My Favorite Things: The Vacation Packing List

Posted By Allison on Jun 6, 2012

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credit Paul Lowry

I love travel, but I dread packing and preparing for vacations. It’s a lot of work to prepare a family to leave home for a few days or more, and in my family, most of that responsibility is mine.

A few years ago, I discovered a simple solution that made the packing process easier: a checklist.

We were planning a two-week trip to a family reunion in a state park in Washington State. On that trip, we brought sheets, towels, board games, sand toys, and even a shower curtain.

I made a checklist of all those things because we would probably have walked out the door without half of them if I had to rely on my memory alone. I saved that list in Microsoft Word and edited it when it was time to prepare for the next vacation.

Some of the items on my checklist remain the same for every vacation, but others change, depending on our destination. My packing list for a cruise that includes air travel is different from a road trip to Disneyland – snorkels on one, princess dress for my daughter on the other – unless it’s a Disney cruise and then fitting all that stuff in a suitcase is the trickiest part.

Having a checklist has made the packing process much less stressful for me because I don’t worry as much about what I am forgetting.We still forget things occasionally and sometimes make a run to the store to purchase items we didn’t anticipate – like pool noodles and camp chairs on a recent trip – but that’s the exception, not the rule.

I usually look over my list a couple of weeks before a vacation and update it with the items that will make this trip great.That gives me an idea of what needs to be purchased.

I add to the list as needed until a few days before the trip, then I print and start assembling. I continue to scribble all over the list as I cross items off or remember new things to add.

The second page of the list are things that we need to do before we leave the house, like return library books, hold the mail, and adjust the thermostat.

As we become more experienced travelers, I find that I don’t always need the list for weekend getaways, or travel to familiar destinations, but I expect to use my list for years to come because it takes the stress out of all those details of preparing for a family vacation.

Here is a general version of my vacation packing list in Word and PDF formats. You are welcome to use, edit or copy this list for your own needs as long as it is for your private, non-commercial use only.


Vacation Packing List – Word 2007

Vacation Packing List – PDF


This post appeared on Travel Tips Tuesday on and on June 19, 2012.

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Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.


  1. I love making lists for trips, it makes me feel so much more in control. There is no greater satisfaction when Justin says “oh, I wish we had brought______.” and I say “Oh, WE did!”

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  2. I don’t know what I’d do without my checklists. It’s been interesting to see how it’s evolved over the years. I celebrated the day I took Diapers permanently off the list.

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    • Yes! Baby gear gets its own category (and most of the trunk space) on the packing list. It was a happy day when I no longer needed to fill half the suitcase with diapers.

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  3. I am a huge list person, but oddly enough I am horrible about packing lists. I have no idea how that is possible.
    By the way, It was so great to meet you this past weekend. I now hear your voice in my head as I read your posts. It’s pretty cool! Have a great week!

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    • I loved meeting you and your sweet baby at TBEX too! It’s so nice to have met the real person behind the blog. You have a great week too!

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  4. I also have a packing list and I made it specific for each member of the family. Our younger boy has the longest list. Thankfully, I have already crossed out diapers, feeding bottles, liquid soap, bottle brush, etc. from it.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I do believe that travels make families stronger, smarter and happier. 🙂

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    • My list became a lot shorter when the baby gear was no longer needed. Thanks for your comment! I love connecting other families who love to travel.

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  5. Thanks for this very helpful post! We often pack too many unnecessary things, and it turns out we waste our time and energy for nothing. I will pass on to my wife.

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