Recently my husband and I decided that it might be fun to do something crazy, rent out our house to perfect strangers on AirBNB, and move our entire house, two Yorkies, and toddler to Denver…for five whole weeks.

I know, I know.

There’s definitely something wrong with me.

There were several reasons for doing this, one of them being that we literally, a month ago, just moved into the house next door to my in-laws (but that’s a story for another post).

So if we just moved, why would I want to move again?

Simple.

I’m insane.

I’m a dreamer. A doer. A wild woman with a serious case of wanderlust.

Dollar bills sitting on top of a computer | Traveling with kids

I’m also a stay-at-home mom living with a family that’s living off one income at the moment…

This makes it challenging to find the extra cash needed to take the whole family on an all-expenses-paid-vacation to Mexico every six weeks.

My husband would argue that vacationing every six weeks is insane as well.

But it’s what I wanted.

So this year I set out on a mission to figure out a way to get my family moving.

Which amused my mother quite a bit.

I’ve really only traveled with our kid once in his young life. A trip to California when he was eight weeks old…It did not go well. (My mother was there to witness our monster, sleep-deprived child.)

I wasn’t sure I was capable of making any sort of vacation work for our young family. I wasn’t sure traveling with kids would even be worth it for them, or for me!

Vintage kid's toys sitting on counter | Traveling with kids

After all, our son Max is now only a year and a half old. He’s got a schedule to keep. He’s got seven billion toys to bring. He goes through at least four shirts a day, and that’s only if I remember to strip him before he eats. (I know you other mamas feel me…)

Traveling with kids didn’t sound like fun. It sounded more like work.

But I was determined to go and bring my family with me.

And it just so happened that the house we just moved into used to be a VRBO

And the people that managed it was my in-laws.

And they had one last, five-week reservation left on the books.

And before we moved into our new house we had to decide whether we would cancel the reservation and cause my in-laws to lose a lot of money, or if we would pack up all our stuff, grab the dogs and the kid, and move.

We chose the hard option.

Let me tell you, the decision to move was easy – it was prepping our house to leave for five full weeks that was a challenge!

Little boy looking out window on train | Traveling with kids

Traveling with kids is no joke, but it’s also not entirely impossible either.

We spent an entire two weeks packing for our family adventure, and after dumping out our entire house on our front lawn, breaking it down to the bare minimum (minimal-ish), and shoving it all into just a few suitcases, I think I finally figured out the secret to traveling with kids.

Traveling With Kids (the Minimal-ish Way)

Since we were leaving our home for a full five weeks, we actually had to pack a lot more stuff than most people who are traveling with kids.

In the past, we just dumped Max’s entire wardrobe into a trash bag, shoved it into our giant suitcase next to my seven “extra” shirts and “just in case” workout clothes (which I never use) and pray we brought enough cloth diapers.

But after going through our entire house to get ready for this trip, I found some smart hacks that helped make traveling with kids much easier!

  1. Start at the End

    My mom always said if you want to do something right, always start at the end. Before we even set foot in Max’s room I spent three days writing a list of things we needed to bring (on actual paper so I wouldn’t forget it in the depths of my phone). Write down what you need and what room it’s in. Then bring that list with you everywhere so you don’t forget it.

  2. Pile It Up

    Since we were traveling with kids and my brain was on overdrive, I spent an entire day in each room of my house, taking things out of drawers and putting it into piles. I had a “Packing” pile, a “Donate” pile, and an “I Don’t Know Where This Goes” pile. Let me give you some advice: make yourself some piles! Just having items placed in piles helped me visually see how much stuff we were actually taking with us. Which helped me pair it down.

  3. Marie-Kondo Your Kid’s Wardrobe

    Does my child actually need four shirts with trucks on them? No. He probably only needs one shirt with a truck on it. I’m lucky our kid is young, and would rather go naked all day. I was ruthless with his (and my) wardrobe before we left! If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo and the Konmari method for organizing your life yet, check her stuff out. Then ask yourself – do I really love this shirt? Or do I love it because the mannequin looked great in it?

  4. Donate, donate, donate

    I’m a big fan of the planet and a firm believer that less waste and less stuff in our lives will actually make them better! Anything you really don’t need or want needs to go to someone else who can use it. I took car-loads to the thrift store during that week. Several trips. And I even gave away some of our very nice things because in the end, if I don’t use it, I don’t need it.

  5. Organize What’s Coming With You

    After I donating things we didn’t need or want, I went room by room and organized the last two piles: the “Packing” pile, and the “I Don’t Know Where This Goes” pile. To be honest, a lot of that ended up in our garage for the time being, but I at least know what I need to organize when I get home! By the time I was done organizing the last few piles, I had just a few items that actually needed to be packed.

  6. Pack Like a Pro

    My husband is a pro-traveling-with-kids-packer and dug out our backpacking compression bags from the basement so we could keep things organized. If you don’t currently have some of these, get some. These heavyweight zipper bags squish your clothes down to micro-size which means everything stays put while you’re moving! You can get some compression packing cubes by purchasing from the link below.

  7. Get Up and Go

    After a full two weeks of prepping, we got everything we needed to haul our family to Denver for a full five weeks into just two vehicles. This was successfully accomplished by my wonderful husband who knows how to puzzle-piece stuff into cars like nobody’s business. Which is why I’m a big fan of downsizing.

The more stuff you bring, the harder it is to keep track of it all. Downsize, your sanity will thank you.

After it was all said and done, here’s what we were able to fit into two suitcases, two big boxes, and a truck:

  • 1 Crib
  • 1 changing table
  • 10 books
  • 4 toys
  • 7 kid’s shirts
  • 7 kids pants
  • 4 kids shorts
  • 2 pairs of kid’s shoes
  • 20 cloth diapers
  • Mom’s clothes
  • Dad’s clothes
  • 2 pairs of shoes for mom
  • 2 pairs of shoes for dad
  • 2 sets of computers & cords
  • 2 dog bowls
  • 2 leashes
  • First aid kit
  • Toiletries

We’re now halfway through our traveling-with-kids adventure, and I can already tell you, it’s totally worth it!

Happy Living,
Sarah