How to pack for a summer trip to Ireland and Scotland with kids?
June 27, 2018 3:51 PM   Subscribe

My family is taking our first overseas family vacation to Ireland and Scotland- yay! But I’m stressing out over packing. Could you recommend good packing lists or any other advice for traveling light with kids?

We’re taking a 16-day trip and are planning on hitting Glasgow, Edinburgh, Coylumbridge, Dublin, and the Dingle peninsula. We’ll be there in late July/early August and will be doing both urban exploring and rural day hikes. I’m responsible for packing for myself and my two kids (6 and 9) and would really, really like to pack light. Is it reasonable to think I can pack everything the three of us need in one 80L (checked) suitcase and 3 small carry on backpacks? (Two of our accommodations will have washing machines.) Do I really need to pack hats and gloves for Scotland in summer? Are decent raincoats and waterproof hiking shoes sufficient for rain? Should I leave the shorts at home? If I pack mostly travel/hiking clothing will we look out of place in the cities? Should I pack my DSLR or just rely in my iPhone? Climate-specific advice will be very helpful, as will any good tips for traveling light with kids!
posted by rebeccabeagle to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Trouble is, the weather can be so varied in Scotland that a little of everything is probably wise (except hats and gloves, it's not that cold, unless you're only used to the tropics!). But that doesn't mean you need loads of everything. Layering is the trick. On a warm day you can just wear a T-shirt on top, when it's cooler you can add a couple of layers on top of that.

Definitely bring waterproofs (unfortunately May & June are the dry summer months in Scotland, once you get into July/August, it's rain time).

Sorry, I've no idea what an 80L suitcase looks like so hard to advise on exact size needed, but a few answers -
* Decent raincoats and waterproof hiking shoes should be fine for the rain, especially if everyone has a change of clothes at the end of the day if they get wet (I don't mean two raincoats, but don't just bring one pair of trousers each).
* Don't leave the shorts at home, though maybe only bring one pair each. It's definitely shorts weather this week, but it's never shorts weather all summer. Bring sun hats if you have some that will squidge up small - if it is sunny when you're here, it's light until 10pm right now - the days will be a little shorter in a month, but it's still a long day in the sun.
* Travel/hiking clothing will definitely not look out of place in Scottish cities in summer - there are loads of tourists, and anyway, locals dress much more outdoorsy here than, say, London.
* Camera vs phone - just depends how much you're into photography. I wouldn't want the hassle of dragging round a large/expensive camera and would only take my phone, but both the landscapes and the cityscapes are fabulous so if you do really enjoy photography, it's a brilliant place for it.
* Don't stress too much - you can shop cheaply here if it turns out to be super hot/cold and you need to reevaluate. Primark (on Argyle Street in Glasgow, Princes Street in Edinburgh) has a huge array of cheap clothing for all ages.
* When you get here, go into a branch of Tiso (on Buchanan Street in Glasgow or Rose Street in Edinburgh) and buy a bottle or two of Skin So Soft - originally marketed as a moisturiser but is now the midge repellent of choice for Scots, and you'll definitely need it when you're hiking.
posted by penguin pie at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is it reasonable to think I can pack everything the three of us need in one 80L (checked) suitcase and 3 small carry on backpacks?


I don't know where you're reading but a rain shell and hiking boots will be fine. You will need shorts -- we are currently having a heatwave in Dublin and across all of Ireland -- and jeans and that's it.

You're a tourist, you'll look like a tourist, everyone likes tourists, you'll be fine!

Skin So Soft is made by Avon and you can get it in the US.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:28 PM on June 27, 2018

What is your laundry situation? Are the washing times spread out?
posted by k8t at 4:32 PM on June 27, 2018

This absolutely sounds possible to me! Yes, I would just pack for rain and dry footwear (though to be honest, most people in Ireland don't have suoer-duper raingear in the cities at least -- people often just sort of expect to get wet.) Be sure to bring some warmer clothes than you think you'll need (a fleece?) but I second that you can pick these up at Primark if you need them. Be warned that in the UK and Ireland a lot of people have washing machines but not dryers so I would check -- if no dryer and travelling around a bit, you want to make sure you are not lugging around wet clothes.

Have a great trip -- sounds fantastic!
posted by heavenknows at 5:13 PM on June 27, 2018

I have been to Scotland and I recommend everything Penguin Pie has to say.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:20 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

We love to travel with zip-off or convertible pants. So helpful if it is cool when you start a hike and then it warms up.
posted by gryphonlover at 7:32 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the laundry will work out well- around day 5 and day 10. Will I be able to buy a small quantity of unscented laundry detergent or is that something I should pack from home?
posted by rebeccabeagle at 8:33 PM on June 27, 2018

Are the accomodations serviced apartments? They may provide detergent powder/pods.
posted by brujita at 10:50 PM on June 27, 2018

"Visit Scotland" produced this short but entertaining guide about our weather - with visitors in mind. It has some specifics on what to pack. (there are other videos in this series)

