How to fill four large suitcases and a bit more?

Posted on Sep 19, 2015

How to fill four large suitcases and a bit more?

And the third and last post this week in our ‘Resources’ theme. Today’s topic is about all the stuff we carried along around the world.


When we were preparing our trip I was wondering what we would really use and need along the way. I browsed blogs of other traveling families and tried to figure out what would work for us. To assist others who are going to undertake a journey like ours, I decided to share what worked for us, the things we really used a lot and appreciated. This is not a list of all we’ve got with us, but just the things we were very happy with.

I’ll break it down in segments to make it easier for you:


Packing cubes! We love packing cubes. We’ve got Sea to Summit and are very happy with them. They are strong, hold a lot of volume as well as weight and they are still as good as new after 10 months of intensive travel. This really is the best essential we have. The cubes make it very easy to pack and to keep stuff separated and easy to find. We have a bunch of them, we’ve got 2 big ones for the adult clothes, we’ve got two medium ones for the kids clothes, we’ve got 2 small ones, one for electronics like batteries, power cords, etc. and one for general bathroom essentials like spare toothpaste, supplements, earplugs, and the like. We also have a big net that is called a laundry bag, but we use it to keep the kids sleeping essentials in, so that every time we get to a new place we have all of that in one place that’s easy to grab. We do have a laundry bag as well, just not the packing cube one, we like one that is a little bigger. We could have used another 3 small cubes for underwear, we have that in other bags right now, but next time I will buy cubes for sure. Oh, and we use the nice fabric bags you receive on business class flights for all sorts of things, to store toys in, for souvenirs, for underwear and more. They are very handy indeed and I would recommend keeping them when you receive them.

Apart from that we had a separate bag with swimming wear like kiddies towels, swimsuits and shorts, swimming aid things and some water toys, and we had a bag with winter things like scarfs, hats and mittens. It turns out that we could have left the hats and mittens at home as we did not really needed them. We are, however, happy that we brought the scarves as we have had some really cold weather in New Zealand and South Africa.

When it comes to our bags, you can find a post about them under resources, I am still a big fan of our north face duffel bags. They are great! I am very happy with them. The big army duffel is great because it is big enough for our 2 year olds car seat, but the Eastpack duffel… well… I am glad we are at the end of our trip because it is at the end of it’s life. The fabric has several small cuts in it and the bottom beams that hold the bag in shape when you roll it are broken. And we really didn’t do anything crazy with it or treated it any different from the Northface ones. It was a different price category, so I think this is something to consider when you might be making a trip like this. The more expensive ones are really worth the money.

Kitchen ware:

Sigg stainless steel water bottles, 2 kiddies bottles and a 1 litre one. I wasn’t sure up front, but we decided to bring them and I am soooo happy we did, we use them almost daily. We also brought a fabric, foldable cooler box and a nylon maxi shopping bag that could be stuffed in a little pocket. We are extremely happy with those. We used them extensively. I brought the shopping bag because someone wrote a blog about it and said they couldn’t do without. I am happy I listened!

Kiddies unbreakable drinking cups! Most rental houses/hotels have glass ware, which really isn’t a success with a 2 and a 4 year old, so we decided to buy plastic ones after a month of traveling and we are very happy with them and do not want to miss them anymore. Next time we might even bring 2 unbreakable plates as well, as the kids love to have their own plates and it is very handy to have for picknicks. And we brought our own fork and spoon for the 2 year old, which we are glad we did. Oh, and we brought a hand held blender to make thinks like potato mash with kale, soups and stuff so that the kids will eat their veggies when it is different from what they get at home. Another very useful thing are reusable containers to store food in. We brought 5 and we could have done with more. We bought some clips along the way to close packaging and are very happy with those.

Leak free liquid bottles that allow us to take things like oil and dishwashing liquid with us when we move from one place to another. We use them continuously for shampoo, shower gel, hand disinfection liquid, coconut oil and dishwashing liquid.

We are also very happy with our pocketknife that we use often during picnics and with our clothesline that is stretchable with hooks on the ends so you can easily attach it to things and pegs.


To begin with, we had a world plug and an extension cord that has 4 plug outlets and 2 usb charging points. That is the first essental when traveling with electronics as you can charge multipel devices in the evening. We bought a new smartphone, a Motorola Moto-G, and we are very happy with this. It had a dual sim, so we could buy a local sim in each country and still keep our normal number as well. We loaded it with all kind of apps, one of them Navfree GPS. It is brilliant to have a GPS with you at all times. We also had all sorts of other apps that assist you with local things you really want to know, like camping apps in New Zealand and Weather alert apps in Hawaii. We also carried an iPad mini and a Macbook air. We use the iPad for the kids to watch movies and to play games, and for us to Skype, read our ebook version travel guides, research where we were going and check email and social media. We really like to have a laptop for our admin, photo’s and research, email and stuff. We would not want to miss one of them. They are both very handy and have their own place in our household. Next time I would look into a wifi signal enhancer, something that makes the wifi signal stronger so you can actually use it. The laptop didn’t have any issues, but the Ipad really doesn’t pick up the wifi signals very well when the signal is weak (which it often is), and I have read about this enhancer thing and I really think it would have been handy to have one.

