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The Ultimate Packing List for Travelling Families

We’ve finally packed our bags ready for our three-month trip. It was super stressful as packing light is not one of my better skills and the children are quite literally bouncing off the walls with excitement, which has made for an interesting couple of days! But it’s done! It’s by far the least I’ve ever taken away with us although I suspect I may still have too much, but hey, I guess we could always donate as we go… If you’re at all intrigued about what we’re taking on such a long trip or are looking for some packing tips, hopefully you’ll find the below helpful.

The kids and I leave tomorrow morning, travelling first to Hong Kong for three days and then onto Auckland where we’ll connect with our lovely friend and her two children who moved to Melbourne a year ago (we’re so excited to see them!). The six of us will pick up our camper (2 ladies, 4 kids and an enormous, 7.25m campervan, what could possibly go wrong!) and tour the North Island for three weeks before heading over on the ferry to the South Island and down to Christchurch. Here, we’ll do a swap, as we pick up MrJ after his mammoth flight from London, and our friends will fly back to Melbourne, where we’ll join them a couple of weeks later after exploring the South Island.

So, our three bags are packed, and we’ve left MrJ with a few choice items we’ll need for later in the trip (namely wetsuits, malaria tablets and a few additional toiletries). We’re having to cater for a range of climates as it’ll be very hot and humid in Queensland & Indonesia, but possibly quite cool in the south of New Zealand. We’ll even require coats, woollen hats and gloves for our hike across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing given the altitudes at which we’ll be walking. So, without further ado, here’s what we’ve packed:

1. Clothing

Clothing is a really personal choice and I won’t bore you with my items, but just to give you an idea of what we’re taking for the kids, here’s the list for the Beans:

Bean9
  • 6 dresses
  • 6 short sleeved tops
  • 2 long sleeved tops
  • 3 shorts
  • 2 sarongs (which will undoubtedly be used in play too)
  • 3 leggings
  • 1 pyjamas
  • 7 pants
  • 4 thin socks and 2 thick, hiking socks
  • 1 thin & 1 thick jumper
  • 1 jacket with fleece inside (can be taken out)
  • 1 gloves and woollen hat
  • 1 summer hat
  • Crocs
  • Hiking boots (to go in)
  • Waterproof trousers
Bean8
  • 7 t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeved shirts
  • 5 shorts
  • 2 trousers
  • 2 sarongs
  • 1 pyjamas
  • 4 boxers
  • 4 thin socks and 2 thick, hiking socks
  • 2 jumpers
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 gloves and woollen hat
  • 1 summer hat
  • Crocs
  • Hiking boots (to go in)
  • Waterproof trousers

Bean8 has also requested we buy him some new sandals for playing football (apparently crocs are not the best attire for this activity, and he’s outgrown his old sandals) but we’ve decided it’ll be easier to buy these out in New Zealand.

All of these are packed into one large packing cube each (one large, one small for me!). If you haven’t discovered packing cubes yet, I’d highly recommend them. We have four different coloured sets, one for each person, and they not only help pack your items in an efficient, space-saving way in the bags, they also aid management of all your stuff as you travel. If you need to quickly find something for one of the children (let’s face it, this happens a lot!), just choose the correct coloured cube and pull it out, rather than rummaging through everything in the bag making a mess! Also, when you arrive at a hotel, you can simply pull out their cubes and pop them straight into the cupboard/wardrobe, without having to sort through and organise all the clothes by person.

Although each person is allocated a colour, for the initial long-haul flights, I split each person’s clothes between two packing cubes across two bags. Just in case one of the bags doesn’t arrive with us. Then, on arrival, I’ll reorganise back into their own coloured cubes. We’ve had an incident before in Spain where someone took our bag by mistake. Fortunately, we were staying relatively close to the airport, so we popped back the next day to find the bag had been returned. But it could have been much more inconvenient.

We were staying in the Kruger once with a couple whose wife’s bag had not made it through from the US. By the time it finally arrived in Africa, it took a couple of weeks to make it to her as they were travelling around so much. I remember it distinctly as the difference in height between the two of them was at least a foot if not more, but she still managed to wear her husband’s clothes with a smile! I vowed then never to put all my eggs in the same basket as it were!

For the same reason, we also tie a very attractive jcloth to the end of each of our bags. I know you can buy fancy coloured bag straps but, to be honest, no-one else uses jcloths (funny that!) and we haven’t had a bag taken since!

