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The Best Packing Tips for Families

These packing tips for families will help on your next trip because planning for any trip is stressful, but adding kids takes it to another level. With the addition of each child comes more clothes, toys in every shape and size, and the need for new packing strategies. As a parent you need to have a game plan in place. There are things you will need to do before you go, things you will have to pack in your suitcase, and things you will need on the plane. Here are our tips for managing the mounds of clothes, eliminating the extras, and saving space in your suitcase.

Packing Tips for Families-Kids Are A Trip

Before You Go

Plan to stay at a hotel/bed & breakfast with a washing machine (a dryer is a bonus) 

Nobody really wants to do laundry while on vacation, but if it saves on paying checked bag fees, why not? Use sites like Hotels.com to find lodging with laundry options or Flipkey to find apartments.

Make copies of your passports, driver’s license and credit cards (front and back) 

Email a copy to yourself and to your spouse’s phone so you will have copies in case the originals are stolen, lost, or misplaced.

Create a packing list for each child 

Have your child lay out their clothes. Make it simple: (2) t-shirts, (2) shorts, (2) pairs of underwear, swimsuit, pajamas, (2) socks, etc. We usually take five full outfits for a two week vacation because we know we will wash them. Kids can help from a very early age and allowing them to help gets them excited about the trip.

Check the weather 

This will dictate what items you should be packing and prevent you from packing non-essentials.

Packing Tips for Families Prepare for Weather-Kids Are A Trip
It helps to be prepared for any type of weather!

Packing Essentials

Roll your clothes 

Trust me, this will save you space. Roll them as tight as you can, and you will be amazed how many items you can fit in your bag.

Use packing cubes 

We use one packing cube per child. They come out of the suitcase when we get to our hotel and then go back in the bag when we leave. Everyone has a different color and we can easily pack 4 days of kids’ clothing in each.

No electronics for kids when going overseas 

Do they ask to bring every device under the sun? Yes they do, and we always say no. I don’t need to manage a thousand different charger cords and neither do you. My husband and I bring our iPhones (check with your phone company ahead of time to confirm that yours will work overseas) and our laptops which is plenty.

Bring electric adapters and chargers 

Be sure to check the electrical requirements for the countries you will be visiting. The UK is different than mainland Europe, which is different than North America, you get the idea. We always bring along portable chargers too since we can never seem to keep a charge all day.

Have each child bring a paperback book to read 

If the children are older, they can swap books when they finish. Also, a lot of bed and breakfasts or apartments will have a “take a book/leave a book” shelf for travelers. Another idea is to pop into a bookstore while on vacation and let your kid find a new book that intrigues them and now they have a souvenir.

Packing Tips for Families Bring Books-Kids Are A Trip
You never know where kids will sit down to read…

Limit each child to one lovey each 

My kids would try to bring every toy, blanket, and stuffed animal they could sneak past me if they could. Have a rule in place and stick to it. The last thing you want to do is to have to manage all the “extras”.

Download a white noise app on your phone and/or bring earplugs 

Cities can be noisy places and sleeping in a new place can be difficult for both young and old. Everyone will sleep better with soothing sounds of raindrops or static white noise. Our favorite is Sleep Pillow Sounds available in a free or paid version.

Bring a reading light 

I love to read before bed, so I always bring a reading light with me. This is also helpful for navigating a dark hotel room in the middle of the night or searching through a crowded bag or floor of an airplane.

Pack a duffle bag and plastic grocery bags inside your luggage 

Odds are you will acquire souvenirs on your trip and/or dirty laundry. Stick a duffle bag inside your suitcase just in case you need to check an extra bag for the ride home. Use grocery bags for dirty laundry or wet clothes.

Pack a clothesline and laundry detergent 

They barely take up any space and if you find yourself staying somewhere without a washing machine you can quickly do some wash in the sink and hang it to dry overnight.

Bring a first aid/medicine kit 

I try to have band aids, Neosporin, children’s Tylenol or Motrin, hand sanitizing wipes, and a probiotic for the kids (in case of diarrhea or stomach flu).

On the Plane

Dress in layers and wear your heaviest shoes 

Layers are essential on a plane not only for you, but for your child as well. It may sound weird to wear your heaviest shoes, but think about it. If you are wearing them, your luggage is lighter. I don’t know, but it always seems to work for us. Here are some other ideas for staying comfortable on a plane.

Bring a spare shirt for mom or dad and change of clothes for the kids 

Unfortunately, we have been on plane rides when accidents have occurred, so we have learned this the hard way. We pack one of my husband’s spare shirts (since it fits either one of us) and a spare set of shorts, underwear, socks, and a t-shirt that fit the oldest child (figuring that only one will spill, and they can fit into whatever we have on board until we land). This back up set of clothes has come in handy more times than I care to remember.

