Having recently travelled a 1700 mile road trip in Europe as a family of four with young kids, ages four and seven, I kept a notebook to document all elements of our trip. I kept a packing list to make sure we didn’t forget anything, but also as I wanted to pack light for the road trip so making a travel packing list allowed me to see if I could reduce the number of items we were taking.
In this blog post I will share with you our 8 day Europe family road trip minimal packing list.
There were also lots of different elements to our trip. We travelled in our Mazda Bongo campervan. It’s not converted, so still has eight seats. We have a pop-top though which is great for the kids to sleep in! Ben and I fold down the rest of the seats and sleep ‘downstairs’. We camped for two nights in our camper, stayed at Ben’s uncle’s for three nights and then stayed in a self-catering Airbnb the last two nights.
We travelled by ferry from the UK to France and back again. We drove through France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Our longest drive was 11 hours. We also had a whole day in Amsterdam and half a day in Bruges. The trip was a mixture of visiting family, city days and long, long drives!
On the ‘fairy’ as Reuben called it!
We wanted to keep our packing to the minimum, but we also needed to make sure we had items suitable for camping, food for both camping and self-catering, the right sort of things to visit cities and walk around them all day, plus being able to stop on the side of the road on a long drive to make some food.
We didn’t want to discover we had forgotten anything and have to waste money buying things we’d left at home. So as much as we wanted to pack minimally, we also wanted to make sure we wouldn’t need to buy anything once we were away.
Travelling with kids also makes packing minimally a challenge. It was definitely a lot easier now the kids are four and seven though. There is no need for nappies, wipes, numerous changes of clothes, buggies and carriers. This definitely lightened the load! I can only imagine it will get even more minimal as the children get even older.
As well as packing as little as possible, we also wanted to spend as little as possible which you can read about here: 8 day Europe road trip costs for family of four
Europe family road trip packing list
So here is our packing list for 8 days travelling through Europe in car as a family of four, two adults and two young children (4 and 7).
Hopefully it will be helpful for you. It will also be my point of reference for our next long family road trip!
Making some instant Naked noodles on-the-road!
Packing list for eating/drinking
- Food for main meals (we took a lot of food that didn’t need refrigerating so we could make packed lunches, cook on our camping stove and make food in our self-catering accommodation. I’ll share a list of our road trip food soon.)
- Snacks for the car
- Water (we took 10 litres of distilled water from home as that’s the maximum amount of glass Kilner water dispensers we had, then bought some bottled water once we ran out. It’s much cheaper to take as much filtered water or distilled water as you can from home on a road trip compared to buying mineral water. Or buy a bottle with a water filter built in so you can drink the tap water on your travels.)
- Bottles (reusable water bottles and thermos flasks for hot drinks)
- Cutlery (one set each to keep it minimal. In a drawstring bag to carry with us in backpacks when needed)
- Pan (we actually forgot to take a pan! But I’ve added this as we then could have cooked our pasta or beans on-the-go with the camping stove or whilst camping)
- Cafetiere (we didn’t actually take one, but I’d take one next time so we can have coffee at the campsite. We forgot ours and so had green tea instead when camping.)
- Pegs (to seal opened and unfinished packets of food)
- Compost bags (we used these for food waste and also as rubbish bags to be more eco-friendly than using plastic carriers)
- Paper sandwich bags (for packed lunch items like crackers and wraps)
- Lunchboxes (we have two squishable lunchbox bags that are made from recycled bottles)
- Paper plates and bowls (better than plastic for food on-the-go)
- Paper straws and steel straws (handy for the kids when travelling, especially as we took tins of pineapple so they could drink the juice with a straw and not spill it all over the car!)
- Bamboo cloths (rather than wipes, we use washable and reusable bamboo square cloths to clean the children’s faces and sticky fingers. We just pour a little water on.)
- Washing up liquid
- Tea towels
- Cleaning spray (I love non-toxic all surface cleaning spray by Method and use it with the bamboo cloths or tea towels to clean)
- Camping stove
- Camping kettle
- Multi-vitamins and minerals
Don’t forget some change to use the toilets at service stations!
Packing list for bathroom
- Toilet rolls (luckily the campsite had plenty, as did the toilets at all the service stations and the Airbnb, but you can never be sure! We took a few rolls of our own and carried one around in the backpack in the cities just in case we came across a toilet with no loo roll)
- Towels (we took one bath towel each. The Airbnb at the end of our trip had towels which was great, so we only had to reuse our own towels for five days!)
- Shoap (this is a clever bar of shampoo that is also soap too. It can be used to wash yourself, your hands and even your hair!)