2. Swimwear/beach items

We’re each taking two swimsuits/swim shorts each, along with goggles for the kids. I’m also very conscious about protecting the children’s skin from the sun given my run in with skin cancer last year. I’m about 10 years younger than is normal to develop basal cell carcinomas and was told by the dermatologist that this was undoubtedly because of the time I spent in Indonesia as a child (we spent 8 weeks out there each summer from when I was about 13 setting up my dad’s business). Although I always remember my mum insisting we use sun cream, I suspect the creams available were not as effective as those used today and I spent a lot of time SCUBA diving, and getting in and out of the sea, so it was hard to stay covered all the time.

We’ve packed the following to help protect the Beans:

  • one long sleeved UPF 50+ protected top (this one for Bean9 and this for Bean8);
  • one short sleeved UPF 50+ protected tops (this one for Bean9 and this for Bean8); and
  • one of these swimhats each.
LAPASA Rash Guard Kids' Vest UV Sun Protection UPF +50 - Unisex Skin Care Long Sleeve Swimsuit – K02 - Black&Pink - 10 Years old

Mountain Warehouse Short Sleeves Kids Rash Vest - UPF50+ Sun Protection Rash Guard, Quick Drying, Flat Seams Childrens Rash Top - For Swimming & Under a Wetsuit Blue 11-12 years

In addition, we’re taking the following:

  • One quick-drying towel each (everyone allocated a separate colour) – these are brilliant; they’re super light-weight and really quickly to dry;
  • Two extra small quick-drying towels to act as flannels for washing;
  • One of these excellent snorkels for each of the Beans and my old prescription snorkel for me (MrJ will just hire as we go), as we intend to snorkel and SCUBA dive where possible (the Beans will do their Bubblemaker course in Indonesia);
  • Wetsuits (there are none to hire on the island where they’re learning to dive, otherwise I would have opted for hiring these out there) and booties to protect little feet in the sea. I’m taking these IceUnicorn watershoes for use in the sea and on land, rather than taking a pair of trainers (MrJ is taking these);
  • A couple of small buckets, spades, a tennis ball, golf ball, blow up beach ball and a few measuring cylinders (OK, so this is random, but we always take them on beach holidays, and they play with them all the time!).
IceUnicorn Water Shoes Mens Womens Quick Dry Sports Aqua Shoes Unisex Swim Shoes with 14 Drainage Holes for Swim,Walking,Yoga,Lake,Beach,Garden,Park,Driving,Boating(Black,9UK)

3. Toiletries

Although mostly we’ll pick up additional items when required, there are some toiletry products which are only available in the UK, so in these cases, we’re taking 3 months’ worth of supply. So, for example, my dermatologist, a skin cancer specialist, has developed a sun cream in collaboration with other UK dermatologists. It’s called Altruist and has 5* Ultra UVA protection along with a broad range of photostable UV filters, including the most advanced filter available Tinosorb A2B. I’ve been using this sun cream since my skin cancer diagnosis back in August and would highly recommend it. Three months’ supply takes up quite a lot of space & weight in the bags, but at least it’ll mean they’ll get lighter as we go!

Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen SPF 50 - high UVA protection, 100 ml (2 x 100 ml)

Here’s what else is on our list:

  • 2 x Lush Shampoo Bars transported in a travel soap dish – I’ve been recommended these: they last for a long time so the two should easily last us all for three months and there’s no plastic rubbish involved either;
Soak And Float shampoo bar
  • 3 x Moroccanoil Conditioner – another recommendation from a friend. I have really thick, dry and curly hair, which is a nightmare to manage, but this conditioner is so effective, I only need to use a tiny amount each time, so three of these will last Bean9 and me for the whole trip;
  • 1 x shower gel;
  • Razor and razor blades;
  • 1 x toothpaste, 4 toothbrushes and these travel cases (you can squeeze two toothbrushes into one case);
2 x Toothbrush Case Travel Cover ~ 1 Pink & 1 Blue
  • Hairbrush, hairbands
  • Make up, tweezers and scissors
  • 1 x aloe vera gel (in case we do have a sunburn incident)
  • 1 x deodorant
  • 1 x Nivea
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Para’kito insect repellent wristbands and refills – these are excellent and worth investing in (we have a different coloured band each). Sadly, I’m highly attractive to insects; I regularly get bitten (I once had more than 50 bites on my bottom from one night in Greece!), but we all wore these bands for 2.5 weeks in Singapore and Thailand last year and I only had a couple of bites from the whole trip. Given the possibility of diseases passed through mosquito bites, such as dengue, malaria or zika, we need to minimise bites as much as possible. We use these bands in collaboration with insect repellent (we’ll take a kid’s version and a stronger adult version). Furthermore, we’re also taking mosquito nets with us as we’re staying in very basic accommodation in parts of Indonesia, which are unlikely to provide the nets we need.
Para'kito Mosquito Repellent Band from Botanical Mosquito Solutions. (Black)

