Kids clothes lie on wooden floor in packing cubes, alongside a pair of Crocs, a pair of blue hiking trainers and a cream cap

What to pack for long-term family travel

As the whole issue of what on earth to pack for a long period of family travel with two small(ish) children was one that I spent a LONG time deliberating I thought it might be helpful to share the details of what we DID end of taking with us in the end.

Over the course of around 4-months, our spare room was turned in to packing ground zero; basically everytime I came across anything that I thought might be useful to take it was flung in to the mountain of stuff for consideration. 

This part of the trip did take a long time of figuring out for us, especially deciding how much/how little it was reasonable to pack for the kids. If you’re considering longer-term family travel and wondering what to pack, then read on!

What backpacks did we choose for the kids?

We knew we didn’t want suitcases as we’d be moving around too much. 

We already had two big backpacks (65L and 70L) for the two of us from previous travels. After a lots of research and a few trips to various shops to try backpacks on (because I needed to see what the boys could actually carry in real life!) we finally settled on North Face ‘Jester’ bags for the boys (28L). This seemed like the biggest pack they could possibly carry (Angus even complained about the weight when he tried it on in the shop, and it was only full of packaging at that point!). Both boys also loved the camo prints which clinched the deal (I managed to get one of them cheaper on eBay too!).

North Face camo style backpack sits on floor of airport
North Face camo style backpack sits on floor of airport

These are available on Amazon here.

So far these seem to be working well – I really like the stretchy bits of the front that mean that we can attach hoodies/raincoats to them when we need to, and they also stand up when you put them down on the ground which is really helpful when the kids need to pick them back up again.

We’ve managed to fit all of the kids clothes, swim gear and most of their toys in to these; they also have a very small satchel that they carry with them that fits their tablet, crossword book and a couple of small toys in it for the plane/bus journeys etc.

Are packing cubes worth it?

This is a definite YES from us!

Based on lots of online recommendations we also bought packing cubes. Partly to help fit everything in to a (relatively) small space. But also so that the boys could easily identify where their tops/trousers/shorts were without having to turf EVERYTHING out of their bags. If you’re trying to pack for family travel I would definitely recommend using these!

We initially went for the cheapest option from the Amazon Basics range – these held up fine for our year away. Some of the even cheaper (non-Amazon branded ones) started to fall apart around six months in to our trip. We replaced them with some of the more expensive compression type ones with a double zip. These are next level – not only do they keep types of clothes nicely separated, they also compress down to around half the original size which makes packing WAY easier.

In many ways I’m pleased though that we didn’t opt for these at the start as I think there would have been a temptation to pack more stuff just because we could fit it in (and don’t forget, they save on space but the weight is the same – which is a key issue when trying to get your kids to carry their own bags!).

What did we pack for the kids?

This is a complete list of what we packed for each of the boys:

7x short sleeved tops/tees

1x long sleeved tee

4x shorts

3x full length trousers (including two pairs each of Craghoppers Nosilife ones)

6x socks

9x underwear

1x hoodie

1 rash vest

1 pair of swimshorts

1 pair of swim goggles

1 pair of short PJs

1 pair of ear defenders (specifically for Hell and Heaven Festival in Mexico! Sent home from Costa Rica with Granny)

1 pair of hiking trainers

1 pair of Crocs

1x hat

1x raincoat

At Christmas we increased the rash vests and swim shorts to two each as at times we just couldn’t dry them fast enough, and they were getting SO MUCH wear.

Kids clothes lie on floor in packing cubes of various sizes, alongside a pair of green tie dye crocs, some hiking trainers and a Guns n Roses cap
Kids clothes lie on wooden floor in packing cubes, alongside a pair of Crocs, a pair of blue hiking trainers and a cream cap

The boys also chose to pack the following toys/games:

Dobble (replaced by Goat Lords at Christmas)

Yahtzee

Sussed

Exploding Kittens

WWF Save our Species card game

One Playdoh tub of Lego

One Playdoh tub of Trash Pack squishes

2 tamagotchis

2 toy snakes

1 Han Solo figure

2 Cats vs Pickles soft toys

This was more than I had hoped for but was negotiated down from a much higher starting point! When we returned to the UK for two weeks at Christmas I managed to persuade the boys to ditch/swap out some stuff (the stuff they ditched has been crossed out above).

What I packed

I packed WAY more clothes than Steve (which is hardly surprising given the few things he survives on at home even in regular life). Things that have been crossed off were ditched in the UK when we came home at Christmas!

