How to pack light for a family road trip

If you’re staying in the UK for a holiday or short break then I have some clever advice for how to pack a bit lighter to make the car journey more spacious and comfortable.  Going away with a baby or young children can be overwhelming when packing and you often feel like you need to take the entire contents of your house including the kitchen sink!

We’ve been there and travelled for only a few days with the kids, or when our eldest was born we travelled just with a baby, and the car was stuffed full of luggage literally bursting out of every seam – the boot, in-between seats, behind seats, in every foot well, on our laps!  It was crazy.

Depending on the type of accommodation and holiday you have planned in the UK, I have some ideas on how to travel a little lighter, even with kids and babies in tow.

How to pack light for a road trip with kids

How to pack light for a family road trip

First of all, why would you want to pack light and not stuff the car with as much stuff as possible?

  • A lighter car will use less fuel and therefore save more money.
  • Less time packing to go, less time packing to come home.
  • Less time rummaging through suitcases and bags trying to find things.
  • More time to spend doing the things you want.
  • Less stuff to lug around.
  • Less likely to lose things. The more things you take, especially kids toys, the more likely things are going to get lost.

Basically, less stuff = less hassle.

How to pack light for a family road trip 3

Here’s how to pack light for a family road trip:

Pack a capsule wardrobe

For younger kids and babies then you’re going to want to take plenty of spare clothes to cover illness, accidents and food spillages.  But for adults and older children then you really can pack much lighter than you think when it comes to clothing.  Be smart when packing: choose similar colours, items that can be layered to take you from day to evening and choose clothes that are easily mixed and matched.  If your accommodation has a washer and dryer, then you can choose to take less clothes for young children and babies.  In the summer you seriously need barely any clothes.

Check the weather forecast

When the weather is hot I can get away with wearing the same summer dress for days, providing no child gets sticky fingers or spills on me!  If you’re going away in summer or even spring or autumn then check the weather forecast.  If it’s going to be dry or warm or sunny then you’ll need less clothing and can pack less.

Pre-order a click-and-collect food shop at the destination

This is a great tip to save space in the car, and also avoid the hassle of having to do a food shop before you leave if you are self-catering.  Find out where the nearest supermarkets are to your destination or en route and pre-order your shopping using click and collect.  Simply collect it before arriving at your final destination or pick it up after you’ve unpacked everything at your holiday home.

Pack one set of toiletries or none at all

Instead of taking each family member’s toiletries, just take one shower gel, one shampoo, etc, that you can all share.  If you are staying in a hotel then check to see if they provide miniature toiletries in the bathroom and you may be able to avoid packing any of your own altogether.  To be really minimal then take an all-in-one solution.  I tend to just use a natural shower gel that we use as a shampoo too.  The brand Dr Bronner’s makes some amazing all-in-one castile soaps that can be used as a mouthwash, toothpaste, hand wash, shower gel, shampoo and even washing up liquid!

How to pack light for a family road trip

Take minimal toys

The more toys you take, the more likely it is the kids will lose them or constantly make a mess everywhere!  Be realistic about how many toys they actually need whilst on holiday.  If you’re going to be out and about every day then they really aren’t going to need things to play with.  When travelling it may be that an iPad or similar tablet device will suffice to stop them being bored on long car journeys.  Load it up with educational games to stop the guilt of them having extra screen time when on long journeys.  They can also read on iPads and watch documentaries, so it can be a great learning tool too!  We usually take the kids an iPad each, a notebook and pens and let them choose a couple of small toys or comforters to take as well.  This is always plenty.

Invest in a holiday stroller

If your child needs a pushchair and can sit up by themselves then a holiday stroller can save loads of space in the car.  Our regular pushchair used to take up the entire boot, even when collapsed!  We spent a small amount of money on a travel pushchair that was very basic but did the job and folded up very small to give us much more space when packing the car.

Or ditch the pushchair all together

If you’re not planning on walking loads on holiday and your child is old enough to walk by themselves then you may not need to use up valuable space in the car with a pushchair.  If they are not of walking age or are still a baby then you may want to take a baby carrier instead.  We loved the Ergobaby carrier when Reuben was a baby.  It meant I could walk around carrying Reuben and still hold Bella’s hand.  It saved so much space in the car when we went on day trips or holidays as we didn’t have to take the pushchair everywhere.

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Can you borrow things?

Rather than take a travel cot, for example, check if you can lend one at the accommodation.  The same with high chairs, baby baths and so on.  There’s often no need to take larger baby items as they’ll have them ready for use on your arrival if available and you ask when booking, especially at hotels.  If you are visiting friends and family then they may have these items for you to borrow instead of you lugging your own around the country.  If you’re staying at a family-friendly location then they may even have toys and activity packs for the children so you can pack even lighter.

Choose travel-sized items

To save space and pack lighter, choose travel-sized electronics such as a travel-sized hair dryer.  For kids, it’s possible to buy travel booster seats instead of taking full-on car seats with you.  Popular UK brand Trunki even make a kid’s backpack that turns into a kid’s car booster seat!  You can choose travel-size toiletries, travel-sized baby cots, travel strollers and more.

Go digital

Going digital is the best way to cut down on books, magazines and CDs that would otherwise take up lots of room in your luggage.  Instead, choose an e-reader such as a Kindle to load all your favourite books on digitally, as well as magazines.  Pop all your favourite music onto your smartphone and use a Bluetooth car stereo to listen to your music in the car and a Bluetooth speaker to listen to your favourite tunes at your accommodation.

How to pack light for a family road trip

Buy what you need when you get there

When planning your family trip, consider lightening the load in your car by only packing the necessities for the journey. Items like toilet paper or nappies can easily be purchased at a local supermarket upon reaching your destination. This way, you can reduce the amount of bulk in your luggage and car. However, if you require specific items, particularly medical supplies such as children’s paracetamol solution or eczema cream and prefer certain brands, it’s advisable to pack your own. This ensures you have exactly what you need, as supermarkets and pharmacies at your holiday location might not offer the exact products you require.

Take your own snacks

Instead of lots of pre-packaged snacks that are going to take up more room and create more waste during the journey, make your own snacks.  If you like to nibble then fill a Tupperware pot with dried fruit and nuts to munch on instead of taking individual packs of crisps, nuts and dried fruits.  Do the same for the kids.  Make them one pot that can easily be opened with a variety of ready-to-eat food inside to save them from needing packets, tubes and whatever else opened during the journey and there’s simply one pot to wash up at the end.

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How to pack light for a family road trip

One thought on “How to pack light for a family road trip

  1. Some great ideas here, thanks! I’d never thought of doing a click-and-collect order in advance; that could really help.

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