How to Pack for a 6 Week, 5 Country Adventure with Kids

There are two forms of travel:  “First Class”, or “With Children”.

Watching harried parents placate exhausted kids while they wait at the baggage carousel after an 11 hour flight will make you question ever travelling with offspring.

There are ways to make traveling with kids easier though.  Whether I’m sending the kids to grandma’s house for the weekend, or packing up for a 6 week European summer vacation, each person is allotted 1 carry on roller and 1 backpack.  Nothing is checked in, ever.

Checking in luggage is a hassle.  Not only do you have to wait in long bag-drop lines at the airport, but you risk baggage loss and other mishaps.  Additionally, there are few forms of parental torture worse than dealing with cranky kids at the baggage carousel when you are exhausted from an 11 hour flight.

And I say nuts to moving large, heavy and cumbersome baggage from one destination to another (and possibly up flights of stairs if your Airbnb or hotel lacks an elevator), risking back injury and an all- out curse fest in front of tittering youngsters.


On this 6 week trip, we are going from London, a cool, damp city with a dressy, upscale vibe, to Spain and France, which are both hot, sultry destinations calling for sun dresses, beach wear, and cute sandals, to Norway and Iceland, which are again cold, with extreme weather changes even in summer.  In addition to cute vacation outfits, we need hiking shoes/socks, pants, and warm jackets for these last two countries, as we will be doing a lot of outdoor adventuring.

I managed to pack all of these many outfit variations into my carry on luggage by using packing cubes in various sizes.

  1. 7 pairs of underwear and socks get crushed/squeezed/smashed into one teenie tiny cube
  2. 7 shirts (3 long, 4 short), 1 nice sweater, 3 shorts, 3 pants, 2 dresses get crushed into another, large one.
  3. Down hiking jacket/fleece gets compressed into its own little sac
  4. Toiletries (as years go by these take up more and more room.  I now have a pre-teen who needs her own face wash, moisturizer, acne cream, and sunscreen.  I have an 8 year old who’s port wine stain birthmark requires two kinds of makeup with yet a different sunscreen, and then of course my own assortment of face creams, washes, retinA, eye-makeup, rouge.
  5. Medications get their own little cube.  After enduring epic, night long vomit fests when the kids were small, I always carry a handy bottle of prescription anti-emetic.  Thankfully I haven’t had to use it on a trip, but its there just in case someone starts barfing at 2am.  Tylenol, a nail clipper, and Afrin for stuffy noses also make the cut.
  6. Hiking shoes get packed into the edges, along with a pair of flipflops and 1 dressy pair of sandals.  Kids wear their Converse on the airplane.


And, that’s pretty much all that these carry on’s will take.  Any overflow goes into the backpack, along with flight survival materials.  I’ve gotten these down to a science.

  1. Overnight flights only: Memory foam neck pillow that can be squeezed, smashed, or otherwise compressed into a tiny airtight sac.  I normally don’t use these as intended- rather, they usually end up cushioning someone’s tush, or being used as a back support, or perhaps being propped between a kids head and the window.  They come in handy!
  2. Large, pretty shawl that doubles as a blanky, beach sarong, trendy scarf, and neck wrap.  I’ve even used them as dresses for my girls in a pinch.
  3. Trader Joe’s Snack Smorgasbord:  I’m a sugar nazi, but on long flights its fun to binge on something new and tasty.  I still avoid buying candy outright, but if it has any kind of protein, it’s fair game.  4-5 different offerings keeps everyone entertained, and they double as emergency rations in case of late night starvation.
  4. Pair of disposable socks to keep feet cozy.  Operative word being disposable.
  5. Mini Toiletry Kit: I don’t hoard many things, but I do save every skincare, perfume, and lotion sample that I can get my hands on.  Hot Tip: gives 3 free samples with every purchase.  Those are money on long flights, when my skin is parched and I smell like a barn.
  6. Empty water bottle

For the love of God, don’t pack crayons, modeling clay, or anything that smacks of educational bullshit.  Your kids will hate you, your fellow passengers will hate you, and you will hate yourself when you are carting an extra 10lbs of art supplies through the terminals.  Do yourself a favor and pack an ipad if you must.  Enjoy the time to binge watch your own shows, and let the kids enjoy theirs.


Traveling is stressful enough.  Lighten the load and leave all but the essentials behind.  Enjoy the feeling of wheeling your tiny bag through the airport while you laugh at all those sucker parents waiting for their 10,000 lb suitcases at baggage claim purgatory.  You’ll be in your uber and off to a well-deserved rest by the time their first bags come trundling from the plane’s underbelly.



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