Minimalist family travel: how this family of 5 managed to pack 1 checked bag for 12 months.

One year of travel.  3 kids under 5. One checked bag.

When we started planning our trip away we did the standard thing and started looking at blogs that similarly reflected our wants: slow travel, simple life, travel with kids, etc. We quickly found our way down the rabbit hole which is ‘minimalist travel’ and enjoyed every minute of our research.

Minimalist Travel is about taking the least amount of stuff to ensure the greatest level of enjoyment on the road. It’s based on the premise that the less ‘stuff’ you have, the more easily you’re able to move, adapt and enjoy the moment.

We adapted the Minimalist Travel Packing experiences of many of the travel bloggers that have gone before us and made it suit our 3 under 5 lifestyle. By doing it, we were able to get the check-in luggage down to one 17-kilo 65 L backpack for our 5 person family. We combine this with 1-2 smaller backpacks (depending on our needs), and a travel pram for our 12 month old.

We must say, it’s been a blessing and we (generally) haven’t missed any of the items we originally had for packing. It’s awesome to know that Adam can carry a big pack and we have all our hands free to move around with our little girls. It gives us flexibility of transport modes whilst in Asia – making sure our luggage will fit just as easily in a car as a tuk tuk, bus and able to be carted on and off a train whilst also juggling 3 young kids. It also makes packing up a whole lot quicker; nice when you’re managing a tribe!

Here is our principles and our list for minimising our luggage weight (given we carry around 35kgs plus in children every day!)

The 4 Minimalist Packing Principles that got us through

  1. Have wardrobes for everyone that can be mixed and matched. Adam’s brothers and sisters know that he doesn’t quite get the fashion sense of all this, however we’ve tried to get everyone into either tops or bottoms (not both) that are plain, so the other can be a bit ‘out there’ and fun. It creates a huge amount of variation so you don’t feel like you’re wearing the same things everyday.
  2. Merino is king. Don’t you forget it. Despite being quite skeptical early about ‘merino’ being the travel wear of choice, we are complete converts. They are the only thing that dry in Asian climates, actually don’t stink (unlike Adam’s Country Road cotton top!). Icebreaker make pretty sweet products that pass Lisa’s fashion test. Macpac and Katmandu also do a decent range. Wait for the 40% sale and get in there. We’ve purchased lightweight long sleeves for everyone (yet to use!), Ads has 2 short sleeves, and we both have merino jocks (which is basically Adam’s uniform during the day while we are home)
  3. Packing is made beautiful with compression cubes and the “rolling” method for packing clothes. We bought a heap of different ‘packing cubes’ but decided to only take compression for clothing. Gonex and Eagle Creek are ones we carry, with each family member except Evie owning their own cube. We’ve gone for medium sizes and roll all our clothes up. Packing made beautiful. 🙂 Ads finds great joy in the order of packing – it’s like when he used to clean his desk before study – he goes from the adhoc Adam to organised Adam in one swoop. Lisa prefers the organised Adam, although he only comes out for special occasions.
  4. Marie Kondo your pack. Ask the question “does this bring me joy and utility”. It’s cool, everyone’s doing it to their homes. If it doesn’t, then don’t bring it. We dropped our GoPro, tooth brush containers as well as halving our medical and toiletries that were overkill knowing we can buy all of it over here.
Ready for take off. 1 year 1 checked bag.

Main Bags

  1. MacPac 65 L pack
  2. UTSIFOY 22L bag
  3. Foldaway Bag – Osprey Stuff Pack
  4. Tote Bag (folds away)
  5. 2 Wallets

Macpac UTSIFOY – we LOVE this bag. It’s a bit bigger than our needs for short outings to the beach but will come into its own on day trips etc. It has 3 compartments. A laptop and iPad sleeve in the rear, a large middle area and a small fron zip pocket. My favourite feature is that it zips COMPLETELY open like a suitcase. After buying this, we did stumble upon the great range by One Planet, a Melbourne based company, that had some huge contenders!

