Travel Travel Tips

Family Vacation Packing Tips: How to Pack Like An Absolute Pro

April 11, 2019

In preparation for any excursion or family vacation comes the need for our genius family vacation packing tips!

This post will discuss our expert tips, as well as dish on some of the best packing essentials to make your family packing routine a breeze.

I’ve picked up a lot of useful packing strategies over the years and have finally found a great flow to our travels as a family of 5.

After reading these fantastic family vacation packing tips, you too will be able to pack like a pro and make your vacation as stress-free as can be!

(Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that if you click on the links and purchase them, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.)

Family Vacation Packing Tips: Overview

Before any family vacation, it is essential that you are outfitted with the proper luggage, bags, and backpacks for the type (and duration) of the trip that you are going on.

Another important item to remember when traveling with small children is to bring along a highly-rated baby carrier for added convenience when getting around.

With the addition of each family member who will be joining you comes the need for additional clothing, toiletries, miscellaneous, and ‘stuff’ that you’ll need to remember to pack.

This may mean having to either purchase more luggage or borrow extra pieces from a friend or neighbor if traveling with a larger group.

If the thought of having to pack for your entire family is causing you pre-trip stress and worry, you’ll be so glad that you came across this article!

Here’s where to start…

palm trees blowing in wind, pack for bad weather

1. Check the weather

Rainy? Cold? Hot? Cool in the evenings?

Having a general idea of what the weather will be like while you travel will help determine the type of clothes that you will need to pack.

This will also help determine the non-essentials that should be left behind.

Make it a point to check the weather forecast for your destination the day that you begin packing.

Check the weather forecast again the day before you depart so that you can make any last-minute changes or additions.

Additional packing tip: No matter what the weather, be sure to bring a light jacket or evening cover-up when traveling to warmer climates.

If you have been exposed to the sun all day, once it finally sets, you are bound to get chilly.

2. Start packing for your family vacation at least 3 days in advance

Though every fiber in your body wants to procrastinate, do not give in.

Commit to packing 3 days in advance and develop a good packing routine.

Packing ahead of time will help you feel organized and decrease the stress that typically comes from packing for an entire family.

Read: My favorite, affordable packing bags and accessories!

3. Do not overpack

Avoid bringing “just in case” items.  

Likewise, bring only the outfits that match how many days you are traveling for, and what you will be doing on each day of your trip.

If you are traveling by air, consider wearing the same outfit home that you wore on the way there.

Likewise, pack a few simple layering pieces that can be worn interchangeably and more than once.

Finally, traveling with small children typically yields feeling the need to bring a ton of child ‘gear’.

Consult this packing checklist to make sure that you are bringing all of the essentials when babies and toddlers are in stow.

And last, be sure that you own and use a handheld luggage scale! Prevent ever having to worry about getting to the airport with an overweight suitcase again!

Store this little baby right in your suitcase and be sure to weigh its contents before you leave for the airport!

Family Vacation Packing Tips: What to put inside your suitcase

My first suggestion is to determine how many suitcases that you are going to bring on your family vacation.

We limit how much luggage we bring when flying based on the cost to check bags, and the amount of work it takes to lug them around the airport.

Likewise, we consider the number of suitcases to pack when traveling by ground due to the space limitations of which vehicle we are driving.

If you find that you start going overboard on packing, do not give in and add another suitcase.  Instead, decrease what you have packed.

Family Vacation Packing Tips: Clothes

Make note of how many days you’ll be traveling and how many nights you’ll be sleeping away from home.

Do not be tempted to bring “what if” items or more items than the number of days that you will be on vacation.

Next, refer to your travel plan and consider what you are going to be doing on each individual day of the trip as well as how often will you change locations.

Likewise, visualize the different scenarios you’ll be dressing for.

Plane rides, hikes, theme parks, days at the beach, evenings out?

Get an idea of what you really need and commit to wearing a designated outfit on each particular day.

*Click the following image to get your FREE family vacation packing list that is both customizable and printable!

Organize clothing by sets

Stack clothes by outfit, not by individual piece. Further, stack them in the order that they will be worn.

The outfit for the last day of the trip should be on the bottom of the pile, and the outfit for the first morning of the trip on the top of the pile.

Stacking outfits in the order that they will be worn is an invaluable packing tip that will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

It totally eliminates the need to dig through a suitcase and create outfits each morning.

Similarly, stacking your outfits in order helps keep your suitcase looking neat and tidy.

Additional planning tip: Consider bringing tops and bottoms that can be worn in different ways.

Likewise, wearing the same top but with different accessories allows tops to be worn more than once.

packing cubes with clothes in them utilizing packing tips
My favorite packing cubes!

4. Use packing cubes

Packing cubes are quite possibly the best, and most convenient packing essential EVER!

Packing cubes are soft, zippered, fabric containers that are a rectangular shape. They are sold in sets and come in all different colors. Cubes should not be confused with compression bags, however, which are seal-able plastic bags with one-way pressure valves to remove air.

While compression bags compress clothes in order to save space, packing cubes keep your clothes organized, accessible, and wrinkle free. They compartmentalize similar size items to streamline packing and more efficiently utilize interior luggage space. 

