My Top 10 Packing Tips For Families

A few of you asked how I work my packing magic so we don't end up taking more stuff than we need to AND how we fit it all into 3 carry on size bags. Well here you go, all of my packing secrets in one place. 

EDIT: After spending a considerable amount of time on the move we have actually found that just having one large (check-in size) bag for the whole family is easier for us to manouver. To keep our lives nice and organized we each have our own packing cubes within that suitcase so we aren't constantly rummaging through trying to find something.

1. Capsule Wardrobes

In a nutshell this just means that pretty much everything works with everything else so you have way more outfit options. I do this for myself and for the girls. And we found that dresses take up very little space and make a whole outfit so the girls have a lot of them. I found it easiest to keep my pants, jackets and most shirts pretty neutral then I have a few bright pink items that I wear with everything and which make me super happy. 

2. Choose Your Accessories First

Choosing what to bring on a trip can be a bit daunting and one way I like to make my packing simpler from the get-go is to limit myself to one color scheme for my shoes/jackets and a metal for accessories first. Usually for me it ends up being black/grey for shoes and gold for my metal. For you it could be something totally different. I find that once I have my accent pieces sorted and looking nice together then I can work from there to narrow down my other clothing choices because then I know that my clothing needs to go with the shoes and accessories. 

For my girls their wardrobe color scheme is mostly pinks and greys

For my girls their wardrobe color scheme is mostly pinks and greys

3. Packing Cubes

I only found out about these just before Christmas last year but they are great! They make your stuff easy to organize while you're packing, accessible during your stay and easy to fit back in your bag before heading home. These little gems are essential for us when we all pack in one back instead of a few smaller bags. They are pretty cheap for a set of 5 on Amazon and totally worth it. 

4. Learn to Roll

One time I looked up the best way to fold things for packing and it was mind-blowing. There is a nifty way to roll/fold most things and it really does help keep things organized and easy to fit into our packing cubes. Here are a couple helpful videos I used on YouTube:

5. Choose The Right Bags 

It is important to choose bags that work for your circumstances. We knew that we would be primarily in Europe, the girls would be in their double stroller and that we wanted to travel carry-on only (originally - see EDIT). So we have one bag that can slide onto the handle of a roller bag, a small roller bag and a bag that has optional backpack straps. That way if we don't have someone to help us (which luckily we did at the time) we can easily get everything from point A to point B while also pushing the girls in the stroller. There are all sorts of different bags for different situations so just think about how you'll get everything from the car all the way onto the plane. For me it meant that my "personal item" on the plane would need to be a shoulder bag instead of a backpack because my main bag is worn like a backpack while we're in transit. 

6. Kids Don't Need Much

A lot of times because their clothes are so little, kids can share a suitcase. Our girls have plenty of clothes, a book and one stuffed animal for each of them that all fit comfortably into one carry-on size bag. It's nice to have a couple just-in-case outfits but avoid just throwing in a ton of extra clothes. If something crazy happens or they decide to play in mud puddles you can always do a quick load of laundry or wash something off in the sink.

7. Be Prepared For Bathtime

We have two little ones and washing them in a shower is a very wet, less-than-fun experience so we are constantly on the lookout for lodging with bathtubs. One of the items we have used the most out of all of our things is a universal size drain plug. You'd be surprised at how many places have a bathtub with no way to stop the water. For long-term travel, we actually ended bringing a tiny inflatable kiddie pool with us for the express purpose of using it as a makeshift bath whenever our apartments didn't include one. 

8. Bring An Extra Small Bag

Something crazy happens when you travel, whether you had to buy a big new pack of diapers or you are bringing home gifts or just want some souvenirs for yourself, you almost always come back with more than you left with. Instead of trying to fit it all into one little carry-on, bring a small bag to bring home any souvenirs and extra things that are acquired. I have one like this that zips into a little pack (I found it at Joann's Fabrics). This is also handy for quick days trips or runs to the grocery store.

9. Use A Gate Check Bag 

This one is just for those of you traveling with little ones. If you're traveling with a stroller or car seat, bring a gate check bag with you. Every airline is required to allow you to bring a stroller and car seat for each child traveling with you, for free. Grab a gate check bag before you go to the airport, they are good for keeping your things safe but also nice for tossing a pack of extra diapers or the jackets you won't need on the plane into. 

10. Don't Worry About Forgetting Things

Keep in mind that in most cases wherever you are going probably has whatever you need. So don't stress about running out of something or forgetting something (other than perhaps prescribed medicines) , because if you really need it, you'll probably be able to find it where you're visiting.


So there you have it. Did I miss anything? Do you have any tried and true methods for packing light? Any tips for packing for your kids?