How to Pack When You Travel Full-Time

Homemaking Homeschooling Traveling with Kids

how to pack for full-time travel

Are you wondering how to pack when you travel full-time? I’ve been busy behind the scenes gearing up for our big “Go where hubby is” move. We’re going wherever he happens to be at the end of this month. It’s still looking like North Carolina, but that could change as quickly as the forecast.

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However, what’s not changing is how much space we have in a camper. Our home on wheels has lots of storage, but it’s still less than 400 square feet. So, we have to be very strategic about what stays at our house and what goes in the camper. I’ve written up a quick guide on how to pack when you travel full-time.

What We Already Have in the Camper

We outfitted the kitchen, the beds, the bathroom and all the “living” things in the camper about four years ago when Hubby started traveling for work. So, minus a few towels and sheets, we are pretty good in that department.

Hubby has a complete wardrobe in the camper and a smaller wardrobe at home since he’s been living in it most of the past year. I have some clothes there, but it’s more weekend wear for camping and visits. That means I’ll have to add to what’s there (from my own closet) and discard some things that don’t work anymore.

As for the kids, we’ll have to take everything they need (other than toiletries and some art supplies) because if you feed them they grow! It’s taken me some time to figure out how to pack when you travel full-time with kids. I’ve about got it down to a science now. Here’s what we do.

Expanding Our Nearly Perfect Travel System

We have a pretty simple, nearly perfect (meaning low-stress for Mama) system for traveling to visit Daddy or for long trips without the camper – everything must fit in a backpack and carry-on suitcase. That means toys, crafts, electronics, clothing, and loveys. This system is so great because they can’t argue with space. It’s all that fits in my car with a roof-rack.

We spent some time researching what to do for toys, clothing, and homeschool supplies. These items are too expensive to have duplicates of at home and in the camper. So, we’ve developed another system – we’re calling it the “camper system.”

The mess in a camper can get overwhelming quickly, so everything must have a space. If you don’t have a home for every item, it’s harder to move (because everything must be stowed or it gets damaged) and it’s going to cause frustration for the family.

The Details of Our Packout for the Camper

On normal visits to Daddy or a trip, we can be road-ready (if the laundry is done – and it usually is thanks to my laundry system) in less than an hour if we start gathering things a day or so before we leave. Our process is pretty much the same no matter what we do. Here’s our typical get-out-the-door itinerary.

Kids Pack Backpacks the Day Before

I have the kids grab their extra change of clothes, travel toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant), electronics, chargers, car kits (crayons/markers/paper/pencils/pencil sharpener/activity book), water bottles, snack bags, hiking gear, and headphones the afternoon before we have to leave. Most of this stuff lives at their desk (in our study) or in their backpack near the kitchen pantry. They finish up the details the morning of our trip. I’ll do a separate post on the kid backpacks with pictures.

Laundry Totes or Suitcases (Camper vs. Travel)

I line up the laundry totes (or suitcases) in the hallway and fill them as I do laundry throughout the week. I group the kids’ clothes by outfit (undies, shirt, pants or undies, dress, monkey bar shorts) and roll them up together so they can grab a set if we’re just making a stop on our way somewhere. This saves so much time!

Cooler & Stuff Totes

After the laundry totes (or suitcases) are packed, we gather the “stuff”. If we’re going to the camper for a long visit or a big adventure, we’ll add the totes to our pack out. These must be completed by the night before departure. Nothing throws a trip off like “I need just a couple more things!” I also pack my cooler the night before because that’s too much work in the morning. (I have an older Yeti Roadie and an older version of this Yeti Hopper bag cooler and I’ll take the one that fits best.)

Packing the Car

We put the totes into the car first. Then we add the laundry totes or carry-on suitcases to the roof rack (I have a Yakima rack system with a Yakima Rocket Box Pro 12. The trunk space and roof rack get secured and then we move on to packing the car for long-distance driving. (We can drive up to 800 miles in a day pretty comfortably). I’ll put the cooler in either the floorboard behind my seat or the trunk space depending on our travel plans.

Next, I add the bike rack and bikes. We have a very basic trailer hitch bike rack. I don’t love it, but it does the job.

The Gear We Use to Travel Full-Time

I decided to separate the gear from the pack out because it was getting complicated. So, here’s what we use for getting our stuff from Point A to B.

For the Clothing

Adult-Sized People

Each of the adult-sized people gets this laundry tote to transport clothes from home to the camper. It will also serve as that person’s laundry basket. It’s designed to hold two loads of laundry. I figured that was close to 10-12 outfits if clothes are rolled up in the tote. I’m going to test it out this weekend with mine and my 5’2″ Big Girl’s clothing.




Tiny People

The little people get what’s called a trunk storage tote for their clothes. This is almost equivalent to their carry-on suitcases, so their 10-12 outfits should fit just fine.



For the Stuff (Homeschooling & Toys & Crafts)

The kids and I are also each getting a 62-liter CleverMade collapsable storage box for our “stuff.” I’ve set these up in the kids’ rooms for them to start thinking about what to pack. I did reserve the right to put something back that I think is not really worth taking, but mostly they get to choose what they take. We will use these to rotate stuff when we make periodic visits home too.

I’m planning on taking some crafting projects, some exercise gear, and a few kitchen items in my box. I’ll share my bag system in another post.

The homeschool supplies get the final box in our six-box set. We’ve been working very hard to downsize the number of books and materials we’ll need for homeschooling this summer. We take lots of time off over the course of the year, so we continue at a slower pace through the summer. We’ve fallen a little behind this spring, so I want to make sure we’re meeting some goals by the end of the summer.

What About Shoes?

We’re pretty minimalist on clothing around here too, so each child is also taking 3-4 pairs of shoes. I like multipurpose shoes that go with lots of clothing. The girls each have two pairs of sandals (flipflops and dressier sandals), a pair of tennis shoes and rain boots. The boy has flip-flops, boots, and tennis shoes.

What to Leave Behind

Here’s a quick list of what we leave behind:

  • Linens
  • Bulky toys
  • Books (most of our books are on Kindle, Audible, & Scribd anyway)
  • A few days worth of clothes so we don’t have to pack at the camper.
  • Most of our kitchen stuff (we have a full kitchen setup in our camper).
  • The rest of the house stuff.

I think that’s about it for how to pack when you travel full-time. It’s taken us some time to get these systems in place, but they make life so much easier. Packing suitcases puts this mama on the same ledge as the mama who takes three kids to Walmart without a list.

What questions do you have for us? I’d love to answer those in a future post! Thanks for reading and Happy Travels!

Go live the adventure God has for you! “Trust in the Lord & do good!” (Psalm 37:3)


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