15 Tips that make packing for family Summer vacations so much easier

Here’s a list of smart tips that will make packing for your next family summer vacation a breeze.

hacks to take the pain out of packing

These are the big things to consider and do when planning how and what to pack for you and your kids.

1. Check the weather

Always have a good idea of the weather, and understand if you’ll need something for chilly evenings, even if it’s hot during the day.

What’s the likelihood of rain?

I use Holiday-Weather when I start planning, and I check the Met Office for the actual weather forecast just before I start packing.

2. Use A packing checklist

One way to decrease stress levels is to use a packing checklist.

Grab my free printable version, which you can use to keep track of what to pack, what you already have to hand and what you need to buy.

3. Use packing cubes

Packing cubes are fabric pouches with zips that keep everything super organised in your carry-on bags or suitcases.

Packing cubes come in varying shapes and sizes.

I use Bettlemory packing cubes, which you can see in the photo of my suitcase. I tend to pack four or five cubes plus my toiletries bag in my main suitcase (as opposed to my smaller carry-on suitcase).

suitcase packed with packing cubes, American Tourister Soundbox Suitcase, Family holiday packing, how to pack a suitcase, how to pack family holiday packing

If your family stays in multiple hotel rooms or rents a holiday home, packing cubes can act as mini-suitcases and be easily divided.

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Here are a few ways you can use packing cubes to divide up the contents of your suitcase:

  • Beach and swimwear
  • Evening clothes
  • Suncare 
  • Beauty and haircare 
  • Tech chargers and cables
  • Activewear
  • Footwear 
  • Medical kit
  • Dirty laundry

Tip: Use a different colour set of cubes for each family member to separate kids’ belongings. 

4. Your capsule wardrobe

Even if you can’t manage a capsule wardrobe at home, it’s well worth trying to create one for your trip.

Mix and match tops and outfits and go for dresses that can be worn dressed down during the day and dressed up at night.

Also, you will NEVER need the number of clothes you first put out to pack!

Lay everything out, then get real and ditch a third of it!

Really relaxing vacations, especially with kids, are about keeping things simple.

5. Roll, don’t fold

I learnt the ‘roll, don’t fold’ packing tip whilst working as a fashion editor on a glossy magazine.

I spent endless hours packing clothes for shoots and locations trips abroad.

Believe me, when you’re the one responsible for ironing the stuff at the other end, you soon learn how to minimise creasing.

Rolling clothes keeps creases to a minimum and is also a great space-saver.

Roll delicate, easy-crease fabrics in tissue paper as an extra precaution to protect them as well as ensure they don’t crease.

It is remarkable how much more you can get into a suitcase if you roll rather than fold clothes and use packing cubes.

Rolling clothes may take a little extra time, but it is worth it.

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Rolled T-Shirts – avoid creases and save space (inside Betllemory packing cube)

6. Undewear

Even if you’re just going on vacation for a week, the amount of underwear can mount up!

I do like to use a packing cube specifically for my underwear and socks.

But another space-saving method works well; simply shove underwear into the gaps in your suitcase, and fill the inside of your shoes with it!

Another good underwear packing tip is to only take half of what you need and use hand wash to launder it to wear again.  

7. Ditch footwear

I tend to stick to three pairs of footwear max for holidays.

  • 1 pair of trainers or flats for wearing whilst travelling
  • 1 pair of Birkenstocks or flip-flops for daytime and beach
  • 1 pair of heels or jazzier shoes for evenings

8. Laundry handwash and washing bag

It’s worth taking a travel-sized bottle of laundry hand wash or decanting some into a travel bottle.

Especially when travelling with babies and young children. 

It can save you money for emergency washing, such as treating sunscreen stains and is also a way to cut down on taking mountains of underwear.

