A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Packing Light for a Family Vacation. Plus, an Announcement

It is a personal goal of mine to pack as little as possible when we go on family vacations. I used to pride myself on taking anything and everything we could possibly need for a trip. But now I get excited with how small our bags are and how empty the van is when we leave.

Our family is at the beach this week. In the past we’ve carried so much stuff with us that everyone was cramped and loading the car took forever. This time, the van was so empty on the ride here that the kids could actually lay the seats all the way down to go to sleep!

So what made the difference? I decided to handle all the packing myself. As a mom, the bulk of the packing typically falls on me anyway. It only takes one trip of a kid forgetting underwear that you realize you have to oversee the clothes packing process fairly closely.

Instead of looking at packing for the family as a chore, I now see it as a big advantage. Maybe doing all the packing seems a little control freakish, but here are some of the reasons why I enjoy it:

Advantages to Packing for the Entire Family Vacation:

  1. I pack fewer clothes. This year we are gone for a nine day trip but I only packed three outfits for everyone. As the minimalist of the family, I’m bound to pack the lightest for all of us.
  2. I make sure all outfits are mix and match. I don’t like to do a lot of laundry on vacation but I’d rather do laundry than over pack. Making sure every shirt goes with every pair of shorts I pack for the kids, there is sure to be something clean they can wear on any given day.
  3. I pack fun and educational activities. In the past, we’ve traveled with video game systems and all kinds of toys to keep the kids busy. This year my husband and I decided to skip the games, but I made sure to bring some fun things along like books, movies, and card games that didn’t take up too much room.
  4. If I don’t pack it, they’re less likely to miss it. When I used to turn my kids loose with the directive of “Go pack your bag for our trip,” the sheer volume of what they wanted to bring was overwhelming. Despite me gently trying to explain that six stuffed animals was a tad too much for one week long trip I was inevitably met with a sad face and an argument. By avoiding the situation of having to put back things the kids want to pack, I can skip the arguments altogether.

Once you’ve been on vacation with just a handful of necessities, it really shows you how little you need to be quite comfortable on a daily basis. This little realization always helps to revive my minimalist mojo and gets me in the mood to think of new trips to plan.

I know I’m certainly not the most minimalist vacation packer around. What tips do you have to share for traveling light with your family?


Announcing: My Menus

On a slightly different note, while we were on vacation this week, our first iPhone app went live! I am so excited to share My Menus with you.

My Menus is an app I created for organizing your favorite menus. I am always looking for ways to simplify menu planning. All the apps and systems I tried made things way too complicated or gave me a list of recipes I’m was never going to use. My Menus is the exact method I’ve used on paper for years and I turned it into an iPhone app.

Some of the features of My Menus include:

  • Simple, easy to use method for organizing your favorite recipes
  • Sorts menus by protein type, cooking method, or cooking time
  • โ€œSurprise Meโ€ random menu option
  • Offers a text box for menu notes or side items
  • Keeps track of where a recipe is located

I hope you’ll try it out and share it with your friends if you find it useful. A free version called My Menus Lite is also available.

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Article originally published on 06/05/2012

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  1. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was just thinking about how to pack for our summer vacation. With 4 kiddos, I think I will opt for the same thing you do–three mix and match outfits a piece…plus swimwear. I hate the overpacking that I tend to do if I am not mindful of it.


    • Faith Janes says

      I fall into that “Be Prepared” mode and want to over pack if I’m not careful too. Mix and match has been so much easier.

  2. Packing is enough to deter Mum’s from taking the family away ๐Ÿ˜‰ As is the laundry upon your return.
    What I’ve found is that because my wardrobe is so minimal, I can literally pack my wardrobe for a UK holiday (in the UK you need all sorts of different apparel, as you just never know – it was 30 degrees last week, it’s been as low as 8 this week – oh and raining, once again).
    Having little to choose from really helps!
    ps – Good luck with the app launch Faith!

    • Faith Janes says

      Packing and UNpacking can both be overwhelming if you let it.

      I can’t believe it’s still been so cold there! Stay warm over there.

  3. I am pretty lazy and so have been using the same list for years. I have various lists for different types of holidays. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Cool IPhone App!

  5. I don’t usually have a way to do laundry on our trips but can still pack everything the boys need into a duffle bag for each of them. When we go to the mountains, packing requires jackets and jeans as well as shorts. Jeans/shorts can usually be worn more than once before needing to be washed so I take that into consideration. It makes my packing much less stressful!:-)

    • Faith Janes says

      The funny thing is I have one son who hates to wear things more than once. And one son that I have to ask him where his dirty clothes are because he’ll keep wearing them if I don’t take them. My daughter would prefer to change three times a day if I let her so that’s a challenge of its own.

  6. Jennifer Ott says

    I will have to try out your app; I haven’t found a menu planning one that I like yet! Perhaps they are all too complicated for this minimalist-at-heart! I also do all the packing for our trips! Still, the exhaustion of coming home sometimes make me dread vacations!

    • Faith Janes says

      I hope you like the app, Jennifer. I made sure to design something I would use myself and all the fancy apps just take more effort and time than I want to give.

  7. Awesome advice! I just got back from a 7 day trip to the beach. We have 2 school age kids and a 9 month old. After several years of loading up our SUV and driving about 8 hours to stay in a beach house with all of my husband’s family, I have learned to pack less and less. I am looking forward to packing even less next year.

  8. Faith — I’m completely new to minimalism and I’ve really enjoyed all your posts. I have a question for you. I have been reading yours and other minimalism mom blogs and I’m kind of curious why nobody seems to post pictures of their homes. Or closets or something like that. I realize that every family’s version of minimalism can be different and how some would see it as “too close to home”. I guess I would just love a house tour of a minimalist family and am wondering if you could send me in the direction of one! Thanks for all your advice.

  9. do you always stay in places with a washer/dryer?? what do you do when there are not washer/dryer available? I don’t mind washing clothes by hand in the sink, but what to do about the drying while we’re on vacation? I would love to pack less clothes, so any tips you can give would be helpful. Thanks

  10. What a marvelous post. We are starting to think about vacation, and with two toddlers packing could be a challenge. I want to go camping, we may drive a distance, etc. The light packing sounds great. My tip is I allow ONE TOY to travel with us places for daily errands and it stays in the car. I do not want to carry Scout around, or loose him, or hear about it. My kids know that is the plan and they rarely balk. Parents set the guidelines! For a longer trip we usually have a toy bag, and now a nook. We shall see! THANKS for great advice.

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