Family Travel Packing Tips

Travel season is here, and parents are ready to get kids and themselves out of the house and on the road, in the air, or sailing the seas. But before kicking off their dream summer vacation, parents are left with the difficult task of packing for everyone in the family.

And while it may be as simple as outfits and skincare for adults, packing for kids requires much more preparation, thought, and consideration. But packing doesn’t have to be a nightmare or dreaded part of the planning. Following the simple tips below can make packing for even a bigger family less frightening.

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Opinions are always my own and I’ll never promote something I don’t use or believe in. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

girl sitting in back of car with suitcases
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Don’t run out the clock

While you might think you can accomplish all of your packing in an afternoon, that’s likely not the case. Give yourself time to pack and plan for everyone. The more family members you have, the more time you’ll need to pack.

Stop watch

By giving yourself an adequate amount of time, you can see how much space you really have for everything ahead of time and can even double and triple-check that you’ve remembered to pack everything you wanted.

Do the laundry

The last thing you want to happen while you’re packing is finding out your favorite blouse or dress, your husband’s only good pair of slacks, or your kid’s favorite shirt is sitting in the dirty laundry basket. Do laundry the day before you plan to start packing.


This way you not only ensure everything is clean and put away, but you can even begin to set important items aside so they’re easily accessible the next day. This can not only save you time but frustration as well.

Know and have a plan

While you might know you’re heading out on a beach vacation with the family, think about the other places you’ll go to during your trip. You likely won’t want everyone to wear a bathing suit to a nice restaurant for dinner. Having an idea of where you’ll visit can make packing go more smoothly.

Woman Travel planning

It’s also important to check the weather and stay updated on it so everyone can have what they need. This can prevent your vacation from being ruined by an unexpected downpour, and even help you avoid dangerous heatwaves by planning something fun indoors.

Pack for messes, but leave the closet

While we might make an attempt to keep our photo-worthy vacation outfits clean, kids are mess magnets and are likely to spill, stain or ruin some article of clothing throughout the day. Plan to pack multiple outfits for kids to wear, and plan for a mishap no matter where you go.

Packing for Kids

This doesn’t mean to throw your kid’s entire wardrobe in a suitcase and hope for the best, but figure out which nicer outfits could potentially get messy and pack an extra so your family photo isn’t ruined by a giant stain or tear.

Pack smart

Think about clothes with multiple uses. Airport fashion can easily translate into tourist sightseeing if you plan ahead. Choose functional and comfortable outfits that can transition with you throughout the day. For parents of babies and toddlers, Sandra Aris pants are the ultimate travel safety and fashionable pants.

They feature uniquely designed, protective pads in the knee and butt area that can prevent travel meltdowns for kids. Whether they’re running up and down the plane aisle or taking wobbly steps on the boardwalk while you head to the beach. Any tumble they take will be protected. They’re available in sizes 6 months to 3T.

Sandra Aris

Another way to pack smart is to think about the number of shoes you’re taking. In any suitcase, shoes take up the majority of the space, so choosing shoes that can be both functional and fashionable can help conserve space. Depending on how many days you’ll be traveling, limit each family member to 2 pairs of shoes, plus the ones they’re wearing when you travel.

If you’re looking to pack fewer clothes, choosing vibrant, bright clothing that doesn’t match much else besides a specific pair of pants or shirt likely isn’t the best idea. If you can repeat articles of clothing, you’ll find yourself packing a lot less. Take clothes that can be mixed and matched, dressed up or down, etc.

Think beyond clothes and toiletries

Packing doesn’t just involve outfits and toothpaste. For example, make sure to plan ahead with medications that are taken daily by all family members. It’s also important to count out enough for the trip and add in a few extras (if flights get canceled you’ll be happy to not have to stop at the pharmacy or be without important medications).

Travel medicine Kit

Consider packing pain-relieving medications such as Tylenol, Aspirin, etc. (you wouldn’t want a headache ruining your vacation). A first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, Neosporin, and other emergency items is a good idea, especially if you plan to get into the water. This can avoid potential infections by covering the wound before you go swimming.

For road trips, be sure to pack enough snacks and entertaining activities to keep everyone in the car full and happy. This can be a list of road trip games you write on your phone, coloring books, or other forms of entertainment besides playing video games on the phone. If kids are playing games on the phone, be sure to download games that don’t require internet – those are a quick Google search away.