Now, if you want your mind blown, I’ve found this brilliant travel accessory that could quite literally revolutionise your family holidays! Read on…

Washing Machine Bag!
Scrubba Mini Wash Bag
£35.00

The Scrubba Mini Wash Bag is billed as 'the world's smallest washing machine'. Yes, really! It is the scaled-down version of the original Scrubba Wash Bag, the perfect size for packing in a suitcase or travel bag to take on a family holiday. 

Buy from Amazon Buy from The Scrubba
03/03/2024 09:55 pm GMT

How the Scrubba Mini works: The inside of the waterproof bag is a flexible washboard, meaning clothes can be thoroughly scrubbed and washed once water and a little laundry detergent have been added. 

Space-saving genius:

The Scrubba Mini weighs less than 70g, so it is a great way to reduce the number of kids’ clothes, underwear and socks to pack.

It is also a great way to avoid paying to use the hotel laundry service.

If you love the idea of the Scrubba but don’t think the mini will cut it, take a look at the full-size Scrubba 2.0, which weighs 150g, so it is still just a tiny addition to a suitcase.

Take a look at this video to see the Scrubber Mini Wash Bag in action:

YouTube video

9. laundry bag

There’s nothing worse than fishing for dirty laundry amongst clean stuff and then ending up having to wash the lot.

So always pack a bag for dirty laundry.

You can keep things simple and just pack a plastic shopping bag. Alternatively, you could use a packing cube.

However, if you want to be really organised, use a clean/dirty packing cube, like this one from Eagle Creek, that keeps dirty clothes in a water-resistant compartment.

Dirty laundry genius
Clean/Dirty Packing Cube

This clean/dirty packing cube separates dirty clothes from clean (the clue is in the name!). The compartment for dirty clothes is made from water-resistant LinkSeal Mesh, which keeps moisture in, so perfect for wet, dirty clothes.

This a small cube, it is 19.7 x 9.5 x 26cm and ultra-lightweight (less than 30g), with a grab handle. The cube is washable.

Buy from Amazon

10. decant and hang toiletries

There are two ways to deal with toiletries.

My preferred way is to use a set of travel toiletry bottles.

I bought a set a couple of years ago, and they make it so much easier to pack and travel with toiletries.

I have this set of assorted bottles and jars:

TSA Approved
Silicone Travel Toiletries Bottles Set (Perfect for hand luggage)
£14.99 £11.99 (£0.75 / count)

This is the current best-selling set of silicone travel toiletry bottles on Amazon. I bought one of these sets a couple of years ago and use it every time I travel abroad. They are brilliantly useful for packing.

Buy from Amazon
03/03/2024 09:51 pm GMT

TSA Approved: All the bottles and jars are less than the maximum 100ml allowance for air travel hand luggage. The set also comes with spatulas, a funnel for easily transferring beauty products, and a brush for hygienic cleaning.

I did some research and went for silicone travel bottles because they are lightweight, flexible and durable, making them perfect for packing without taking up too much space or weight.

And unlike plastic bottles, silicone bottles are also leak-proof, so you don’t have to worry about shampoo or lotion spilling.

This set has:

  • 4 Bottles (2 x 85ml, 2 x 65ml)
  • 2 Jars (1 x 30g, 1 x 10g)
  • 2 Spray Bottles (2 x 30ml)
  • 2 Scoopers for hygienically transferring beauty creams to the jars
  • 1 Funnel – to easily transfer shampoo and other liquid toiletries to bottles
  • 1 Cleaning Brush – so you can clean all the bottles before and after use
  • 1 Page of Labels – so you can label the bottles and jars
  • 1 clear storage bag

Take a look at the glowing reviews from other travellers if you need convincing about how useful this set of travel bottles is

If you don’t want to spend out on a set of travel bottles, you can save money by keeping, washing and using smaller toiletry bottles throughout the year.

Put clingfilm over bottle tops before you put them into a wash bag to avoid any spillages turning into mucky disasters. 

10b. Hanging toiletry bag

A hanging toiletry bag is a great space-saver once you arrive at your hotel or holiday home.

