You don’t have to look like you are going to move across the country everytime you go on vacation! Having a lot of luggage is not only burdensome when you need your 2 hands for kids, it costs more money when practically all airlines are charging per bag and extra for weight.
Carmel (pictured above) was our first trip with a baby when Henry was about 3 weeks old. It was an eye opening experience where we had to pack so much stuff, and we felt like we couldn’t just walk into any restaurant or leave the hotel room when we wanted. 👀 Fast forward almost 3 years, we now mastered packing everything in one bag 💼 (for 2 kids and 2 adults) and we go and do what we want, whenever we want (and learned to enjoy naps on trips)! 😂 Check out our travel hacks below on how we pack everything in one bag for a family of 4.
Pack it all in a lightweight rolling duffel bag
We pack all of our stuff in one lightweight rolling duffel bag that we check-in right when we get to the airport. We did our research for a bag that is lightweight, but biggest size allowed by most airlines. We found and love this duffel bag because it’s super light (less than 4lbs) and it rolls! You want a light bag so you don’t have to worry about the airlines’ weight limit just because of the bag. This bag is also under $100!
How we pack the bag
When we pack, we pack things in ziplock bags in categories. That compacts things, and those ziplock bags really come in handy when you get there too. After we put our clothes away at the destination, we use those ziplock bags for dirty diapers or wet stuff. We also pack one light big bag (or one big garbage bag will do), which we throw in all of our dirty laundries as we are done wearing them. That way, when you get home, you know immediately what needs to go in the wash, or what can go back in the closet.
Carry-on: Essentials only
Besides the duffel bag, we just have one carry-on backpack and Henry likes to have his little monkey bag. It’s so cute seeing a little kid rolling his own bag. 🙂 In our carry on, we have enough diapers, wipes, and change of clothes for each kid to last the trip. We also have extra shirts for each adult. One terrible vomit accident and we learned to have a change for ourselves. I also like to stick a pair of leggings for myself just in case. It takes up very little space, and you will be so glad to not smell like airplane AND vomit when you land on your vacay.
As for kid entertainment (because packing a magazine for yourself is just a waste of space these days) – we love having the iPad or Fire (this one is for kids) loaded with kid-friendly apps and shows. Just having one device saves so much space and they can read books on it too!
If you do happen to have time to entertain yourself (your parenting must be on point) then don’t forget to load up your iPad or Fire with all the books you can read! If you don’t have a Kindle reading app – you have to get it! It syncs up to all your devices so even if you have 2 minutes to read in between meltdowns, you can pick up your phone or tablet and read where you left off. It’s amazing. Amazon.com – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices For the smaller kids that can’t be entertained by a screen, we get little things like reusable stickers, wall cling-ons, and books from the $1 store or $1 section of Target and bring it in the bag. Take them out one by one as you feel the meltdowns happening. If you are in a pinch, most babies and kids can be entertained by whatever the flight attendants can give you. Cups, sugar packets, straws, ice, and some creamer packets. Entertainment for free and nothing to carry off.
Bring a plastic grocery bag (or two) to the airport
This trick itself saved us a $100 couple of times, so it deserves its own section.
When you get to the airport, have a plastic grocery bag handy. If for some reason your check-in bag is over the weight limit, you can take some stuff out (start with jeans, then shoes) and put it in that plastic bag. We’ve never had someone count these plastic bags as a carry-on, even if the airline has a 1 carry-on per person rule. Budget airlines are super strict about these rules. If you are traveling on a budget airline, check these tips out for more tips before you go.
Leave toiletries, diapers and other essentials at home
No, I’m not telling you to stay dirty on your vacation. That’s gross. What I am telling you is going to be your favorite trick – Amazon Prime everything you use and throw away at your destination. Most hotels, Airbnb, and other places you may stay will let you have something sent there the day or two before you arrive and keep it for you! Don’t have Amazon Prime? Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial before you go, then this trick will basically be free airfare for your stuff.
Things we get Amazon Primed
- Snacks – so crucial with little kids and saves you a trip to the grocery!
- Body wash
- Swim diapers
- Bug repellant
These things are bulky and heavy! Also, you don’t even have to go to the store right when you land. If you are part of Amazon Family, you will most likely be paying way less for the diapers and wipes than getting it at a local grocery store. (If you don’t have Amazon Family and you are a …. family, then you have to get it! So much money saving opportunities. Join Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial.
Rent baby gears
Most family-friendly destinations have baby gear rental places where you request items beforehand, and they deliver it to the hotel or vacation rental. When you are done, they take it back. No need to make any extra stops, they bring it right to you. We’ve done this in Maui and Puerto Vallarta so far, but I know it’s available in most cities. The cost of these rentals is reasonable and cheaper than shipping/checking in some of these items!
You can rent anything from a pack n play, strollers, beach toys to box of toys for the room. We explore a lot while we are traveling, but when the kids wake up early morning or just hanging around the room, those boxes of toys were saviors without resorting to a lot of screen time. Just Google “baby gear rental [name of destination]” and you should get a good idea of where to rent!
There you have it. Follow these tips, and you will be traveling a lot lighter and cheaper!
Do you want to pack up for a longer trip in just hand baggage?! Check out this post by Four on a World Trip for more tips on packing light!
What are your travel hacks!? Share it with us in comments!
How we pack for family of 4 and save money
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