6 People, 2 Months, 1 Suitcase

Before leaving for our summer in Europe, we debated a lot of different packing configurations. Should we do carry-on only? Should we check a couple of small roller bags on the long-haul flights, then carry them on for shorter flights? Should we only do backpacks? So many options. (And also, SO MANY CHILDREN.}
Here were a few of our considerations:
– We heard so many people say that they just buy toiletries once they get to their destination. But we didn’t have just one destination! We were moving from place to place enough that we’d still have to tote that stuff around. There was no way to buy in small enough quantities and time it so that we’d never be transporting extras; it just isn’t reasonable to buy a 2-or-3-day supply of diapers or face wash. So we needed space for that kind of thing along the way.
– When we left, our kids were 7, 5, 3, and 9 months. It wasn’t feasible to expect all of them to tote their own stuff. Our oldest was the only one who we felt we could reliably expect to carry his things 100% of the time (and even he would surely get tired). So it would really be Dan and me who were managing most of the luggage.
– We had several “extra” pieces to carry. We decided to take one small single umbrella stroller and one infant car seat, as well as a Kidco Peapod (portable travel bed for the baby). Inside the Peapod bag, we stuck two Mifold travel booster seats for the 2 oldest kids, as well as a RideSafer travel vest for T (3yo; kids need to be 4 for the Mifold). That combined things into fewer pieces, but also meant the Peapod carry bag added some weight.
– We needed a bag for flight essentials – diapers, a couple small toys/books, 1 laptop, chargers, DSLR camera, etc.
– We were flying on several cheap airlines in Europe that had VERY small hand baggage size requirements. The smallest was Flybe (55cm x 35cm x 20cm, and a combined weight limit of 10kg for the hand baggage and personal item).
– We had two adults with us, so one could manage kids while the other took care of a big suitcase.
After much reconfiguring, we eventually managed to get everything down to carry-on size and weight. But we had 2 tiny suitcases plus 3 backpacks stuffed to the gills, plus a car seat, stroller, and Peapod bag (with all the booster seats inside). We also had an Ergo baby carrier (with a baby ;)). Not only was it a lot of pieces, but it left no room for anything else along the way (namely, a children’s book and ornament from each stop).
We decided that for us, with traveling with 4 small children and trying to keep track of them, we just didn’t want to be constantly counting and managing what felt like a million pieces of luggage. It cost us around $200 total to check in a big suitcase across all 6 short flights we took in Europe, and we decided it was worth $200 for our sanity.
Here are the pieces we had:
  1. Big suitcase with everyone’s clothing, an extra pair of shoes, and toiletries. While we were moving around, the Peapod baby cot bag that also contained all the booster seats went in the suitcase, but we removed it for the flights because it weighed about 12 lbs with the boosters, and added too much weight to the suitcase. All the airlines allowed us to check a baby cot for free, though, along with the stroller.
  2. Maclaren Triumph single umbrella stroller
  3. Infant car seat (an old Graco because we didn’t want to travel with our normal seat)
  4. Folding backpack – airplane activities, baby essentials
  5. Folding backpack – food/snacks, electronics
  6. Ergo
We are SO happy we made that decision. We commented many, many times how glad we were we didn’t have more pieces to worry about remembering. Also, flying already gets kind of crazy, so it was really nice to not need to transport that many pieces through the airport and find spots in the overhead compartments. So while there were a couple of times it was annoying having a suitcase (namely, with cobblestone streets), it was absolutely worth it for us.
I’ll write more later this week about what exactly each person packed!

4 Responses

  • Wow, now this is inspiring and impressive that you managed to get your luggage down to such a small amount for so many of you!

    • Haha, thank you!! It definitely made our travel easier. Thanks so much for commenting!

  • I loved listening to your interview on Cool Moms Club podcast! We are American, live in London and are taking advantage of the very generous maternity leave policies here (a whole year!) by exploring Europe. We have been lugging around a pack n play, so I was excited to hear about the Peapod as an alternative. The instructions say it is for children 1-3, but your son was 9 months when you used it. Did you buy a regular Peapod and were just comfortable using it for a younger baby? (I imagine this is what happens with all the experience of baby no 4!) Or am I missing an under-1 option?

    • Rikki, I feel terrible that I’m just now seeing this comment! As you may have figured out, we just used the regular Peapod for our baby – it worked just fine. We’ve used it with babies as small as 5 months. Obviously, you’ll have to see what seems safe and reliable for your family, but we felt comfortable doing that. Hope that helps and enjoy your amazing opportunity!

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