Spacious storage
BAGSMART Hanging Travel Wash Bag (Large)
£27.99

This hanging toiletry bag has four internal compartments and a pocket on the back.

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03/03/2024 11:26 pm GMT

It is made of water-resistant fabric and is well-padded, with elastic straps to hold bottles tight and protect toiletries from getting squished. The bag has transparent sides so you can see where everything is.

Size: This is the large version at 31x 23x 10cm.

What you can fit inside: Around 8 full-size bottles of toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and sunscreen, plus a full make-up kit, including brushes.

I love hanging toiletry bags because you can hang them on the back of the bathroom door where you are staying and don’t need to unpack them. This is particularly handy if you are short of space in the hotel or apartment bathroom or want to keep little kids’ hands away from your toiletries and make-up.

10c. Sun protection – do not scrimp!

It’s so much better to buy sun protection before you travel.

  • a. because it costs a fortune, so you can look out for special offers
  • b. because you know what you’re getting and can get the factor you need – some resorts don’t go very high on the SPF factor.

And my final toiletries tip… only take the toiletries you can’t live without.

Buy everything else when you get there.

I have a strange liking for visiting foreign pharmacies and supermarkets.

Having an almond-scented shower gel or tropical-smelling conditioner always feels like a novelty.

Related: Family Holiday Pre-Holiday Checklist

11. Tech checklist

Oh, there’s so much tech to remember these days.

Here is a quick checklist for your travels:

  • Tablets + charger
  • Smartphone + charger
  • Earphones/kids’ headphones
  • Enough travel adapters for your family’s needs – I always take one in my hand luggage and pack the others in a suitcase.

The average family is likely to take at least four high-powered tech gadgets on holiday:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Kindles
  • Smart Watch

So there are two things you need to bear in mind with travel adapters.

  1. You have enough travel adapters to avoid charging arguments.
  2. You have safe travel adapters that can cope with high-powered tech gadgets.

I have a couple of travel adapters from My Travel Pal, which is one of the few travel adapter brands to have adapters that pass the very strict regulatory standard BS:8546.

This means the adapters can be used safely with most electrical appliances, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, hair straighteners etc.

UK to Europe Travel Adapter With USB & USB-C

I have this double plug UK to Europe travel adapter with two plug sockets, 2 x USB A ports, and 1 x USB C port. Find out more details about its safety and functions of it on Amazon.

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UK to Europe Travel Adapter With 3 USB Ports

I also have this UK to Europe Travel Adapter With 3 USB Ports because I prefer to always have at least one single plug socket adapter in case there isn't room to fit a double in a plug socket. This one has a single plug socket and three USB ports. Take a look at it in more detail over on Amazon

Buy from Amazon

Investing in a tech travel organiser, like this clever tech organiser from BagSmart, is a great way to avoid tech gadgets, cables and chargers from going astray and keep them neat and tidy in your suitcase.

Tidy tech
BAGSMART Travel Electronics Cable Organiser
£19.99

If you are fed up with rummaging around to find tech in your luggage when you are travelling or losing track of it once you are on holiday, you need this brilliant BagSmart Tech Tidy. It is a total lifesaver for parents on family holidays.

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03/03/2024 11:55 pm GMT

The organiser has 5 elastic loops for slender cables and 2 elastic loops for longer cables or a mouse, preventing cables from getting entangled.

It also has a mesh zippered pocket, 5 elasticised mesh segments, and a pocket under the zippered pocket that holds all chargers, USB drives, power banks, and a mouse.

It is made from water-repellent nylon with protective padding. It has dual zip and elastic loops with a non-slip grip to ensure cords stay in place and gadgets are protected.

The organiser weighs just over 100g. It is portable and space-saving, fitting perfectly in a backpack or suitcase.

Alternatively, this travel pouch from IF is perfect for keeping kids’ tech altogether.

