40+ Tips to Traveling Ultralight with Families: Rules of the Road

My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

It’s time to take the kids on a trip! If your idea of vacation pre-gaming is playing a game of tetris between the mound of gear spread out on your front lawn and the mini-van: you may be off to a bad start. This is Part 1 of a 4 part series on how to travel with families without getting bogged down by all the stuff you need to take with you.  In this article, let’s take a look at some general advice and how to lessen the amount of travel gear you take with you.

Ultralight Family Packing Tips

My husband, three year old son and I have set off on a round-the-world adventure. We have years of traveling experience and have gotten things down to a science, allowing us to travel with one backpack of clothing and toiletries for the three of us (yep, go back and re-read that: one bag for three people), one backpack of tech gear we use for this blog and our other business: Purveyor of Geekery and one additional day pack backpack
that basically exists for the soul purpose of housing our second computer. My husband suggested that we consolidate down to one but I’m pretty sure that is how divorces happen. I’m not big girl enough to share a computer, yet.

Ultralight is guided by three principals:

  1. cutting down on the number of belongings you carry,
  2. cutting down on the total weight of your belongings, and
  3. cutting down on the amount of space they take up.

We’ll go over our packing list in a different article, but here our some of the lessons we’ve learned that help us pop in and out of trains, hotels and planes without the struggle or luggage waiting games.

The General Spirit

  1. Rent it instead of lugging. You can rent car seats from rental car companies or find a company near where you are headed that rents gear like pack and plays, strollers, bikes, high chairs and more. 
  2. Stick to Public Transportation. We have a Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat that is FAA approved for use on airplanes, but lugging that steel framed body through airports is something we only try to do when traveling to the United States, where train service isn’t as common as in Europe or else where. We plan our adventures around public transportation like trains and planes between locations then go it on foot once we arrive.
  3. Pass it on. You can buy items new or used when you arrive and just donate it before you leave. 
  4. Order it in advance. Major attractions like Disney have businesses nearby that will deliver your groceries and goods to your hotel, and Amazon delivers everywhere. Hotels don’t mind receiving shipments for you, even a few days in advance. Just call the front desk to confirm. Plan to have some items waiting for you when you arrive can help narrow down what you pack.
  5. One in, One out. Instead of collecting enough random travel chotchkies to fill an additional suitcase on the return journey, take not-so well loved items in the first place and find keepsakes that you can replace the things already in your bag with like new t-shirts, swimwear, hair brushes, etc. This works really well with toys.
  6. Don’t be afraid to edit. Don’t take your favorite items with you when you travel, that way you can get rid of things as you go if you find they just aren’t working as well as you hoped. (ex. that pair of travel pants in the annoying fabric you just had to have. Guilty.) And no, just because you spent money on it does not make it right to hang on to that backpack that clearly isn’t working for your family. Replace it, remove it, optimize it, move on. 

That’s the general overview of packing ultralight. Stay tuned for:

Part 2 – Ultralight Travel Gear (pending)

Part 3 – Clothing (pending)

Part 4 – Toiletries (pending)

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My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

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