How we Pack

So we went to Penang Island in Malaysia last week.  It was incredible.  Definitely recommend.

As we prepped for the trip, I realized we have gotten into a packing formula of sorts.  Not only that, but we’ve honed our division of labor on who packs what.

So here is our formula.  This is how two adults pack themselves and two kids into two duffels and two carry-on book bags.

The Gear

When Henry was born, a super thoughtful cousin gave us a monogrammed duffel from L.L. Bean.  When Mac came along, we got ourselves another.  These bags are our go to.  Always.  Sometimes I wish for more compartments, but that’s why we have packing cubes, amiright?

I believe we have the large

(For Air Asia, where we’ve been taking all our recent flights, you pay for a certain weight of luggage instead of by the bag.  Because of this, we’ve been packing in two bags instead of trying to cram everything in one.  It gives us a little more wiggle room and then James and I can both carry a bag.)

They have gray camo now!!! I might need another.

We have also been devotees of the L.L. Bean toiletries caddy for years.  James and I both have ones that we use, but we just pack one for family trips.  Especially since I quit the contact solution, this pretty much holds everything we all  need.

(I just realized this is starting to sound like a major L.L. Bean ad.  It’s not.  Apparently we just really like their travel products.)

In non L.L. Bean news, we also recently upgraded our stroller situation.  We’ve been rolling with one ancient umbrella and one inherited one for years.  (Sadly, the best double umbrella stroller ever is RIP.)

I keep thinking we are SO CLOSE to being finished with strollers, but we keep finding uses for them for both kids.  On trips where we walk A TON.  On trips where they want to sneak in a nap.  On times when they want to rest in the airport.  On times here in KL where we want to walk around the mall and they want to pass out.  Basically, we like to ball hard on travel, but it makes sense that the kids can’t go all day erry day.  We don’t use strollers all the time, but it’s great to have them sometimes to give the kiddos a break.

This Summer Infant model is lightweight and designed to hold the big kids.  I LOVE that it has great recline, something that was lacking on our previous models.  See napping usage.  We used these on our last trip and were both like, why did we wait so long?

The Tips

Because we travel so frequently, we find it helpful to keep certain things pre-packed.  The aforementioned toiletries bag stays nearly fully stocked and ready to go.  (My makeup is usually the only thing to be added.  I don’t have duplicates on all that.)

James also has medicine bags for the adults and for the kids.  (These are referred to around here as “drug bags.”  Sometimes I get annoyed with their girth, but MAN, are they handy when you need some children’s Tylenol.)  This is his realm so I don’t know the ins and outs, but I believe these stay packed.  He also is in charge of electronics, and he has a bag of chargers and other accoutrement that I believe stays somewhat packed.

We also repeat the same stuff over and over.  For example, we pack fruit/veggie pouches and RX bars for the kiddos for snacks.  Sometimes also other stuff, but that’s usually it.  It works.  We know what to grab.  Done.

This is their preferred flavor

I usually try to pack the not chocolate ones for less melting

The Division of Labor

I can’t say we have this down to a science, but we do have a pretty defined system.


I pack all the stuff for the boys.  Also clothes for myself.  (Usually the last thing I do because I’m indecisive, but then just packing the same clothes I always do.  Go figure.)

I also pack the toiletries as needed.

James does some of this, but I usually pack more of the entertainment/snacks for the children.  (This is where those magazine subscriptions are CLUTCH.)  The entertainment always includes some kind of notebook and drawing utensils.  Also, the kids got some small Lego sets for Christmas which we’ve been including for play at the hotel.  You know for those times when they keep waking up early or when you just need to zone out for a minute after you saw all the things.


He packs his own clothes, but I try to make sure he has a pile of clean stuff available.

He covers all electronics, chargers, adapters, etc.  If it has a plug, James is on it.

He also gets passports, travel documents, tickets, itineraries, schedules, cash, and such if applicable.

I don’t know exactly when we fell into this routine.  It was never spelled out.  But it seems to work.

My Formula

If it’s a shorter trip (less than 5 days), for the boys, I pack one outfit per day + one spare outfit + an additional spare underwear + one set of PJs + swimsuits and goggles + hats.  (Swimsuits in SE Asia.  Always.)

Their clothing is pretty easy because everything matches.  Also things have been REALLY easy lately because I haven’t had to deal with jackets or other layers.  I do usually dress them in pants on the plane.  In case it’s colder and that way they have at least one pair.  For our trip to Chiang Mai, they both got one outer layer for rewear.

For longer trips, I’ll plan on some rewearing or maybe packing a spare outfit that would work for both of them.  (A nice advantage on similarly aged/sized children.)  Or will plan to do laundry.

I threw a sunscreen in the bag on a recent trip, but we generally figure we’ll get sunscreen and bug spray on arrival if needed.

Less is More

When in doubt, we leave it out.  Heh.  Well, mostly.

We haven’t always been this way, but we’ve found that less stuff works better for us.  Easier to pack.  Easier to get around.  And if we really need something, we can usually buy it there.  Or just deal.

Admittedly, this is getting much easier to do as the kids get older.  There just seems to be so much less required equipment.

I’m always impressed by the kids’ creativity without stuff as well.  In Penang, they played with rocks for like an hour.  The rocks all had names and were involved in some complicated plot.  It was pretty cool to see.

Do you have a packing formula?  Division of labor?  Preferred gear?  Tell me your tips!

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4 thoughts on “How we Pack

  1. Kristiina G Craven says:

    I love seeing how people pack and reading their travel hacks. I love the duffle bag idea, but we’d definitely have to get the large with the wheels. This back doesn’t carry luggage anymore LOL I’m including this post in my weekly roundup today. Whoot!

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