Before Leaving for Morocco and Spain - The (Embarrassingly Long) List of What We Brought
As we looked toward our 7+ month trip as a family of four, I found packing to be very overwhelming. As I often do when overwhelmed, I turned to research. However, in this case, the research DEFINITELY made me feel worse. (If you want to get a sense of this, you can look up “packing for long term travel with kids,” and you’ll see some unbelievably short lists with what I consider to be WAY too few clothes for any of us, but most especially our four and six year olds. I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a minimalist, but let me tell you, one pair of PJs per kid is just NOT going to cut it. We've been known to go through three outfits in ONE day.)
However, what the lists did help me do was think about things like first aid supplies (we needed our first aid kit within a week of getting here, and although it turned out okay, I’m SO glad we had one on hand!) and other items I might have forgotten otherwise. And from the lists, I realized I should come up with categories and then have the girls pick a certain number of items (I told them between 4 and 6 items) within each category. This was still overwhelming, but it allowed them a lot of ownership over what they picked, which was a big help. (Note that I'm backdating this post, so I've already made the first part of the trip and have some thoughts about what worked below. Also, thank you to Katie Ameigh of Ameigh Photography for the sweet pic of the girls with their backpacks!)
What We Brought
3 suitcases and 1 XL Eagle Creek rolling duffel bag
We went with soft-side suitcases (which I personally have always preferred). We already had two suitcases that were still working for us (both Samsonite; one from my first solo travel in 2000, and another we bought a few years ago), and we purchased a third one on the Tuesday night before we left. The Eagle Creek bag can be collapsed and came with a smaller sack it can be tucked into if needed, and it's quite sturdy and promises to help us out with lots of future trips including outdoor excursions.
A note about the suitcases. I saw a lot of mixed reviews about the sizes of the suitcases. It’s very frustrating because the standard size for all of the largest suitcases is 65 inches, but the max linear inches for most of the airlines is 62 inches. So you wind up having to buy a 57 inch suitcase, the medium size, if you want to be sure that you won’t get slapped with oversize luggage fees, which can be very hefty. We wound up with the duffel bag at 65 linear inches (I bought that before I knew that we shouldn’t get that size... and which is VERY hard to measure on the spot because of the lack of hard sides), but our other three bags are the smaller 57ish inch size… which worked out okay for our travel.
We also brought one zipped up Kelty bag tucked into its storage pack. (It’s a huge backpack cover that's made to go around hiking backpacks to keep them safe during airport transit. It zips into itself and becomes a tiny zippered pack; we just brought the zipped up bag so that we’ll have another bag for souvenirs and any other extra miscellaneous items when we travel home.)
A Timbuk2 Quest rolling backpack duffel bag (this was technically our older child’s carry-on bag) - This has been a life-saver here in Morocco. We take it on our overnight/ weekend trips, and it's great because we can carry it on our backs.
A Trunki suitcase - This was a little bit of a pain at times, but with a very tired four year old and a lot of airport time and transport, it was perfect for us. She could ride, and I could pull her... and then I knew EXACTLY where she was and could feel her weight behind me, which was a huge help. Her older sister, who is six, can also pull her, and she can scoot herself. She's too big to carry along with all our bags but is small enough to wander off amid the meandering lines, so this was totally worth it for me. She also pulled it herself some, and they have loved playing with it both before the trip and now that we're here. (Sadly, this is not being sold in the US now, so I found one on e-Bay. I also saw some on Facebook Marketplace.)
A backpack for each kid - After doing some research, we got the Bago 25L Packable Lightweight Backpacks from Amazon. They zip into themselves and have been perfect! We use them all the time here (both for the kids and also for ourselves sometimes to help with carrying things for day trips, overnight stays, or back from the grocery store.)
My work backpack - Honestly, I've been working from the apartment and could have lived without this so far/ could have used another more suitcase-like bag (we have a Timbuk2 backpack with more room for clothes I could have done instead...), but I wasn't willing to part with it before we left, and I do love it and other places for work.
Mahan’s work backpack - Definitely an essential since he often walks to the university.
My Vera Bradley zip up tote bag (with several travel games the girls had not seen before that I could easily grab while we were traveling!) - This was a little bit of a pain to navigate amid travel, but it has been GREAT here, and I use it all the time. I throw activity books in it (which I'm also glad I brought!) when we go to cafés and restaurants, and it's perfect.
A rolling carry-on suitcase - This is the carry-on part of a two piece set that we've had and was added at the last minute; it was really nice that we hadn’t maxed out what we could bring because then we were able to put all of the things we couldn’t pack until the morning of our trip into that bag.
A Few Other Packing Notes
We packed all of our clothes in compression bags; Gonex bags are my favorite for this, and we have several sets of them. The girls' bags are cute and have mesh parts so that they can see what is inside. The compression bags have been a huge help, but in the end, we fought weight more than space with our checked bags. With a fifty pound max, we were weighing each bag constantly (a luggage scale is ESSENTIAL and came on the trip with us!) and shuffling things around to make sure that all of them were under the max weight to avoid fees and issues at the airport.
I fantasized about taking a lot less at first. As I mentioned above, we bought one of the suitcases three days before departure. I had hoped to take only two checked bags, one per adult. But between the things we needed for work, the toys, workbooks, and games we really wanted to bring, and the clothing and toiletry essentials, we just needed more space. And it really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to navigate the airports with our stuff, and it has been SO nice to have everything we brought with us here. I'm glad we didn't max out the checked bags because that would have been really hard to manage, but these days, I just pay the ridiculous fee for a cart when I first get to the airport, and that truly does make life easier when navigating the airport prior to checking the bags.
And we got here with all of the bags! It was a great moment when we saw the last of our checked bags make its way around the luggage carousel, but I had packed two days worth of essentials for each of us in our carry-on luggage just to be safe. Getting all of the bags all the way to our apartment was a bit of a challenge, but that is a story for another day, and the important thing is that we did manage to get them all here. Okay, I'll leave this post here but will share more thoughts about what we brought and what worked best for us in other posts. Don't hesitate to comment below or to message me with your questions or your tips and tricks!