How To Pack For Your Next Family Vacation

Affiliate Disclosure

Don’t miss the freebie at the bottom of this post!


Are you getting ready for some summertime travel?  My family and I live very far from both my husband’s extended family and mine. We’ve taken lots of road trips and plane rides in the last twenty-four years! Along the way I’ve figured out a few things that make those trips just a little bit easier on all of us.  And you guessed it, I’d like to share them with you!

Here are some great tips and free printables to make packing for your family vacations easy and fun.

We’ll start with a few “housekeeping” issues: 

  • I like to get my house cleaned up nicely right before we go, so that when we come back, I can walk into a clean house and only have our travel items to deal with. Truth be told, my house has its cleanest days of the year when we’re about to be gone!
  • Work on eating up all the fresh foods in your fridge. Make a meal plan for the week before your trip that includes those foods.
  • Check your calendar for anything you may have to reschedule, or people you need to notify of your upcoming absence. But do not post on Facebook that you’re about to go on  a vacation! 
  • Make sure all of your bills are caught up so you won’t come home to late notices.
  • See about getting someone to walk/feed/ play with your dog, and to water your plants.



If flying:

Be sure and check the regulations for what you can and can not pack in your carry-onAlso, be aware of luggage fees and weight limits. Believe me when I say you do not want to get to the airport and have to take things out of your suitcase because it exceeds the limit!

If you’re driving to a destination that will require an overnight stay along the way:

Instead of having everyone carry in their large suitcase that they’ve packed for the entire trip, pack one piece of luggage with a change of clothes for each person. Add whatever essentials you’ll need to get through one night and only have one suitcase to carry in to the hotel.  Also, pack a small trash bag for the dirty clothes the next morning.

Keep a travel bag packed at all times:

Here are some great tips and free printables to make packing for your family vacations easy and fun.

One of the most irritating things to pack (for me anyway) is all the stuff you’ll need for the shower, etc. It’s the thing I always put off until last. Or, I used to anyway. Now, we keep a travel bag packed at all times. If you leave home more than once per year, this may be a great tip for you.   You can get sample sizes of most of the items you’ll need, and if not, you can get the refillable containers and just fill them from your larger containers at home. Throw in an extra toothbrush and you’re all set. It’s so much easier just to have all of that stuff ready to go. 

Having the travel bag packed helps in another way. If you’re leaving early in the morning, you don’t have to worry about taking a shower and then packing all of your bathroom items. They’ll already be in your suitcase. Just take your shower and get on the road!

There may be a few things you can’t keep in that travel bag at all times. Maybe a face cream that would go bad if you used it so seldom. Keep a list on an index card of  the things you can’t keep in the bag but that you need to pack. Once you pack it, leave the list at home. Then stick it back in there when you get home and put it all away.   When you return, refill anything you used up on your trip before you put the bag away.

Tips For Fantastic Family Travel with free printables from Successful Homemakers

image courtesy of stockimages/ 

If you plan to do any shopping while you’re away:   Pack an extra foldable tote bag for your purchases. This is especially important if you’re flying and your luggage is already full.

Roll clothes instead of folding:
They don’t wrinkle and you can get about ⅓ more in the suitcase.

Put any liquid items in a Ziploc bag:
Enough said.

Consider where each family will sleep at your destination:.  If you’re sharing suitcases, pack roommates together.


Here are some great tips and free printables to make packing for your family vacations easy and fun.

If they are getting old enough to pack for themselves:

  • Print them a list of what to pack. (It’s your lucky day, I have such a list for you, see the free printables at the bottom of this post.) Have them tell you when they are done so you can check everything.
  • You may want to have them just gather everything and lay it on their bed so you can show them how to pack the suitcase so it all fits!


Children’s activities:

  • Give each child a bag, plastic tote, whatever fits the circumstances (and the space they’re riding in) and have them choose activities for the ride. Guide them away from  things that have small pieces, make annoying noises, or things like paint and play dough. 

