When you’re travelling with kids, a comprehensive family packing list is essential.
It used to be so easy to travel – throw a few clothes and toiletries into your backpack or suitcase and, as long as you had your passport and credit card, you’d worry about the rest as you went.
All that changes when you are packing for kids. Suddenly you need to ensure you have all kids holiday essentials to cater for every single eventuality.
What if you can’t buy the right brand of formula? What if they get sick? How will you keep them amused for a 12-hour flight and 3-hour car journey?
And God forbid you forget their favourite cuddly toy!
Holiday Checklist for Families
When you’re packing for a family holiday, you need to be super organized. And this means making lists! Having a family vacation packing checklist is essential.
The first time I travelled with my daughter – a 10-week old baby at the time – I obsessively wrote things down onto a list for about 4 weeks before we left, worried I would forget something. Just as I was nodding off to sleep at night I would remember something else that needed adding to the list.
Now I use an app called Paperless on my iPhone, which enables you to tick off the items as you pack them. You can also duplicate a list for next time, and untick all boxes if you just want to use the same list again. I’m sure there are plenty of other list apps out there too.
Tips for Packing for a Family Vacation
One of my favourite tips for packing for a family vacation is to use packing cubes. These little bags enable you to divide up your family’s clothes to make them easy to find without having to rummage through your suitcase.
Depending on how long we are going away for, I either divide by type of clothes (eg. My daughter’s tops in one bag, my son’s t-shirts in another etc) or create ready-to-wear outfits that have already been put together. You can buy different coloured ones too to help you see at a glance which bag belongs to which family member.
However you choose to divide up your clothes, packing cubes really can make your life easier if you are living out of a suitcase for a while! Just make sure you buy ones with a peekaboo window, or it will drive you crazy having to open up each bag to see what is inside. (I learnt the hard way!)
If you’ve left it too late to get some – you can use Ziploc bags in the same way!
Packing List for kids and families
Here I share with you all the essentials on my kids travel packing list.
There is probably more here than you will ever need, but hopefully it will form the basis of your own family holiday packing list template, and you can pick and choose what you need, and hopefully not forget anything essential.
At the end, you will find two separate lists for carry-on luggage, one baby and toddler packing list, and the other for older kids.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!
This kids vacation packing list is also available as a pdf download at the end of the article.
Clothes & Accessories:
I haven’t gone into detail with number of clothes, as this will obviously depend on the destination and duration of your holiday, and whether you have access to laundry facilities while you are there.
However the items listed below should ensure you don’t forget anything!
- Coats/rain jackets
Family Travel Accessories
There are loads of great family travel accessories on the market, and having the right equipment with you can make all the difference.
When our kids were babies, we took our baby carrier everywhere with us. It is indispensable for airports and for getting on/off trains, and for walking a crying baby up and down the airplane aisle. Also for city travel if you are using the subway or for a sightseeing day that includes lots of stairs and hills.
Having a good travel stroller with you is also important. Check it at the gate when you fly, and ask to have it delivered to the airplane door when you land so that your kids don’t have to walk those long airplane corridors.
We also used it for putting our kids to sleep in restaurants in the evenings, and use it for storage for all those extra things you have to take with you when you’re sightseeing with kids!
Having a good travel cot or bassinet is also essential. Hotels offer these, but we found the familiarity of having the same travel cot no matter where we were was helpful for our kids. They are also great if you are staying with friends or family.
Another of our favourite family travel essentials is a portable booster seat, so that you can ensure your kids are safe when you take airport transfers or taxis when you are away traveling. Read our pick of the best travel booster seats here.
- Baby Carrier
- Travel Cot/Inflatable toddler bed
- Car seat/booster seat
- Daybag – small backpack or similar
- Water bottles
- Snack Boxes
- Chargers – camera/ipad/phone/laptop/kindle
- Travel adaptors
Holiday Toiletries List
Your toiletry bag also doubles in size when you travel with kids, filled up with all those baby and toddler travel essentials! If you are only away for a short time you can decant large bottles of shower gel and shampoo into travel bottles.
When kids are young you will want to ensure you have baby-specific soap and shampoo with you, but as they get older they will be fine using what everyone else does for a few days!
- Shower Gel
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Kids bubble bath/soap
- Kids shampoo
- Toothpaste – adults & kids
- Dental floss
- Lip balm
- Contact Lenses
- Body Lotion
- Hand sanitiser
- Hairbrushes & hairbands
- Mum’s makeup
- Feminine hygiene products
- Shaving gel
- Nail clippers
Family Travel First Aid Kit
Yep, here’s another thing that doubles in size, as you will want to ensure you can deal with any illness or mishap while you are away, without stressing about having to find a pharmacy. Ensure the following are on your travel list for kids.
- Kids Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
- Antiseptic cream/wipes/spray
- Motion sickness tablets
- Special medication
Toys to Pack for Vacation
My kids always try to pack in a huge number of toys into their suitcases, even if we are only away for a weekend! I try to limit them to a couple of books, a cuddly toy, a card game and maybe a couple of small toys each.