We adore our E-reader and there were times when we wish we had brought 2… We have a Kindle paperwhite, and we love how well you can read both in the sun and in the dark, which is very convenient when you sit outside on the beach or when we are all in one hotel room and the kids try to sleep.

It turned out that our old ipod filled with audio books is a true gift! Our 4 year old listens to audio books every single day when it is time to rest after lunch time, and we enjoy listening to books on longer drives. Buying audio books can be very expensive, but when you search online there is a lot available for free. We are very happy with our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 camera. We used to have a Nikon DSLR with several different lenses, but as we are already traveling with a lot of stuff and a lot of hand luggage due to the kids we wanted something light and small that still makes good photo’s. We are quite happy with the range of possibilities this camera has and the proof of it you can find on the images in this website. We all have a good quality of headphones, we had to replace the kids ones several times as they chew through the cords, but we really value them. It takes up a lot of space, but it is such a blessing! As I mentioned, we tested quite a few, and we love the JVC children’s headphones because they are really light, which is important for young kids, and they have a good sound reduction that protects your kids hearing. I have a Beats headset that also has active noise cancelling, which I love because I get very tired when there is a lot of noise on airplanes. And the good old flashlight. We’ve got 2 headlights and one that doesn’t need batteries. Make sure you have some spare batteries and a travel battery charger. We use that charger a lot, for the kids nightlight, for the flashlights and my headphones.


We’ve got a kiddies carry on suitcase flowing over with toys, we told them they could bring what fit in there, and they chose carefully. We are really happy with the dance ribbon, (duplo) lego, the bristle building blocks and games like lotto, uno and other card games. Those are the things they played with most. At every location we bought some new toys that were appropriate, like sand toys, a soccer ball and the like, and we always left it behind when we left the country. We are really happy with the sleeping essentials that we brought for the kids. We have their own pillows with 2 cases each, a cuddly blanked for each child and 2 cuddly toys each, a fleece blanket each and a night light on batteries. This might sound like a lot, and it is, but It is incredible that no matter where we are, as soon as they have their own things the room they are staying in is their space and they are happy. Happy kids = happy parents. One thing we chose to do and I am very content with is we brought our own car seats. Yes that does make packing for flights an interesting expedition, but, we always have a safe and comfortable seat for the kids instead of the crappy overused rental ones, and that was a really good feeling.


We brought 2 first aid kits. One daily use one with mainly betadine and plasters that we used a lot. We use betadine on every scratch or cut we have as things tend to infect quickly while traveling and you just don’t want that. The kids got used to it quickly and they come and ask for it now. We also have an extensive one with everything you can imagine you might need in case of emergency. Luckily we didn’t use it much, but still I am very happy we did bring it. We also brought anti malarials as we are traveling in a malaria region at the start of the malaria season. We didn’t use them, but just the fact that we could when we came up against a situation with mosquito’s gave a sense of rest. We brought some deet, but bought most of that locally.

One thing we didn’t bring enough of was Melatonine. Next time I would bring more as this is not easy to get a hold on it while traveling and with great time differences it really is a requirement you sleep as a parent so you can assist your kids with settling in to the new situation. And on a few occasions when the kids were really struggling I gave them some too so they could adjust with a little more ease. And I always have a little bottle of lavender essential oil in my med kit to give a sense of familiarity and luxury when we ended up in dodgy places or when we had difficulty finding rest after intense travel days. I sprinkle some on the sheets or pillows when required, and I love it.


We would be experiencing both warm and cold seasons, so we brought a little bit of everything. We chose we could bring as much as what fitted in our nets, that was our measure. And we wanted to have enough to be able to go without doing laundry for a week. We chose to bring 2 pairs of jeans and I thought that might be a bit much, as they are heavy and take up a lot of space, but I am happy I did. As was I happy to have 2 sweaters. We were also very happy with our yoga pants and I with my maxi dress to relax in after long travel days. And this probably makes you smile, but the kids and I really would have been miserable without our flanel pj’s (nights can be really cold in New Zealand and in South Africa). But to be honest, we used our summer clothing most. They don’t take up much space, so we all had several sets of summer wear. And summer hats and sunglasses of course!


We brought our passports, insurance papers, driver licences and international driver licences and we brought our vaccination books. We made a route plan document for each leg of the trip on which we kept addresses, reservation numbers and information we might need. We had that on the laptop but also on paper as there are situations in which you do not want to rely on electronics and their batteries. We also brought the birth certificates of the kids which were legalised by the Dutch authorities to be able to travel to South Africa with our kids. We also had digital copies of our passports in a safe on our laptop in case we would have a problem with our passports. And this is not really paperwork but we both had 2 credit cards, a banking card and some (local) cash. We mainly paid with our credit card as we believe it isn’t wise to walk around with a lot of cash (or visible valuables).

Well, I think this post is long enough! These were the essentials on our trip with 2 small kids. I hope it gives you some direction and feeling of what might work for you!