There is no doubt that travelling light with kids is a tricky business.

After almost a year on the road, a tonne of thought and a lot of tweaking we think we've finally cracked it. It wasn't always like this. When we first set off we were juggling two hefty backpacks, an enormous wheelie suitcase and a bulky 3-wheeler Phil & Teds. Being on the move was nothing short of terrifying.

Second time around we've got smarter and have managed to fit all our belongings into nothing more than a backpack each - roughly 30 kg's for the family. Whether we travel for a week, a month or a year we've narrowed it down to everything we need.

Read on for a peek inside our backpacks, some space saving tips and the brilliant buys which have made travelling so much easier.

Top Tips for keeping bags light:

1. Our backpacks:

We hunted high and low in search of the perfect backpack and eventually settled on the Osprey Farpoint. Steve has the "man size" 70 litre and I've got the 55 litre version. Smart and neutral - we deemed these to be the least offensive on the market (yes I know a backpack is a practical purchase, but no need to totally compromise on style...). Luckily for us we didn't have to put good looks over comfort - they come with padded shoulder straps, two torso sizes and a sturdy waist belt for extra support.

One of my favourite bits is the side zip for easier access. Makes it simple to pack and is a godsend when you're rummaging around for essentials in a hurry. Unlike traditional "top loaders," you can see your stuff rather than groping about blind. They also come with a handy detachable daypack - perfectly sized for travelling days and lightweight/waterproof for the beach.

2. Clothes:

Obviously the climate and type of holiday you're having will decide the outfits you need. Our travels are bucket and spade days at the beach with the odd city stopover thrown in. We mostly stay in hot climates so we can avoid carrying bulky jumpers, shoes or jackets.

Our wardrobe consists of mix and match light clothing. Basics are neutral so everything goes together (well sort of - it gets a bit iffy as washing day edges closer). Everyone has enough stuff to last a week and laundry is done on the go. As toddlers are unpredictable dirt magnets, and their clothes are tinier, Millie gets slightly more than everyone else.

A "weeks-worth" is 3 vest tops, 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 dresses, 2 bikini's and undies. The girls & Steve have roughly the same (with gender/age appropriate variations!) so we're all in sync for laundry.

Leggings are my stretchy staple - perfect for travelling days, layering when it's a bit cooler and can be dressed up or down. They double up as yoga/cycling/hiking pants and mozzie protection come the evening. And a sarong is the only accessory you need - it's a scarf, cardigan, dress, muslin cloth, towel, blanket or peek-a-boo device.

Flip-flops are the only footwear we travel with. I can walk in all day in my trusty pair of Havaiana's and still be comfy. Perfect for the beach and won't get ruined in the rain. Okay, you get grubby feet after a day exploring city streets and hardcore hiking could be a struggle, but we don't do enough of either to be a problem. The girls have Crocs for a bit more support and protection for their little feet and tiny toes.

3. Kids travel kit:

There are a travel bits we invested in that have made our life on the road with kids a whole lot easier. Our favourite portable, lightweight, genius products are Littlelife Arc travel cots (yes we travel around the world with our own cots - more on that later), Boba Baby Carrier, Bambinoz Anywhere chair and Grobags. All brilliant products that we couldn't live without. Jessica couldn't live without her Skip Hop mini backpack - it makes her feel like a proper part of the team, provides handy access to her toys and snacks and gives us a little more space in her luggage.

I'll share more details and product reviews in a Brilliant Buys post - coming soon.

4. Technology:

What with adaptors, chargers, cables and devices our electronic paraphernalia takes up a third of our luggage allowance! Seriously I wonder if we should be getting some sort of sponsorship deal with Apple. But it's all's how we keep in touch with everyone, entertain ourselves and keep the blog up to date. Steve is the master of techy stuff - you can find out his top tips for electronics gear here.

5. Toys:

Your selection of toys is going to depend massively on the age and interests of your kids - this is a flavour of what works for us.

By far the trickiest part of packing is negotiating with bewildered toddlers over toys to travel with. It's a fine balance - no-one wants to lug half of Toys R us along for the ride but not enough and they'll tire of things quickly and look to you for entertainment!

Our girls have their trusty "cot gang" of favourite stuffed toys for security and familiarity on the move. Jessica’s oldest and most beloved blanket bear is too precious to lose so we carry spares in case he went MIA.

