Your Family Travel Packing List

No matter what the destination, keep your family on track with these packing tips for infants, small children, teens and parents.

Photo by: GURMEET SAPAL

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.

A 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. IDs, 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. 

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. 

Remember: 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.

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. 

Remember: While your kids may remember to pack their toothbrushes, goggles, clothes and socks, they might not think about their swim shoes or even Band-Aids for those potential vacation mishaps.

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.

Remember: 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. 

Remember: 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.

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