Organise kids' tech
IF Bookaroo Travel Tech-Tidy

The IF Bookaroo Travel Tech-Tidy comes in five colours and is great for kids' keeping kids' tech organised when you travel. It rolls up neatly and folds out flat, making it easy to keep all their gadgets and cables in one place while on vacation or travelling.

There are various loops and pockets to store cables, charging leads, earphones, phones, pens, pencils, and smartphones.

Buy from Amazon Buy from Waterstones

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12. Packing for kids

Ah, the meat in the family holiday packing sandwich… what to pack for the kids to take on holiday.

Here are some top tips for keeping it simple and getting it right.

It can be hard to figure out what to take for kids on holiday, especially when it comes to which kids’ clothes to take.

You don’t want to be overloaded with clothing, but you don’t want to run out. 

Of course, this does get easier the older your kids get. But here are some quick thoughts on what to pack. 

Swimwear

The one thing to max out on if you’re on a summer beach holiday is swimwear.

Kids live in their swimsuits on holiday, so having at least two sets per child is worth it.

If you’re going somewhere really hot, look at swimwear with sun protection – rash vests are popular at the moment.

Don’t overpack clothes

As kids are often in their swimwear, don’t go heavy on other clothes for them.

Go for easy-to-wash and wear tops and bottoms.

Packing kids’ outfits into separate Ziploc bags is a great tip, so you don’t have to pull everything out every day. This 20-piece set of zip-lock travel bags is spot on.

Resealable Zip-lock Clothes Bags (Set of 20)

This 20-bag set is brilliant for packing kids' clothes neatly. The bags are waterproof and a great space saver in family suitcases.

Buy from Amazon

Sunhats and sunglasses

A sunhat is pretty essential if you’re going anywhere hot.

Sunglasses – with UV-certified lenses are a good idea as well.

They’re also useful if it’s windy on the beach. Sand in a child’s eyes is no fun.

Beach shoes

It’s a great idea to take beach shoes that kids can wear at the water’s edge; something with a strap that won’t come off in the water and float away is good.

Flip flops are great for by the pool but opt for ones with a heel strap for little kids.

13. Family carry-on essentials

Clear toiletry bag for carry on

I have a set of clear toiletry bags, and I use the smallest bag for my hand luggage.

It’s so much better to have anything liquid packed neatly in a clear toiletry bag rather than having to put everything in a clear plastic bag at the airport. This is the set of three clear toiletry bags that I have.

Emergency essentials

It’s great to travel light, but it’s worth packing a few essentials just in case suitcases are delayed or go missing:

  • Spare pants
  • Socks
  • Security-friends toiletry miniatures

Sun protection

It’s also worth splashing out on one bottle of sun lotion in the airport lounge (you can’t take a full-size bottle through security) so that you have it to hand without needing to raid a suitcase and wrangle tired kids at the same time on arrival.

Money-saving water bottles

Save yourself a small fortune on drinks at the airport and on the plane by taking empty water bottles for each family member.

I am a big fan of stainless steel water bottles for keeping water nice and cool. 

You can’t take liquids through security, but you can take an empty bottle and fill it from a fountain or the free water jugs in airport lounge restaurants.

Group together essential travel documents

With the exception of passports, most travel documents can now be stored on your mobile phone – Apple Wallet/travel apps.

But I am a big believer in having the most important travel documents printed out, JUST IN CASE!! 

So group your passports, tickets, travel insurance and other essential travel documents together in one place, so you’re not rummaging around in your handbag to find them. 

You can use a clear plastic zip-lock bag – or if you want to be a little more stylish, you can invest in a travel wallet. 

I’m a fan of this nicely sized family travel wallet, not least because it can be personalised, which is a lovely touch. 

Personalised
Personalised Family Travel Wallet | By The Alphabet Gift Shop
£36 (at time of publication)

The wallet has room for 4-5 passports, cards, foreign currency, and mobile phones. Everything you need to stay organised and prepared for your next family holiday. It is so much better to have everything together in one neat wallet, especially with younger kids to keep an eye on.