Card games are always good as they don’t take up much room and are fun for the whole family. When my kids were going through an ‘obsessed with puzzles’ phase, I would put the puzzle pieces in Ziploc bags for packing.
I also always pack colouring and activity books and crayons to keep them amused in airports/restaurants.
- Teddy/Soft toy
- Inflatable ball
- Colouring books & crayons
- Bath toys
- Playing cards
Documents for your Family Vacation Checklist
So boring, but so essential. Don’t leave any of these off your family travel checklist or you may not be going anywhere after all!
- Visa documents
- Flight and booking confirmations
- Credit cards
- Frequent flyer cards
- Hotel loyalty cards
- Travel/Medical insurance documents
- Guide Book
- Cash in required currencies
Essentials for a Baby Packing List
For such small people, it is amazing how much ‘stuff’ you need to include on your baby travel checklist! Bear in mind that depending on where you are traveling to, you may not have access to shops to buy essentials like diapers and wet wipes.
Annoyingly they take up a lot of room in your suitcase, but you are far better to have too many than too few!
How to sterilize baby bottles when you are travelling is always a concern for parents. We have found that many hotels will provide a sterlizer on request. Another option is to book accommodation with a microwave and use these microwave sterilizer bags.
When our kids were babies, we used sterlizer tablets to sterlize baby bottles when we were traveling. Similar to these ones by Milton. The solution you make lasts for 24-hours so you can sterlize your bottles during the day. They even work with water that is not safe to drink.
I also used to take a little washing up liquid with me in a travel toiletries bottle, so that I always had a way to wash up bottles/pacifiers etc in hotel bathrooms.
Another item we found super helpful to add to our baby travel list is a portable high chair. We had the Totseat, which folds up small enough to fit in your handbag and was great for restaurants or vacation rentals without a highchair.
- Portable high chair – eg Totseat
- Sleeping bags
- Wet wipes
- Nappy/diaper sacks
- Nappy cream
- Changing mat
- Steriliser/Steriliser bags/sterliser tablets
- Breast pump
- Nursing cover-up
- Washing up liquid
- Bottle brush
- Fruit pouches and baby food
- Plastic feeding bowl
- Feeding spoons & kids cutlery
- Sippy cup
- Muslins/Burp cloths
- Baby Monitor
Essentials for a Family Beach Vacation Packing List
If you are planning a family beach vacation, there are a few other essential things to bring to the beach.
It can often be hard to find swim nappies/diapers when you are traveling, so we always pack our own. If you are planning a beach resort vacation, bear in mind too that the hotel shop often charges way more for things like sun cream and bug spray than you can buy it for at home.
You can often buy cheap beach toys in your destination, which saves you filling your suitcase with buckets & spades, although we do love a foldable beach bucket such as the scrunch bucket.
Also don’t forget to pack your beach bag so you have something to carry everything in to and from the beach/swimming pool. We love this one from Amazon.
And my top tip: add a bottle of talcum powder to your beach packing list for family – it makes removing sand from little legs and arms much easier!
- Swim nappies
- Swimming costumes
- Sun cream
- Swim goggles
- Picnic blanket/Large towel
- Mosquito repellant
- Buckets & Spades
- Beach ball
- Arm bands/swim jacket
- Beach bag
- Beach towels
- Talcum Powder
- Swim cover-ups
Baby and Toddler Carry on Luggage
With babies and toddlers, I really recommend a backpack diaper bag for travel. The compartments make it easy to find everything and having an insulated pocket can be really helpful.
For plane travel or road trips, I liked to put a few nappies, a pack of wet wipes and nappy sacks into a Ziploc bag and keep it on top of my hand luggage to be able to easily grab it when we needed to do a nappy change.
Changes of clothes are super important – a few for a small baby, perhaps just one or two for toddlers. And don’t forget a change of clothes for mum and dad too! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have had baby food/bodily fluid/my own glass of wine spilled on me and had to change on the plane!
- Wet Wipes
- Nappy Sacks
- Changes of clothes
- Nursing cover-up
- Formula – pre-measured for ease
- Pre-filled Baby bottles
- Baby Blanket
- Water bottle
- Hand sanitiser
Older Kids Carry on Luggage
Even older kids need a change of clothes – my daughter is often sick on a plane or in an airport for some reason, and being in a confined space with a tray table inevitably leads to spillages.
For long haul flights I add a selection of toys, books and activities to the kids holiday checklist. Nowadays they usually just play with their iPads and watch the inflight entertainment, but it is always good to have some other activities on hand for those “I’m bored” moments.
- Change of clothes
- Water bottle
- 1 or 2 toys
- Colouring/Activity book & crayons/pens
- Playing Cards
- Hand sanitizer
- Blow-up pillow
For ideas of the best toys to take with you, see our article Ten Toys to Pack for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers. Also check out our ideas for the Best iPad Apps for Toddlers and the Best iPad Apps for Pre-schoolers.
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