Your Family Travel Packing List

Leave No Essential Item Behind!

GURMEET SAPAL

Summer is well underway, and so is the peak travel season for many Americans. Whether you’re traveling to a nearby beach or water park, hopping a plane or packing up for a road trip, it can be hectic keeping track of everything that you’ll need. And unfortunately, when you don’t use some type of list, things get forgotten in the madness.

Infants
As you're packing your baby's footies, clothes, swim diapers, visor, swimwear, cup, bowl and utensils, you may want to consider grabbing his washcloth and towel as well. Your baby’s sensitive skin isn’t ready to be exposed to the hotel’s commercial laundry detergent. And while you’re thinking about their skin, it’s also a good idea to carry a tube of A+D ointment, baby powder and a thermometer for extra precaution.
Toddlers and School-aged Kids
While your kids may remember to pack their toothbrushes, goggles, clothes and socks, they may forget their swim shoes or even Band-Aids for those potential vacation mishaps.
Teenagers
Teenagers can be fun to travel with because of their independence and helpfulness. No longer babies (for the most part), they can pack their own bags with all the necessities to keep them entertained.

When we first started traveling as a family, I was charged with packing everyone’s luggage. Although I considered myself fairly organized, I didn’t use a packing list — and inevitably, I’d forget someone’s goggles or after-shave lotion. Eventually, I created a system and made individualized packing lists for everyone in my house. Not only did having these lists keep me organized and remind me what to pack, they also took the pressure off me to pack for everyone else. 

True, your overall summer packing list can vary, depending on destination, planned activities and mode of transportation. However, there are essential items needed for every trip. Check out these suggestions to keep your family organized while traveling.

Packing for Infants

Packing for a baby requires the most attention and planning. Formula, diapers, baby wipes, onesies and bottles are necessities that you can’t leave home without. You also don’t want to forget your baby’s pacifier, night-light and favorite blanket. 

Packing for Toddlers and School-Age Kids

The key to packing for an infant is to carry any and every item that will keep them happy during the journey. This is where your Gerber snacks, Baby Einstein toys and Disney storybooks become your best friends. Thankfully, your toddler or school-age children are less dependent and can help you with the packing process. Giving them this responsibility helps build their excitement for your family vacation and also teaches them organizational skills early on. 

Packing for Teenagers

Teenagers can be fun to travel with because of their independence and helpfulness. No longer babies (for the most part), they can pack their own bags with all the necessities to keep them entertained. 

Packing for Mom and Dad

Mom’s packing list is probably the most intricate list, aside from the baby’s. Personally, where my boys and my husband can share their multi-compartment American Airlines suitcase, I have to pack and carry separate luggage for myself. 

I faithfully use my Kathy Van Zeeland set because not only is it cute, it’s expandable and can work as either checked luggage or a carry-on. It has half a dozen compartments, so if any of them are empty, I can determine that I may have forgotten something, even without looking at a packing list. The external compartments are perfect for slipping in a pair of shoes or liquid toiletries, thereby keeping my clothes protected from dirt or mishaps. In addition to what everyone else is carrying, my luggage is filled with makeup, nail-care supplies, perfume, a flat-iron and a miniature bottle of hairspray. 

One could argue that Dad probably has the most streamlined packing list in the family. My husband can fill up the compartments of a Scottevest travel vest and a backpack and be happy. However, while Dad is trying to keep things simple, he may overlook less obvious items, such as a miniature flashlight, hand sanitizer, bug repellant and cleansing cloths in case his hands get dirty. 

Dont forget: If you're traveling overseas, carry an outlet converter, a global phone, an external cell phone battery and a small roll of toilet paper — you never know when you’ll walk into a bathroom without any. Our carry-on is also always filled with our electronics, a change of clothes, essential miniature toiletry items and a Tide detergent pod, just in case our luggage is lost or delayed.

Even the youngest family members can set off on a family-friendly hike at a local park. 960 1280

  

Fill up a bushel of crunchy, ripe apples perfect for apple pie or homemade applesauce. 960 1280

  

Pick the best pumpkin in the patch for decorating and pumpkin-carving. 960 1280

  

State fairs continue on into the fall. You can also head to a local amusement park for one more spin on the Ferris wheel. 960 1280

  

Check out family programs at local museums for a day of culture and fun. 960 1280

  

Cool museum exhibits expose kids to culture, art, history and science outside of the classroom. 960 1280

  

Head to the nearest zoo for an animal adventure in the great outdoors. 960 1280

  

An African safari may be out of the budget, but you can get close to extra-large animals at a local zoo. 960 1280

  

Don't pack away that swimsuit yet. Visit an indoor water park or hotel pool for wet and wild fun. 960 1280