Let kids help

Giving kids responsibility can be majorly encouraging. Allow kids to assist with packing and picking out the outfits they’ll be wearing and the things they’ll be bringing. Give kids choices between outfits you’ve picked out ahead of time (this way they’re matching, but still have a choice) and limit them to a small backpack of goodies to entertain themselves while traveling.

Kids helping mother pack
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Kids can learn about picking and choosing items carefully while avoiding a tantrum later on because you didn’t bring their favorite toy for the plane ride.

Bring more bags

Most families leave their trip with at least one souvenir. Whether or not you plan on purchasing a shirt, keychain, snow globe, or other souvenirs, it’s important to plan for more space to be used inside your luggage on the way home or to bring an extra bag.

Multiple travel bags
Photo credit: Depositphotos

This can avoid a stressful packing situation when you leave and can allow you to purchase as many cheesy t-shirts and touristy items as you want without worrying about space inside your luggage to bring it all back!

Try a new packing style

If you typically find yourself smushing the suitcase lid down and narrowly zipping it closed, it’s likely time for a new packing style! Some families opt to pack a different suitcase for each day with everyone’s outfits, some pack a suitcase per family member, and others gently roll their clothing inside their suitcase to conserve space.

Stack of suitcases

Choose a new packing style and see if something different works for you! Experiment with different organization and space-saving techniques.

Consider cubes

Packing cubes can be a great way to maximize space within your suitcase while keeping things organized. Purchasing packing cubes can not only save packing space but can save you post-vacation packing time but being able to easily store clothes and other items in the convenient cubes.

Suitcase with Packing Cubes
Photo credit: Depositphotos

It can also be useful to use different colored packing cubes for different items, pants can be red, shirts green, undergarments yellow, etc.

Fill the car the night before

If you’re road-tripping it or leaving your car at the airport, packing all of the luggage the night before, along with any entertainment and non-perishable snacks, can be a time-saver and can help you judge how much space everything will have. This can also save you from a morning-of panic.

Packing the Car

Remember that getting your items in the suitcase is only half the battle, getting everything and everyone in the car is the next step. By eliminating another packing fiasco, you can make sure you remembered everything (and everyone).

If you can buy it…

If you’re really short on space, you can follow the rule of “if you can buy it, don’t pack it.” Things like diapers, formula, etc. that can be easily found at a store nearby can be purchased when you arrive at your destination. Other things such as baby gear, beach chairs, umbrellas, outdoor equipment, etc. can be rented instead of packed. These can be major space savers and free up more room.

Rent a Beach Umbrella

Most importantly, cherish the time you spend with your family on vacation. Memories will last a lifetime, and in most cases, something you forgot to pack can be found at a convenience store or grocery store nearby. Taking the time to plan your packing for the family can make the trip more enjoyable and create even better memories.

Thanks to Sandra Aris for writing this guest post. As I myself am child-free I thought it was wiser to bring an expert to share family travel tips!

More Family Travel Posts:

How about you? Do you have any additional family travel packing tips to share? Do tell!

Like it? PIN it!

girl sitting in back of car with suitcasesboy packing family carPacking for Kids

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Planning is key! You cannot overplan when it comes to packing for a family trip, especially if you have small children.

  2. Amber Myers says:

    You have a lot of great ideas here. I will keep them in mind when we travel this summer.

  3. I agree, getting the laundry out of the way is so important, especially upon returning.

  4. Packing for vacation is never fun. I typically end up over packing. Depending on where I go, will depend on what I’ll pack. I’m wanting to pack light so I can bring back things for family and friends.

  5. Richelle Milar says:

    These are all really great and very helpful tips and ideas! This is so perfect! Thanks for sharing this

  6. Gervin Khan says:

    Wow! These tips are absolutely great, definitely a big help to family going for a travel. Planning is very essential part to have a smooth and on point move when traveling. Loved it!

  7. Planning ahead will always be the most important part of a family trip. Thanks for sharing!

  8. These are great tips for packing for a trip! We let our daughter choose things to pack so she doesn’t have a fuss that we didn’t bring something she wanted to when we get somewhere, but you’re right, it’s a great skill for them to learn!

  9. I have five kids, and these tips are spot on! It is nice when they are older, and you can tell them what to bring instead of packing it all yourself! (That being said, I’ve been known to double check their bags on occasion.)

  10. Whenever I pack for our son, I pull out everything I think I want to take and then go and cut it down by 1/3 because I am such a chronic overpacker for him!

  11. Packing Excederin has saved me on more than one vacation. I do think it’s important to pack proactively.

  12. Good tips. Organization is everything! My family had a one day vacation antere were more bags than for a week long vacation!