The anticipation of a family vacation is one of the best parts of the trip. Packing, and sometimes even the anticipation of packing, in my opinion, is one of the worst. For whatever reason I often used to add to that stress by waiting to finish packing the night before a big trip.
Shoving as many items as possible into a bag the night before a flight is a form of packing I once used to indulge in. As I’ve become responsible for an increasing number of smaller travel partners that call me Mom, that airy style of packing just isn’t going to fly.
Shoving the last item on my list into my suitcase is a great feeling. Shoving the last item on my list into my suitcase and knowing that everything is organized and accounted for, is an even better feeling.
To be clear, I don’t enjoy packing and the responsibilities that come with it, period. However, I’ve mastered the task and I want to share my tricks of the trade. Below I’ve created an easy to follow vacation packing list that will have you organized, prepared, and sleeping peacefully the night before your trip, knowing everything that is needed is packed and ready to go.
Related: The Best Stocking Stuffers for Travelers
Read more to access the free printable vacation packing list to make your packing be a breeze.
VACATION PACKING LIST AND TIPS
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THINGS TO DO BEFORE PACKING
DO YOUR LAUNDRY
Do your laundry at least the day before you have to pack. If you wait until right before, and your clothes are still warm from the dryer, they are going to wrinkle much more when you roll/fold/shove them into your suitcase.
Take a look at my Ultimate Vacation Packing List days (or weeks) before your next trip and take an inventory of what you already have and what you may need to buy, borrow or locate.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED FOR YOUR TRIP
Before packing ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you going somewhere where you will need multiple outfits each day? (And if you have young kids, this answer may be yes regardless.)
- Do you plan on wearing the same clothes during the day as you will to dinner?
- Will you be doing anything active that requires active wear, sneakers, bathing suit, snow suits, etc…?
- Will you be staying in a hotel that offers complementary toiletries and provides linens, or will you need to bring your own?
Before putting anything in suitcase, write down what you need. (The Ultimate Vacation Packing List I’ve created should make this step easy for you to do.)
DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO ORGANIZE YOUR “STUFF”
There are several different approaches on how you can pack your suitcase. I’ll share some of my favorite ways to pack and keep both my clothes and my family’s clothes organized and wrinkle free.
Watch the video below where I walk through my favorite ways to pack my suitcase.
My favorite way to pack is to use compression packing cubes. I’ve tried several types of packing cubes but these ones consistently come out as a winner to me. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes perfect for every trip. You can also choose from multiple different colors so you can have one color for each member of your family.
As you can see in the video, these packing cubes can fit an incredible amount of clothes.
I prefer the compression packing cubes rather than standard packing cubes because they slim down a bit more and make packing in a backpack easier. My husband and I each have an Osprey travel backpack that makes traveling with kids easier as we can be hands-free. (And the removable day-pack backpack is an added bonus!)
ZIP-LOCK GALLON BAGS
You can also use gallon zip-lock bags or plastic grocery bags and pack each outfit in a different bag. This works well if you prefer to pack by the outfit rather than by type of clothes.
For example, rather than packing all of your shirts together, shorts in another pile, socks in another, you would pack everything you need for an outfit together. Under this approach, when it’s time to get dressed, you just have to take out the one bag you’ve conveniently labeled for that day, and it includes everything you need.
You can also include your jewelry for each outfit in each bag and can even clasp your earrings through the bag to keep them with each outfit.
These compress nicely, and allow you to fit a good amount of clothes in a suitcase.
HANGING CLOSET/DOOR ORGANIZER
Hanging door organizers like this one work great for packing for children. I like to prepare outfits for my children, roll them up, and then stuff them into a compartment in a handing closet/door organizer. To keep our outfits straight, I’ll take a piece of scotch tape and write “Day 1 outfit”, “Day 2 outfit”, “Spare outfit”, etc…
When it’s time to pack in our suitcase, I’ll throw the door organizer on a hanger, fold it in half, and place in our bag. Unpacking is literally just a matter of taking it out of the suitcase, and hanging the organizer in the closet when you arrive at your destination.
This is great for kids, but harder for adults where clothes may not fit in the smaller sizes.
As an alternative, you can purchase a hanging closet organizer like this one which is a bit bigger.)
Here you can see how I packed my daughter’s clothes for a recent trip to Disney. This took any confusion out of the equation. It reduced the amount of time it took everyone to get dressed and kept a sense of organization in our hotel room. And my husband was able to get the girls dressed without asking me a single question!
If you are flying, don’t forget to check the weight limit restrictions for your airline and weigh your bag in advance of getting to the airport.
Finally, if flying, remember to pack a change of clothes, your valuables, and anything you must have in the first day in your carry on. Mistakes sometimes happen and airlines lose bags. (I have fond memories of the first 48 hours of our honeymoon without any clothes…due to our lost luggage.)
VACATION PACKING LIST – THE ULTIMATE PACKING LIST FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
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ARE YOU TRAVELING TO DISNEY WORLD?
If so, be sure to check out my post on packing for Disney for additional items that you may need when traveling to this magical place.
Jac this site is amazing!
Awesome information, love this!!!
I’m going on vacation soon and I’m going to try it, I think it’s a hit for me and my son gets us on the go I hate rushing anywhere so this should save me time!
This is awesome! Thank you. I’m a frequent traveler but even with your tips, I’ll be able to keep myself and children more organized.
They are a little hard to find but the 2 or 2.5 gallon ziplock bags are perfect for putting a whole outfit into and you can compress it flat. Also GPS under electronics. I know that a lot of phones have them but I love my Garman. It has favorite hotels from areas I visit frequently. I have found that I am not loosing the use of my phone if I carry both. Plus I can customize entrys so I always know were to look .
Where did you get the organizer for the clothes? I love that idea!!
Thanks for sharing this helpful information. I’m sure most people can take notes from this article. One thing most people lack experience of before backpacking while traveling. I have a couple of young friends that are going to travel soon. Well, this post gives us some good ideas for packing properly before traveling.
This article is so awesome and informative. And the packing list is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.
OMG LOVED THIS LIST!! Seriously hate packing and this article was so helpful!
Ultimate packing list for the whole family. Really found it very helpful. Thanks and keep sharing.
This packing checklist is everything!
Looks like a lot of help for our family