- Reusable cleanser pads (I have washable bamboo pads to clean my face with cleanser to reduce our waste)
- Tampons and panty-liners (I was due on whilst away. )
- Hairbrush, clips and bands (Bella’s hair is wild so needs clipping out of her face! I could just get away with a hairbrush as my hair is sleek and doesn’t need tying up).
Don’t forget in-car entertainment for the kids
Electronics packing list
- iPhones & chargers
- Laptops & chargers
- iPads & chargers
- Charge packs (we got some before we went, but forgot them! We could charge off the car, but it was really slow. Next time we’ll take charge packs to charge our iPhones too.)
- Travel adaptor plugs (we forgot these too, but they would have been handy to charge our laptops, iPads and iPhones at the accommodation. We had to just try and charge everything when travelling, but were limited by slow charge speeds and only being able to charge one item at once. We could technically charge two at once, but then it was even slower!)
Don’t forget hats and sunglasses in the summer!
Clothes packing list
- Minimal day clothes (I literally lived in the same pair of shorts each day and alternated between a vest, a tank and a t-shirt. I also had some comfy trousers for travelling in. We packed the kids around five mix’n’match outfits each.)
- Underwear (a fresh pair each day, plus a few extra for the kids in case of any accidents)
- 2 pairs of shoes each (flip flops and pumps for me, crocs and trainers for the kids, flip flops and trainers for Ben)
- Raincoats (it was a heatwave for most of the week, but rain and storms predicted for our last two days)
- Backpacks (one each to carry our daily essentials, lunch and water)
- Spare canvas bags (for laundry, shopping and just-in-case)
UK cars must have headlight deflectors added to legally drive in the rest of Europe
Car safety packing list
- First aid kit
- Car travel kit (a legal requirement in many European countries and must include items like a warning triangle, Hi-Viz vests and more. It’s best to check the legal requirements for any countries you’ll be driving through)
Kids packing list
- Notebooks and pens
- 1-2 Books each
- Comfort teddies and a couple of small toys
Essentials packing list
- Credit cards and cash
- Tickets / booking information
- Change for toilets at service stations
Pack some extra canvas bags for shopping and laundry!
How I packed everything for easy access and organisation
To make everything super organised and easy to access, I packed everything in large canvas supermarket shopper bags.
We had a bathroom bag, kitchen bags and food bags. It meant we could lift all the bags easily out of the boot when we were camping and move them to the front seats. Then we could easily find the kitchen bag or bathroom bag when we needed it and simply lift it out of the van and move it around. Or we could carry the whole bathroom bag to the toilets and it would have everything we needed.
I found using this bag system a lot easier than boxes. It was easy to move everything around and find everything.
We had a lot of food bags to start, but as the week went on these reduced, lightened the load and made finding all the other bags even easier!
It also meant when we got to Ben’s uncle’s house or the Airbnb, we simply had to carry all the shoppers into our accommodation. We just basically lived out of the bags for the whole week.
Items we didn’t take, but would consider taking next time
- Camping chairs
- Waterproof backed picnic blanket
Luckily the weather was sunny when we were camping and so we were able to have our bags outside the car on the campsite and sit outside. We realised if it was raining then it would have been more difficult! So if we were going to camp again or camp for longer than two nights then we might consider purchasing an awning to attach to the side of the Bongo to give us a shelter and private space.
We also didn’t take camping chairs or a waterproof backed picnic rug which would have been useful to sit outside of the van when eating at the campsite. Our pitch was on bark so it wasn’t very comfortable to sit on the ground so we sat in the van to eat and drink, or stood up!
We’d only need these if camping again and only really if the weather isn’t so great. I prefer to pack as minimally as possible, so if it’s ever just me and Ben I would reduce the above packing list even more and definitely wouldn’t take any extras!
We did forget a few things that would have made our lives easier, like the travel adaptor plugs, so I will be returning to this checklist next time we go on a long family road trip adventure to make sure we don’t forget a single thing!
I really think we took the bare minimum we needed. We used everything we took.
Our 8 day Europe road trip travel diary
If you want to see what we got up to for the whole eight days and all the photos then check out all my travel diary blog posts here:
- Europe family road trip day 1 – England to Netherlands / UNESCO World Heritage Kinderdijk / Camping Vliegenbos
- Europe family road trip day 2 – exploring Amsterdam
- Europe family road trip day 3 – driving from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Munster, Germany
- Europe family road trip day 4 – Soltau, Germany
- Europe family road trip day 5 – Munster, Germany
- Europe family road trip day 6 – coastal scenic drive from Germany to Belgium
- Europe family road trip day 7 – a few hours in Bruges
- Europe family road trip day 8 – back to the UK