Family Vacation Packing List (20 Things to Bring in 2023)
Traveling with a family can be a challenge, and I’ve been on plenty of family vacations where we forgot at least one important item! I’m a Colorado mom of four, and after years of traveling with family, I’m here to help you with your family vacation packing list.
As you’re planning your family travel packing list, take a deep breath. It’s okay if you forget something! You can adapt to most travel mishaps (see my family travel tips for advice on that).
But I’m here to help you avoid that with this ultimate family packing list:
Table of Contents
- Family Vacation Packing Checklist
- Clothing to Pack for Warm Weather Family Vacations
- Clothing to Pack for Winter Family Vacations
- Family Vacation Packing Tips
- FAQs on a Family Vacation Packing List
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Family Vacation Packing Checklist
Kids can easily handle their own essentials with this pack made just for them.
One of the key rules to traveling with kids is to have them handle as much of their own stuff as they can! The Osprey Daylite Kids’ Backpack lets them bring toys for the plane, snacks and water on a hike, or other necessary items for a day of exploring.
The pack is made here in Colorado with recycled materials and is great for kids 4-12 years old.
Tripod & Remote
A lightweight tripod that fits in a suitcase and is easy to set up to capture family memories.
It can be hard to get the entire family in a picture together – especially a picture that actually shows where you are! The GEEKOTO 77’’ Tripod is a lightweight solution to preserve the memories you make. Pair it with a cell phone mount and Bluetooth remote.
Organize a family suitcase with packing cubes to separate clothes and other necessities.
When packing for a family, packing cubes can help you keep each person’s clothing separate in one suitcase. You could also use them to keep similar items – like underwear or socks – all in one spot in your luggage to find easily.
Prevent sunburns with this sun hat designed for maximum protection.
When you’re looking for a kids’ sun hat, you want a few things. You want a nice, wide brim that covers as much area as possible. You also want a chin strap to keep it on their little heads. This packable Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat takes up very little space in your luggage and has all that plus SPF 50+ sun protection.
Kids Bluetooth Headphones
Make plane or car travel fun and save your sanity with a pair of good headphones for kids.
The batteries in these iClever BTH12 Kids Bluetooth Headphones last for 55 hours. They also recharge quickly, making them a great option for long trips. You can also set volume controls and lock them to protect kids’ hearing.
It’s always a good idea to have a towel on-hand when traveling with kids! Whether you need to wipe up after a spilled drink, or want to be ready if you find a stream to explore, this Rainleaf Microfiber Towel is a must-have.
Reliable, basic water bottles with no-frills…which also means you won’t feel bad if one gets lost.
We’ve tried a variety of water bottles over the years, and Nalgene 32-oz Narrow Mouth Water Bottles are my favorite for kids. They’re sturdy and don’t leak. You can see exactly how much water is in them. And they’re inexpensive, so if they get left behind somewhere, you won’t sweat replacing them.
Protect faces without getting sunscreen in kids’ eyes.
I find sunscreen sticks to be so much easier to apply to wiggly little faces than liquid sunscreen, which easily gets in their eyes. We use the Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick on faces and a spray or liquid sunscreen for arms and legs.
First Aid Kit
Toss a First Aid Kit into your daypack when you head out with your family. You’ll be able to bandage the inevitable cuts and bumps kids get while running around. Just be aware, you may need to pack separate children’s medications since the dosages in First Aid kits are for adults.
Solar Power Bank
When you’re traveling with family, having a fully-powered cell phone is important! You can charge up to four devices at once with this portable charger, making it a great option to power up family phones!
Even if you didn’t use travel insurance before kids, you may want to look into getting it now! For one thing, more people traveling means the odds are greater you may need to cancel a trip due to illness or other emergencies. Also, as a parent, having insurance gives you extra peace of mind when it comes to protecting your family!
