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During our family gap year, we traveled to 17 different countries with our family of 7.
For that entire year, we fit all our clothes for all 7 of us into 2 carryon suitcases and 1 large suitcase – FOR SEVEN PEOPLE! (Read to the bottom about what else we took).
We had two kids share each carryon (very similar to this carryon), and this large suitcase (my absolute fave)carried all of the clothes for me, the baby, and my husband. Yes, color-coordinated packing cubes saved our lives DAILY!
On our first international trip when we just had 2 kids, we took significantly more luggage for a one week trip than we did for an entire year for 7 people. Let’s just say that in taking our kids to nearly 40 countries, we’ve learned that less is more, and packing light makes traveling with kids significant;y easier.
Creating a capsule wardrobe for kids and simplifying our travel life – how we did it
We first used a capsule wardrobe for our kids when we took them to Prague and Turkey and it was a game changer. (Go check out this awesome Prague With Kids Itinerary). Bringing so few things on our travels, meant that we had to be incredibly deliberate about what we took for everyone. We mostly traveled in warm areas, so that helped cut down on our clothing sizes considerably. Here is what we packed for each kid on our family gap year, so you can get an idea of what we brought:
4 quick drying t-shirts
3 pairs of shorts
1 nice shirt for church / dress
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 pair of Chaco sandals or Keens
1 pair of quick-drying pants
1 long sleeve shirt
1 packable rain jacket – these rain jackets are our favorite
2 pairs of PJ’s
2 swimming suits and rash guards
Socks and Underwear
How to create a kids capsule wardrobe for travel
Everything that the kids had needed to coordinate with everything else in their suitcase. While this may not seem like a big deal, there really is not a lot of variety when it comes to kids clothes so it got a little bit tricky.
Start with a color scheme
All of our kids capsule wardrobes started with a color scheme in mind. For all of our kids, we used navy blue as the foundational color and built out from there (mostly because they all had a lot of navy to begin with). It also helps to have a good anchor color that all the kids can go back to because it helps make family pictures a bit more cohesive. 2 of our boys wore only navy and grey, one wore navy and red, and our daughter had navy, teal, and purple. We took a lot more for the baby (to account for more frequent clothes changes), and since he was growing so much, his clothes weren’t as color-coordinated – though he spent most of the year in onesies like this.
What type of clothes are best for a kids capsule wardrobe for travel?
Figuring out a capsule wardrobe for travel and for everyday use are completely different things. When you’re traveling, you want your capsule wardrobe to be incredibly minimal AND take up as much space as possible. That means no jeans, no bulky boots, and no thick hoodies.
When we were planning our kids capsule wardrobes for our family travels, we had a few important pieces that we wanted everything to have. We wanted all the clothes to be durable, and everything needed to dry quickly (as we would have to be washing often and many countries we were traveling to didn’t have clothes dryers). What this meant was that most of our kids clothes ended up being athletic clothing.
Capsule wardrobe shirts for kids travel
Kids quick-dry shirts were our main go-to items for each kids capsule wardrobe for our travels.
Here are a few great, and affordable quick-drying shirts for a kids capsule wardrobe:
Pants and bottoms for a kids travel capsule wardrobe
Our daughter spent most of the year wearing lightweight shorts, capris and leggings. They were really comfortable regardless of what we were doing, and the leggings worked great under both her t-shirts and her dress.
Our boys mostly lived in board shorts and adventure shorts as we traveled. I found that those were the most lightweight and quick-drying, so we stocked up on lots of them for all of our boys. Here are some great options:
While all of these pieces worked well to keep our kids comfortable in the heat as well as being very durable and quick-drying, I often felt like we were on our way to sports practice! If you’re looking for some great options for a kids capsule wardrobe that are less sporty, read all the way to the bottom.
We are also major fans of convertible pants for kids when traveling. I don’t absolutely love the way that they look as pants, but they are always quick-drying and look pretty normal for shorts.
