Minimalist Packing for 2 weeks in Europe for a Family of 4 (1 toddler, 1 baby) [UPDATED]
I apologize for the lack of posting while we were away. I had good intentions to keep up with posting but decided in the moment that it was better to be present for the trip. I did post photos on my Instagram account over here if you are interested. I will put together a travel guide from what we learned shortly but wanted to start with our packing list. While I certainly made some mistakes on this trip, how we packed was not one of them. With an itinerary that included layovers in London, city roaming in Lisbon and many beach days in the Algarve, we needed to be prepared but not overpack. We managed to fit everything into 1 large rolling suitcase, 1 carry-on rolling suitcase, 1 backpack (diaper bag), 1 stroller (gate check). I would have loved to only have brought carry-on bags as we did end up paying some baggage fees on our smaller flights. Maybe next trip that can be our goal, but looking back I'm not sure we could have packed much lighter for 15 days away, unless we brought no coats or diapers. Luckily 2 of our 3 main accommodations had a washing machine (we had to buy laundry detergent ourselves) and we certainly took advantage of the in-suite laundry.
So in the end here is what I packed for 4 people and lessons learned.
1 Madewell Chambray shirt dress
1 Aritzia tank dress
1 Zara jumpsuit
1 Jcrew Jean Shorts*
1 jean jacket
1 black skinny jeans
I nightie/beach coverup
3 bathing suits
1 Aritzia straw packable hat
1 Jcrew sunglasses*
1 pair Jcrew runners*
1 pair sandals
1 pair flip flops
Theo (3 3/4 years old)
3 Tank Tops
1 Mini Mioche Romper*
1 Mini Mioche Cardigan*
1 Simply Merino Pajamas*
1 pair Native Shoes
1 pair Birkenstock Sandals
Mae (10 months)
Packs for himself but packed the lightest of us all. His only regret was packing a bit too much black.
In the end, almost everything was worn. We could have done with 1-2 less tops per person. And we never used our rain coats, even though it did rain. The rain in the Algarve only lasted an hour or so at a time so we just hid out. It also would have been easy to pick up rain ponchos for a few euros.
A shout out to the large brimmed bonnets from Rain People that Mae essentially lived in on the trip. I brought them thinking they would be helpful on the beach but I underestimated their use. Mae wore them in the sunny city of Lisbon, in the stroller and when I wore her. A simple tilt of the hat would give enough shade to help her fall asleep on the go. Like most babies she gets a bit hysterical with the sun in her eyes and I'm not sure she would have been such a happy traveller without these beautiful bonnets. Thank you Rain People for keeping her protected and adorable!
While this post is getting a little long I need to mention how useful the packing cubes were. I bought 4 medium sized and then borrowed about 8 more of varying sizes. I can't imagine sharing 2 suitcases with 4 people without them. I kept each packing cube for a specific person and the clothes generally stayed in the cubes when we were at a rental even if there was room to unpack. Packing up was pretty smooth because of this system and we always knew where to find our clothes. We also used some for shoes, electronics etc. They aren't the prettiest but they sure are functional.
Finally.... a few miscellaneous things we packed that were useful...
A lightweight beach blanket (some rentals didn't provide beach towels),
Shampoo and Conditioner (most hotels and rentals don't provide in Europe),
2 metal water bottles (stay hydrated, less waste),
Dry bags for storing baby food and dirty laundry,
Diapers (because we had them and didn't want to be hunting for affordable ones in a new city)
Snaaaacks (we brought granola bars, Love Child Squishies and Baby Crackers to ensure the kids were always fed and we weren't panicked in a foreign place trying to feed a baby or a picky toddler)
Overall I was really happy with our packing. We didn't want for anything and could have even packed a few less clothing items. It didn't leave a lot of room for souvenirs or gifts but we did manage to fill a tote with canned fish and salts for friends and family. As you know our space doesn't allow for much more, so our memories and photos are what we brought back for ourselves.
I received some great questions here and on Instagram so I thought I should expand a bit more, especially related to baby gear. We traveled quite light when it came to Mae and gear for her. We didn't bring a highchair, most meals we held her on our lap, and a few restaurants provided highchairs. In the rental apartments, we just spread food on a low table for her as she prefers to feed herself, and one rental provided a highchair.
We brought our used McLaren stroller and two carriers, 1 ergo baby carrier and 1 Connexion Baby Ring Sling. We used all of them almost everyday. While the streets were cobblestoned and hilly, the stroller was still useful. Theo is high energy and can walk for hours but even he got worn out in Lisbon and by the end of the day was begging for the stroller or the carrier. The Ring Sling was a dream because it packs up so small we just always had it on us. I could easily switch Mae from the stroller to the sling or carry her up the steep steps to and from the beach. The Sling was also a way to keep her contained in restaurants and shops as she loves the sling and would otherwise be pulling things off shelves etc. There were moments on the trip where I was wearing Mae in the sling and Trevor had Theo on his back in the Ergo... you gotta go what you gotta do :). (Also, our friends at Connexion Baby are still offering 10% off orders with the code 600SQFT)
While we do have a second hand travel crib we chose not to bring it because I was able to request a free crib at all of our rentals in Portugal. All kindly provided bedding as well. We did bring a soft warm blanket to remind her of home and used it in the stroller on colder nights.
If there is anything else I missed that you are wondering about please let me know! I'm still working on the trip recap to be posted soon.