Buy from notonthehighstreet.com

Alternatively, this is a great budget alternative family travel wallet.

Super organised
dayday® Travel Wallet
$25.99 $18.99

This travel wallet is perfect for keeping family passports and printouts of travel documents. You can easily fit four passports in it.

There is also space for credit cards, a pen inside, and a pocket for a smartphone on the outside. The wallet comes in grey, black or pink.

Buy from Amazon
02/26/2024 11:20 pm GMT

Always pack a scarf

Pack a big scarf or pashmina wrap or two in hand luggage to wrap around yourself or the kids if it gets chilly on the plane.

Travel neck rest or pillows

Inflatable neck pillows are useful for making small children comfortable – or giving them something to play with!

Kids Fave!
Inflatable Travel Pillow for Kids Soft
£10.99

The Fringoo inflatable neck pillow for kids is beyond cute, it's made from a lovely soft velour and you can choose from a sloth, flamingo, llama or rainbow pillow.

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03/04/2024 01:36 am GMT

Keep track of cuddly companions

Travelling is always more fun when you have a cuddly friend along – well, if you’re a kiddo, it is!

The only problem is, what if that friend gets lost?!

Give each cuddly toy its identity bracelet or label in case they wander off…!

14. Digital travel entertainment

What did we ever do before the advent of digital devices?!

They are now an essential part of family holiday packing.

Whilst I’m a big fan of keeping screen time to a minimum – especially on holidays – flights and long car journeys can be much more pleasant with a tech device for kids.

Here are a few digital entertainment tips to keep the kids thoroughly entertained whilst travelling.

Sign up for amazon kids+

Free 1-month trial
Amazon Kids+

Amazon Kids+ is a game-changer for keeping kids occupied on planes, trains and long car journeys.

Start free trial

Amazon Kids+ is a child-friendly library of apps, books and games content for kids that parents pay a monthly subscription for, rather than having to buy everything individually.

It includes content from Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon, Lego and Warner Bros. It is for kids aged 3-12, with zones for kids aged 3-6, 6-8 and 9-12.

There is also a safe web browser that blocks mature content and social media (you can choose the block the browser altogether for younger kids).

Parents can control everything through the Amazon Parent Dashboard.

You can use Amazon Kids+ on Fire tablets, Kindles and Chromebooks. You can also use it on Android and iOS tablets and smartphones. (Plus, it can be accessed on Firesticks and Echo devices, so useful at home too). 

Pricing after the free trial:

  • £3.99/month or £38.00/annual Prime customers
  • £6.99/month or £68.00/annual for non-Prime customers

Download films

Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other services now often allow you to download films to watch offline.

Here’s how to do it for Netflix.

Offline apps

Check apps to know which are usable offline, so you can plan ahead if you need to download stuff from them or manage expectations and minimise whinging.

Download books to kindle/kindle app before you go

Be sure to load up Kindles or Kindle Apps with books to read before you travel.

Don’t forget; you can’t buy books through the Kindle App, so you’ll need to go to Amazon to choose a few to get you started before you go.

15. Tech-free entertainment

Determined to go tech-free? Here are a couple of ideas to keep the kids and yourselves entertained:

  • A pack of cards is simple and easy to pack – and can while away many hours!
  • Print out puzzles/colouring in/lists of things to spot whilst in transit
  • Create a folder for the kids to carry in their backpacks – much more lightweight than lots of books.

Well, that’s the family holiday packing tips covered. I really hope you find them useful.

I know how stressful it can be to cover every eventuality when working out what to pack and leave behind for a family holiday in the sun. 

Time to get packing

Well, there you have it. I hope I’ve covered everything you need to pack for an absolutely brilliant summer vacation with your family. 

2 Comments

  1. Lee edwards says:

    How to get a printable version of the list please

    1. Luci McQuitty Hindmarsh says:

      Hi, scroll to the end of the post and download the PDF, if you are not yet a subscriber you will need to subscribe to MML to get access to the free download.

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