I've read several minimalist blogs about how people travel the world with nothing but a small backpack. Tynan, for example, is one of my heroes who lives in a Winnebago and spends a few months each year traveling the world with a 19 liter backpack. He wrote a book called (Warning: Amazon affiliate link ahead) Life Nomadic that I've been meaning to read. That all sounds great, but unfortunately my family doesn't travel light. No matter how much I plead with my kids not to pack an extra bag full of stuffed animals, our car always seems filled to capacity when we head out on vacation. I even had to buy one of those rooftop luggage carriers for the top of our SUV.
Unfortunately, because we always have a carload of stuff, I didn't even realize that we headed out on our vacation last summer without my oldest son's suitcase. That's right. We left for a 10 day trip through five states with my son's suitcase sitting on his bedroom floor. The fact that his bedroom floor is so covered that no one noticed a suitcase laying among the Nerf guns, Legos, sheet music, and Erector Set components is another part of the problem. Luckily for him though, he did have some clothes with because we were stopping for two nights at my in-law's house. I refuse to bring everyone's suitcase in from the car when we are only staying somewhere for a night or two as part of a longer trip. For that reason, we pack one overnight bag that has just what we need for that short stop. Since we were spending two nights he at least had a pair of pajamas and a couple days worth of clothes. That evening after we got to my in-law's house, I ran out to a store to buy him a few more clothes. For long trips like this, I often will also pack one bag just for swimming. That way we have all of the swim suits, towels, swim goggles, and sunscreen together and can easily find them. Each of the kids also packs a backpack with things to keep them entertained in the car. Honestly, it would have been far more tragic for all of us had he left his backpack at home, so given the choice between his suitcase and the backpack-o-fun, I'm glad he left the clothes at home.
Miraculously, my son survived the ordeal unscathed and when we returned home I made a point to talk to the kids about how he managed to get by without all of that stuff he had packed in his suitcase. I'm not sure any of them got the message, but we'll find out this summer when we do it all over again. So the next time you're packing for a trip, think hard about whether you really need to lug all of that stuff around.
I suggest two things to help you pack:First, have a list of what you need so you don't forget things that really are necessary. We keep a spreadsheet with several tabs. Each tab is for specific types of trips (e.g. a vacation involving air travel and staying in a hotel, a weekend road-trip to my in-laws, a long road trip that encompasses a hotel stay as well as visits with relatives). Each family member has their own color-coded column on each list. The colors are for the type of bag (e.g main suitcase, backpack, toiletry bag, etc.). Several days before a trip we'll print the appropriate list and add any specifics to it like a gift for the birthday party you're going to.
Second, pack what you think you need and then going back through what you've just packed and decide what you can pull back out. We don't put quantities on our lists because it will change depending on the length of the trip.
While writing this, I found the website http://www.onebag.com/. Take a look there for a good explanation of the benefits of traveling light as well as recommendations on how to do it including lots of checklists. Good luck.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2017