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6 Packing Hacks for Traveling Families

family traveling together
Written by Suzy Guese

From car seats to several outfit changes, packing a family for travel usually involves a lot of grit and gear. Not only can you end up overpacking, but you can also find yourself in some miserable situations on the road if you don’t pack up your crew just right. If you end up packing far too much when you travel or you never have what you need, these packing hacks should help alleviate the stresses and worries of traveling families.

Make a List

mother making a list before traveling

Family travel requires planning and organization. You’ll have a mess on your hands if you try to pack the night before your trip without a plan. Putting a pen to paper can help you organize your luggage before you even put anything in it. You also might be able to visualize areas where you are forgetting items or where you might be overpacking. At least a week before your trip, make a packing list for each family member. If you need to pick up a few items, you won’t have to make the mad dash the night before to the store. If you aren’t a list maker, you can avoid forgetting necessary items by going through your normal day-to-day — thinking of everything you put on and use throughout your day and pack each item accordingly.

Use Checked Car Seats for Extra Space

If you are traveling with smaller kids on an airplane, most likely you are going to be checking a car seat. Checking a car seat is free of baggage fees, so if you aren’t using your car seat to stash extra items, you’re missing out on saving money and space. You can purchase a particular bag that covers your car seat during travel. It can also act as a space to stash bulky jackets and other items that you won’t need in flight and don’t mind checking.

Share a Suitcase

sharing a suitcase for vacation

While some family members might complain, sharing suitcases is one of the easiest ways to lighten your load when traveling with a big group. Rather than packing one bag per child and adult, it’s best to see if you can combine suitcases so you’ll have either fewer bags to check or just fewer bags to handle. You can even designate one bag for bulky items like shoes and coats, which can free up space elsewhere.

Color Coordinate Packing Cubes for Each Family Member

If you’re going to share suitcases, you don’t want each family member having a hard time finding their clothes when you reach your destination. Packing cubes can be great for families as they can help you stay organized on the road and they also save space. Packing cubes usually come in various colors. If you assign each family member a set color of packing cube, you’ll be able to tell each family member’s items from another.

Pack An Extra Outfit for Travel Days For Everyone

mother carrying child with stained dress

Sure, you probably know your toddler will need an extra outfit on travel days but don’t forget about yourself. Spills seem to occur automatically on travel days and they usually wind up on the parent and not the toddler. Everyone in your party should have an extra change of clothes on hand if an accident should occur. It’s also a good idea to throw in a few extra outfits for your trip in general. You’ll inevitably go through more outfit changes than you thought, so it’s best to be prepared.

Pack Snacks Together and Readily Accessible for Security

While not an official TSA rule, more and more agents are asking passengers to pull out all of their food items. Since families usually need to travel with an abundance of snacks, this can be problematic if you have packed all of your snacks across various bags. If you are flying with a family, have your snacks ready to go in a clear plastic bag so you can pull out your food items if an agent asks you to on the security line.


Do you have your own family travel packing hacks? Share your tips with us in the comments below.


About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at

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