Long-term travel packing gives even the most expert packer a lot to think about. My children and I tend to do extended international stays that span seasons and continents, but most people do extended stays state-side with family. Whatever your stay looks like, there are still some long-term travel packing tips to be had and a starter list to use as a jumping off point.

Long-Term Travel Packing: Things to Consider

  1. What are your travel seasons?
  2. Are you in the United States where Amazon Prime is available and Target exists everywhere?
  3. Are you visiting someone who you can borrow from?
  4. What does your living situation look like (i.e., in-laws home, renting, moving around)?
  5. Are you driving or flying?
  6. What excursion-type situations are already planned, and what theoretically could be needed?
  7. Toys, books, entertainment — what is actually needed?
  8. Are you in charge of the finances or any major things happening with the property?

To Pack and Not to Pack It? That is the Question.

You may be thinking “I can pack for myself easily enough, but what in the world do my kids need?” The answer is quite simple; almost nothing. Children need very little. They actually require almost nothing to function, and you will discover that if you pack it they won’t use it! When packing for your children, less is more — truly. This is the part where I typically lose mom friends because they always say things like, “But, if Charlotte doesn’t have her fuschia dress she will throw a fit.” Well, when it is not an option it is not missed, I promise.

What they actually need is five total outfits. In addition to these outfits, you need one “nice” top or dress. This is not an Easter formal; this is something typically with a collar. This is not a tulle tutu; this is preferably a solid color and versatile enough that if you lose outfits along the way, it can be used in daily wear. Maybe the most important things to pack are a pair of leggings or sweatpants and a sweatshirt. You only need one, but my goodness, you desperately need that one. My theory is that you can always take off layers, but you cannot always find layers to put on.

Packing for Extended Stays

Extended Stay Seasonal Secrets

When crossing seasons, I choose convertible pants for my boys’ alotted five pairs of bottoms. The lower portion easily zips off into shorts when needed, and I do not have to pack five pairs each of pants and shorts. I understand that dressing a girl may be quite different, but they make them for girls as well. They also dry quickly, so if you are abroad where dryers are yet to be a trend, you will be incredibly grateful for quick-dry fabric. If you find yourself needing more long-term travel packing options for a girl, then pack a few pairs of pants and an additional five warmer-weather outfits — just never more than 10 outfits!

For my children, I also pack two pairs of pajamas and two pairs of shoes — one pair of tennis shoes and a pair of water-friendly hiking shoes or heavy play shoes. We prefer Keens. If you find yourself crossing numerous seasons, I suggest packing a heavy fleece jacket (our Columbia-brand jackets have held up nicely) and a pair of gloves. Stocking hats are easy to find abroad, but finding child-sized gloves is an absolute nightmare.

Packing for Extended Stays

Last but not least for clothing, bring a swimsuit and rash guard, along with a sun hat and sunglasses. You can usually find these anywhere, so if you forget, don’t worry.

What Will My Children Do Without Their Things?

When it comes to long-term travel packing, one of the things I get asked is, “But what about the toys?” I think everyone can agree that regardless of the number of toys a child owns, they will always want more. This is just how kids are. We can also agree that, last Christmas, the favorite present was the box. Your child will survive without a lot of toys.

There will be things that bring comfort obviously; for us, it has been Legos, paper and pencils, and daddy dolls. But, they still like to collect things along the way to play with. My 4-year-old is obsessed with boat making. He makes them out of trash, sticks, and rubber bands from the butcher. This brings him hours of entertainment. My oldest is harder to please, but has developed a love of simple card games and drawing.

Long-Term Travel Packing: Entertainment

  1. Two deflated beach balls — A ball can bring a ridiculous amount of distraction. Pack two because one will die.
  2. Boogie boards — I love these things. They are a plane ride’s best friend, and they don’t make noise!
  3. A deck of playing cards — These can also be used for school! Bring an additional deck of cards, such as Uno or Spot It.
  4. Colored pencils, crayons, and blank paper — I vote blank paper instead of a coloring book because you can also create paper planes or play tic-tac-toe with it.
  5. The app Epic — The app is $7.99 per month and is catered to your child’s age with a huge array of books. Some of them are read-aloud books, which is great for before bed.
  6. Sticker books — I prefer Usborne, but sticker books can entertain for hours.
  7. Paper dolls — They are a great deal of fun, and new clothes can be made for them along the way.

Long-Term Travel Packing: For Mama

OK, mamas, I’m going to tell you something that you aren’t going to want to hear. You don’t need more than 10 outfits. You will probably only wear about half of them. To be perfectly honest, I wear the same three continuously. One of my favorite pieces is a sports skort. It is great for a hike, to wander the streets, and to chase children.

You also need two pairs of pajamas, a swimsuit and accessories, a nicer outfit (I suggest a sundress with sleeves), and, of course, a sweatshirt or cardigan and leggings. Your leggings will double as pajamas, loungewear, sick pants, and most importantly a bottom layer for those cold-weather days.

Here comes the part you are really going to hate: You only need three pairs of shoes, mama — ouch, I know. You need a pair of hiking or water-capable shoes. Once again, I prefer Keens, but Merrills are another good option. Then, you need a nice pair of sandals. Not fancy sandals, but the shoes that you wear day-in and day-out to chase children in your yard. I wear trusty old Birkenstocks, but I’ll let you decide. Your third pair of shoes should be something comfortable that you can walk long distances in, but are nice enough to wear with a skirt or sundress. I love my Salt Water sandals for this. I can walk anywhere for any amount of time in them, and they can double as my dressy shoes.

Maintaining Perspective

It is very easy to over pack. Even with six outfits for the kids and 10 for myself, I over packed. Many outfits give me options and, with that, has come a great deal of shopping control. I do not feel like I need to buy more clothes.

It is also important to note that I packed for an 11-month trip. So you can adjust this list according to your needs, but the clothing expectations should remain the same. While on your next adventure, keep in mind that anything clothing- or shoe-related that you think you are missing can be found and purchased abroad. The goal is to keep the pack you carry as light as possible so you aren’t burdened by your things while you’re trying to enjoy yourself.

Following Lydia’s lead and taking your homeschool on the road? Get her packing tips in Schooling on the Road.
Packing for Extended Stays

Photo Credits: Lydia Bradbury

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