Need a packing list for your next family trip?
I hate packing! It's extra stressful when you need to plan for the needs of a whole family. A packing list is one of the best ways to take the stress out of planning and organizing.
Here are my tips for making a printable, sharable packing list for your family – plus lots of suggested items for your list.
Start Your List Early
Start making your list well before your trip. This will give you time to purchase anything you don't already have. Add items as you think of them, and then you won't have to remember everything when it's time to pack. This will save you a lot of time.
The advantage of the Google doc is that it's easy to copy the last trip's list and customize it for the next trip. I can share it with family members. It's easy to print copies when it's time to pack.
There are packing list apps in your phone's App Store. I tried one, but it didn't stick. I prefer Google Docs or my phone's list app.
You can buy almost anything at your destination if you leave an item home. However, there are a few items you CANNOT forget. They usually fit in your wallet or purse.
I keep two credit cards in my purse. Our primary card is American Express, but it isn't accepted everywhere, so we carry Visa too. Sometimes, a card will be declined, even when there's no reason. Make sure your card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees if you're traveling internationally.
Check your international coverage on your mobile phone plan if you'll be leaving the country.
Take anything out of your wallet that you don't need for this trip. Think library card, unneeded credit cards, loyalty cards, etc. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you'll have less to replace.
Here are some essential items for your packing list. Copy and paste those you need.
- Passports/Driver's License
- Mobile phone with charger
- 2 credit cards
- Small bills for tips
- Foreign currency
- International plug adapter
- Road atlas
Related: 3 Ways to Use Packing Cubes
You can travel for any length of time with three everyday outfits, plus what you're wearing when you leave home. Kids' clothes are small and get dirty faster, so I add an extra outfit or two for them. Choose washable fabrics that don't wrinkle easily. Mix-and-match items are good too.
These clothes can last you a full week if you wear everything twice. Plan to do laundry if your trip lasts more than a week.
Underwear is different. Pack plenty for a full week.
Three outfits should fit in a small rolling suitcase that fits in the overhead bin of an airplane. A suitcase that size is easy for most school-age kids to handle on their own.
Here are some clothing ideas for your packing list.
- Shirts (3-4)
- Pants or shorts (3-4)
- Underwear (6-7)
- Accessories (Belt, jewelry, scarf…)
- Dress clothes
- Swimsuit with cover-up
- Winter gear
Related: 6 Tips for Packing Light
Shoes take a lot of space in a suitcase! I wear my bulkiest shoes – usually a versatile pair of walking shoes – on the plane or in the car. I pack a second pair in the bottom of the suitcase. The second pair are usually dress flats or sandals, depending on our travel plans.
Two pair of shoes is ideal. Sometimes it makes sense to pack more, but then you may need to pack less of something else or check a larger suitcase.
Here are shoes that we commonly pack – but not all on the same trip.
- Walking shoes or sandals
- Dress shoes or sandals
- Flip-flops for beach or pool
- Hiking shoes
- Snow boots
Every member of my family has a small bag dedicated to personal grooming supplies. I keep mine partially packed with a few travel items at all times. Every member of my family has a dedicated travel toothbrush because it can be packed in advance, instead of at the last minute.
I never pack a hair dryer. Most hotels and vacation rentals have them. If they don't, I live without. If you can't live without your dryer, consider buying a travel-sized hair dryer.
Here are some items to consider for your personal grooming bag.
- Toothbrush in travel case
- Travel toothpaste
- Dental floss
- Skin Care
- Hair product (hairspray, pomade, dry shampoo, etc)
- Curling or Flat iron
- Hair accessories
- Lip Balm
- Insect repellent
The Fun Bag
The “Fun Bag” got its name when our kids were young. It's a small backpack filled with activities to keep them entertained in the car or on an airplane.
My kids are teens now, and this bag usually carries more electronics and charging cords than toys. Nevertheless, every member of the family needs a “fun bag” filled with essentials that are accessible any time.
I still carry a paperback book or magazine in my bag, even though I mostly read on a Kindle. I have a backup if the battery dies, and it's good for the beach bag because it can get wet, sandy or stolen without much stress.
The fun bag is a good place to store snacks for your trip. Think granola bars, dried fruit, candy, nuts, crackers…
Here are items you may want for your fun bag.
- Books/ebooks/audio books
- Travel toys
- Card games
- Mobile devices
- Charging cords
- Headphone splitter
- Coloring books/crayons
- Card Games
- Water bottle
- Neck pillow
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes
- Change of clothing
- Ziploc bags
What will make this trip special? I pack items on every trip that will make the trip more fun or comfortable.
My son likes to sleep on the floor so we frequently pack a sleeping bag on road trips. We have packed our own snorkels on beach trips. We are packing costumes for our Disneyland trip this October.
Here are a few special items that we have packed. Will any of them make your trip better?
- Umbrellas/rain ponchos
- Board games
- Sleeping bag/bedding
- Camp/beach chairs
- Pool or Sand Toys
- Beach umbrella
- Campfire forks
To Do List
You may also want to add a page or list of things you need to do to secure your home before you leave. Here are some suggested items for a vacation to-do list.
- Hold mail
- Hold newspaper
- Drop off library items
- Thermostat on vacation hold
- Turn off water main
- Lock windows
- Lock doors
- Turn off plug strips at TVs
Related: 11 Home Security Tips for Vacations
When it's time to pack, I print a list for each member of my family and then just double check my kids' bags when they are finished. It saves me a lot of time and stress.
I hope that my experience has helped you build your own perfect packing list.
Are there any essential items I missed? Let me know! Make a suggestion in the comments or email me at [email protected]