Vacation all I ever wanted. Vacation – have to get away.

So, can you tell I’m excited for next week? It’s our first official “vacation” that didn’t include a PCS move or us just hanging around the house exhausted in over 4 years.

We are taking the KTX train that goes 180+ miles per hour down to Gyeongju for a couple days, then taking a slower train up through the mountains to Danyang. We are hoping to see historic sites, hike in the mountains, see a couple caves, visit one of the most active Buddhist temples in Korea, swim in an indoor resort, and just generally chillax and enjoy the scenery and being together.

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 Keeping our luggage light and simple

Since we won’t have our own vehicle to haul around a cooler, big suitcases, lots of laptops, etc. we decided to keep things very simple. Minimalist in fact.

I’ve been very inspired lately by the numerous travellers who share their minimalist packing lists online. We started being intentional about living with less stuff a couple years ago, and moving to Korea was a huge step in our possession-purging.

But I am notorious for my vacation packing lists. I don’t really go overboard, but we have always had the luxury of preparing for every situation. I bring food so we don’t have to buy it. I pack clothes for every occasion. And I like accessories – especially electronics.

When I started planning this trip – I thought about how we would be travelling. Trains, taxis, no car of our own, no familiar stops. We would probably have to walk around until we could check into our hotel. And I knew that we would not want to have a bunch of luggage to haul around.

Minimalist packing for a family of 5

I took everything that I thought we should bring – clothes, shoes, toiletries – and went over each item. I asked myself if we would really need it or if we could do without. For clothes, I thought about how much we could re-wear or wash overnight at the hotel if needed. I agonized (not really) over each soap, lotion, and bottle of liquid.

Then I laid everything left out again – and then cut that in about half.

At first we had 3 large bookbags of stuff, plus a little shoulder bag for each of the girls. But that was still a lot to carry around and haul on the train.

So now I think we are down to our final luggage situation. Each of the girls will carry a light backpack with their things. Jay will carry a large rolling backpack with clothes for him, the toddler, and I. And I will carry our day backpack – which will hold things we need while out sightseeing, medicine, electronics, money, etc.

Minimalist packing list for a family

Minimalist packing for a family of five

Some people may think this is hardly anything and some will see other minimalist packing lists and think we are bringing a little much.

Simple packing for a family looks a lot different than for one or two adults. For one thing, we have to bring a lot of extra stuff for the toddler. I didn’t want to have to spend our vacation searching out the right size of diapers and training pants, being miserable in the rain with 3 kids, etc. So we do have to prepare for more, because kids aren’t as hardy as adults.

The good thing is that a family can share things like toiletries, towels, comb, electronics, etc. So we saved a lot of space that way. And if you think about it – 4 backpacks for 5 people is really awesome! Even if the reason is one can’t carry his own bag.

We chose backpacks over suitcases because I have read in several different accounts that you must leave larger luggage in a designated area (near the exits) on the train. Backpacks are also easier to bring along for a quick walk around the neighborhood when we first arrive. And backpacks made me think hard about weight – forcing me to simplify and lighten our load.

Our packing list:

Each of the kids will bring

  • 1 pair of knit pants
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 t-shirt
  • swimsuit
  • cover-up shorts (girls only)
  • swim cap
  • 1-2 pairs of underwear
  • 1 extra pair of socks
  • 1 coloring book

Other items for the kids

  • crayons (to share)
  • small colored pencils
  • mini foam puzzles
  • stickers
  • candy (for motion sickness – ginger and peppermint)
  • drink mixes (to put in water bottles along the way)
  • 5 diapers
  • 5 training pants
  • 2 Goodnights
  • nuts and craisins for snack on train
  • compass

Items for Jay & I

  • 1 pair jeans or pants
  • 1 extra shirt
  • swimsuit
  • cover-up capris and tank top (me)
  • wide scarf (me)
  • light-weight nightgown (me)
  • 2 pair underwear
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • swim cap
  • microfiber towels (Jay uses these in the field and loves them)


  • toothbrush (5)
  • mini toothpaste (2)
  • body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream (in sample size packets)
  • mini bar of soap
  • small jar of hair cream (from my larger bottle of this)
  • roll-on perfume
  • deodorant (2)
  • lens cloth
  • nail clippers
  • brush, comb
  • razors (2)
  • laundry detergent bar

In our day-pack

  • water bottles (one large and one for toddler)
  • 2 nylon shopping bags
  • 1 extra diaper & training pants
  • wipes
  • bug-spray
  • sunglasses
  • chopsticks and disposable spoons
  • allergen masks
  • survival phrase book, reservations, maps, passports
  • wallet with cash and ID
  • mini first aid kit – pain reliever, bandaids, medicine, dramamine, wipes, q-tips, etc.
  • paper soap
  • coin tissues
  • umbrella and cheap raincoats for the kids


 The girls each plan on wearing a pair of comfy pants, t-shirt, and fleece vest the day we leave. We tried to prepare for the weather by bringing layers. The vests are nice and warm and can be put over a short or long-sleeved shirt.

I decided not to bring my large DSLR camera just because I’m afraid it won’t get as much use. I’m bringing my new Ipod Touch instead that way I can instantly share photos and video of our trip. It will also save storage space as I can upload my images each day. We’re not bringing our laptops or tablets either. It’s less stuff to worry about losing and we wanted this trip to be light in the way of electronic entertainment as well.

So there you have it – our packing list. Are we crazy? What are the items you feel are essential to bring? What could you do without?

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2 Responses to UHS Thursday: Minimalist Vacation Packing for a Family of Five

  1. This is interesting for me to think about because we are doing a 5 day cruise in December to Cozumel. I don’t want to have to check any luggage in, so I was thinking one backpack per person (6 people). I could probably get it down to five though! I think though, if I didn’t bring my dslr (and all the accompanying lenses) I’d regret it forever!

    • Aadel says:

      Oh yah – if I were going on a cruise I would definitely bring my DSLR! The nice thing is that this vacation only took us about 2 hours out of the way – so if I need to go back for some grand pics I could plan a long weekend trip. ^_^

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