So, you’ve chosen your destination, planned out your transportation, booked the accommodations, and decided on what to do, now you’ve got to pack. All those clothes and gear you’ll need certainly won’t pack itself. Good thing for you, several experienced travelers, including myself, have put together this list of 13 amazing packing tips and tricks to help you prepare for your next family vacation.
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Let the Kids Help
“Teach your kids life skills that will last a lifetime by teaching them to pack for camping trips or overnight sleep-overs. Teaching kids to pack for an entire trip, regardless of length or destination, in just a carry-on, is doable!” Shannan at Captivating Compass shares. Her strategy comes from a checklist she has relied on for nearly 15 years.
“It’s simple and easy enough for most 7-year-olds to do practically by themselves. The key is to give the kids the checklist and let them create ‘outfit piles’ according to the list. Then, before it all goes in the carry-on, it is checked by an adult” reveals Shannan. “This method has worked so well for our family that we have been able to pack for three weeks in Switzerland (in the winter) using just a carry-on and backpack!” Read more from Shannan on packing with kids on her blog Captivating Compass.
Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom also likes to let the kids help. “I usually make a checklist of things they need to pack so they can feel like they are independent, but I have them lay everything out on their beds and go and make sure they made good choices before they pack their bags.” It’s always a good idea to double check because I know my kids would bring an entire suitcase filled with Lego’s if I weren’t checking!
Make a List
Tiffany at Mommy And Me Travels shares her “quick hitting packing list for each person” with us. The list includes:
- 2 (maybe 3) pairs of pants
- 4 shirts
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 1 swimsuit
- 7 pairs of socks
“I also pack my packing checklist so that if I lose everything, I know exactly what I need to replace” shares Sarah at Dandelion Seeds. Making a list gives everyone a good visual for what they need to have. “You don’t want to arrive in Hawaii and have a bunch of winter clothes and no swimming suits packed!” advises Annette. This is all too true and we don’t want it to happen to you.
Do a Wash
Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom says “when we are choosing lodging, we make sure that they have a laundry facility available to it’s guests. That way we can pack a few outfits and do our wash on a night while the kids are swimming in the pool.” Tiffany says that if clothes do get dirty “just wash them in the sink or the bathtub. You can easily hand wash the clothes and hang them to dry. Viola, clean clothes!”
Kirsty at World For A Girl likes to bring “travel size washing up liquid, an elastic washing line and all the other laundry items we need only when we’re on the road.” Make use of the laundromat if necessary. Keeping clothes to a minimum will really save space and weight when packing.
Packing Cubes are Amazing Packing Tips
“Packing cubes are by far and away the number one best way to pack,” says Kris at Gadsventure. “Each person has their own color coordinated set, with one bag containing five sets of clothing, and a smaller bag for socks, underwear, and swimwear.”
Regina at Full Time Field Trip shares the love of packing cubes with Kris. She says “how much do I love packing cubes? Oh, let me count the ways.” Her ways include color selection, variety of sizes, and their ability to fit in her luggage. “Make the packing cubes fit the luggage. Experiment with various configurations until you get the most out of it,” she explains.
“One item that has made our packing and re-packing easier is packing cubes,” says Kirsty at World For A Girl. “Perhaps my favorite thing about using packing cubes is that we don’t need to unpack all the time. For example, right now, in our closet, there are lots of packing cubes already filled.” Kirsty keeps her packing cubes ready for travel all the time. She keeps things like toys, a first aid kit, and other items only needed when traveling in her cubes.
Don’t Put All Your Clothes in One Suitcase
Losing a piece of luggage can really make for a bad start to any vacation. Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders shares “my tip is to divide the families clothes between the bags and then if one is lost at least you all still have some clothes!” This is a great idea because you just never know if everything will end up where it is supposed to.
Packing Tips and Tricks for Carry-on Luggage
“We can usually pack one carry on per person. This way we avoid any fees that are associated with airline baggage,” says Annette. Nikki shares “we usually just pay for one bag and then each take a good sized carry on.” While Tiffany tells us “no worries, you normally can get away with just a carry-on for everyone. How you might ask, well, easy, don’t try to pack the kitchen sink when you travel.”
Deb at World Wise Kid says that “unless we are travel camping, we carry-on our luggage. We know our personal items are safe and will arrive with us.” Sarah at Dandelion Seeds says that “I try to pack light and use only carry-on bags.” If she does check a bag she makes sure that “what stays with me includes everything my family will need within our first 24 hours at our destination”
“Knowing you can survive for weeks on just the basics on your back is empowering. Packing light does involve conscious planning and investing in high quality gear,” says Deb. “We love Osprey packs with their cinching straps, padded electronics sleeves, and thick hip belts.” Deb knows that “all items must be as light as possible – no big jackets, no heavy shoes.”
