Whether you're traveling solo or with 12 children, most folks show up at the airport with an SUV full of equipment and a couple Sherpa to pack it. As a result, you arrive haggard at your destination and then return home wondering if it was really worth it. If you truly want to pack a dead yak in your suitcase, this isn't for you. On the other hand, if you're interested in making the trip to your destination enjoyable, by all means read on.
We had an epiphany during a trip to San Francisco. We had taken our two kids to Northern California, flying into Sacramento and out of San Francisco. We had a single mid-sized piece of checked luggage for the four of us along with two Rollaboard suitcases, two umbrella strollers, and two regular-sized backpacks. This was a little heavier than we normally would pack, but because the only time we'd have it all together outside of a car was riding BART to San Francisco Airport, we thought we could manage. We stuffed them to the rafters on the way out, but forgot about getting souvenirs and sourdough bread. By the time we were on our way to BART (via a city bus), we had the Rollaboards, a plastic bag, a box of bread, two backpacks, and two separate strollers. It was a nightmare. Have you ever tried taking a house from street level down 50 feet underground? It's not easy. We had to make separate trips, leaving kids crying and unattended because they were scared of the escalators and we still had to haul enough material to supply Patton's Third Army. It was at this very moment when we decided enough was enough and came up with some principles to help us out.
1. Plan, plan, and plan some more
Decide what you are going to wear each day (try to bring only one pair of shoes, if possible). Make a list before you go so you can check things off as you pack. Find small toys for the kids that can entertain them for long periods of time (coloring, stickers, small cars or Polly Pockets). If you have a long flight you can wrap little things in paper for them to unwrap along the way. Bring snacks that last a long time. One fun snack is Twizzler pull-aparts because they can make shapes and things out of them, then eat them. Two-in-one!
2. Control your stroller space
There are massive luxury strollers these days, but ultimately a single or double umbrella stroller folds up smaller than anything else and works just as well. You can gate check it and it's light enough to maneuver almost anywhere.
We've been huge fans of The Amazing Race and one of the main things we noticed was that every team, that was a threat to win, had on hiking backpacks. We immediately picked one up. In our opinion, this is the best travel invention known to man. It can get heavy, but you'll feel light as a feather knowing that you aren't dragging something behind you. You can go anywhere your feet can and your arms are free to take care of what they need.
4. Wash things while you are on vacation
Hotels charge you a bundle for laundry services, but they provide you with all the essentials in your room. You can scrub your clothes in the sink and dry them on the shower curtain rod or clothesline. You can use the in-room hair dryer to speed the process if you desire. As a result, we've dramatically cut down on the amount of clothes we take. Three sets of clothes should work for any length of trip. We also get travel-sized Febreze and wrinkle release to freshen up our clothes in-between washes.
5. Figure out what you can buy at your destination
It's worth it to skimp on diapers or baby food if you can buy them while on vacation. You don't want to spend your entire trip looking for a store, but a little research beforehand goes a long way.
6. Get a bigger checked bag
Our rule of thumb is two adults + two children can fit in a medium-sized bag. If you have a larger family, adjust accordingly. Get the largest one that fits an airline's definition of checked bag. "But what about weight?" Fret not! Pack clothes and/or diapers. Nothing else.
7. Get an iPad or other tablet
We realize we're getting expensive here, but hear us out. It's changed our travel lives. It has enough battery life to get you between almost any two airports in the world. It holds hours of movies it does books, and it has games. We have replaced innumerable books, movies, and games with a tiny little slate, saving valuable weight and space in the process. It's absolutely astonishing, and it's a "must have" travel companion.
8. You don't need a lot of toiletries
Yes, there are some that you won't have where you stay. Get sample sizes and put anything larger in smaller containers. Don't try to pack your whole beauty regimen in a suitcase. It's a recipe for disaster.
9. Ship it
Beau has done some public speaking that required handouts. We'll do research to find the nearest place to print his things. If it's materials like books, we'll send it to his hotel, a few days early, so that it's there when he needs it.
We know it sounds minimalist and difficult; however, it's one of the best things we've done! Give it a try...once you feel the unfettered freedom of walking through the airport without dragging things behind you, you'll never go back!