  

Explore the pristine shores of Lake Louise, a luxurious base camp for a tour of the Canadian Rockies. 960 1280

  

Park rangers provide plenty of educational adventures in the great outdoors at Yosemite National Park. 960 1280

  

Families can try trout-fishing at Sterling Pond, zoom down the Stowe Alpine Slide and sample Ben & Jerry's ice cream. 960 1280

  

The 14,000-foot Pike's Peak isn't Colorado's tallest mountain, but it inspired 'America the Beautiful.' 960 1280

  

Asheville is surrounded by towering mountains and national parks, including Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 960 1280

  

Take a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, and pack a picnic for lunch at Pisgah National Forest. 960 1280

  

Kids can explore Maine's rugged coast at Acadia National Park and set off on nature walks on the park's many trails. 960 1280

  

Head to northern New York for an Adirondack vacation with mountain views, zip-line tours and swanky resorts. 960 1280

  

12 Photos
Jones family at the Colorado Gator Farm

Jones family at the Colorado Gator Farm

Our first family adventure is at the Colorado Gator Farm. It's the only educational farm in the US that encourages people to come and learn how to handle gators. The Jones family decided to take on the challenge. 960 1280

  

Ashley handles an alligator

Ashley handles an alligator

Ashley works with instructor Josh Stokely to learn the ins and outs of handling gators of all sizes. 960 1280

  

The Jones family at the Colorado Gator Farm

The Jones family at the Colorado Gator Farm

A trip like this is not glamorous; expect to get dirty fishing the alligators out of the ponds. In the end it can be rewarding! The Jones family couldn't be happier to show off their gator handling skills. 960 1280

  

Cortes family on the Stars and Stripes yacht

Cortes family on the Stars and Stripes yacht

The Cortes family boards the legendary America's Cup yacht, Stars & Stripes, for an adventure on the high seas. 960 1280

  

Alexis & Jizelle Cortes take control of the Stars and Stripes

Alexis & Jizelle Cortes take control of the Stars and Stripes

Alexis and Jizelle Cortes take control of the Stars & Stripes yacht. 960 1280

  

Silvia Cortes has a private massage at Hotel del Coronado

Silvia Cortes has a private massage at Hotel del Coronado

Silvia Cortes has a private massage at Hotel del Coronado. The family also enjoyed a 5-star meal prepared by a private chef and a relaxing evening under the stars at their personal beach fire pit complete with handmade s’mores. Yum! 960 1280

  

Tommy Moe gives families ski lessons in Jackson Hole, WY.

Tommy Moe gives families ski lessons in Jackson Hole, WY.

For a skiing adventure, families travel to Jackson Hole, WY, to get a private ski lesson from Olympic champion Tommy Moe. After, he takes the whole gang out on the slopes; he knows the runs better than anyone else since he lives there. 960 1280

  

Mark and Griffin Reinecke in Eugene, OR getting ready to climb 250 feet.

Mark and Griffin Reinecke in Eugene, OR getting ready to climb 250 feet.

If becoming one with nature is your idea of fun, then camping in trees is something to try. Father-son duo Mark and Griffin Reinecke head to Eugene, OR, to sleep among the Douglas fir trees. 960 1280

  

Meltdown, a 600 year old Douglas Fir

Meltdown, a 600 year old Douglas Fir

Mark and Griffin climb 250 feet (it takes an hour) to get to the top of a 600-year-old Douglas fir. Their treeboat is complete with cots for their overnight stay. 960 1280

  

Jason Seppa, an instructor from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute

Jason Seppa, an instructor from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute

Jason Seppa, an instructor with the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute, trained Mark and Griffin for their journey to the treestops. He was also on-hand to make sure they made it up the 250 feet safely. 960 1280

Jack W. Peters  

Club Med Sandpiper Bay's circus academy

Club Med Sandpiper Bay's circus academy

The Llopis family participates in the Club Med Sandpiper Bay's circus academy in Port St. Lucie, FL. 960 1280

  

The trapeze at the Club Med Sandpiper Bay's circus academy

The trapeze at the Club Med Sandpiper Bay's circus academy

Students at the circus academy learn to walk the tight rope, tumble on the trampoline, juggle like a clown and fly through the air on the 2-story outdoor flying trapeze. At the end they perform for other guests. 960 1280

  

One more word to the wise: Before you pack your luggage, make sure you grab the most important items you’ll need for your trip, especially if you’re flying. Identification, tickets, passes and any other documents that are required for entry into a building, destination or attraction aren’t things that can be purchased or easily replaced. Packing for a flight requires a more strategic list than that for a road trip. 

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