Our Favorite Minimal Packing Essentials for Families

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Especially with a big family, it’s important for us to pack minimally so we don’t feel totally overwhelmed when we travel. Here are some of our favorite minimal packing essentials for families!

Merino Wool Base Layers, Socks, & Sweaters

I’ve said it countless times before, but merino wool really is the best for packing light when traveling because it’s comfortable, breathable, versatile, and can be reworn without needing to be washed frequently (and dries quickly when it is washed). It’s the best!

We pretty much always travel with merino wool base layers to use as pajamas and also to layer under clothing for extra warmth in colder months. We also ALWAYS travel with merino wool socks.

Here are my favorite base layers to use as pajamas or to layer under clothing in cold weather. I also really love this stretchy merino silk v-neck under clothes or as a top, especially in warmer weather.

All our favorite merino wool base layers and wool socks are linked HERE!

Diaper Belt Bag

I absolutely love this little bag because it holds so much but is really compact and easy to wear with a variety of outfits. It has a built in waterproof wipes pocket (which I also love having on hand even without kids), and room for a couple diapers, snacks, credit cards, and more. It also has a fold out changing pad if you’re traveling with a baby, that can also be detached if you’re not. Love love it.

You can use the code PASSPORTFAM10 for 10% off.

Packing Cubes

I love packing cubes for keeping things organized, contained, and compact. They really help us pack more minimally because everything stays inside one pouch. These are my favorite expandable packing cubes, and I also love these.

Lightweight Women’s Pants

I absolutely adore these pants for travel because they’re SO comfortable (lightweight fabric and comfortable, wide, stretchy waistband), fold crazy small, and dry in a flash. They’re the best! More about why I love them HERE.

Lightweight Packable Coat

I love this lightweight packable parka because it is really warm and good for layering, and folds into a bag a little bigger than a water bottle when not in use. It’s not waterproof but does well in a light sprinkle, and is the best for airport travel when it might be warm inside and you don’t want to wear your coat the entire time. (This coat does tend to snag easily, so just be careful.)

My kids have also used these coats for years and they’re excellent because they fold up easily but are warm and layer well. They have a big line of them for the whole family.


When traveling, I often only take one pair of shoes – either my favorite white sneakers or my beloved black Chelsea boots. Both are amazing – supportive, super comfortable, and versatile for a variety of activities and outfits, which makes them excellent if you want to pack minimally. More about both shoes HERE.

For my kids, we really love Keen shoes because they’re durable and waterproof. For summer, we love these sneakers or these close-toed hiking sandals – both are waterproof and hold up really well for a wide variety of activities. For winter, we love these boots – they work great in rain or snow, or just for walking around.

40L Backpack

I love this kids backpacking backpack because it’s roomy, easily fits in most carry on requirements on airplanes, and fits really comfortably. It works great on me even though it’s technically a kids’ pack (I’m 5’4″), and my older 3 kids (ages 13, 11, and 9 at the time of writing) use it perfectly, too. (My 6 year old uses the smaller 18L version, and my 3 year old uses the even smaller 12L version.) We’ve also never had issues using it as a personal item even on budget airlines, even though it’s technically an inch or so too tall (but the top part detaches to bring it to the correct height in case we were ever stopped).

Pop Up Tent Baby Bed

We’ve had this super lightweight baby travel bed (it weighs about a pound!) for over a decade. We love it so much because it’s so lightweight and fits easily in a suitcase without having to take a bulky and heavy pack n play. One of my most beloved baby travel items for sure.

Lightweight Folding Baby Carrier

I absolutely love this baby carrier because it’s supportive but still lightweight and weighs about a pound. It folds into its own little pouch so it’s easy to hook on a backpack when not in use, and it dries quickly if it gets wet due to the thin fabric. It’s also excellent in hot weather. Love it!



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