Packing Light: The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling with Your Family - My Family Travels

Many people believe that it isn’t possible to pack light with kids without sacrificing your sanity, however, they are wrong. Now I’m not talking about “I’m a backpacker and I wear the same clothes for a month” light, I’m referring to reasonably light.

messy suitcase

Whether you’re trying to avoid paying extra for overweight baggage or just trying to save space, learning how to pack light and smart will be a lifesaver for your next trip. I personally love just having the freedom of fewer things to carry around when traveling, especially as a mom.

Recently, we spent a few months in South Asia and for the four of us (two kids and two adults), we only took two suitcases. Having less luggage allowed us to focus on what mattered most — spending quality time with each other as a family.

I have listed my ultimate checklist to help you pack light for your next family trip below. This will help you make the most of your next family getaway.


organized suitcaseWhen packing clothing, it’s a good idea to take into account how bulky things are and how fast they dry. My family and I are huge fans of quick-dry t-shirts, nylon pants, zip-off trousers, wool mid-layers.

When sorting out your clothes don’t forget about light and packable outerwear. This will help make sure you are prepared for any weather conditions. I have discovered that packing three changes of clothes not only helps you to pack light but is also a lifesaver if you need to do some washing in the hotel room.

Here is the clothing checklist if a trip is longer than a weekend:

  • 3 tops
  • 3 pants/skirts – Do not pack in jeans
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • 1 lightweight wind or rain jacket
  • 1 warm top for layering
  • 1 swimwear
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 hat
  • 2 pairs sleepwear

When it comes to the actual packing part, you should roll your clothing instead of folding. A great hack I have learned over the years is to stuff socks and underwear into shoes.

If you want to take things to another level, you could wrap your shoes in bubble wrap. After taping it securely, you then attach it to your carry-on bag with a hiking carabiner hook. This way the bulky shoes won’t use up unnecessary space.

Don’t Forget Hygiene

washing hands with soapWhen it comes to taking care of hygiene, I recommend carrying things you use on a daily basis plus things you would need in a minor emergency.

Although bandages are easily found anywhere you go, do you really want to have to go buy some while little Jenny is on the ground kicking, screaming and crying about her scraped knee? It’s best to plan ahead and carry a basic emergency kit with you.

These are a few things I always have with me:

  • Dissolving laundry detergent tablets – these are less of a mess than the powder
  • Basic toiletries such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, brushes, hair elastics, hand sanitizer and sunscreen.
  • Basic first aid kit

Personal Items

girl with stuffed toy in fieldGenerally, it requires a lot of energy to keep children happy. This it’s why it’s really easy to get carried away by packing in too many toys and other items in an attempt to keep your kids entertained on the trip. Most little ones are generally quite fine with just a few toys. It also encourages them to use their imagination.

Be cautious taking irreplaceable and incredibly special personal items as those are the ones that you’ll likely end up losing. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way!

I allowed my 6-year-old daughter to take her precious teddy named Fluffy on our vacation. On the second day of the trip, I ended up with a crying child because Fluffy got lost. Luckily, we found it and Chanelle was all smiles again.

It is important to remember that once you get to your destination, the main goal is to get your kids excited about where they are. I found it is useful to try and limit the things we took and instead keep them busy exploring.

Here are some personal items I suggest packing:

  • coloring supplies
  • 1-2 toys
  • water bottle
  • child-sized backpack (this is so that they can carry all of their own things such as toys)
  • snacks

Is there something else you think I’ve forgotten?


Emma Johnson, mother of two and an active traveler, shares her packing tips on behalf of Beaches Resorts, the resort company that sponsored this blog post.

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