10 ways to pack less for family holidays

It’s not about what you might need; it’s about knowing what you DO need. One mum of 2 shares her holiday-packing secrets...


Remember those (child-free) days when you could fit your holiday gear into 1 carry-on-bag.? Those days are definitely over! But, now that I have children, I refuse to give into being a packhorse. Here’s how…


1. Think smallest mode of transport

I have a baby and a toddler but, when I’m travelling, I prefer to go hands-free with an Ergobaby carrier. It makes airport security much less hassle, plus you’ll never have to worry about cobbled streets or steep steps when you get to your destination. If you can’t face holiday life without a buggy, though (and I’ve been there: the buggy was the only place my baby napped at one point!), then I’d recommend the Babyzen Yoyo Plus (suitable from birth). It’s very lightweight and folds down small enough to fit in a plane’s overhead locker. For toddlers, the Mothercare Pockit is a great lightweight choice and folds down just as small.

2. Make them carry on their own carry-on

Give your kids their own backpack containing a change of clothes, snacks, toys and headphones (like these Groove-e Kidz noise-limiting ones). Make sure the snacks are small and not too messy (I’d recommend oat bars or fruit roll ups) and choose toys such as crayons, notepads, stickers or small paperbacks which will also work well in restaurants once you get to where you’re going.

3. Streamline your changing and feeding gear

Don’t pack tons of bulky nappies and wipes; just buy them when you get there. Stow a few nappies, 1 pack of wipes, and a travel change-mat in your hand luggage (plus an empty plastic bag for rubbish). Leave the steriliser and home and use supermarket sterilising tablets for bottles and soothers. But, if you’re bottle-feeding, take your own formula milk (the same brands can be hard to find abroad)

4. Create a capsule wardrobe for each child

Pack a small number of layering clothes in coordinating colours, so that everything work together and can be used over and over. For boys, for example, pack shorts that can double up as swim shorts. Try to choose just 1 pair of shoes for each child and, if you’re going somewhere sunny, embrace the socks-and-sandals look at the airport: why pack shoes just for a plane ride?


5. Toys: think pared-down and portable

OK, so your children will only be able to take a small proportion of their toys away with them. But babies still need a safe zone to play, so you may want to invest in a portable playmat or even a portable baby jumper/bouncer, which you can use indoors or out.

6. Consider leaving the car seat at home

The last thing you’ll want to lug about is a separate car seat. Most car rental companies have car seats available to pre-book before you go. They should all conform to international safety standards, but do make the company confirm that the car seat isn’t out of date. Alternatively, if you’ve got a little baby, and your buggy frame can take a car seat, take the car seat and leave the buggy’s carrycot/seat unit at home instead.

7. Make friends with zip-lock bags

Fill zip-lock bags with essentials in miniature form (toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen). Remember, if you run out, you can always buy more on holiday. Pack another zip-lock with a basic first aid kit as miniaturised as possible – Calpol sachets (don’t bring the bottle), antiseptic wipes, a few plasters, and insect-bite cream.


8. Get smart with towels

Lightweight micro-fibre towels are ideal as they’re SO much less bulky than conventional towels. Use them as both bath towels and beach towels. They fold up small, and can be washed in your hotel sink and then hung out to dry (which they do in no time at all).

9. High chair? No, a pop-up seat

Eating outdoors is part of the fun of being on holiday, if you’re somewhere sunny. You’ll find there are a variety of portable high chairs and seats available for eating inside or al fresco.

10. Pack an old phone

If you have an old smartphone, bring that instead of forking out money – and taking up luggage space – with a specialised kid’s camera. Taking snaps is a great activity for small children and a lovely way for them record their holiday for a scrapbook project when they get home. The quality will still be good and you’ll easily be able to print or upload the photos when you get back.

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