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Family vacations are the best for making memories, but packing for kids can be a drag. They seriously need so. much. stuff. Unlike adults, they need to bring many of their comforts and necessities from home because the destination likely won’t have any of them. It can be exhausting trying to round up everything you need — and make note of the things you don’t — before you take off on your family travel adventure. Don’t worry, though. We’ve got some of the best packing hacks to get your act together so you can enjoy your vacation without stress.
So while we can’t promise everything will go smoothly on your trip, we can set you up for a less stressful packing experience. Whether you’re planning a road trip to see family or a beach vacation by plane, these resourceful tips will help you pack efficiently, travel smart, and enjoy your time with your family with a little less stress.
Download The Krazy Coupon Lady app for money-saving hacks sent to your phone (even while you’re on vacay!).
1. Find out if the hotel has play yards or baby monitors on hand before you start packing.
Call ahead to find out if there is anything your hotel or vacation rental already has so you don’t have to pack it. Make sure to ask if there’s a fee for the crib or play yard rental and include that cost in your budget. If the fee feels worth the convenience, go ahead and leave yours at home. Consider bringing your own sheet for the play yard, as hotels rarely have crib-size fitted sheets.
If you’re going to an area with a beach, then you should also ask if they have beach toys and towels available to use or rent.
Related: 19 Clever Hotel Hacks for Your Next Family Vacation
2. Use packing cubes to pack for multiple kids in one bag.
Packing cubes are a game changer when packing for multiple people — especially kids. Choose different colors for each kiddo to make organization easier. It’s also a good idea to bring a couple of empty ones for things you purchase or to keep dirty clothes separated during your trip.
Shop packing cubes on Amazon:
3. Keep a packing list in the bag so you know exactly what you need to bring home.
Packing hacks fact: I love making packing lists. They make it easier to get my life together, but they also make it easier for me (and my kids) to remember what needs to make it back in the bag on the way home. Also, consider making a packing spreadsheet using Google Sheets. This way, your list is digital, you can tweak it for every trip, and you can access it on your mobile device.
4. Pack a laundry bag for longer trips.
Before you go, call and ask (or research) the laundry situation. If you’re able to do laundry on your trip, then you’ll have much less to pack. Laundry bags take up very little space and will help keep your laundry organized while you’re away.
5. Make phone number bracelets for your kids to wear.
You can also just write your number on their little arms with a pen. But the bracelets are more fun and can double as impromptu luggage tags to help suitcases stand out at baggage claim.
6. Pack a power strip in your carry-on to charge all of your devices at once.
Nobody likes searching for outlets to charge their phones and tablets. Especially if there aren’t enough to go around! If your kids are bringing devices, too, then this is a must. No more searching for outlets close enough for everyone to charge up at the same time.
7. Pack dollar store toys to keep your kids entertained on a long trip.
Keep your kids busy with a few affordable travel gifts for them to enjoy throughout the flight. Wrap them up like presents and let them open a new toy every hour. Just make sure to toss your trash so the flight attendant doesn’t hate you.
Related: 10 Travel Freebies Only the Savviest Travelers Know
8. Pack extra T-shirts instead of pj’s.
Travel a little lighter by packing clothes that can do double duty. Kids can easily sleep in comfy sweats and T-shirts instead of their pajamas, and you’ll have backup outfits just in case.
9. Skip shoes with laces.
Think of all the time you won’t waste on your vacation tying your toddler’s shoes. Just pack slip-on shoes so your kid can get in and out of them easily and without your help. This is especially useful in the TSA line at the airport or even on long car rides.
10. Buy snacks in bulk and separate into individual bags before you leave.
Airports and gas stations are expensive and kids are picky, so stock up on family favorites before you leave. Plus, snacks will keep kids occupied and busy. Make the snack grab quick and convenient by unboxing them before you go.
TIP: Choose some snacks that your kids might not usually get to keep spirits up.
11. Organize outfits by day into resealable bags.
If you’re trying to pack a lot into a little space, consider resealable or compression bags to pack your outfits and remove the air. This also doubles as an outfit planning strategy. Label the bags by day to help your kids choose the correct outfit. Anything that simplifies your vacation.
Shop resealable packing bags on Amazon:
Related: 11 Sanity-Saving Road Trip Hacks
12. Pack plastic bags and an extra outfit in your carry-on.
Plastic shopping bags make for excellent travel tools and are one of the best packing hacks. Use them to collect trash during long car rides. Have them handy for dirty diapers or clothing changes. Make them as accessible as possible (i.e. don’t put them in the overhead bin or trunk) so that you can quickly change your kiddo out of wet clothes. When you get where you’re going, toss the bag or bring it straight to the bathroom or laundry room to clean any necessary items.
13. Pack in a ride-on suitcase for airport trips.
Yes, packing hacks can actually be fun. Get a ride-on suitcase to pull your toddler on for under $100. They can also amuse themselves with it when you’re (inevitably) delayed. Also, check all of the best luggage deals here.
Shop ride-on luggage on Amazon:
14. Only pack enough diapers and wipes for the plane (or car ride).
They’re so bulky, you guys. For our packing hacks here it’s … don’t. Just pack enough for the trip there, and buy what you need when you get to your destination. Use diaper coupons to help save money when you get to your vacation spot, but don’t waste your precious travel space on items that are easily available when you arrive.
15. Use a shower cap to keep little shoes from touching clothes.
Kids step in gross stuff. Keep dirty shoes off your clean clothes by using a cheap shower cap wrapped around the shoes before you stick them in the suitcase. You could also utilize those handy plastic shopping bags for this as well!
16. Pack a wet bag (or two!).
Even if you aren’t swimming on your vacay, there’s a very strong possibility that something will get wet anyway. Keep wet things away from dry things easily by packing a few wet bags. You can order some sturdy, reusable wet bags for around $4 each that won’t tear and leak onto everything you don’t want soaked. It’s among the easiest of packing hacks.
17. Pack frozen juice boxes for road trips.
They’ll help keep your other snacks cold, and you won’t have to worry about packing an entire cooler for a few drinks.
18. Pack a carry-on for the kids to pull with ONLY snacks and toys.
Call it the bag of fun and make it as accessible as possible during your trip. Don’t tell your kids what you pack. The excitement is good motivation to behave until they’re situated on the plane.
19. Pack a lint roller to clean up dry spills.
Keep a lint roller handy to clean up crumbs, glitter, and any other dry messes your kids manage to make. This is also great if you travel with pets. They’re likely to shed from the stress of the car ride, and this helps keep everyone, including your car, lint- and hair-free.
20. Utilize Amazon Prime for anything you (inevitably) forget.
No one is perfect, so the chances are high that you’ll forget something, even with handy packing hacks. Rest easy you can always order anything you desperately need using Amazon Prime. And if you’re in a major city, then just order through Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods to get free 2-hour delivery.