Packing for Family Travel: 6 Steps for Success

Maybe it was due to the fact that I had to help pack the boys up for a trip that I wasn’t going on (more on that soon!), but I recently found myself reflecting on the way we go about stuffing our suitcases prior to an adventure.  And I realized something: We almost always go about packing in the same way.  And it works! Rarely does anything significantly important or essential get left behind.  At least not anymore.

 Now that we have a system in place, things like drivers licenses, boots for a cold weather destination, toothbrushes, and medication are all stowed safely in our luggage.  Yes, each of those items were forgotten by one of us at one point or another.  We are much more prepared these days.

Packing for Family Travel: 6 Steps for Success | WildTalesof.com

1. Check the Weather.

Sometime (depends on the trip) before departure, we start to study the forecasts.  Sometimes its months ahead of time because we are so curious and excited.  Really though, we just need to check a couple of days ahead to get an idea of the locale’s (predicted) conditions. No, those meteorologists are not always spot on, but we get a temperature range and find out whether or not there is a possibility of precipitation.  Then we can start thinking about all those clothing decisions:

  • rain gear?
  • cold weather gear?
  • swim suits?
  • hats?
  • shoes?

2. Have a Chat.

Could just be my style, but I need to process through things as a way of brainstorming.  The chat is also a way to make sure that you and your travel companions are on the same page.  My husband Slaed and I list off items that we think we’ll need, and decide/debate whether or not certain things are necessary.  Sometimes I’ll even record the conversation on my phone, which comes in handy for step number 3! No travel companion? That’s okay, still talk over your packing ideas to a friend or family member.  It really helps.

3. Make a List.

Soon after the chat, I start jotting down anything and everything I think we might need for the trip.  Even if it seems obvious, it goes on the list.

 A few tips:

  • Go through your daily routines (bedtime, morning, naps, meals), and ask yourself what items are necessary to perform/complete these tasks.
  • Go back to the weather report and based on those findings, jott down weather specific items.
  • Go through specifics of your trip and your family’s needs at the time, and add items.
    • Beach? Pool? Snow? Airplane with kids? Breastfeeding? Bottle feeding? Potty Training?

4. Organize.

After the list writing, its time to start laying things out and figuring out the best containers (luggage).  For many trips, I plan outfits ahead of time so that getting dressed and ready on the road is that much easier.  This also ensures that all the necessary components of an ensemble are included (shoes, under garments, accessories, etc.), and prevents over-packing!  At this point if we are traveling by plane, I also decide what will go in checked luggage and what will go in our carry-on luggage.

5. Pack!

You’ll have to see for yourself whether rolling or folding saves more space, but the main point here is just to get all your gear into your luggage of choice. As you pack, have that list close by and start crossing things off as they are added.

A few tips:

  • Wear your heaviest pair of shoes.
  • Stow socks and belts inside of shoes.
  • Fold and pile chosen outfits together so they are ready to go & easy to locate at your destination.
  • For air travel, pack toiletries (those that you’ll need to take out at security) on top for easy access.
  • Don’t over pack.  Think about items that can do double duty.  If you know there will be laundry facilities at your destination, you can pack a lot less.  Also think about things that might already be at your destination.

6. Check that List.

All through out the organizing and packing process, I cross things off (and add to) my list and consult the list contents.  I also remind my travel partners of items they might be responsible for packing. I leave the list out in central location (dining room table) for a couple of days before departure.  That way, items can be added, taken away, and updated as you go. As we leave the house, we check the list one last time! Lastly, save the list.  When you are ready to pack for your next travel adventure, much of the work will be done for you!

What are your best packing tips? Do you fold or roll? Use packing cubes? We want to hear about it! Let’s chat in the comments!

For more on packing, check out how we pack for a big road trip, what to pack for a potty training kiddo, and what to pack in a baby’s air travel toy bag. Or just type “packing” in our search button!

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6 thoughts on “Packing for Family Travel: 6 Steps for Success

  1. I like to keep my list on the computer and make notes after the trip. Great suggestions! Looking forward to my next adventure.

    • Great idea, Martie! I love that and may have to start doing that, and then print it out–since I still need the hard copy for adding and crossing out (and sharing). Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your idea!

  2. I love using Google Keep for list. That way I can archive lists I’m done with and copy them for future trips. I also swear by packing cubes. They keep luggage contents organized and make it easy to find things.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Sarah! Definitely going to check out Google Keep. I haven’t heard of that. And yes, trying to convince my husband that packing cubed might be a good investment. Love how they have the potential to keep multiple family members belongs organized.

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