Other Family Vacation Essentials to Pack
- Diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- TSA-approved toiletries kit
- Travel-size hand sanitizer
- Small thermometer
- Charging cords for phones, tablets, and other devices
- Passports, driver’s licenses, and/or valid IDs
- Insurance card
- Sippy cups or bottles
- Car seats
- Backpack, stroller, and/or baby carrier
- Hairbrush and ties
- Children’s medications – Tylenol, Motrin, allergy meds – and medical items
- Ziploc bags (for measuring out snacks, corralling small toys, keeping personal items organized, etc)
- Comfort item (stuffed animal, special blanket)
- Travel games, crayons, coloring books
- Electric toothbrush
- Swim diapers
- Swim goggles
- Lip balm
- Aloe vera gel
- Bug spray
- Outlet adapters (if traveling overseas)
For more packing inspiration, consult our full list of trip essentials to pack.
Clothing to Pack for Warm Weather Family Vacations
When it comes to a family travel packing list for warm weather destinations, one of the big things to think about is sun protection. Definitely add sun hats for the entire family to your packing list.
Also, consider long-sleeved swim shirts for everyone, and look for sun-protective clothing. If you buy clothing and sandals that are higher-quality, they’ll hold up longer and you can pass them down to younger siblings.
So what clothing should be on your warm weather packing list? Here is a quick checklist for warm weather destinations:
- 1 pair of sturdy water sandals
- 1-2 swimsuits
- 1 long-sleeved swim shirt
- 1 pair of sneakers or walking shoes
- 2-3 pairs of shorts (more if you don’t have access to laundry)
- 4-5 t-shirts
- 5-6 onesies (for babies)
- 1-2 sundresses
- 1 waterproof, lightweight jacket
- 1-2 sweatshirts
- 5+ pair underwear, depending on duration
- 5 pairs socks
- 1 beach towel
- 2 pairs long pants
- 2-3 pairs lightweight pajamas
For the most part, the above packing list works for both kids and parents! Here are a few of my top picks for warm weather clothing for kids and adults.
Stay warm and dry in this rain jacket - the brand makes kid and adult versions that are all excellent!
I have a Columbia women’s rain jacket which has kept me dry through several torrential downpours! I like that the hood cinches and the sleeves have velcro cuffs to tighten them and keep even more water out.
These sandals go from the beach to the trail to dinner, and are worth the brand-name price!
Sturdy water shoes like Keens and Tevas are a must on our summer vacations! The kids wear them in the water, and they protect against rocks and sticks along the shore.
They also wash well and can be worn out to dinner as easily as they can on a hike. It’s worth it to splurge on good sandals, especially if you have more than one kid, because they’ll hold up as you pass them down.
Baby Long-Sleeve Swim Shirt
Protect delicate baby skin while outdoors walking or swimming with this shirt that has UPF 40 sun protection.
This Patagonia Baby Long-Sleeve Shirt works for hiking or splashing in the water. It also provides sun protection for vulnerable babies. It comes in several fun colors and patterns, and the smooth fabric won’t irritate their skin.
✈️ Read Next: Tips for Flying with a Baby
Kids Convertible Cargo Pants
Help kids be comfortable in all kinds of weather with pants that convert to shorts when they get too hot.
If you’re hiking, or planning days where you leave your room for a day of exploring, these CQR Kids Convertible Cargo Pants will change with the weather! Keep them long early in the day when it’s cooler outside, then unzip the legs to turn them into shorts as the day heats up.
Not everything has to be for the kids! Moms can treat themselves to a new pair of great hiking shorts, too.
I love these Columbia Women’s Sandy River Cargo Shorts for hiking, and pretty much any outdoor activities. The zippered pockets are great for storing keys and other things you don’t want to lose. The adjustable belt means you can get them fitting just right. The material moves easily while you chase kids and dries quickly if you get wet.
Clothing to Pack for Winter Family Vacations
If you’re traveling with kids to cold weather destinations, you want clothing that keeps everyone warm but doesn’t take up too much room. You can cut down by having everyone wear their jackets and boots on the plane.
Also, look for thin, moisture-wicking wool layers – merino wool is great! Kids usually outgrow winter clothing quickly, so check thrift stores and eBay for lower prices on quality gear.
