What Our Family Packs: How To Fit 11 Pounds Into One Backpack

How much is 11 pounds?

Not much when you have one minimalist, one spender, and one fashionista in the family.

Our bags for a three week trip around Europe

Our bags for a three week trip around Europe

I have one goal the moment I purchase plane tickets: take as little as possible.

It sounds like a good mantra but let me tell you, it’s harder to achieve than you’d think. Most of us want to plan, prepare, and be the perfect Girl/ Boy Scout.

But packing is tough.

Packing makes you challenge your preconceived notions about your destination. Questions like: Will they have my favorite toothpaste? What kind of deodorant do they have? What if my feet ache, should I take two (or three or four) pairs of shoes? Do they sell umbrellas everywhere in Paris?

Packing preys on both our insecurities (what if I need more than one blouse?) and our organizational desires (shouldn’t I be prepared just in case I need heels AND snow boots?).

In theory, all of our crazy little head conversations should make us great travelers. In reality, it makes us bloated overpackers- with the best of intentions of course.

And so it is that long ago I realized: all I really need is one backpack. If it fits in one regular sized backpack then it can travel with me. If it doesn’t fit, then it’s most likely superfluous. Unnecessary. The prepared Girl Scout in me wanting to carry everything AND the kitchen sink- just in case just has to deal.

My little family is learning, albeit it while kicking and screaming. But on this, our latest journey, they were happily cooperative. One backpack, under eleven pounds each, is all we were allowed. We met our challenge and, just going through airports, are already happy with it.


For the record, this does come at a price: laundry day. At some point in our three week journey we will have to either spend two hours at a local laundromat or I will have to wash everything by hand most nights. Only time and our daily activity levels will decide which one of these options will prevail.

For now, I am ecstatic with our packing.


Boarding our flight with all of our possessions on us. No misplaced suitcases for us.


The kiddo can carry her own bag but I admit that, for our next trip, we will stay under 8 pounds for her bag

For those of you who, like me, like to see examples, here’s what we each packed for a three week journey across Europe at the beginning of Spring (late March/ early April).

Mackenzie (10 year old girl fashionista):
-5 pairs of underwear
-5 pairs of socks
-1 black boots, 1 black tennis shoes
-1 warm pajama set
-2 black pant jeggings
-1 black/grey jegging
-1 jeans
-3 tops (long sleeve)
-1 top (short sleeve)
-1 dress

Andy (45 year old Boy Scout):
-5 pairs of underwear
-5 pairs of socks
-1 nice walking shoes, 1 tennis shoes
-1 set of warm pajamas
-2 pants
-5 tops

Magaly (37 year old planner):
-5 pairs of underwear
-5 pairs of socks
-1 black boots, 1 tennis shoes
-1 set of pajamas (black pants that can double as airplane clothes and regular top that can double as regular top)
-1 black pants, 1 jeans
-5 tops
-1 black sweater (that doubles as travel blanket)

As a family we are always traveling with a toothbrush each, two small tubes of toothpaste, a roll of travel toilet paper (never leave home without this), a small hand sanitizer each (we use it more than you know), one hairbrush for all, a small tube of hand lotion, and 10 small cleaning wipes for my glasses and the electronics.

That’s it. No make up, no hair products, no fuss. Though, as I write this, I realize we really could have done with one less of everything. Oh well. Next time.


Andy, of course, likes to pretend he had to carry everything around throughout the trip. Ok, ok, he kinda did.

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