The best packing tips, whether it’s for a family vacation or living in an RV full-time, are to pack small and light. This can be a challenge when you have kids. They just seem to need a lot of stuff. Diaper bags, toys, books, extra clothes, it all adds to the space and weight when packing. Oftentimes we think we will need something, then end up never using it.
It is amazing what we really can live without. The less you bring with you means the less you have to keep track of and the less you have to bring back with you. Try to stick with the necessities and not over plan for every possible disaster.
Try Grocery Delivery
Shannon at Grab My Passport shares that “one of my latest discoveries is grocery delivery services!” This type of service is great for so many reasons. Let me share what Shannon has to say about this wonderful new service. “On our recent week-long trip to Orlando, and our first with our newborn, I discovered Instacart and it was the greatest!” She tells us more about why this is one of the perfect packing tips. “
“I packed enough snacks and baby formula to get us through two days. Then, our first night in the hotel, we signed up for Instacart’s free trial and placed our first order. We bought snacks, milk, bananas, yogurt, and baby formula. It arrived at our hotel lobby so quickly and everything was fresh! There are a lot of these types of services in the U.S., so check out what’s available in your travel area before you head out to help save some room in your suitcase.” This sounds like a great time saver along with saving room Shannon.
Bring Some Medicine
“Our luggage always has a medicine kit for the most common health issues you can encounter while traveling,” says Yamy, the main blogger of Gofamgo. “I don’t want to deal with figuring out where the pharmacy is in an unfamiliar place. Not to mention if they even carry the medicine that I am used to,” so bringing some with you is one of the important packing tips Yamy.
“Make sure that if you are bringing a prescription-strength medication, you bring a copy of the prescription with you. This is necessary during inspections in airport checkpoints, for example,” advises Yamy. Melissa at Disabled Disney says “I have to make sure I have my medications in an adequate amount for my trip and whatever equipment I need.” Being disable makes packing tips for Melissa “a little different than a healthy person.”
Melissa recommends to “make sure your medications are in your carry on because if your luggage gets lost or held up, you may not have your medications when you need them.” Losing luggage is bad enough, but if you have something as important as medication, it can become a real problem.
You Might Need Ziploc Bags
Melissa tells us “we also travel as a family and when you have kids you have to take Ziploc bags with you!” They come in handy for so many things, which explains why they came in high on our list of packing tips and tricks. “Outfits are put into a Ziploc bag and it’s done!” Says Shannan of her final packing procedure step. “If you go on the water rides having a Ziplock bags can protect anything you don’t want to get wet!” Melissa shares.
Packing Tips For Special Needs
“As a family who travels with a senior with several health issues, we make sure to bring a medical history packet with us. This packet includes medical and surgical history, list of medications with dosages and frequencies, and a contact list for her medical team,” shares Yamy. “That way, if something should happen while you’re on a vacation, the new healthcare team will have more time to address the health issue, not doing guesswork.” Yamy has lots of experience traveling with a senior.
Melissa also shares some advice “I travel with a shower stool and a wheelchair. I also bought a fold-able cane for travel, so if I don’t have a lot of room to store it, it folds up!” Bringing things that can fold and store easily is important when traveling. the more compact and lightweight an item is the more likely you will bring it on your next trip.
Our travel centers around an educational aspect and the kids love to bring books, papers, pencils, and anything else they think they might, maybe, possibly need at some point. So, how do bring these things, but not fill all of our space with them? Deb shares her wisdom with us “It’s hard to leave the paper travel guides and books behind but for minimalist travel,” yes it really is Deb. “We have converted to e-books on the Kindle and tablets.” That is a great idea and one I have recently started doing myself.
“A library subscription gives us access to print resources. We use downloadable audio guides to destinations and supplement studies with podcasts and YouTube videos. Each of the kids carry only an academics notebook and a journal/sketchpad for studies,” Deb says. A library is a wonderful thing. They all have so many great programs. Look into what your library has to offer so you can save space on your next adventure.
Check a Car-seat
“Take advantage of checked car seats,” says Shannon. “Most airlines let you check a car seat for free, but they don’t specify that if you place your car seat in a protective carrier, that you can only put a car seat in it. We were able to toss a week’s worth of diapers in the car-seat, under the protective carrier, with plenty of room to spare! Just tuck the diapers (or whatever) in the seat, buckle them in so they don’t get tossed around, and voilà, more space saved in your suitcase!” Extra storage and it’s free, great packing tips from my team of expert travelers.
Taking time to travel with kids can be a daunting task, but it is totally worth it. You not only get to make incredible memories together, you get to learn together. The educational value of taking your kids out to explore is priceless. This list of 13 amazing packing tips and tricks should help get you out the door!