Family travel accessories

  1. Baby zen yo-yo stroller/pram
  2. Kidco Peapod portacot
  3. Ergo carrier (0-2 years)
  4. Tula Toddler carrier (2-5 years)
  5. Two Camelbak bottles for water
  6. Standard baby products: 1 plastic baby bottle, 1 set of wipes, 12 nappies (1st day and a half only)

The BabyZen is hands down our best travel purchase. We used this in the airport during our layover, all 3 girls have slept in it on occasions, it has navigated the streets of Colombo just as well as the uneven beach paths of the south coast. It also doubles as a high chair at mealtimes for our 12 month old. We love it!

Ergo carrier and Tula Toddler carrier – we’ve used these a lot. The toddler carrier less so but this is due to our current location, if one is in the carrier the other can be in the pram whilst our eldest walks. When we head into the tea country or want to do some hiking then we will need both of the carriers for the 1 and 3 yo. One frustration of mine is that they are bulky and cumbersome to pack up – I’ve resorted to using a fine mesh reusable fruit bag to help compress them. Let me know if you know of any lightweight travel carriers…better yet I should design one!

Kidco Peapod portacot– we don’t co-sleep as a general rule (our eldest two have taken to musical beds however!)…and want the option of a cot for our 1 yo at all times. This is a great option. It weighs only 1.1kg (2 pounds) and folds into a disc shape and has a blow up mattress (new versions have a self inflating mattress I believe). We have been lucky enough thus far to have had a cot provided for all but 2 of our first 23 nights. It is so small…and we’ve packed so little that it fits into our checked bag!


  1. Adam (13 items)
    • 3 pairs of underwear (2 pairs of sexy IceBreaker merino briefs, 1 pair UNIQLO Airism quick dry briefs)
    • 2 pairs of footwear (1 pair of Nike FreeRun 2018 black; 1 pair of havaianas)
    • 1 pair of socks, black anklet
    • 4 shirts (2 Katmandu Merino short-sleeve; 1 country road cotton tee and 1 short sleeve button up)
    • 2 pairs of shorts (Country Road that are used as bathers; 1 Country Road Linen (RIP) replaced by $13 pair in Sri Lanka)
    • 1 pair of pants
    • 1 pair of sunglasses
    • 1 hat

2. Lisa (14 items plus underwear)

  • 4 pairs of underwear (1 modibodi for those interested, 1 merino)
  • 2 bras – Icebreaker merino sports bra and 1 convertible bra
  • 2 pairs of socks (1 black anklet, 1 pilates socks with grip)
  • 2 pairs of shorts (1 running, 1 linen – would swap these for denim!)
  • 1 pair of jeans (green- worn only on the plane thus far)
  • 1 pair of Cullotes (Midi skirt would be similar) – Gorman – I love these
  • 2 Tees – 1 Kathmandu Merino, 1 uniqlo airsm
  • 2 singlets – Lulu lemon
  • 1 silk cami
  • 1 long sleeve merino – Icebeaker
  • Bathers and Rash Vest
  • Nike free runners and a pair of thongs
Luca the Label linen dresses and my much loved Gorman Culottes

3. Isabelle and Etta (13 items)

  • 4 pairs of knickers (Etta is already down to 2!)
  • 1 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of leggings (and now 1 pair of Sri Lankan lightweight pants!)
  • 2 dresses
  • 3 Tees
  • 1 singlet
  • 1 long sleeve merino – Icebeaker
  • Bathers and rash vest
  • Hat
  • Runners and Salt water sandals

4. Evie

  • 1 pair of underwear (she keeps taking her nappy off otherwise)
  • 1 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of leggings (and now 1 pair of Sri Lankan lightweight pants!)
  • 2 Onesies
  • 3 Tees
  • 1 singlet
  • 1 long sleeve merino – Icebeaker
  • Bathers reusable swimming nappy
  • Hat

Interestingly, we haven’t worn all the clothes that we’ve taken (yet) and some of the more expensive ‘gifts’ such as Adam’s Country Road Linen shorts died a quick death in week 2! The cotton Country Road shirt is quickly going the same way. As we said earlier, we’re Merino converts fa sure.


