Traveling light through Japan

Traveling light through Japan

Last week when we first arrived in Japan, we had an ambitious itinerary to stay at different accommodations 4 nights in a row with all kinds of public transportation in between. (One of the nights we stayed at this traditional Onsen on Izu Peninsula which was hugely inspiring.) This was definitely first for us as a family since we have always preferred to stay longer at one place at a time. Last few years, with girls being so much younger, we just couldn't imagine carrying them through Shinjuku Station during the morning rush hour.

There seems to be a switch when kids turn 5 and 8 years old. Both girls feel more open and accommodating to changes. Within 5 days, we took 3 airplanes, 2 bullet trains, 5 local trains and a few cab rides which indeed included the Shinjuku Station rush hour transit when we had to cut through the sea of morning commuters toward the opposite direction.

Traveling light has been our motto for so many years and for this trip too, we tried our best to pack small. We have one suitcase with all our clothes and essentials plus each of us carrying one carry-on. We do have a separate duffle bag with snorkeling gears and 2 booster seats for girls which we were able to leave at Haneda Airport while we were visiting Tokyo and Shizuooka.

We are often asked how we manage to pack light. Here are few of my personal tips.

1. PACK MINIMUM AMOUNT OF CLOTHES. We stick with the "rule of three" for our basic travel clothes. 3 versatile tops (which include dresses), 3 shorts, 3 underwears. Pajamas, 1 long sleeve layer, and 1 lightweight sweater are also packed. Frido and I have running wears which we are double-dutying as our swimwear and everyday shirts. Having fewer choices for outfits also makes it so much easier for all of us to get ready for the day. And really. We have not needed more.

2. PICK A PLACE WITH WASHER. When we look for an Airbnb house to stay, we try our best to find the place with washer (and sometimes dryer if we are lucky!!). If not, we just handwash our clothes!

3. PACK A FEW ITEMS THAT MAKE THE STAY LITTLE MORE COMFORTABLE. I love having a small piece of home with us when traveling. Usually, I pack a Square Tote and Cube by Ateliers PENELOPE to use once we unpack at our home away home. Also loving TSL Cotton Bag which was neatly folded in the suitcase when we were transiting... but now a super handy and lightweight day bag!

4. DON'T BRING ALL THE DEVICES FROM HOME. Satchi and Coco watch movies and listen to audio stories on iPad at home so they asked us if they could bring our shared iPad to travel. We chatted about it and decided that we can do what they want to do on our laptops and iPhones. I know it's tempting to bring devices for kids when traveling but totally worth considering the other ways! There are plenty of movie choices on long-distance flights and it's okay to be bored and take a nap when there is nothing to do. And if there is a space, bring a travel sized game. Satchi is obsessed with Yahtzee and we love this travel version so much.

5. HAVE A GOOD FIRST-AID KIT. I carry a small first-aid kit in my bag at all times and have a complete set of travel-sized medicine cabinet (pouch) at our Airbnb home. It's basic but I know that I have a fever reducer, allergy medicine, itchy cream, eye drops for an infection, antibacterial cream + band aides for kids and grownups. I hope we don't need to use any of it but it's a peace of mind for my mama brain.

I think we could have packed even lighter if I knew what I know today. In the near future, I would also love us to ditch a suitcase for the train travel. And instead, have everyone carry backpacks with clothes and essentials.

Then there is yet another important question. If we can travel and live out of one suitcase and have fulfilling moments, why do we have so much more at home? That is a question that needs to be answered when we get back to our Los Angeles home in September.



  • javier: August 01, 2018
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    Thanks for the story. For many years I´ve tried to slim down my travel gear… this “rule of 3” sounds great, I´ll give it a try on my next trip. Greetings from Toluca, Mexico.

  • Caroline: July 28, 2018
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    Wakako- This is so helpful. We have also been looking at how many things we have at home- we are getting ready to move to Germany in September and have to reduce our things to very little before going. I have to say, traveling light for years has really helped us make this change. Have so much fun on your trip! We move in early September so I will hope to get to see you before we go. xoxo

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