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A European Adventure (With Kids)

This fall, our family is embarking on our first international trip. We’re going to Paris, Florence, and finally, Rome.

Did I mention that we’re taking four kids and my mom?

Because I’ve gotten a lot of questions about traveling with our kids, I wanted to share some of the logistics. The desire to live simply and intentionally can seem impossible when littles are involved, especially when it comes to travel. But trust me, it can be done!


When I was 16, we went on a family trip to Mexico and my luggage was MIA when we arrived. I remember feeling desperate to find new underwear and cooler clothing as soon as possible.

When my luggage was finally located halfway through our trip, most of my clothes had been stolen.

Since then, I’ve been a carry-on-only traveler. This trip is no exception.

We’ve been fine-tuning everyone’s capsule wardrobe, which has made laundry easy. For our trip, it means we can pack all our clothes in our carry-ons so we don’t stress about forgetting to bring something important.

Our individual capsule wardrobes vary a bit, but they all follow the same principles:

  • Layers: Our central Oregon weather necessitates layers because even if it snows in the morning, it can be 70 degrees by the afternoon. Layers are great for travel because there’s nothing bulky to deal with, just light, easy-to-pack items.
  • Mix-and-match: Capsule wardrobes are fantastic because everything goes together. This means less clothing provides several different outfit options.
  • Shoes: At home, everyone has four or five comfortable pairs of shoes that go with their clothes. We’ll each bring two or three pairs on the trip.


AirBnB has been our go-to for lodging. Having the option to do laundry on-site allows us to pack less. Access to a kitchen will help us stay within our budget so we don’t have to eat out for every meal. And proximity to public transportation was key when it came to choosing where to stay.


Because we have such a large group, renting a car would be very expensive. Even without my mom, our family needs a large vehicle, so transportation was top of mind when we were planning things.

All of our lodging is within walking distance to public transportation, and the train will be the easiest way for us to travel between cities in Italy.

If it was just me and my husband, I wouldn’t worry about this so much. With kids though, figuring out these things ahead of time removes a lot of stress.


FOMO is real, especially on a big trip, and it’s so tempting to cram in all the popular sites and activities. But it’s a really great way to come home feeling exhausted. It’s also the quickest way to make everyone feel grouchy and anxious, at least in our family.

Whenever I’m asked what I want to do on a trip, my response is always, “I want to walk and eat.”

Sometimes there will be something that I really want to see or do, but I’ve found that by having the general plan to walk and eat, I get to see a lot.

For this trip, we’ve asked everyone what they’d like to see and the majority involves walking and eating. We’re also going to visit a few museums.

But for the most part, our days will be open and unplanned so we really enjoy just being there.


There’s a lot of temptation to buy all the souvenirs. While some can be good, often it means a lot of clutter to deal with at home.

I usually get souvenirs for a few special people.

When I went to Tuscany a few years ago, my daughter was very clear that she wanted a small ceramic bowl. Why? I have no idea. But she still uses and loves it.

For this trip, I’ll be looking for small jars of honey for my dear friend. She loves bees and gets honey wherever she goes. I’m looking forward to finding some for her to add to her collection.

I’m having the kids jot down what they’d like to get for a few friends. It’s so much easier to find something when you know what you’re looking for.

Have I missed something? Probably.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned when it comes to traveling with kids it’s that less is best, preventing people from getting hangry prevents many other problems, and there’s a lot of joy to be found in the little things if you pay attention and enjoy the moment.

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  1. Cathy

    For Rome buy your coliseum tickets well in advance and see if you can get the tour that includes the cellars. It’s not much more than normal entrance but is fascinating, you get to go on the arena stage and the guide was fantastic with our children- best thing we did there.

    If you can afford it we also splashed out on a guided tour of the Vatican and St Peters. It meant we could jump the lengthy queues and the guide kept our sons engaged for over two hours- we used angel tours. More pricey than the coliseum though…

  2. Katie

    Thanks for the tips! I am expecting my first kid in March, and travel is a high priority for both my husband and myself. We really enjoy packing light and the response to our travel plans seems to be that we can’t do it or we’ll be loaded down with luggage. It’s nice to see that families are making it work without bringing all the things.

    • Jessica

      We get the crazy looks when we talk about our travel with kids (Paris last year with them at 4 and 6, Spain this year with them at 5 and 7)… good to keep in mind your values and just know they’re not shared by everyone, and that’s ok. I’m looking at each trip as an experiment, and with each year of growth what you need changes… and there are always opportunities to buy stuff there if needed. We had a great experience traveling light, and frankly with not a lot of sleep on the planes, it was easier to keep track of our stuff when it was all carryons.

  3. Rachel Nordgren

    Paris, Florence, and Rome…you’re going to have SUCH a lovely time! I think “walking and eating” is a fantastic itinerary, too. La Fermette in the 2nd Arrondissement in Paris is a wonderful little fromagerie if you’re into cheese! Enjoy your travels!

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