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Packing Report – 2 Weeks in Spain, 5 Family Members

I will admit right from the beginning that I am a total packing geek. I love the process of planning, organizing, test packing, weighing, starting over.... crazy, right?

So, for my fellow nerds, here is a detailed report on how we packed for our 2-week trip to Spain last month. Hope it helps anyone in a similar situation – I know I got so much good advice from this forum as we were getting ready for our trip. Thank you to everyone who posted!

There were five of us traveling – myself, husband, daughter (age 13), son (age 12, who is disabled), and my mother-in-law (age 76, very fit and active). We did carry-on only, except for my son's special needs stroller, which had to be gate-checked for each flight. We stayed in apartments and had access to a washing machine throughout the trip (no dryers).

Daughter and mom-in-law were responsible for their own stuff, start to finish, for the entire trip. They each had a roller bag and a personal item. MIL had a 22" lightweight roller plus a small backpack; she stored her purse inside her backpack when we moved from location to location. She was able to handle everything herself except for lifting the roller onto the overhead racks for trains and planes, not because of a packing issue but because she is only 4'10" tall. I have no idea what she had in that roller, but she was entirely self-sufficient for the trip; never needed laundry, always looked good, always dressed comfortably for the weather, never asked for anything. Perfect traveling companion.

Daughter packed her own bags. She has a RS rolling backpack, which I also have and we both really like; we've had them a couple of years. Relatively lightweight (5.6 lbs), small enough so you don't overpack, and my daughter uses the backpack feature fairly often. They even fit in the overhead bin on commuter jets. She used her LL Bean messenger bag as her personal item; it's also her school bag, so gets plenty of use. She packed a small fabric purse inside her suitcase and used that when walking around town. She was responsible for packing her own stuff and did a great job. I planned on laundry every few days on the trip, so her instructions were to pack for 5 days. Like MIL, she was always comfortable, never needed anything, was able to handle it all herself

Husband packed his own stuff as well. He carries an eBags Motherlode Weekender Convertible backpack, no personal item. Husband is responsible for pushing my son's stroller when we're in transit, and then he either loops the shoulder strap of his bag across the stroller handles or he carries it on his back. Husband also carried a full set of backup medications for my son in his backpack in case the ones that I carried went astray.

Posted by
500 posts

I was responsible for packing for myself and my son. My son's stuff goes into a small-ish Eagle Creek backpack (not sold any more) that has a trolley strap, so I can either carry it on my back, use the shoulder strap, or sling it on my roller bag handle. The bag opens clamshell-style, and I fit his clothes into one side in a couple of eBags Ultralight packing cubes. On the other side of the suitcase goes all the other stuff; extra shoes (crocs), toiletries (after we get through airport security), couple of bedtime books, couple of small stuffed animals, etc. I also packed my DSLR camera in his suitcase. IPad mini and headphones go in the outside pocket, along with a small travel blanket that I made, which gets zipped up into a small compression packing cube. Daughter has one, too; they have been taken and used on all of our trips the last couple of years – planes, trains, cars; everyone wants a blankie sometimes. They are made of lengths of lightweight merino wool that I purchased and hemmed. Very warm, very packable, very economical.

For my stuff, I used my RS rolling backpack and a Tom Bihn Maker's Bag as my personal item. Inside my Maker's Bag, I carried a Tom Bihn Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, which I pulled out on the plane and used to hold my "plane junk," and then I repacked it when we got to the apartment and used it as my day bag.

Full disclosure before I proceed: I am a Tom Bihn junkie. I love the organizational design and use the products daily. The concept of leashing all of my important stuff so that I can't put it down, forget it, and walk away, totally works for me. Major peace of mind. Plus the stuff is well-made and a pleasure to use. It is expensive, and I don't own any of the bigger bags (can't justify the cost for how infrequently I would use them), but I own a ton of the organizational accessories and use them all.the.time.

Here's what I packed in my roller bag for our 2-week trip. Weather forecast was a range of daytime temps 50s to 80s, nighttime temps 40s to 60s, mostly sunny with a chance of rain on a few days.

  • 2 s/s shirts (cobalt, pink)
  • 1 l/s smartwool crew (purple)
  • 1 l/s black
  • 1 button-up lightweight shirt
  • 2 s/s dresses
  • 1 black bootcut yoga pant
  • 1 black lightweight dress pant
  • 1 black knee-length skirt
  • 8 undies
  • 4 bras (brought old ones, threw them out as I went)
  • 4 socks
  • 1 pr black tights
  • 1 lightweight sleepshirt
  • 1 lightweight short bathrobe
  • 1 lightweight longjohns for sleeping
  • 1 pr slipper socks
  • 1 lightweight rain jacket
  • 1 down puffer jacket in compression bag
  • 1 pr lightweight Aetrex sandals
  • 1 pr Aetrex Lynco flipflops
  • toiletries kit ([Osprey UltraLight Organizer][3])
  • Miscellaneous items: bar of soap in a ziploc, Washeeze 3-in-1 unscented sheets for laundry, sunscreen stick, mini packing cube of Sanka packets

Wore on plane:

  • 1 s/s smartwool crew (pink)
  • 1 l/s lightweight tunic (purple)
  • 1 Icebreaker black merino cardigan
  • 1 lightweight black leggings
  • 1 pr socks
  • 1 pr Teva Delavina Dos Chelsea black ankle boots

I used eBags ultralight packing cubes to organize everything in my suitcase.