During our family gap year, we rarely wore pants (mostly on our travel days), so it wasn’t a major issue.
Our kids all had one long sleeve shirt, in case the weather turned bad. We chose to have them all take a base layer top since we knew that they wick moisture well, but also insulate and dry quickly.
What to avoid in a capsule wardrobe for kids
A few things that we never pack when we’re trying to travel light:
Boots (unless there will be snow, or you’re doing SERIOUS hiking)
Sweatshirts, especially hoodies
These things all take up a lot of space, and take a really long time to dry. When we’re traveling light and moving cities often, that just ends up slowing us down.
Introducing Fjarn, a capsule wardrobe company for kids
We recently got the change to try out some kids capsule wardrobes from a new company, Fjarn. Created by a mom who wanted to travel light with her kids, but couldn’t find clothes that worked well for them, she created her own. The shirts and dresses are all made of superfine merino wool and the pants are quick-drying chinos with a double reinforced knee. All of them are stain-resistant, wash easily by hand, and dry overnight, which is the perfect combination for travel. I especially love that all of the pieces of clothing look really nice, but still perform well (so I don’t have to look like we’re going to soccer practice).
To really get an idea of what the clothes were like, I gave them to my two most picky children – my daughter who insists on looking cute, and my 5-year-old who would love nothing more than to wear sweatpants and basketball shorts every day because everything else is too uncomfortable.
The Fjarn girls capsule wardrobe consists of 2 pairs of leggings, a merino wool dress and a merino wool t-shirt. The sizes only go up to a size 8, and my daughter is a super skinny size 10 with long legs, so we gave the leggings and dress a try. I was shocked that the leggings fit her incredibly well, in fact, they are her best fitting pair of leggings, despite being a size too small. The dress was a bit short on her, but since we’re in the middle of fall, she always wore it with leggings underneath so the length wasn’t an issue.
I would say that the girls capsule wardrobe for kids from Fjarn is a great 3-season wardrobe starting point, but not warm enough for cold winter locations.
Overall, my daughter absolutely LOVED her clothes from the Fjarn kids capsule wardrobe. She really really wishes that they made dresses in bigger sizes so she can keep wearing them next year!
The Fjarn boys capsule wardrobe for traveling consists of 2 quick drying chino pants, a merino wool t-shirt, and a merino wool long sleeve t-shirt. Like I mentioned above, I got these for my hardest clothes critic. He’s very picky about the texture and fit of all his clothes and often refuses to wear things I buy for him unless they are soft enough or super comfortable.
I was shocked by how much he loves them! He will happily wear the Fjarn boys chinos just as much as he’ll wear sweatpants. He already loves merino wool, so he also instantly fell in love with the shirts since the material is super soft.
As a mom, I love that the quality of Fjarn clothes is excellent so I’m confident that they can be passed down to his little brother! I also really liked that the pants have a flat front, so they can be dressed up a bit more, while still being super comfortable.
All of the Fjarn capsule wardrobes come with enough clothes for 2 days. Personally, I prefer to travel with 4 days worth of clothes (1 worn, 3 packed), but it’s all a personal preference! If you’re planning a capsule wardrobe for your kids, Fjarn will really simplify the process and you’ll end up with some excellent quality clothing pieces.
What else did we take on our family gap year??
On our family gap year, we were pretty minimal in what we took, because when it comes to traveling with kids, less really is more! While we fit all of our clothes into 2 carry-on suitcases and a large suitcase, we had a few other items with us as well. We took another large suitcase with us that held the baby’s PeaPod travel bed, our portable high chair (you could travel without one, but with 4 other kids to care for, mealtimes are a bit tricky for us), lifejackets for the youngest 3 kids, and snorkeling gear for the whole family (kids snorkeling gear can be hard to find, so we always carry our own). Andrew carried a backpack with his computer and all his work supplies, I carried a backpack with all our photography equipment and things for the baby on travel days, and the kids shared one backpack with all their toys, kindles, snacks and books for travel days.