You will be AMAZED at how much each packing cube can hold! Likewise, their modular make-up optimizes space and makes them super easy to stack and arrange inside your suitcase.

I pack individual cubes for each member of my family and can easily transfer them to drawers once we arrive at our final destination.

If you take away only 1 of these family vacation packing tips, let it be to USE PACKING CUBES!

They will completely revolutionize the way that you travel!

I have personally owned several different varieties of packing cubes, but these ones here are the best! They are both lightweight and flexible, as well as large enough to hold several outfits.

With durable zippers and a tear and water-resistant design, I will never own another set.

Click the image below to snatch your set up today!

5. Purchase travel-size toiletries

Almost every toiletry item can be found in a travel size quantity these days. It is super convenient and affordable to use them during your travels and dispose of them before coming home.

Avoid packing full-sized shampoos, shave gel or lotions.

These, along with sunscreen and shoes, are the main culprits of a cluttered and/or overweight suitcase.

6. Bring adult and child medicines

I tend to bring a small pharmacy along when I travel and I suggest you do the same.

In bringing both adult and child doses of each medication,I have a lot of peace and security knowing if medical ailments arise, everyone in my family will be covered.

My personal stash of medication that I bring along on our family travel includes fever-reducing, headache, antacid, anti-diarrhea, allergy, and cold medications as well as eye drops and antibiotic ointment.

Consider taking along suggested “as needed” prescription medications if you have discussed specific travel concerns with your health care provider.

Family Vacation Packing Tips: The final steps

The inconsistency among airline carry-on sizes, weight restrictions and baggage fees is pretty mind-boggling.

Avoid surprises at the airport by doing a quick Google Search before you begin packing to be sure that you say within guidelines.

7. Make a list of things that cannot be packed until the morning of departure – and don’t forget them

Despite having done the majority of your packing ahead of time, there are so many last-minute items that you will need to remember before leaving for your destination.

To avoid the responsibility of continually having to remind yourself of “what not to forget”, simply write out a list of the items that you are unable to pack ahead of time.

Common items that cannot be packed until the day of departure include:

  • cell phone
  • cell phone charger
  • I pads
  • I pad chargers
  • kids’ blanky/comfort toys
  • pillows
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • hygiene and hair products
  • contact lens case
  • prescriptions
  • refrigerated items
  • house keys

8. Eliminate shoes that aren’t practical

Shoes are bulky and weigh down your suitcase. For this reason, wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane if traveling by air.

Consider your destination and your travel itinerary and limit yourself to bringing only one pair of shoes per category of clothing.

For instance, 1 pair of athletic shoes, 1 pair of street/comfortable shoes, 1 pair of beach/pool shoes, 1 pair of evening wear shoes.

If you think your shoes may get dirty or wet at your travel destination, pack plastic grocery bags or travel shoe bags to place shoes in for the return trip home. This will prevent the other items in your suitcase from getting dirty.

9. Anticipate the return trip home from your family vacation

Once you have packed and weighed your suitcases prior to departure, take a photo of how your suitcases are packed. Mimic a similar layout as you pack to go home so that your suitcase does not end up being overweight.

Bring an extra bag or leave additional space in your suitcase if you anticipate making purchases from your destination that will need to be brought home.

Another consideration is to always pack an additional supply of snacks for the return trip home.

I hide a gallon-size Ziplock bag of additional snacks in my suitcase that I keep hidden until departure.

packing suitcase using family vacation packing tips
My perfectly packed suitcase, using packing cubes

10. Do a final inspection

Leave your suitcases open over the course of the 3 days prior to departure. Add things at your leisure and occasionally gaze at their contents to imagine what you could possibly be missing.

The day before your trip perform a final inspection of everything that you have packed. Review all of your family vacation packing tips one more time.

Imagine each day of your travel plan and envision what you will and will not need.

Do you have too many shoes? Do you have enough toiletries, snacks, and items for entertainment?

If you’ve missed anything, now is the time to pack them before you leave.

Hopefully this post will have you packing like a pro! What questions do you have about the tips mentioned above?


Now, on to planning our next family adventure!

Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Click here to discover these genius family vacation packing tips from Top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!  Also, find our their favorite MUST HAVE packing essential!  #familyvacationpackingtips #howtopackforfamilyvacation #packingtips #bestpackingtips #bestpackingtipsforfamilies
Click here to discover these genius family vacation packing tips from Top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!  Also, find our their favorite MUST HAVE packing essential!  #familyvacationpackingtips #howtopackforfamilyvacation #packingtips #bestpackingtips #bestpackingtipsforfamilies


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Hi, I’m Jen!  Welcome to Travel With A Plan!

I’m an avid adventurer who is always planning the next family vacation for my husband and I, and our three boys!

As an advocate for family travel with kids of all ages, I am a firm believer that traveling together helps keep families healthy and happy at home!

Here is where I share our best family vacation itineraries, resort reviews, and family travel tips (incuding Disney!).

Let’s go on an adventure! -Jen

TMOM Travel Writer