Top 10 Family Vacation Packing Tips

You’ve decided to take a family vacation! With the addition of each family member who will be joining you comes more clothing, toiletries, miscellaneous, and ‘stuff’ that you’ll have to bring along.

In comes the need for a better packing strategy!

I’ve picked up a lot of useful family vacation packing tips over the years and have finally found a great flow to our travels as a family of 5. After reading these fantastic 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 these family vacation packing tips 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.)

#1 Check the Weather

Family Vacation Packing Tips featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan: Packing tips-rainy day

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.

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.

Jen’s 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 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.


#3 Do Not Over Pack

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.

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

Family Packing Overview

My first suggestion is to determine how many suitcases that you are going to bring.

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. Planes rides, hikes, theme parks, days at the beach, evenings out? Get an idea of what you really need and commit to wearing the particular outfit on that particular day.

Organize your Family’s 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 my favorite packing tip. 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.

Jen’s 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.

#4 Purchase Travel Size Toiletries for your Family

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.

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.

Jen’s additional planning tip: When traveling by air, gather all of your toiletries and weigh your suitcase with a handheld luggage scale. Be sure that your suitcase is not overweight per your airline’s checked baggage restrictions before arriving at the airport.


#5 Use Packing Cubes

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

Family Vacation Packing Tips featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan: packing cubes

Packing cubes are soft, zippered, fabric containers that are a rectangular shape. They are sold in set and come in all different colors.

Packing cubes should not be confused with compression bags 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.

Their modular make-up optimizes space and makes them easy to stack and arrange. You will be AMAZED at how much each packing cube can hold and keep together especially when you use the clothes rolling method.

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 one thing away from this post let it be to USE PACKING CUBES! They will completely revolutionize the way that you travel.

Now, not all packing cubes are created equal. Here are my favorites, both of which I personally own.

#6 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, everyone’s toothbrush/toothpaste, hygiene and hair products, contact lens case, prescriptions, refrigerated items, and house keys.


#7 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.

For women and girls, multi-purpose your one pair of evening shoes. Choose a neutral color shoe and accessorizing outfits with different jewelry, belts, or scarves, versus a different pair of 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.


#8 Bring Adult and Child Medicines

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

I bring 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.


#9 Anticipate the Return Trip Home for your Family

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 we prepare for our departure.

#10 Do a Final Inspection of your Packing

Family Vacation Packing Tips featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan: suitcase packing

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 do a final inspection of everything that you have packed.

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

Here’s to having the best vacation ever with these essential family vacation packing tips!

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Family Vacation Packing Tips featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan
Welcome Friends!

We are the Brommer family from Minnesota, and I'm Jen - the travel planner for our family of 5! We are passionate about traveling together for it's what keeps us happy and healthy at home. The free family vacation itineraries and tips you'll find here are crafted with love to be shared with you. We hope our experiences inspire you to start planning your next family adventure!

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TMOM Travel Writer