packing light.


I know that people want to hear more about the retreat but this little post has been sitting in my drafts for awhile and I want to post it before I dive into the retreat and our experience living abroad over the last three and a half weeks.  We’ve had a lot of questions on how we pack for a large family over an extended period.

This is a very straightforward packing post with a bit of a twist at the end.

After about the fourth day of rain last week, I realized that I didn’t pack enough lightweight cotton and linen clothes.  Our dryer broke the first week into our stay and we are still awaiting the repairman to come.  We have sporadically tried to use the other house’s dryer but it still doesn’t completely dry the clothes.

On the Facebook group for the women’s retreat, we discussed packing strategies.  After consulting Camille’s packing list which she includes in her Guide to Costa Rica, we all shared what we planned to bring.  (I told everyone that turkish towels are a must!  They dry quickly and even when they are damp, they never smell too gross!)

I only had one goal:  PACK LIGHT.

I held this intention every time we started to discuss it at home as a family.  Last year, we packed rolling carry-on cases and packed 20 items of clothing each.  I packed too many heavy books and curriculum material for homeschooling.  We needed to check in at least one luggage for all the liquids we were bringing because toiletries and medicine are pricier here.  Bottles of benadryl were mandatory items for my children with allergies.

This year we all packed up our backpacks and a smaller side sling bag except the little guy who brought a small backpack and a rolling case because he isn’t big enough to carry a big pack yet. We wanted to make sure that we would be able to fit all of our bags in the rental car.  We had trouble fitting all the rolling cases in the car last time and had to rely on our friends to load some in their car.

(Little did we know that our 12-passenger van this time around would have more than enough room to hold our bags…and even a few hitchhikers…but that’s another story.)

Here is a list of the clothes that I ended up packing for myself:

-3 tank tops

-3 shorts

-2 pants

-1 long sleeve

-3 bikinis

-1 romper

-1 dress

-1 yoga legging

-2 sports bra/athletic tank

-1 beach cover up

– (and underwear of course)

my CR wardrobe

On the way there, I wore a t shirt, a sports tank, jogging pants, leggings, a hoodie, my rain coat, and my hiking boots (which I have used only once here since I am a barefoot jungle hiker…but that’s another story).

In addition to my clothes, I packed the following:

  • my laptop
  • multiple moleskine journals – my morning pages, my daily to-do, my old book of hours and my new book of hours notebook
  • my pencil case
  • my toiletries
  • flip flops
  • my crystals and the most gorgeous mala beads made by my friend Amy at Beloved Crystals
  • this lovely travel paint set from my good friend Gwynyth who will be coming to visit us soon…and will be bringing another tub of coconut oil and a bottle of probiotics for us…thank you Gwynyth!

watercolour painting at the beach

  • and…a couple of novels

The kids packed roughly the same.  Some preferred to pack more t shirts than tanks or more dresses than pants.  But we basically live in our bathing suits.  And when it rains, we wear whatever is dry that moment.

In addition to their clothes the kids packed the following in their backpacks (…and a special thanks to the kids’ godparents for buying them their big packs for Christmas!) :

  • a folder with photocopies of lessons
  • main lesson books (lightweight notebooks)
  • a pencil case with their own supplies
  • math workbooks.
  • their own toiletries
  • a turkish towel
  • personal items like stuffies, a kobo (since books are too heavy and I have an avid reader who also likes to read stories to her younger siblings), crystals, journals, and longer novels
  • flip flops

I didn’t anticipate doing much lesson work in the first few weeks but the kids wanted to jump right into their new lesson blocks so we have now run out of main lesson books here and the kids are using their personal journals and book of hours notebooks to do their work.

In the larger suitcase, I packed:

  • liquids (contact lens solution, shampoo, body wash, insect repellent, sunscreen)
  • medicines (both conventional and homeopathic)
  • feminine products
  • one binder of curriculum material
  • spanish dictionaries and nature guides
  • a paint set and a pastel set
  • two large beach blankets
  • a huge tub of coconut oil
  • probiotics
  • Chris’ products (magnesium, creatine, and a pre-workout supplement)
  • tupperware containers (for storing food in the fridge and packing lunches)
  • shower caps (to cover food containers in the fridge instead of using plastic wrap)
  • clothespins (to hang clothes or to clip packages closed in the fridge)
  • ziploc bags (to keep the bottles of liquid sealed tight in the suitcase and to use for keeping things dry in our bags at the beach)
  • walkie talkies (this was a fantastic idea from my friend Gwynyth; instead of using our cell phones, we can separate in town or a group can head to the beach)
  • various device chargers
  • a deflated volleyball
  • gymnastic rings

Things we forgot to pack:

  • a deck of cards
  • I forgot two other pairs of shorts sitting in my laundry basket
  • extra main lesson books
  • everyone wishes they had one more bathing suit because we live in them

As I remembered my January mantra, Girl, just pack light, I also remembered my January intention for the year – LIGHT.  Packing light can mean to pack the barest essentials.  But I soon discovered in the middle of my retreat, that it can have a whole different meaning all together.  It can mean to pack light – to bring a willingness to see the light in every unexpected encounter.  It can also mean to live with a bright optimism during travel, especially when travelling with children.

Or maybe it means to simply remember that I carry a light within so that even when it rains for days, I know that I have everything I need.


Any packing tips out there for travelling with children especially for those who want to travel light?






2 responses to “packing light.”

  1. Gwynyth Avatar

    Thank you for this Rozanne!
    I’ve been pretty lazy about getting our packing lists together, wondering what the essentials in the rainforest would be…so grateful for the practical post! I’ve got you covered for coconut oil and probiotics- now I just need another bathing suit or two!

    1. rozanne Avatar

      Think multi-use! I have a beach cover up that I can turn into a top or dress and I use a sarong (they call it a pareo here) that I received as a gift at my retreat that I use daily. I have bralettes that double as yoga tops and bras or just to wear under loose tank tops and of course flowy pants are my go-to for nighttime and rain days!

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