When packing for extended stays there are a lot of things to take into consideration. My children and I tend to do extended international stays that span seasons and continents, but most people do extended stays state-side with family. Whatever your stay looks like there are still some packing tips to be had and a beginning list to use as a jumping off point.
Things to consider when packing for extended stays
- What are your travel seasons?
- Are you in the United States where Amazon prime is heaven sent and target exists everywhere?
- Are there children in the family that you can borrow from?
- What does your living situation look like? i.e. in-laws home? renting? moving around?
- Are you driving or flying?
- What excursion type situations are already planned and what theoretically could be needed?
- Toys, books, entertainment. What is actually needed?
- Are you in-charge of the finances and/or any major things happening with property, etc?
What to pack and what not to pack that is the question
You may be thinking “I can pack for myself easily enough, but what in the world do my kids NEED?” The answer is quite simple; Almost nothing. Children NEED very little. For being the greedy and Christmas magazine circling crazies that they are, they actually require almost nothing to function AND you will discover that if you pack it they won’t use it! When packing for your children, less is more. Truly. This is the part where I typically lose mom friends because they always say things like this “But if Charlotte doesn’t have her fuschia dress that matches her ballerina polka dot leggings she will just flip out and never stop.” No Karen, that will not actually happen. When it is not an option it is not missed. I promise.
What they actually need: five total outfits, especially if they are carrying it. This includes undergarments and socks. In addition to these outfits you need one “nicer top/dress” this is not an Easter formal, this is something typically with a collar. This is not a tulle tutu, this is preferably a solid color and versatile enough that if you lose outfits along the way it can be used in daily wear. Maybe the most important things to pack are a pair of leggings/sweat pants and a sweatshirt. You only need one, but my goodness do you desperately need that one. My theory is that you can ALWAYS take off layers, but you cannot always find layers to put on.
I have been that person, on more than one occassion, who was stuck somewhere “experiencing abnormal weather for this time of year.” It follows me, it really does. If you tend to lean towards good luck, then you may experience only fair weather, but there will always be that really cold swim before the water was ready, or that fever that just wouldn’t break, or that really long flight sitting next to the sweaty man who won’t close his air vent. You will use this sweatshirt and leggings.
Extended Stay Seasonal Secrets
When crossing seasons I choose convertible pants for my boys’ alotted 5 pairs of bottoms. The lower portion easily zips off into shorts when the seasons change and I do not have to pack 5 pairs of pants and 5 pairs of shorts this way. I understand that dressing a girl may be quite different, but they make them for girls as well and they are quick dry so if you are abroad where dryers are yet to be a trend you will be incredibly grateful for quick dry fabric. If you find yourself needing more options for a girl then pack 2 or 3 pairs of pants and then an additional 5 warmer weather outfits. Everything below 10 full outfits is perfectly acceptable. The deciding factor is who is carrying it??
For my children I also pack two pairs of Pajamas and two pairs of shoes; one pair of tennis shoes and a pair of water friendly hiking shoes or heavy play shoes. We prefer Keens. If you find yourself crossing numerous seasons I suggest packing a heavy fleece jacket; our Columbia brand jackets have held up nicely and a pair of gloves. Stocking hats are easy to find abroad, but finding children’s sized gloves is an absolute nightmare. . .There’s another story there.
Last but not least for clothing, a swim suit and/or rash guard along with sun hat and sun glasses. These items are all easily replaceable across the globe so do not fret over how long they will or will not last.
Packing for extended stays: What will my children do without their things?
When packing for extended stays one of the things that typically is at the forefront of most everyone’s mind is “but what about the toys?” I think everyone can agree that regardless of the amount of toys a child owns, they will inevitably ask for everything in the store while you’re running errands, or claim that birthday party gift for Susie as their own. This is just how kids are. We can also agree that last Christmas the favorite present was the box. Your child will survive.
There will be things that bring comfort obviously; for us it has been legos, paper and pencils and daddy dolls, but they will occassionally collect things along the way as well. Personally, we have found great joy in collecting and sorting rocks and sea glass. My four year old is obsessed with boat making. How you ask? Out of trash, sticks, rubber bands from the butcher, etc. This brings him hours of entertainment. My oldest is harder to please, but has developed a love of simple card games and drawing. What do I suggest you pack?
Extended Stay Entertainment Packing
- two deflated beach balls. BECAUSE while you are unpacking a ball can bring a ridiculous amount of distraction. Two balls because one will die.
- Boogie boards. I love these things. They are a plane ride’s best friend and because they are not really electronic (one small battery) you will find that friendly flying neighbors are more apt to play with your child.
- packing a Deck of playing cards (can also be used for school!) and an additional deck of cards such as uno or spot it.
- Colored pencils, crayons and empty paper. I say empty paper instead of a coloring book because you can also create paper planes, play tic-tac-toe, etc.
- The app Epic! The app is $7.99 per month and is an app catered to your child’s age with a huge array of books. Some of which are read aloud books, which has come in so very handy on those nights that we are all sleeping in the same hotel room and I’m trying to get the baby to sleep.
- Sticker books, personally, I prefer Usborne, but sticker books can entertain for hours.
- I did not pack these because my boys are not interested, but if you have a child prone to dolls, paper dolls can be a great deal of fun and new clothes can be made for them along the way.
Packing for an Extended Stay for Mama
Ok Mamas, I’m going to tell you something that you aren’t going to want to hear. You need to pack 10 full outfits or less. You will only wear about 6 on a good week. The additional 4 are to give you the illusion of options. To be perfectly honest, I wear the same three continuously. One of my favorite clothing items is a sports skirt. Great to hike in, wander streets and chase children. The shorts portion underneath saves you from leg rubbing and flashing everyone.
You also need two pairs of pajamas, swim suit and accessories, a nicer outfit (I suggest a sun dress with sleeves) and of course a sweatshirt or cardigan and leggings. Your leggings will double as pajamas, lounge wear, sick pants and most importantly a bottom layer for those colder exploring days. Here comes the part you are really going to hate. . .three pair of shoes mama. Ouch. I know.
You need a pair of hiking/water capable shoes, once again I prefer keens. Merrills are good as well. Then you need a nice pair of sandals. Not fancy sandals, but the shoes that you wear day in and day out to chase children in your yard. Personally, those are trusty old Birkenstocks, but I’ll let you decide. Your third pair of shoes need to be something comfortable that you can walk long distances in, but are nice enough to wear with a skirt or sundress. I love my salt water sandals for this. I can walk anywhere for any amount of time. They are red and a bit dressier looking so they double as my “dress up shoes.”
Maintaining Perspective During Extended Stays
It is very easy to over pack. Even with 6 outfits for the kids and 10 for myself, I over packed, drastically. Too many outfits has given me the illusion of options though and with that has come a great deal of shopping control. I do not feel like I need that pretty shirt I saw because I have shirts that I have not worn yet on this trip. Keep in mind that I had to pack for a stay that was either going to be 5 months or 11, hahaha. Adjust this information accordingly for your family, but the clothing allotment remains the same. While on your next adventure, keep in mind that anything clothing or shoe related that you think you are missing can be found and purchased abroad. The goal is to keep the pack you are carrying as light as possible so you aren’t burdened by your things while you are trying to enjoy yourself.