How to Pack For a Family Vacation

Traveling with children in tow can be daunting. Sometimes it seems you pack for a week just to go to the park, so how could you ever pack for an actual vacation?

I’m here to assure you that packing for a family vacation is not as hard as it first seems. Follow my easy packing hacks for families and you will be a packing pro in no time.

Pack As Light As You Can

This may seem hard at first but when you are trying to load luggage into a rental car or maneuver around the airport, you will be thankful for having the least amount of luggage possible. Tips to making packing light a breeze:

  • Make a list. Consider the climate you will be traveling to, how many days you are away, and if there will be laundry facilities so you don’t need to pack as much.
  • Pick the lightest luggage you can. There can be a big weight difference between suitcase brands.
  • Check what facilities and activities are at your destination. Is there cheap shopping? You may want to go with a nearly empty suitcase and shop up a storm. Does the hotel have cheap or free laundry? Plan ahead.

Things to Think About When Packing

Before you even start to think about what goes into your suitcase, you may want to consider these things:

  • Check size restrictions of luggage. This may apply on flights, cruises, and trunk space in rental cars. Make sure that your luggage dimensions and weight fit into these restrictions.
  • Think about ease of movement while traveling. Luggage with wheels can be a blessing at airports but a nightmare if there are stairs at hotels. A large backpack may suit your family better for hands-free ease. Or if your children are older, a backpack for each family member is a good solution.
  • Use packing cubes. These little wonders save a huge amount or space. They also save time as you can organize all your luggage either by family member, travel days, or types of items. We like to use a different color for each family member.

Passport in bag

Important Documents

Documents are the most vital thing to pack. You can usually buy anything else you forget on location as an emergency, but you will definitely need to make sure you have a few important documents.

  • Passports if traveling overseas. Most locations want you to have at least 6 months validity on passports so check the requirements of the country you are visiting and your passports.
  • ID. Be sure to have valid ID for each family member. And drivers license if you are renting a car.
  • Tickets. These may be plane tickets, train tickets, car rental documentation, or attraction tickets. Think about each day on your trip and make sure you have all the documentation you need.
  • Travel Insurance documentation. Travel insurance is vital, even for local trips. This will give you peace of mind and protection from everything to health, emergencies, and lost luggage.
  • Accommodation Booking details.

I like to keep all our documents in a folder for ease. We also take a photo or copy of all vital documents and credit cards then email them to ourselves just in case something gets lost or stolen.

Baby and Kids Gear

I also check about what we can rent before we head to a destination to save on luggage. Sometimes, though, it is necessary or safer for you to bring along the things you need. Here are some things you may need to bring:

  • Car seats. Be sure to check each country’s safety regulations before traveling as they may differ to your own country. A car seat may also make things like plane travel easier with young children as they are strapped into a familiar and safe space.
  • Strollers. A stroller can be a life saver when you have tired children who can’t walk any further on big adventuring days or when you have two younger children. Even if your children are usually too old for a stroller at home, they can be a blessing on vacation. Check out this amazing guide on the best double strollers.
  • Baby carriers. These allow babies to sleep, and you to have your hands free to help older children.
  • Travel cots. It is best to rent these on location and they tend to be readily available. If you need to bring your own, make sure it is light and portable.

Medical Kit

Although you will usually be able to purchase any items you need on your trip, we like to have a small medical kit with us. Include items like:

  • Sunscreen
  • Pain Relief for all members of the family.
  • Rehydration supplies.
  • Antiseptic
  • Wound care
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Any prescription or regular medication such as asthma inhalers. ( be sure to carry documentation or prescriptions for these).

clothing for travel

Clothing For Family Travel

Make sure you take into consideration the climate, type of activities you will be doing, and of course messy kids. Some tips to make sure you make the most of your packing:

  • Pack layers to save space. This works for hot and cold climates. Think t-shirts, thin sweaters, raincoats etc., rather than bulky items like knitted sweaters and heavy jackets.
  • Try to pack items that work well together and can be worn with multiple outfits. Colors that match and layers that can be worn together. For example, a girl’s dress can be worn as a dress, with leggings, or with a long sleeved t-shirt underneath and a thin sweater for warmth.
  • Pack a sarong. Trust us. This can be privacy if breastfeeding, a picnic rug at the beach, a sun shade in the car, and a beach cover up for you.
  • Pick clothing made in lightweight, easy-to-care-for fabrics. If they are breathable and quick dry fabrics, even better.

Items to Pack

I would suggest a bare minimum of three outfits for each family member, if you have access to washing facilities. This allows for children to get messy and you not to have to wash each day.

Other things to include are:

  • Shoes. Have at least one lightweight, good walking shoe for each member of the family and one shoe that can get wet. This could be flip flops, sandals, or beach shoes.
  • Entertainment. Long waits or travel days can be part of any vacation. Leave bulky toys at home and pack entertainment that the whole family can have fun with such as card games like Uno, audio books, and dice games. Letting each child have access to a tablet can also be a sanity saver. Be sure to download appropriate movies, games and apps before your tip and pack headphones, too.
  • Electronics and chargers. This may be phones, tablets, cameras and laptops.
  • Be sure to check if you need a travel adapter for any countries you are visiting.
  • Toiletries. Try to pack only the bare minimum such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrush and a small makeup kit. Baby Wipes can come in handy for all sorts of situations too. It is usually best to buy shampoo and body wash at your location.

Finally my last piece of advice is do not pack any items you may think you will need “just in case.” This can be things like umbrellas. Take a light raincoat, or if it does rain, buy an umbrella there then donate it to a fellow travel family or Goodwill charity when you leave.

I hope this helps you pack like a pro for your next family vacation. Bon Voyage.

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