Other necessities (and niceties) :  Make a list of things you need to bring that don’t usually get packed in the suitcase. They may include:

  • Camera/ video camera
  • Other electronic devices
  • Books/games/toys
  • Medicines/ vitamins/ essential oils
  • Your own pillow–if you do take your pillow, put a bright pillow case on it so you won’t forget it when returning home. (Ask me how I know this is a good idea.)
  • Depending on season: swim suits, towels, sunscreen, goggles, bug spray, or hats, mittens, boots, etc.
  • Snacks: Pack healthy, easy to manage snacks for the family. ( I also have some help for you in that department. Scroll to the bottom for my free book “Pack a Snack for the Road”.)

How to make it all happen.

Here are some great tips and free printables to make packing for your family vacations easy and fun.

I sometimes lament over the work it takes to go on vacation! But with some planning it doesn’t have to be all that bad. It can even be fun!

My best advice is to not let the trip sneak up on you. Have an action plan, beginning about a week before you’re scheduled to leave. Decide what needs to be done when, and create a written plan of action:  Some of the above tips would look like this on a plan of action:

Week ahead:

  • Stay ahead of the laundry so you’ll have clean  clothes when you’re ready to pack.
  • Make a meal plan based on cleaning out the fridge.
  • Clear your calendar, notify people (who need to know) of your upcoming absence.
  • Head to Target and get a $5.00 movie the kids haven’t seen. But don’t tell them about it!
  • Pick up a few new activities for them to do in the car.
  • Make a list for your pet sitter/plant waterer, what you want them to do, when, and where to find things they’ll need. (Don’t forget to leave them your phone number. One year while we were away the water company accidentally shut off our water!)

2 days ahead:

  • Pack your suitcase
  • Supervise the children packing their suitcases

1 day ahead:

  • Make sure you have all plane tickets or any other documents you’ll need, printed and packed where you can access them.
  • Fill the gas tank so you can get right on the road in the morning. (Or whenever you’re leaving.
  • Pack non- perishable snacks.
  • Get cooler ready to drop cold snacks and drinks into on travel day.
  • Clean out the fridge and get rid of anything that will spoil before your return. (We give anything that’s still good to the friend who drives us to the airport.)


You’re almost there! Only a few things left to do. (See that wasn’t so bad.) This is where one more list comes in handy. It will be your “Out the Door” list.  You’ll want to include things like:

  • Garbage emptied
  • Set thermostat to desired temp
  • Lock doors–unlock screen door for pet sitter
  • GPS ready
  • Cell phones (+ chargers) charged & Loaded with phone numbers
  • iPods recharged and loaded
  • iPad ready to go w/charger
  • Close shades and Blinds
  • Run dishwasher
  • Cat/dog food visible

So, make your final list, use it to get out the door, and enjoy your trip!

 And now, as promised, your freebie…

Family Travel Pack

I love to give free things to my readers who have signed up for my mailing list. It’s my way of thanking you for allowing me to send updates to your inbox.
This month, my readers are receiving a copy of my e-book “Pack a Snack for the Road” as well as both of the packing printables shown in this post.
If you’re already on my list, check your email, it should be there waiting for you. If your’e not on my list, well, there’s no time like the present!
You can sign up right here and you’ll immediately receive these resources PLUS my ebook “16 Strategies to Eat Better and Spend Less”.

Just fill in your information below, click the confirmation link in the email you’ll receive, and you’re all set.



  1. Cheryl says

    I read the tuna about not liking it plain….
    Well one of the things I have added to my stash, is mayonnaise packets and individual salt and pepper.
    Sometimes you can also find relish and onion packets.
    I have been in quick shops where they sell hard boiled eggs and have whipped up myself egg salad with them.
    I could do the same with tuna :)

    Just a thought to pass along.

Leave a Reply to Cheryl Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Protected with IP Blacklist CloudIP Blacklist Cloud