Bring essential medications 

We have a couple that have been prone to motion sickness so we try to bring ginger chews, seasickness bands, or Benadryl since they all seem to help. (Also, plastic trash bags and napkins in case we can’t find a “courtesy” barf bag). We also have a child with a peanut and tree nut allergy, so we always travel with our Epi-Pen. If anyone in your family has a daily medication, be sure to bring that with you in your carry-on. Don’t miss our tips for dealing with motion sickness too.

Bring hand wipes and bubble gum 

Hopefully these are both self-explanatory.

Snacks 

It can take a very long time for those flight attendants to make it down the aisle, have your own snacks and avoid the whining. If you need some ideas, we have you covered with 25 Easy To Pack Travel Snacks, 25 Easy to Pack Nut Free Travel Snacks, and 25 Easy to Make and Pack Travel Snacks.

Bring sheets of paper, colored pencils, a small pencil sharpener and stickers 

These are easy travel supplies. The pencils won’t melt and stickers are fun anywhere, anytime. Paper can be used not only for coloring, but for games like Hangman, Dots, making paper airplanes, and letter writing, to name a few. If you’re looking for other ideas to entertain the kids on the plane, we’ve got you covered with tips for keeping kids busy on planes.

ID necklaces for kids 

Obviously these are not necessary while they are on the plane, but you will want to have them handy when you deplane. We have the kids wear an ID necklace with a business card that includes our hotel name, address, and phone, as well as our telephone number. It makes all of us feel secure knowing they have all the information they need should we ever be separated.

Packing for a trip with kids requires a lot of additional preparation, but with a little planning, comes great reward. Have your kids join you in the packing process and lessen your load. Just be sure to bring your patience, there’s a good chance you’re going to need it.

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12 Comments

  1. We have been traveling to Austin every May since our oldest was 6 months. She’s now 7 and has two siblings… Packing for 3 is a breeze, packing for 5… For 6 days… Well, I’ll soon be doing it! We stay in the same hotel every year so I’m very familiar with the amenities and logistics of staying there, I find that if you will talk to someone from the front desk a few days before your stay you can get vital information! Questions I like to ask: 1) are the rooms pictures on the website the actual room layout? 2) Do you have cribs/ pack n plays available? (If so I reserve one!) 3) “We have children that require milk and will be needing a fridge, in the past your staff has been gracious to provide one at no charge, could you help me out with this again?” The particular hotel we stay in charges a $25 fee for fridge use… They always have allowed us one at no charge because of our kiddos- in turn we are able to have cold drinks bought at a grocery store versus spending a fortune on vending!

    I always also take: My Young Living Essential Oils and Diffuser, liquid hand soap for bathroom, cheap zip baggies to use for dirty diapers, collapseable cup for toothbrushes, scotch tape (taping kids art to windows, and a clip (heavy duty sandwich clip) for the curtains…

    I could go on and on with the little things, but I will admit that I have learned a lot of things the ought our yearly adventures!

  2. Wow! You sound like you know your way around packing Kayla. Saving money by using a refrigerator and eating in the room has been a big $$ saver for us too. We like to bring oatmeal packets and just heat water in the microwave for an easy breakfast on the go. Lots to learn from fellow travelers. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Very helpful tips! We will have our first long trip for the coming holiday. Before we were traveling just to friends and families so I wasn’t worried if I packed enough. This time we will be staying in a hotel so I have to be very prepared.

  4. We recently discovered the option of booking a place with a washing machine and it really helped with lightening our load. One suitcase and one back pack is all we brought for three of us for almost two weeks in Europe. Thanks for the other tips – I’ll definitely use them on our next trip!

  5. We’re the same! 2 rolling duffles for a family of 5 for 2 weeks. Washing machines are a life saver! Happy travels!

  6. Thank you for these wonderful tips! My husband would always complain about how I pack our suitcases, but now that I have this bookmarked, I know what to do in our next trip in Thailand.

  7. Great experience after reading your awesome article. Love the idea of the that you provide. We are traveling with our 11-month-old son to Europe next week and will be abroad for 2 weeks. I am concerned about his sleep schedule.

  8. If you can, start changing his sleep schedule now. Try to get him closer to the time zones of your destination. So maybe his bedtime is 7pm now, make it 6pm. Trust me when I say every hour helps. It should really take a day or two for him to get settled. We took our 10 month old to the UK for two weeks and it was amazing. The first couple of days were tough, we just made sure to let him run around a lot and had our stroller ready when he needed to crash. Don’t let him take super long naps though, that will ruin him for bed time! Safe travels!

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