Packing light is a challenge on every family vacation. Most airlines now charge for checked bags, and overhead bins are stuffed. There is only so much cargo space in the family car. Cruise ship cabins are ridiculously small. And, who wants to haul unnecessary suitcases into a hotel room or vacation home? Nobody, that’s who.
The solution is to pack less and pack smart. By packing carefully, my family of four spent 10 days in Florida with three small suitcases and we spent 11 days in New York with one large suitcase and two backpacks. We packed casual clothes, dress clothes, accessories, swimwear, jackets, pajamas, underwear, two pair of shoes, personal hygiene items, laundry detergent, electronics, books, toys and snacks for the whole family. Here’s how:
Wear clothes twice
Clothes typically take the most space, and are most redundant, so that’s the obvious place to cut back. You probably don’t need as much clothing as you think. I’ve found that well chosen clothes can usually be worn at least a couple of times without needing more than a spot scrub with a washcloth. That means you can pack three outfits or less for a one-week trip, plus what you wear on the day you leave.
To be clear, I do not recommend wearing underwear twice. I am never that desperate for suitcase space, and you can hand wash delicates in the hotel sink if needed.
Plan to do laundry once a week. It will ensure that those three outfits will last as long as your vacation. Most U.S. towns have laundromats, or better yet, choose a hotel or vacation home with guest laundry facilities. Laundromats often have efficient machines that wash and dry your clothes fast, and you can use more than one washer at once, so laundry doesn’t have to take you away from your vacation for long.
Pack a small travel bottle of liquid laundry detergent with your personal hygiene items. You can use it to hand wash items in your hotel sink. You can purchase detergent in laundromats, or bring your own detergent gel packs. Pack a roll of quarters too. They take very little space.
Choose versatile pieces
Pack clothing that can be worn in lots of different ways. For women and girls, I love maxi dresses. They are comfortable enough to wear on an airplane, and dressy enough for a Broadway matinee or date night dinner. Sometimes a scarf or necklace can transform an outfit while taking little space in a suitcase. For men and boys, a collared golf shirt is comfortable and casual, but it will still get you into a cruise ship dining room.
Pack around a common color theme
Choosing outfits that you can mix and match will help keep your travel wardrobe versatile and interesting. If one article of clothing gets dirty, you can still wear a piece from that outfit with something else. If all your clothes work together, you can pack fewer shoes.
Denim is bulky. It takes more space in a suitcase than other fabrics and is not comfortable in warm climates. That doesn’t mean that I never pack denim. Jeans and tees are durable staples for my kids and a stylish pair of jeans can be versatile. However, if you’re trying to find more space in the suitcase, swapping out the denim for lighter fabrics may help.
Buy when you get there
I usually prefer to do my shopping before the trip because it’s often a time and money saver. However, if space is an issue, you can almost always replenish supplies like diapers, wet wipes, sunscreen and snacks after you arrive at your destination. If you expect to buy souvenir t-shirts, consider those wardrobe additions when you pack.
What are your favorite tricks for packing less? Please share them in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Paul Lowry via Flickr
Looking for more packing tips?
- Check out our printable packing list.
- 3 ways to use packing cubes
- What I wish I’d known before my first cruise
- Our Best Family Travel Tips Pinterest board