  • Flat light colours show ALL of the stains – choose something flecked and a little darker (Adams yellow tshirt-binned!)
  • Bottom halves for kids – same goes! Light bottoms on a crawling/now walking and falling over toddler – thumbs down. A white and floral onesie lasted all of 3 weeks before being binned!
  • The kids don’t seem to care…we lost a dress of Issy’s one week ago – she hasn’t even questioned where it is yet.
  • Outfits are not meant to be INSTAGRAMMABLE – it doesn’t matter what you are wearing. Choose comfort. It is so liberating to have such limited choices.
  • For the women – Having spent most of our first 2 months on the beach I would have appreciated a lightweight, shorter dress to throw over wet bathers,, nothing worse than pulling on shorts/cullotes, maxi dress over wet bathers – gross…but I’ve managed…I am fine!


  1. Laptop – Lenovo yoga (touchscreen laptop)
  2. Ipad
  3. Camera with two lenses – Olymous OM-D II
  4. 2 Iphones
  5. Kindle Paperwhite
  6. USB/Bluetooth Smiley Speaker
  7. Google Chrome
  8. Chargers for camera
  9. International adapter with USB and powerplug
  10. 3 Cords (Micro USB for Kindle/Speaker; Apple for Iphones; cord for Camera to Laptop connection)
  11. 4 earphones and splitter for shared use (2 large kids; 2 small earphone)


  1. 5 Toothbrushes
  2. Toothpaste and Floss
  3. Lush Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
  4. Lisa’s reusable ‘girl’ thing – (menstrual cup – well worth the investment – definitely a convert!)


  1. The travel doctor Australia – little red book!
  2. Paracetamol – Kids and Adults
  3. Gauze, Bandaids, Waterproof dressings
  4. Gastro-stop for emergencies
  5. Metranidazole
  6. Cephlex
  7. Tweezers
  8. Scissors
  9. Nail clippers
  10. Travel hairbrush
  11. Eczema cream for Issy (small tub)
  12. Insect repellent
  13. Electronic mosquito repelling devices (not sure they work!)

Toys and Kids Stuff

  1. UNO – one of our best additions.
  2. 5 small reading books
  3. 2 colouring in books each
  4. 1 set of crayons and 1 set of textas
  5. 3 dolls
  6. Nic Nacs for Issy and Etta that fit in small purse each
  7. Bracelet, Necklace, stick on earrings…we do have 3 daughters afterall!


  1. Electronics cord bag
  2. 2 small packing cubes that house the remainder of devices
  3. Camera wrap
  4. 3 SD Cards
  5. 4 replacement pieces for Camelbak bottles


What was in our Carry-On?

We were in transit for 22 hours total 7.40am- 5.30am. Our middle daughter still requires a nappy overnight and our youngest has 4 bottles in 24hrs)


  • Laptop – Lenovo Yoga
  • Ipad
  • Colour in books
  • 12 Nappies, wipes, formula for 5 feeds, bottle (our own), nappy cream: we just packed enough for the flight and first morning.
  • 1.5L camelback water bottle (Even our 12 month old can use and no leaks)
  • Change of clothes Issy, Etta, Evelyn (*clothes listed in checked bag items)
  • Toys for Evie – miniland doll, blocks, animals, cards

Osprey – fold away backpack

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • 1 baby carrier
  • 600ml camelback water bottle
  • Snacks for the kids – 3 apples, biscuits, lollipops, Evie’s food pouches x 6

So, there you have it. we may have forgotten a few things and will endeavour to keep this updated as we edit our contents of our bags. As we write this we are waiting on Lisa’s parents to arrive from Australia with a Mountain Buggy portable high chair – mealtimes are chaos trying to negotiate with a baby cum toddler as well as a 2 and 4 yo! Hoping we can contain her with this and bring some zen back into mealtimes.

What do you think? We still think we have too much stuff!


  • Hannah

    Hooray! I have been waiting for this list! Fantastic guys it makes it so much easier for those following in your footsteps to pack.

    Super interested in how you go with both the ergo and toddler carrier – already a convert on the Kidco porta cot.

    Safe travels.

  • Melissa Conn

    BRAVO!!! As you can see in the post linked above, we didn’t go nearly as light. In the end it was fine given our itinerary, but there were so many times that I wish we had half as much clothing and fewer shoes/toiletries/kid crap.

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