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Last fall my husband and I took our four teens on an 18 day trip through Europe. None of us had ever traveled to the region, so we had no idea what to pack. In addition to being newbies, we had the added challenge of only bringing carry-on luggage in order to keep costs down and our backs happy.
These are my tips on surviving family travel with teens, advice on what to bring and the items that could have made our lives easier.
Surviving Family Travel with Teens
Written by: Dede Sonntag
Table Of Contents
We absolutely loved our Cabin Max Metz Backpacks. The best feature is that they unzip wide open, making it a breeze to roll and pack clothes and later be able to see all that’s inside without making a mess.
I got the bright yellow green so I could spot it in case someone tried to run away with it, but they have it in dark colors too.
Read these guide on how to choose the best travel backpack!
Wall Plug Adapters
We wished we had brought more than 2 wall adapters for the group. I highly recommend you bring enough adapters to help you in surviving family travel with teens! There was a lot of fighting over whose cell phone was going to be charged next, the travel blow dryer was a waste of space because it stopped working as soon as we got there.
Empty travel size toiletry bottles were good to get us started on the trip then we bought some great local hygiene products and re-filled the bottles.
Find out our tips on understanding voltage abroad and the best travel containers!
Sea to Summit Stretch Silk Liner
Hostel Bed Liners
I actually bought queen size, cotton sheets from Walmart and sewed them into bed liners (instructions here). Everyone loved their sheets and felt much better about sleeping in strange beds.
Learn more about the top five benefits of traveling with a sleeping bag liner!
UGG Sammy Fashion Black Sneaker
The weather was really fickle! We went from a balmy 70F in Berlin down to 46F, rainy days in Southern Bavaria.
- Tops: waterproof parka, a sweater, a hoodie, 3 t-shirts, a couple of tank tops and a thermal, long sleeve top
- Bottoms: One pair of skinny jeans, 3 leggings, 2 pair of shorts
- Accessories: a couple of scarves, a beanie hat, several pairs of socks, bras and underwear.
- Shoes: one of the girls brought her Dock Marten boots but she had broken them in before the trip.
The rest of them brought comfortable flats or sneakers and one pair of flip flops. The flip flops were the best idea ever since they didn’t take much space, we used them to take showers and walk around the hostels.
Nobody got blisters and we calculated we walked an average of 3 hours a day. I wouldn’t advice bringing brand new shoes or boots, especially rigid ones.
Would have been nice to have items
- International cell phone plan – we had to walk to Starbucks to go use the wifi and plan our next day, check train schedules, etc. We also got separated at the market in Munich for 3 hours, panicking and wondering how to ask the police in German for help. The cell phone plan would have been a life saver.
- More wall plugs like mentioned above.
Use packing cubes to help you organize and even compress your belongings to maximize your space.
Feedback from her three teen daughters on their packing strategy
Ginger: I was glad I brought my beanie and my big coat. I wish I had brought warmer pants and left a little more space in my bag for souvenirs though. I also liked having just the carry-on.
Rachel: I felt a little under-packed. I feel like I could have done okay with at least one other pair of pants. I’m glad I brought my jacket because it was a nice wind blocker, but didn’t really help me stay too dry for the rain, lol. Wish I could have brought my trench coat. And definitely more money! Glad we bought the second wall adapter!!
Christy: I feel like I under-packed because I was wearing the same flannel, leggings, and shoes like every other day. I’m glad I didn’t bring my Dr. Martens because I already didn’t have enough room in my bags because I had to carry school books, sandals, tennis shoes, and the like 5 outfits I brought. I wish we had more of the adapter plugs just because we all had to share the 2 that we brought, lol.
The secret to traveling light is to create a functional but minimalist capsule wardrobe. Learn more in my guide!
Do you have any suggestions on surviving family travel with teens? Please share below!
For more packing tips, please read:
- 10 Step Packing Guide for Paris
- The Ultimate Packing Guide for Europe
- Are these the Best Travel Shoes for Europe?
- Traveling with Babies and Toddlers: Helpful Packing Tips
Suggested travel resources:
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Author Bio: Dede Sonntag is a graphic designer, linguist and avid world traveler. Her future plans include an around the world trip to cross all continents off her list. Dede’s other interests include interior decorating, photography, fashion and art. Her portfolio can be seen at Coroflot.com.
This is really helpful, thanks! We have taken our kids to Europe (Austria/Germany/Italy/Rome) twice but now they are older and we would like to go with just carryon since they can now carry their own bags (in theory).
I always love that TFG has links to every product mentioned. Makes finding items so much easier. Thank you!
I love the list of what to bring and what the teens wish they would have brought. We are hoping to do a big overseas vacation with out 5 kids within the next few years so I’m already starting to gather good information. Thanks!
traveling to London, Seville & Paris for only 2 weeks in mid June. We are a family of 4. Hubby & myself are in our 50’s son is 13 and daughter is 23. All having issues with what and how much to pack. Any suggestions?
This guide is perfect for your trip: https://travelfashiongirl.com/the-only-backpacking-packing-list-for-europe-youll-ever-need/
I loved this article! I travel with my little girl and am always looking for tips.
My little ladies (ages 12 & 14) and I only bring used books when we travel. That way, when finished, they can easily be left/donated anywhere along our route.
Hi Paige, that’s a great tip. Thanks!
I spent a month in Italy with my then, younger son and daughter and one of the best things I did for packing was rolling their clothes tightly and placing a whole outfit for the day in large zip-lock bags. I was able to roll the air out and it made finding clothes for the day easy. It also made it easier to decide what was dirty and what was clean. They had all their clothes in a backpack. They still managed to travel back to Italy 11 years after their first trip with just a backpack and a carry on wheeled bag.
Awesome job Carmelina! Love the pre-organized outfit idea. Thank you for sharing 🙂
Really great tips. Saving for an upcoming family trip. The link to the instructions for sewing a bed liner doesn’t work though.
Thanks for letting me know, we’ll fix it!