Beyond that, small, light toys are the way to go. Creative stuff weighs nothing - washable markers, crayons, paper and a gazillion stickers - and everyone loves an arts & crafts session - Luckily these are easy to find on the move and supplies can be replenished regularly.

Mini plastic figurines (Duplo people, Disney Magiclip Princesses) are popular for imaginative creative play and bathtime. Wipe clean activity books have the bonus of repeat use and they have a few small jigsaws. An oldie but a goodie for Millie (18 months) is her stacking cups - hours of entertainment sorting, nesting, stacking, banging, playing, rolling and building.

Buckets and spades are brilliant but bulky. To get round it, we buy a new set each time we settle anywhere and pass it on to a happy home when we leave. Hunting down our favourite "plastic fantastic" on day one in a new town has become a bit of a family tradition.

Last, but by no means least, is the mighty iPad. Controversial I know, but where else can you get endless games, music, books and videos in one tiny place. And let's be honest, used sensibly, iPads are an incredible resource in keeping little ones quietly busy and entertained.

6. Toiletries

Just the usual suspects here - toothpaste, floss, deodorant, tweezers, shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser - all in miniature. The only things that are tricky to get on the go are decent toothpaste (mmm salt Colgate anyone?), tampons and moisturisers without added whitening so always make sure you have a stash. Don't forget earplugs - the curse of the Karaoke can strike anywhere in Asia.

At home, I wouldn't so much as pop to the shops without lippy and mascara, but I've had to embrace going Au natural. Thankfully a healthy glow makes it a bit easier to be slap-free. Hair care consists of bobbles and a tangle-teezer.

Our first aid kit covers the basics to keep us going till we could get to a chemist. Think middle of the night teething or a sudden curse of Bali belly. We always have Calpol, Ibuprofen, Bonjella, Imodium, mossie repellants and bite cream handy. And 100's of novelty plasters - it's incredible how many ailments can be fixed with a Mr Bump plaster.

Nappies, wipes and sunscreens are so bloomin' bulky we carry the bare minimum and buy what we need when we need it.

7. Storage:

We keep everything tightly packed and organised in zip up compression bags (the ones you can roll without a vacuum). For smaller items, we have a multitude of lightweight mesh bags (one for undies, one for toys and another for miscellaneous bits and bobs) you get the gist.

Of course on top of all that you have the essentials - the stuff you cannot leave home without. We have a folder of "important things" - passports, visas, travel insurance, medical records and bank cards. All scanned, saved and backed up - just in case!

My top tip is to bring as little as possible and whether you're travelling for a week or a year pack exactly the same. Always pack for the best case scenario, not the worst and if you ever find yourself muttering "just in case" as you throw it in the bag then leave it behind.

Hope the peek inside our backpacks was helpful. What are you best tips for travelling light?

6 Responses

  1. Karen

    Thanks for this post… we leave in January and am starting to wonder what we will actually need to take… I can’t imagine living out of a backpack, but am certainly not interested in travelling with loads of stuff we don’t need! 😉 Thanks again!

    • Teamtoms

      Thanks Karen and glad it’s useful! Travelling light has been a big learning curve for us….we started out with so much “just in case” stuff that we never ended up using! Top tips are to buy local what you need and get your laundry done often! It’s amazing how little you actually need once you get used to it!

  2. Emma

    Hi there
    I have been following you and find you guys so inspiring. I am currently thinking about going to Vietnam with my twins (will be 4yrs old) next year for 2 weeks. Would you recommend going there or a different place/country that would be suitable for a family?
    Keep posting the photos!

    • Teamtoms

      Hi Emma – thanks for your lovely message and glad you’re enjoying following our adventures! So exciting that you’re planning a big trip next year, to be honest if you can juggle two babies simultaneously you can conquer the world – I’ve got enormous respect for anyone with twins – hats off to you!) So Vietnam could definitely be an option for you – Hoi An has a good mix of old town and beach for culture and sunshine…when are you thinking of travelling as that will effect where would suit you guys best? Take care and keep in touch with any questions – happy to help! x

  3. Emma

    You replied!! Wow, thank you! Hoping to go around May/June although we are flexible.
    Thank you x


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