks in the sink is OK.

7. Wear bulky clothes when on the move

If you do take bulky clothes or shoes, wear them when you’re on the move. So, we wore our bulky walking shoes on the plane and each time we moved between locations. Since both hubby and I have huge feet, it was much easier to wear the shoes than to lug around an extra few kilos in our bag. If it’s not sweltering, wear your bulkiest trousers and tops.

How to pack a minimalist bag for a family holiday. 10 Top Tips for Minimalist Family Holiday Packing. Click To Tweet

8. Vacuum pack whatever you can

This one sounds a little extreme, but we actually found it an ingenious solution to travelling with a toddler in nappies. Do you have any idea how much air is in nappies!? Try vacuum packing them and they’ll shrink to half their size. When unpacked, they spring back to absolutely normal. It was amazing.

This hack is also great for packing clothes you definitely no longer need but don’t want to dispose of eg. expensive fleecy jackets once the winter weather had well and truly gone. A reusable vacuum seal bag can seal and protect these items away so you can pack them in the bottom of your bag and forget about them.

I can think of other great uses too – vacuum seal gifts which you’ll dispose of once you get to your destination, or vacuum seal those purchases you really shouldn’t have made on your trip – they’ll take up far less room.

9. Rethink toys

Your kid loves that truck or brick of a book? Forget about it. Pack minimalist when it comes to toys. Think thin and light – soft cover books, flat puzzles, lots of stickers, playdough squashed flat, paper and crayons and small plush toys that can squish into the crannies of bags. Choose toys made of cardboard, foam, fabric or plastic and remember, kids in other countries have toys too! If your kids get bored, buy them something local.

10. Minimalist toiletries

This one is obvious, but do not take a 1L bottle of your favourite shampoo! You will be just fine buying small bottles as you go – and you don’t need 6 razors, a lifetime supply of toothpaste or medicine for every possible ailment you may or may not get. Pack small travel-sized toiletries and replenish as you go. Supermarkets and pharmacies are rife around the world!

If you do need to take medicine daily, have your pharmacist pack them in flat pods. These are easier to pack and with all the busyness of travelling, make it harder to forget a dose. Remember to secure all medicines from prying little hands. We packed all medicines into a small flat laptop case and padlocked it.


Minimalist travel may not be for everyone. For us however, it made our travels easier and therefore more enjoyable. Three months of lugging huge heavy bags on and off planes, trains, buses and ferries would have been excruciating. This was how we did it with ease and lived to tell the tale.

What are your top tips for travelling with a family? Leave us a comment below.


  1. October 9, 2016 at 1:38 AM

    Love these tips! Especially the packing cubes! I need some of those!

    • October 12, 2016 at 1:16 PM

      Thanks Paula 🙂

  2. October 9, 2016 at 12:25 AM

    This is great advice! I have never seen the cubes, what a fascinating and ingenious idea!

    • October 12, 2016 at 1:18 PM

      Thanks Lauren 🙂

  3. October 8, 2016 at 5:08 PM

    Love this post and agree with every point – hadn’t thought about the packing cubes though, that’s a good one!

    • October 12, 2016 at 1:17 PM

      Thanks Barbara, the packing cubes are brilliant!

  4. October 8, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    Yes I’m with you. Less really is more! Our kids are all well trained minimalists. Our daughter got selected in a travelling sporting team and turned up to the airport with a suitcase a third the size of everyone else. After too much attention, this year when she made the same team, we bought an enormous bag so she’d fit in. It still went half empty, but at least it looked the part. I think we’ll be right if we have to emigrate now…

    • October 12, 2016 at 1:19 PM

      Haha, good on her. Thanks for reading Rachel 🙂

  5. […] 10 Tips for Minimalist Family Holiday Packing by Mumma Hack […]

  6. October 5, 2016 at 7:48 PM

    I love this post. I do like to pack light when we go away but sometimes it’s hard with the kids. I’m taking your advice on board. Thanks for sharing at Thriving on Thursdays last week. I’m featuring your post at tomorrow’s party. Thanks again for coming.

    Anne @ Domesblissity

    • October 6, 2016 at 7:51 PM

      Thank you Anne 🙂 Yes, packing with kids is so much harder!

  7. October 3, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    Wow great post, I have seen those travel cubes used before and heard that they are very handy. Brilliant tips! Thanks for linking up #bestandworst

    • October 6, 2016 at 7:52 PM

      Thanks Helen 🙂 They sure are super handy.

  8. September 30, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    No matter how many times I read articles like this I will always be the one lugging the biggest suitcase through the airport.

    • October 6, 2016 at 7:53 PM

      Haha, it does take some practice 🙂

  9. September 30, 2016 at 6:16 AM

    Great tips. We did the Isle of Man one year in just a rucksack, can’t take a suitcase on a motorbike after all. Vacuum packing was defo our friend, plus, it kept things dry. Which was more than could be said for me!! #bestandworst

    • October 2, 2016 at 6:50 AM

      Isle of Man is lovely. Yes, I recall a very wet camping trip there many moons ago!! Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. September 30, 2016 at 6:01 AM

    I have a LOT to learn from you. I thought I was good at packing but I’m clearly really not! I love the packing pods. Where did you get them from? Also thanks for tip about vacuum packing nappies; Knew they were full of air but never occurred to me to use one of my vacuum bags. Thanks for sharing your tips! #CoolMumClub

    • October 2, 2016 at 6:48 AM

      Thanks Angela. The packing pods were an ALDI purchase but you can get them off eBay and camping/travel stores sell them too. Happy travels! 🙂

  11. September 29, 2016 at 11:29 PM

    With our first holiday with two under two coming up in November, this was a great read! Thanks for sharing x


    • September 30, 2016 at 5:43 AM

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  12. September 29, 2016 at 9:16 PM

    Wow. Just wow. You put me to shame – I can’t pack this lightly for one overnight stay! I guess in some situations you have to do what you gotta do.
    Impressive stuff! Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

    • September 30, 2016 at 5:43 AM

      Haha. You sure do! Thanks for reading 🙂