To address some of your specifics: Yes do bring a hat and gloves if you are planning to go up any of our hills. They can be cold at any time of year. Hats as protection against sun and midges (for which I'd recommend Smidge) are also a good idea. We are having a warmer than average summer so far this year - and Scots like to discard all unnecessary clothing once the temperature slides above about 15 degrees (this was taken yesterday in the Edinburgh) - personally I rarely find the impulse to wear shorts here - but I'd still pack a pair on a trip. There is really no problem in wearing the same jackets and boots in the cities as you do in the countryside.
posted by rongorongo at 10:51 PM on June 27, 2018

One tactic is to leave a bit of space in your case and then buy a couple of items like hats or shorts when you’re there and know what the current weather is like. This also means you can get souvenir ones if you’re that way inclined.
posted by Segundus at 12:35 AM on June 28, 2018

As far as packing goes, I cannot speak highly enough of the Muji Garment case. That link is to the UK site because I'm in Europe but there's a US online store too. I'm here for three weeks and got a medium one, which fits in my small carryon backpack yet manages to hold:
three dresses, two t-shirts, two tank tops, two pairs of pajamas, one pair of leggings, one thick cotton sweater, one rainproof jacket, 3 pairs of socks, and seven pairs of underpants. I wear the most bulky clothes--jeans and collared shirt--on the plane. I'll do laundry once while I'm here. Basically, you roll everything up and arrange in rows inside the garment case, squish it all together, and use zipper to close. The zipper is vey strong and everything compresses further as it zips.I have only checked bags twice in the last 5 years, once for a 10 week visit and once for a 3 month visit. I could have got away with carry on for the first one.
posted by Morpeth at 1:13 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

For the laundry situation, check with your accomodation whether they have dryers as well as washing machines - it's very much not a given in Europe and Scotland in particular can be so humid that clothes will absolutely not dry out overnight.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 3:03 AM on June 28, 2018

We’re taking a 16-day trip and are planning on hitting Glasgow, Edinburgh, Coylumbridge, Dublin, and the Dingle peninsula.
Bloody hell, that's a lot of driving in two weeks. (I've never heard of Coylumbridge but it seems to be in the Cairngorms just outside Aviemore.) It kind of feels like you'll be spending more time driving than anything else with that kind of itinerary, going from the far north-east of the UK to the far south-west of Ireland.

I just the other day got back from a trip (from the UK) to Ireland, just over two weeks, half of it staying just outside Derry and half in county Kerry, not far south of the Dingle. The drive from Derry to Kerry was very pretty but took around eight hours on its own, with only a brief stop for lunch. Driving from Kerry to Dublin Port (to get back to the UK) was really slow until I was able to hit a motorway in North Cork. The roads there are... not quick if you're in a non-motorway area. It's the same in northern Scotland, you can take what Google Maps says in the Highlands and add 20% or so, because you'll be on slow twisty roads behind heavy lorries and blokes towing caravans.

Make sure you've got something to entertain the two children in the car - it sounds like it could otherwise be quite onerous for them and you. (I don't have kids, so I don't know anything about entertaining them on long car trips!) In Scotland, keep the car radio tuned to the BBC Radio Scotland network (usually somewhere around 92-94 FM) which has good signal coverage and regular comprehensive Scottish travel and weather reports. Ireland has a patchwork of local stations of varying quality but the roads are quieter and traffic news isn't as important.

I wouldn't bother with separate "city clothes" and "country clothes" - outside of London, most cities in the UK and Ireland are full of people dressed for whatever weather is happening. No one is going to go "hey, look at those hideously unfashionable tourists in cagoules" when it's pissing with rain. Definitely get hold of Skin-So-Soft, I swear by it when travelling to Scotland! The spray stuff is better than the cream stuff that is sold under the same brand.
posted by winterhill at 3:32 AM on June 28, 2018

Most of the uk serviced apartments I've stayed in have a washer/dryer combo which takes 5 hours per cycle (and longer if one needs more drying and forgets to turn off the wash part :-S ).

And they are TINY.
posted by brujita at 4:58 AM on June 28, 2018

Just to chime in - agree with the above - you may not have a drier so keep that in mind. Washer/drier combos can take a long time - 3 hours+ and you will probably still need to hang your stuff up to dry out completely. If you're only going to wash twice I'd just bring a baggie of detergent. Also bear in mind that they will hold less laundry than US machines as has been mentioned above.

If you are planning on climbing any hills or sitting outside after dark I would recommend a hat and gloves - it can get cold here even in the summer, especially if you are higher up or in the wind. You should definitely bring a waterproof coat and shoes. Deep Woods Off works on midges.

There are a chain of shops in many places in the UK called 'Mountain Warehouse' - definitely in Edinburgh and Glasgow and some highland towns - Aviemore, Callander, Pitlochry. They sell cheap outdoors gear which is pretty good (lots of kids stuff) so you could always find one of those if you need something. Much cheaper than some of the branded outdoor gear. Big supermarkets also sell clothes.

But yes, pack light! Part of the fun of being on vacation is not worrying about what you're wearing - especially for kids! And anything you need you'll be able to buy here. Nobody will care what you are wearing. I would say a couple of pairs of trousers each, a few t-shirts/hiking tops (i.e. not cotton), a warm fleece, and waterproof jacket plus usual underwear/pyjamas should cover it. Bring a swimsuit in case the unusually warm weather continues and you can swim in a loch!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 7:03 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

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