By: Courtney Byrne
Last summer we went away for 1 month. We were flying to Italy which meant we were not packing a car: we had to pack what we wanted to fly with. To make the packing situation a little crazier… we would be changing locations several times during the month via train. Packing as little as possible was key. When we were gone, one of the questions I got most often was “how did you pack for 6 people for a month?” It was not easy because most of my life I was the ultimate over packer. Here’s how we packed for a month:
First I’ll share a bit more about the “situation” at hand before I share the packing solutions. First, I flew to and from Italy without Tom (he met us there). I had my mom on the way there and my aunt on the way back but they had their own luggage. So when I was packing I had prepare to be able to carry everything myself. The next, obvious situation: there were a lot of us! Me + 4 kids. We would all need various types of clothes: we would be at the beach for a week, we would need pants and shoulders covered for the church visits but it was going to be 90 degrees every day so we also needed clothes we could tour around in with that weather. Speaking of weather: sweating all day + little kids eating gelato at night = not a lot of “re-wearing” an outfit the next day!
How We Packed for a Month
Now the packing solutions…
1. The luggage: as I mentioned before I needed to be able to carry everything myself and not just to and from the airport but also on several train journeys. On those journeys I also needed to be able to push a stroller and hold little kids hands so my only option was a backpack. I did a ton of research and ended up with the Osprey Fairview 70. I liked that it opened like a suitcase, had a removable 2nd bag that zipped off and I could carry a ton and still have my hands free. This bag was amazing and I would highly recommend it. The font backpack that zips onto it was perfect for using day to day also. So it was really 2 great bags in one. Then the girls each got an Osprey Jet 18 (also awesome). More on those below. I also had a few small bags that folded up to use for odds and ends on the trains (snacks etc).
2. The big kids had to help: The only way I was carrying luggage for a month for 5 people was if the 2 big kids helped out. I researched backpacks for kids and ended up with the Opsrey Jet 18. Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew was a big help in guiding me on what my kids could carry. My girls were 6.5 and 8 when we travelled (and both are small for their age). The Jet 18 was the perfect size for them and fit SO much. The padded straps and the chest/waist bands were also perfect for their size and what they were carrying. Each of the girls carried EVERYTHING they would take for the month: clothes, shoes, books, etc.
3. Laundry: I checked ahead to see if places we were staying had laundry. I also checked to see if there were places to take laundry near the apartments were were renting (using Google maps). I knew ahead of time I would have plenty of opportunity to do laundry. I also knew in Italy many apartments have washers but no dryers. Therefore I packed things I knew would quickly air dry.
4. Packing Cubes: If you don’t know about my love of packing cubes, visit this post: Tips & Favorites When Packing
5. How we made room to bring things home: We left some clothes there. This may seem wasteful, but hear me out… I knew that the kids clothes would take a lot of messy wear and tear. Have you seen the photos of Miles eating spaghetti and gelato?! I went to Old Navy during their big toddler sale and bought them tees that were $4. Then, after a month of washing them over and over, air drying and trying my best to get stains out… we left them. I wish I took photos of what they looked like at the end! I also brought a few things that the kids had almost outgrown. We didn’t toss a lot, but enough that the kids had a bit of room to bring their favorite things they collected home.
6. We did a have the chance for a swap: Full disclosure – Tom coming half way was a help. That’s another way we made room in the bags. He was able to bring a few things I forgot and I was able to send home some of the stuff we used our week at the beach. Before he got there, we were at the beach and while he was there in Tuscany with a pool but after he left I knew we’d only go in a pool maybe once, so he took everything swim related home but 1 suit a kid.
7. Pack the lightest items: clothes and shoes. This was important since the girls and I would be carrying everything on our backs. The kids got Native sandals (SO light) to pack and wore their Keens on their feet for travel. I picked the lightest pjs I could find. Same for clothes, I picked the dresses the girls had that weighed the least. When we did our trial run and the bags were too heavy, I went in and took out whatever I could that wasn’t super light and thin. For a sweatshirt: they each had 1 and wore it on the plane.
8. 2 pjs: each of the kids (and me) each got 2 pairs of pjs. This seemed crazy, because at home they wear different pjs nightly, but I went with it. They would wear them a few nights in a row before I washed them and it worked out totally fine having 2 pairs for the month.
9. Solid colors for easy mix & match: this was key and now I do this for all trips. For example: for the boys I will bring about 3 shirts per 1 pair of shorts. For the boys and girls it was pretty much all clothes that could mix and match. Primary.com is great for this.
10. Pack, walk around, repack: We had to do this a few times… it was not fun and pretty stressful. I packed my bag and it was so heavy when I put it on my back I almost fell over! Then same thing with the girls packs. I was more concerned with theirs than mine. So for them, I made them walk around, walk up and down the stairs, etc. to really make sure they were OK with their bags.
11. What about toys and books and iPads: We didn’t pack them! Call me crazy… but it saved so much space and weight. For the flight there, the boys had their blankies. The girls had neck pillows & 2 chapter books and a journal each. I didn’t want them to do anything on the flight there but sleep. Then we collected books, sticker books etc as we travelled. As for iPads: I had 1 we used for movies in the apartments when needed. I had Tom bring their Kindles & 2 new chapter books for the flight home when it would be 9 hours in the middle of the day. They all collected small toys along the way.
12. Think ahead for what you can buy there: This is key because.. not only because I was trying to carry as little as possible because we’d be moving around so much but also because it was cheaper to buy some stuff there than to pay for more luggage. I knew that things like snacks, shampoo, sunscreen, sippy cups etc were very inexpensive in Italian grocery stores. So I didn’t pack any of that. We really lucked out because in Rome, around the corner from our apartment, was what we called “mini Italian Target”. It was a shop that sold everything you could imagine, including little toys & coloring books for less than a euro.
Please let me know if you have other questions for more info I can add! I love chatting packing 🙂
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