So what clothing should be on a cold weather vacation packing list? Here is a quick checklist:
- Wool hat
- 2 pairs gloves or mittens – one waterproof, one knit
- 1-2 pairs of base layers, tops and bottoms (long johns)
- 2-3 sweaters or fleece sweatshirts
- Snow pants
- Scarf or neck warmer (optional)
- 1-2 pairs wool socks for extreme cold (hiking, skiing, sledding)
- 2-3 pairs athletic socks
- Snow boots or waterproof, warm shoes with good tread
- Winter jacket
- Rain jacket, depending on location
- Winter pajamas or sleep sacks
This moisture-wicking fabric keeps kids warm and dry while they’re running around in the cold!
The bands around the wrists and ankles of this North Face Waffle Base Layer Set help prevent snow from sliding in. Also, the fabric isn’t irritating to sensitive skin.
These wool, moisture-wicking socks keep feet dry, which is an important step to keeping them warm!
Smartwool Full Cushion Socks go over the calf for more protection from the snow. Extra padding prevents blisters, makes them comfy, and adds extra warmth. Ski socks also tend to get lost less frequently than regular kid socks!
These are a great, basic, inexpensive option for kids’ snow pants!
I like snow pants better than overalls or snowsuits because they’re easier to take off for a bathroom break! These pants are a great price and have an adjustable waistband. The elastic around the ankles keeps snow out, and the pockets all have zipper closures to prevent stuff from falling out into the snow.
This fleece jacket gets a lot of wear, as a layer in winter and as a warm topper on chilly summer nights.
Our fleece sweatshirts get worn year-round, so they’re definitely worth the money! This classic Columbia fleece doesn’t pill as easily as cheaper versions, has a nice, thick fleece, and comes in a variety of fun colors.
Family Vacation Packing Tips
Avoid overpacking! If you have laundry machines where you’re traveling, you can get away with just a few changes of clothing. See if you can buy diapers and other consumables when you get to your destination.
Consider wearing bulkier items like jackets and shoes onto the plane. Also, consider clothes and shoes that do double-duty, like convertible pants. If you fit everything in a carry on, you can also bypass baggage claim and get kids out of the airport faster.
👉 Read Next: 51 Best Family Vacation Ideas
Check and Pack for The Weather
You may discover that your spring break destination is having a cold snap. Here in Colorado, even the middle of winter can be quite warm. Check the temperature and weather for your trip and plan accordingly!
👉 Read Next: Weekend Trip Packing List
Have Kids Help
As soon as kids can follow a basic list, make them a packing list and have them pack! You can double-check when they finish, but this takes some pressure off of you. It also helps when you get to your destination, because kids know exactly where all their items are in their own bag and can find them themselves.
👉 Read Next: Road Trip with Kids Guide
Pack Ahead of Time
Give yourself plenty of time to figure out what you’re bringing and if you need to make a shopping run! Packing ahead of time also ensures you have enough luggage and that you know where you’re putting everything.
✈️ Read Next: 30 Cheap Family Vacations to Take
FAQs on a Family Vacation Packing List
What should kids pack for vacation?
Kids should pack the clothing necessary for their trip. That will depend on the weather, the duration of the trip, and whether there is access to laundry while traveling. Kids should generally have at least two pairs of shoes for a trip as well, in case one pair gets wet or muddy.
Kids should also add entertainment to their packing list. Tablets, card games, coloring books, and reading books can all entertain kids while they’re on an airplane or in a car traveling to their destination.
When should I start packing for a family vacation?
You can begin collecting items to pack for a family vacation as soon as you begin planning your trip. If you need a lot of supplies or luggage, you’ll want to start buying or borrowing things well before you leave. If you’re headed somewhere with a climate and terrain that you already have clothing for, you can wait until a few days before you leave to pack.
If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll want to get items like passports several months before you have to leave.
I hope this family vacation packing list is a useful tool as you plan your trips! Family travel can be challenging, and it takes some hard work to organize, but it is definitely worth it.
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