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If you’re like me, I am always looking for the most efficient way to pack the family as we head out on vacation.  And, if you’re like me, you have to pack for the entire family; the husband, the kids, the toiletries, the entertainment in the car/plane.  Yep!  I have to make sure we take it all. I used to completely stress out about packing, and still do a bit, but I have been able to put together a system that works well for me over the years.

Be Prepared

Being prepared is the key to efficient packing and ensuring that you don’t forget anything.  I begin preparing the packing list ahead of time, usually 3-4 days ahead of time, depending on how long the trip is.  This trip we have coming up will be 11 days long, with hotel stays in 3 cities, so I started my list about a week before departure time.

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The list created for each member of the family and is very detailed.  It includes the items needed and the number that should be packed. This allows me to give the list to the kids and let them pull out the clothes that they want to take.  If the trip is short, or in a convenient location, I may just let them put their stuff in the suitcase and call it done.  When we get to the destination if they don’t have an item, they can either live without or we can go pick it up.  If the trip is longer or not in a convenient location, I will double check the contents to ensure nothing is missing.

Below is an example of a list that I might create:

Packing for vacation

Packing Separation is Important

I always to try to pack each person in their own suitcase. This gives them the responsibility of keeping track of their luggage during travel. In addition, it gives them their own space in the hotel room. They are in charge of ensuring their clean clothes stay separate from the dirty clothes, which are all usually kept in one general location.



If the trip isn’t very long or it’s easier for travel to pack us all in one suit case, using packing cubes is a must!  Each member of the family has their own color, so they can identify which cube has their belongings. Again, once we get to the hotel and unpack, each member of the family is responsible for their own cubes and keeping the clean and dirty laundry separated.

Travel Packing Cubes

Helpful Tip – when packing clothing such as pants, short and shirts, fold the item once and then roll it.  If you lay the item out flat, then roll it, not only will your clothes have less wrinkles when you unpack, but rolling the items takes up less space in your suitcase!

Must-Haves For The Car/Plane

Each child is also responsible for their own travel entertainment.  They pack their essentials for the car or plane in their own backpack, again, keeping their items separated.  As you can see, I am a big supporter of putting my kids in charge of their own items!  Each child can pack what they want in the backpack, but if it doesn’t fit in the backpack, it’s not coming!

Some of the basics that are a must, especially for long trips are:

  • Tablet/iPad/iPhone
    • A ‘must have’ to listen to music or watch a movie (don’t forget to download the movie before you leave the house so you don’t use data on the road.)
  • Headphones – Don’t forget the headphones to go with the device, or you will have to listen to their music/movie the whole trip
  • Books – my kids tend to get car sick, so we don’t usually bring books, but let’s face it, they probably won’t read them anyway!
  • Small pillow – remember, it has to fit inside or connected to the backpack!
  • Blanket – this one may not actually fit into the backpack, but the more comfortable they are, the better
  • Playing cards – this is great way to pass the time, playing an old fashioned card game like Go Fish or Rummy

Other Things to Consider Packing for the Trip

I always throw in ‘extra’ necessities, just in case.  I would rather be too prepared than not prepared enough. With that said, there always seems to be a need for basic medicine while on vacation. I never travel without Advil or Tylenol, Tums and migraine medicine.  (My older son and I are both prone to migraines and getting off our regular schedule usually triggers them, sadly.)  In addition, since I have 2 boys, I always bring Neosporin and Band-aids.  I have never had a trip that I haven’t needed those!

Also, don’t forget your health insurance cards and flexible benefit cards, just in case you need professional medical attention while on vacation. If traveling out of the country, you will need your passport, even when traveling to Mexico.

If you plan on hanging out at the pool at the hotel, make sure you pack your goggles! Kids always want to open their eyes under water. And don’t forget the snacks!  Even if you are flying, you can carry on snacks, just not liquids.  So grab some protein bars, granola bars, or beef jerky.  Whatever travels easy and your kids will eat.  It will save you some money from the expensive airport food, or stops along the road.

Some would say I’m too organized. I have a little bit of an A-type personality, if you haven’t noticed already! However, the preparation for the trip is important to ensure a smooth and relaxing visit while out of town.  After all, no one wants to take time out of their vacation fun to go to the store for antacids!

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