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Taking the Kids - Packing smart

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

"Really, Mom!" My daughter eyed the spiffy red Briggs & Riley suitcase I was trying on a recent trip to Europe. Yes, it was lightweight, expandable, hard-sided with four wheels and even had a lifetime warranty, but it was also big -- checked-bag size and nearly 50 pounds when full. It probably would have been ideal for a trip that took me from Point A to Point B and home again.

But we were walking several blocks from our hotel to the Berlin train station after the first leg of a two-week trip that would include stays in three cities (four hotels) and a week-long river cruise that included daily biking with Backroads.

My daughter and son-in-law managed just fine with a carry-on and backpacks. My family complained that, as usual, I'd overpacked. They were right. I didn't wear half of what I'd brought. If you are like me and want to pack more efficiently, especially these days when you don't want to pay for bags for the entire family (wait at the airport for them or need a larger rental car to accommodate the bags), this column is for you.

Just make sure the kids have a say in what goes into that carry-on suitcase or duffel. That way, they can't blame you for what they forgot. Make a list with them of what they need to bring (How many pairs of socks? A bathing suit?) and then encourage them to lay out their clothes. Together you can see what will fit in a backpack and a carry-on that they can wheel.

"The hardest was trying to figure out what to put in the backpacks," recalled Sean Jacobson, from San Diego. Now 15, Sean recalls his family's seven-month sojourn around the world with just carry-on bags. He added, that in retrospect, he wished they had taken even fewer electronics because, "We'd be watching a movie or playing something and not looking at stuff," he explained.

His mom, Shari Jacobson, added that you realize just how little you really need.

I agree, as long as you pack smart. (I'm not giving prices here because I'm betting you can do better than retail!) Here is how to travel lighter:

Except for the kids' favorite shirt, leave the cotton at home, including underwear and socks. (Look for brands like SmartWool or from REI.com that will wick moisture and can be worn more than one day.

Sure, you'll want a pair of jeans but remember leggings take up a lot less room. For everyone in the family, look for moisture-wicking fabrics that will dry quickly and are breathable, especially when heading to warm climes. For adults, I've also become a fan of fabrics that repel odor, like the Wanderlux shirts from Exofficio.com.

Look for lighter weight clothes that will do the job, even when it's cold. For example, I love the new flannel-like travel shirtfrom Toad & Co, which won't take up as much room as flannel but just as cozy.

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