1 pair hiking boots

1 pair of sandals

1 pair of flip flops

1 pair of Cons

8x tops

5x shorts

1x dress

1x playsuit

1x jumpsuit

2x trousers

1x Nosilife trekking trousers

2x bikini

1x swim shorts

1x hoodie

1x lightweight jumper

1x cardigan

9x pants

4x bras (including 2 sports bras for trekking/workouts)

7x pairs of socks

1x hat

1x raincoat

1x lightweight scarf/wrap thing

What Steve packed

1x jeans

2x swimshorts

3x shorts

8x short sleeved tees

2x long sleeved shirts

8x pants

8x socks

1x pair of flipflops

1x pair of hiking trainers

1x hoodie

1x hat

1x raincoat

Electronics

On top of the clothes and stuff, we also packed a fair few electronics:

Ideapad

2x Kids Amazon Fire Tablets

1x Nintendo Switch

2x iPods (old school style, with our expletive music deleted for the boys to use!)

2x Phones

GoPro 8 (plus float from Amazon)

2x Kindles

4x headphones

3x Fitbits

Portable speaker

Plus all the associated chargers, a couple of adaptor plugs and one four socket extension lead (which I felt was excessive when Steve packed it but it has been SO USEFUL – mostly because many places we’ve stayed have only had one electrical outlet so this has allowed us to charge everything).

And all the rest of the stuff

Ah, and then there’s all the miscellaneous stuff!

4x towels (including two Dryrobe type ones for changing underneath)

Medical Kit – there’s technically three of these, one First Aid Kit, one Sterile kit and one bag stuffed full of day-to-day medical bits like paracetemol, Calpol, ibuprofen, sting cream etc.

Insect repellent (some of the Avon stuff plus some fullblown DEET)

Suncream

Shampoo and conditioner bars (from LUSH)

Soap bar

Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Deodorant

Mascara

Eyeliner (I don’t think I can go anywhere without this)

Razors

Moisturisers of various types for my wrinkles

Travel hairbrush

Comb

Pestect repellent bands

K Tape (for my dodgy limbs)

Sunglasses

Snorkel

2x torches

2x mobile battery packs

Metal straws

1x cloth bag

1x wetbag

Plug in mosquito repellent

2x mosquito nets (plus hanging kit)

Writing pad

Notepad

Pencil case

White Rose Maths workbooks for the boys

What did we NOT need to pack for family travel?

The way we did things – with a quick trip home for Christmas part way through our gap year – did mean that we had a chance to re-evaluate, ditch some stuff and add in any other bits that we were missing. This was really helpful and definitely took some of the stress out of the initial packing!

The towels were our biggest mistake – we packed lightweight but ‘proper’ towels, plus two very bulky DryRobe towels (for changing underneath). They took up so much space! I was a bit reluctant to go with travel towels as I’d always found them a bit rubbish on previous backpacking trips. However while in KL we found some great ones in Decathlon and I was totally sold on them! They take up so much less space. Plus, I think the way we are travelling is different to previous kid-free backpacking trips – now all the places we’re staying provide towels (usually pretty good ones) so the travel ones are really only used for the pool/beach.

I have to say a massive thanks to a couple of online travel blogs for so, so many tips on this: World Travel Family and Travelynn Family. I spent a long time consulting both these blogs before even attempting the first pack!

Planning a family gap year, or long term family travel?

Once you’ve managed to pack for family travel, there’s then a whole world to explore! For tips and loads of helpful information on where to go and what to do, check out some of the posts on our destinations below:

Swim with wild dolphins in Bali (2024)

If Bali is on your list as a possible destination for a family holiday, you should seriously…

Our budget for five weeks in Costa Rica (2024)

Costa Rica is a fascinating, beautiful country to visit. It’s also a brilliant destination for…

A trip to see the orangutans in Sepilok, Borneo with kids (2024)

If you’re planning a family trip to Borneo, then the chances are that seeing orangutans will…

A family trip to the River Kinabatangan, Borneo (2024)

If it’s wildlife you’re after, then Borneo is definitely the place to be! If…

Waterbom Bali with kids – Review and Tips (2024)

Whilst we want to the boys to experience culture and nature on our family gap year, we also like to…

Seeing nesting turtles in Costa Rica with kids (2024)

For all of us, but especially our David Attenborough-inspired, wildlife-mad boys, seeing turtles…

2 thoughts on “What to pack for long-term family travel”

  1. Suuuuch useful info. I was wondering how you manage to pack in larger things like wetsuits but I guess if you pick deliciously warm countries you cut down on needing to pack such things!

    1. Yep, it definitely helps to only choose warmer weather countries – I’m sure our bags would have to be a lot bigger if we’d gone for a mix of climates!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *