Trying to work out the best way to pack your bags for a vacation often ends up being one of the most stressful parts, especially when you suddenly have hundreds of kids' items to contend with as well as your own.
Bag packing for a trip almost feels like something you have to learn from scratch when you have kids. From bottles and car seats to endless wipes and snacks, you can end up feeling like Buckaroo once you've packed everything!
We've put together a loose packing list for vacation trips and some of our favorite luggage packing tips for the best way to pack a bag any time you travel away from home. Trust us, you'll be feeling smug when you master these easy space-saving hacks, and you'll never misplace your passports in the luggage again. We've also got all the information you'll need on what to pack in a [C Section hospital bag] and everything you need to know about if babies need passports here.
What Do You Need To Pack For Family Holidays?
For the sake of saving some of your precious packing time, this vacation packing list has all the basics you'll need to pack your bags for pretty much any family trip.
Most importantly your documents: all of your passports, visa documents, flight confirmations, and travel insurance.
Bringing a spare credit card for emergency use is a good idea.
Any clothes and accessories you'll wear, including daytime, evening, rain clothes, hats, scarves, and gloves, or swimwear and beach clothes.
Electronics you will probably need include a camera, any travel adapters for where you're visiting, and chargers for the electronics you pack.
The basic toiletries you'll need are shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner for kids and adults, toothbrushes and paste, deodorant, glasses or contacts, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products, a hairbrush, and bands.
We also recommend bringing a first aid kit with a thermometer, child-friendly Ibuprofen and Paracetamol, motion sickness tablets, antiseptic cream, band-aids, and antihistamines (and anything else you might need for your family specifically).
Toys like playing cards, bubbles, soft toys or teddies, books, and coloring books work well to entertain kids throughout a trip. An iPad can be a blessing to keep kids occupied on long journeys. A couple of small toys, books, or coloring books with crayons will keep little ones occupied. A book that has activities will pass a lot more time than one to read, and getting special ones for vacations can be the difference between dinner with tears, and dinner in peace.
It's a good idea to pack a day bag for your trip, with things you'll need easy access to.
Water bottles and snack boxes with some treats are a good idea, just in case you need bargaining tools.
Sun lotion. It's best to keep different strengths with you for different people, you want to make sure little ones have higher factors to protect their sensitive skin.
You may also want to pack a separate bag for things your kids will need while you travel, with some books for them to read, a travel pillow and blanket, snacks, and headphones. We like to download some films onto an iPad for long journeys to help pass the time.
For babies, there are a lot of extras you might need, like a portable changing mat, portable high chair, diapers, wet wipes, diaper sacks, nappy cream, bottles and a bottle brush, bibs, baby food, kids' cutlery, and a baby monitor.
You might also need a baby carrier, stroller, travel cot, or car seat, depending on what's available where you are traveling to. It's a great idea to call ahead to check if the place you are staying has any of the things you plan to bring because bulky car seats and travel cots are much better left at home when possible.
Space Saving Tips You Might Not Know
There are some tips out there for packing bags that are pretty much going to change your life, and we aren't even exaggerating! After you try some of these, packing your bags for travel isn't going to feel like a chore anymore, and your days of having to pay for extra baggage at the airport might just be over.
Most parents swear by using packing cubes as the most efficient way to pack a small suitcase. They are various sized cube-shaped bags that allow you to organize your things into different spaces so they are easy to find. They're inexpensive to buy and save so much space. Think about how great it is not having to pull everything out to find that one shirt at the bottom of the bag. We're pretty sure that packing cubes are the best way to pack clothes in a suitcase.
Create a travel packing list and stick to it. When you pack your bags in a rush it can be tempting to load them up with extras you "might" need, but if you have a list to read while you pack, hopefully, this can be avoided and you can save a lot of space.
Another tip for how to properly pack a suitcase is to split your clothes into outfits and separate each one into its own packing cube. It can be tempting to pack a few nice tops or dresses in case you need them, but it will save you so much space by planning an outfit for each day of the trip. Check the weather ahead of time if you can, so you know what to expect and don't end up in summer clothes walking around in torrential rain.
Ziploc bags are the organized packer's best friend, and a lot of families say that using them is the best way to pack a suitcase. Instead of bulky toiletries bags and containers, you can save a ton of space and clearly see what's in each bag. You can even pack things like underwear and socks into Ziploc bags so they stick together in your suitcase and are easy to find.
On that note, don't forget a wet bag when you're packing a suitcase, especially if you plan on going to the beach on your vacation. A large waterproof bag that you can put wet clothes in to protect the rest of your luggage will make it easy to store wet things and save you from carrying separate bags around with you.
The best way to pack for a trip without overpacking is to avoid packing a different suitcase for each family member. Even though those kid-sized suitcases are adorable, if you want to pack your bags efficiently it is a much better idea to just take one or two large suitcases for the whole family. When you each have a separate suitcase, you might end up with space in each one that could have eliminated one suitcase all together!
If you want to pack extra light, consider calling your vacation rental or hotel ahead of time to ask if you can book their laundry services. Especially if you have lots of kids to pack for, this can half your luggage and save you a ton of space when you pack your bags.
We love the idea of bringing collapsable day bags in your suitcase. When you aren't using them, they can pack down small and save you some space, but when you need them they fold out to the size of normal bags without all of the excess bulk. An added bonus is that they are so much lighter to carry around in the daytime too.
A top tip when choosing bags for travel is to shop around and find the best bags for your needs. It's usually better to spend a little bit more when buying bags and to go to outdoor retailers instead of trendy outlets (say goodbye to your dreams of matching monogrammed luggage if you want to travel smartly with kids). Bags made for long trips often have extra padding and easy access compartments that will save you so much time and hassle and help you relax while you're away.
If you're traveling somewhere in the US and staying in a vacation rental, it could be a great idea to order a delivery of snacks and necessities to the place you're staying for your arrival date. This saves loads of space if you were planning on carrying food, especially for babies, where you can order formula and baby food jars for the time you're staying and not have to worry about finding your usual kind or wasting time with trips to the supermarket.
Our golden rule for how to pack a suitcase is to always leave a little bit of room free. Even if you don't buy anything on your trip, somehow your belongings always manage to magically grow when you're trying to pack your bags go home, and this little bit of extra space is going to be your saving grace.
If you found this article helpful, why not take a look at our information guide to [mommy and me yoga] or our favorite [mother and son costumes]?
The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.