4. First Aid Kit

This is where I’ve definitely failed in the packing light goal! We’ve had a few sicknesses/health related issues on our travels, with one memorable and nearly fatal incident with a scorpion in South Africa (a story for another time…), so I always pack a comprehensive first aid kit. Here’s what’s in ours:

  • Arnica cream and tablets – useful for many ailments and I’ve been told the tablets even help with jetlag, which is so worth a try!
  • Painkillers (for adults and children)
  • Sick bands and tablets (Bean8 gets a little seasick if it’s really rough)
  • Rehydration salts (Bean9 will only drink water, she hates the taste of squash, and the idea of blackcurrant-flavoured dioralyte would make her feel even more sick, so we have to take a bundle of the natural flavoured ones)
  • Range of plasters, bandages, tape and a sling
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Hand gel (we take this on the plane along with a few plasters and some sachets of calpol)
  • Antihistamine cream and tablets
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Fusidic acid cream (an antibiotic cream used to treat bacterial skin infections) – I had some of this left over from a previous prescription and it’s helpful to take to tropical climes
  • Antidiarrhoeal tablets & Senokot to help the other way!
  • Lemsips & Strepsils
  • Q tips
  • Vaseline
  • Child’s thermometer & spare heads
  • A full travel first aid kit – I can’t find the exact one but ours has sterile needles should we need them in case of admission to a hospital/medical centre in a remote area

5. Toys, audiobooks and games

Please see this post for information about what we’re packing for homeschooling on the road, including lists of books on Kindles, audiobooks and games we’re bringing along. In addition to this, the Beans are each allowed their smallest packing cube full of any bijou toys they want to take. They’ve refined this over the years and tend to take open-ended toys, such as Sylvanians, Lego people, Schleich animals, chalk (for drawing out houses on paving stones for e.g.), cars, boats, mini microscopes, as well as bluetack, string and scissors for making things. They’re also allowed two small teddies each which travel everywhere with them (these teddies are very well travelled!).

6. Electronics

Here’s our ever increasing list of electronic items we’ll be carrying in our hand luggage:

  • Laptop
  • Mobile phones
  • 2 x iPads (to use as Kindles)
  • 2 x Kindles for the kids
  • My new GoPro Hero7 (I was very lucky to get this at Christmas)
  • Canon SX720 camera (we love this camera – the zoom is phenomenal and makes identification of birds easier too!)
  • 2 x cameras for the kids
  • Travel adaptors
  • A plethora of connectors (all nicely labelled for me by MrJ!)

7. Essential Documents

  • Passports (check the expiration date as most countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months on entry)
  • Driving licences (one not to forget given the five week campervan hire!)
  • Copies of passports and driving licences
  • Details of accommodation, transfers, hire car/campervan rentals, flights and any trips booked
  • Credit cards
  • Small amount of cash in local currencies
  • Emergency contact details (I’ve put these in each of the children’s backpacks)
  • Copies of insurance details
  • Details of injections we’ve all had to date

As we have such a complex trip, with numerous flights, transfers and various different accommodation booked, I’ve pulled together a spreadsheet (which I’ve printed out) to coordinate all of the logistics and also keep recommendations of places to go/things to see in the different areas.

8. Miscellaneous

And finally, for those last items:

  • Microfibre sleeping bag liners – as we’re staying in some pretty basic accommodation
  • Earplugs (I always sleep with these in!)
  • Watches (kids)
  • Sunglasses
  • Drinks bottles
  • Snacks for Bean8’s insatiable appetite!
  • Sweets to help equalise their ears on take-off and landing
  • Guide books – these have been downloaded free from Kindle Unlimited onto my iPad
  • Phone holder for the car and campervan
  • Sewing kit
  • Lighter
  • Swiss Army knife (with a bottle opener!)
Victorinox Huntsman Swiss Army Pocket Knife, Red

So, there we have it – a fairly comprehensive list! In terms of bags, we decided not to invest in backpacks since we already had these excellent Jeep bags, which the kids can easily wheel around. Then we each have our own small backpack for hand luggage.

Although the list seems long, it all fits neatly into the four main bags and four backpacks we have. One of our flights at the end of our trip has a weight limit of only 10kg per person for the hold. We’re way over that at the moment, but I’m confident we’ll get there by the time we’ve used up the majority of our toiletries. She says somewhat optimistically!!

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