Packing for a summer vacation in Europe with kids

Who doesn’t ask what to pack when going to Europe? What if you’re bringing kids? It can get a bit overwhelming/nerve-wracking as you think through it, but it doesn’t have to and I will share with you our experience.

Mission: pack for 2 weeks in Europe, in July for mom, dad and a 5 year old – using only one carry-on for each.

Only one carry-on bag for each at Prague's main train station
Only one carry-on bag for each at Prague’s main train station


1) Use the 3 bottoms, 5 tops rule: I also like to call this the school uniform rule. If you think about it, it makes sense: you can go by 5 days with 3 bottoms (since they are more reusable) and 5 tops (usually you will use it once and wash it). For example, for 2 weeks using this method you would pack 9 bottomos and 15 tops, however we did only 5 bottoms and 10 tops because we had planned beforehand to find a laundry service half way through the trip.

2) Mix and match colors: I am far away from being a fashionable person, but when you have to pick and choose what you are going to carry around so that you can look nice in pictures, you need to plan your color scheme. Go fo dark colors for bottoms and from there use your imagination on your tops. For kids it’s easier because their outfits have vibrant colors and it is easier to mix and match.

3) Take it easy on the shoes: Think that usually during an European vacation you will be walking up and down on cobbled streets and miles and miles inside museums, so comfortable shoes are a must. And you don’t really need many pairs of shoes; pack one comfortable pair of shoes for walking, a pair of flip flops (I usually carry them in my sightseeing bag) and another pair of nicer shoes in case you want to look a little more “dressed up”.

4) Accessories: If you feel that you wanted to just break the school uniform rule and bring a ton of clothes, there is hope for you! You can instead pack some cool accessories for you and your little one. For women some bracelets, necklaces, hats, sunglasses, for men I guess hats and sunglasses and for kids, the opportunities are endless! My daughter loves her hats, bracelets and sunglasses. They don’t take up a lot of space and are not heavy, so it is an easy alternative to the ton of clothes you were so inclined to bring.

5) Don’t bring your kid’s toy chest along: Every parent has a different way to deal with this, with some saying to bring as many toys as you can for the trip. I don’t do that, we have a one toy rule. Think that during the trip you will be strolling your carry-on, plus watching for your kid and many times strolling their carry-on also and the last thing you want is to worry about the bag with all the toys. Kids are not that complicated to manage and they respond well to a reasonable conversation: tell them before you travel that they are allowed to bring only one toy and that they will get to pick one nice toy from one of the destinations. It works, trust me.

Result: I can say that it worked for us very well, and we will be repeating that approach now that our little one is about to turn 8. And she still remembers it so well that she says she wants to pack her own bag this time – but of course, mommy will supervise.

I did not mention anything about toiletries or medicine, because it really depends if you need prescription medication or the types of hair products you use. Just make sure that you don’t forget those and remember not to bring the whole shampoo bottles along (if you run out, you can find shampoo anywhere in Europe 🙂 ).

All smiles as we get off the airport bus and stop for a picture at Promenade des Anglais before checking in at our hotel in Nice
All smiles as we get off the airport bus and stop for a picture at Promenade des Anglais before checking in at our hotel in Nice

Happy packing, happy travels!

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