Posted by
2534 posts

Well done, both the packing and the report. We have friends who always comment how we overplan and under pack - they like to be spontaneous. I try to explain that because we plan doesn't mean we aren't spontaneous, but we don't want an expensive trip ruined because we forgot something important or were spontaneous and were locked out of a sight we wanted to see. Just like most of the travelers here, planning is half the fun for us! So glad your trip was a success, I read your other report. Start to plan the next trip....

Posted by
500 posts

In my carryon bag, I had:

  • medications (in Tom Bihn 3D organizer cube, leashed to carryon bag)
  • electronics kit (in TB 3D clear organizer cube)
  • "purse items" : passports, wallet, chapstick, small daily medication pouch for son, phone (in TB Travel Cubelet, stored in misc. organizer pouches, all leashed)
  • first aid kit (in Lewis n Clark micro packing cube, red)
  • airplane items: empty water bottle, inflatable pillow, disposable toothbrushes, gum, kleenex (in TB Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, which also contains Travel Cubelet with purse items, everything leashed)
  • report folder with boarding passes, tickets, key papers, stored in plastic sleeves, one for each travel day

What did I love the most?

  • My puffer jacket. I wore it almost every evening; it was just the right warm layer and then packed down to nothing in a compression bag.
  • My Tom Bihn organizational pouches, leashed to my bag, which I carried cross-body and never put down unless in the apartment. I didn't need to worry about being distracted and leaving stuff behind.
  • My black long sleeve ExOficio button-up shirt. It is lightweight, so I can stuff it into my daybag and bring it along; great to throw on when inside cold, clammy cathedrals. Never wrinkles, washes and dries in no time. I used it every day on the trip.
  • Washeeze laundry sheets. We have some sensitive skin in the family, so this was a really convenient way to bring unscented laundry supplies and not have to worry about finding them when we arrived.

What would I do differently next time?

  • I packed too many socks. It was warm and I wore flip flops most of the trip.
  • I'd leave behind the merino cardigan. This surprised me; I thought I'd wear it all the time, but my puffer jacket came out whenever it got chilly. It was just more versatile.
  • I'd leave behind one dress, unless the forecast were warmer (I prefer dresses when it's really warm).
  • I'd leave behind the sandals and just wear my flip flops. This surprised me as well; I love my Aetrex sandals (most comfortable foot bed ever), but my flip flops were overall more comfortable, even on cobblestones and hilly areas. Keep in mind that they are pretty high-tech flip flops with very cushiony soles and arch support, not $2 ones from Old Navy, which I wouldn't use for walking around.
  • I'd think – again – about leaving my DSLR home. I do this every trip. It is so heavy, but once I get to where we're going, I love having it. Photos from our trips are all over our walls at home. So, next time around, I'll have my internal debate about getting a mirrorless camera, and then I'll probably drag my DSLR along again.

Hopefully this will help anyone planning a similar trip! Happy travels!

Posted by
10114 posts

Well done! Teaching your daughter to pack this way is a skill she will use the rest of her life.

Posted by
415 posts

Okay so I must be a packing nerd because I really enjoyed your report. The one problem I haven't resolved is food. We always travel with food usually in a soft side cooler--1 for cold food and a bag of warm or room temperature foods. And sometimes we have water bottles that sometimes don't fit nicely in the little carry on water bottle pocket.

Posted by
1805 posts

Love this- thanks for being so thorough in your descriptions. Where did you buy the merino wool for the blankets? That sounds really interesting.

Also interesting to hear how well you liked the puffer jacket.

Posted by
500 posts

@jehb2 -- Your food comment reminds me of my friend who travels with his long-time girlfriend to the US Virgin Islands every year. They pack coolers of meat. Yep, meat. They stay in a condo and prefer to cook meals, but they tell me that meat is prohibitively expensive there. They have a whole system by now, involving checking luggage with clothes and carrying on personal items consisting of coolers jammed full of frozen meat and ice packs. Completely unimaginable to me but works for them.

I've started exploring Nalgene containers to use as water bottles. Like you, I've found that regular bottles don't fit in my bags, plus I don't need to carry around 20 oz of water; it's too heavy! But a little 4 or 8 oz bottle gets me by, and I refill as needed.

I read somewhere, maybe here?, that someone treats packing like a game of Tetris, filling in the puzzle pieces so they fit perfectly. So true! Funny how the exact fit of a water bottle can throw off the whole game! (this is when I know I'm crazy)

@Patty -- I bought the fabric online from Nature's Fabric. They don't carry the specific fabric that I purchased any more, but I'd bet that any of the washable wool jerseys would work just fine. You could e-mail them and ask for a recommendation. I purchased 1 1/2 yards for each blanket, and they are just the right size.