How To Pack For a Family Vacation in 53 Easy Steps

Heading on a family vacation and not sure what to pack for your kids? Check out for the best family vacation packing tips and hacks!

Traveling with kids can be hard. It takes planning, patience, and resilience. It requires the ability to think on your feet, to reassess, and to be prepared. It even entails mastering the ability to squish items into small spaces. No, I’m not talking about the plane ride. I’m talking about the packing.

Whether you start making your packing list weeks before, or go for the whirlwind night before approach, packing when kids are involved can be an adventure in and of itself. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you through the packing process, otherwise known as transferring all your children’s possessions into suitcases.

  1. Plan the packing list in your head. Let’s see, three kids for three days. So a few outfits, some PJs, and an extra pair of underpants. No problem. You’ve got this.

  2. Bring out a carry-on from the basement. Their clothes are small, that should totally be enough.

  3. Open up the carry-on to find a plane ticket from 2014 and a newborn diaper. Huh, wonder why you haven’t traveled in so long.

  4. Call to your two older children to pack their backpacks for the plane. Give yourself a little pat on the back for raising such self-sufficient children.

  5. Time to pack. Start with the oldest. Grab three pairs of pants and throw them in. Smugly think to yourself that the hardest part is just getting started. You’re already practically done.

  6. Decide maybe you should bring a pair of shorts just in case.

  7. Dig around in the back of the drawer until you unearth last summer’s pre-growth spurt shorts. Realizing your son might protest at approximating the look of Richard Simmons circa 1986, leave the shorts out.

  8. On to long-sleeve shirts. Three days, three shirts. That should do it.

  9. As you put the third shirt in the suitcase, think — well, probably makes sense to bring an extra one just in case. What if there is a repeat of The Great Milkshake Incident of 2014? Or the What Fits Down the Toilet Mishap of 2013 for that matter? Throw it in.

  10. Then realize you should also include a few t-shirts. Just in case. Throw them in.

  11. Notice the carry-on is filling up alarmingly fast and you still have two children to go. Realize you are so not practically done.

  12. Throw in one pair of PJs. He can reuse it. Wonder if that’s enough. Then throw in one more.

  13. Underpants. He needs like seven pairs. Because again, who knows what will happen?

  14. Oh my gosh, socks. Why do kids need so many clothes? The just-in-case six pairs of socks are overflowing out of the carry-on.

  15. Take everything out.

  16. Remember why you haven’t traveled in so long.

  17. Re-pack, taking out all the extras, and squishing everything down much harder.

  18. Put all the extras back in. Your thought process was sound. It’s important to be prepared for possible milkshake and toilet emergencies. And then take the extras back out — there’s no way it will all fit.

  19. Reassess. Okay, maybe one large suitcase for all the kids. That will work.

  20. Take everything out of the carry-on.

  21. Return to the basement for a larger suitcase.

  22. Put everything in.

  23. Consider how, despite the larger suitcase easily weighing 15 pounds more than the carry-on, the same amount of clothes still manages to fill it up.  

  24. Take out one pair of socks.

  25. That made no difference. Put them back in.

  26. Repeat steps 5 through 16 with your second child.

  27. Realize these clothes do not fit. At all.

  28. Open the zipper to expand the suitcase so that it is now approximately the size of your children’s dresser.

  29. These clothes still do not fit. Ponder how this is physically possible.

  30. Take out two of your second child’s outfits.

  31. Think about the very real probability that she will boycott clothing for the entire trip if these outfits are not included. Put them back in. Or more accurately next to, because they don’t fit.

  32. Go back down to the basement for another suitcase. It’s fine! You’ll just share this second one with the kids. No problem.

  33. Squish all that can possibly be squished into the first suitcase.

  34. Half-fill the second suitcase with the rest of the clothes.

  35. Onto the youngest. Diapers. Let’s see, 72 hours. Let’s say one diaper every four hours. So 18 diapers. That seems like plenty.

  36. Right, but what if he has some sort of travel-induced bathroom illness? We probably need a few more. 24 diapers.

  37. Okay 36 diapers. That should be fine.

  38. Realize this suitcase is basically just diapers. Take four diapers out.

  39. Put the diapers back in. It’s fine! You can fit your clothes in a backpack. That’s totally cool. Zip up the second suitcase.

  40. Wait, he needs clothes too. How do these tiny clothes take up so much room?

  41. Your youngest is resilient. Three pairs of PJs for the whole trip. They can double as daywear. He can manage. Decide to just stuff some PJs in your backpack.

  42. Okay four pairs of PJs. And also three pairs of pants and three shirts. And socks. And maybe a few more diapers.

  43. These will not fit in a backpack.

  44. Go back down to the basement for another suitcase.

  45. Manage to zip up the three suitcases, barely.

  46. Swimsuits!

  47. Open up the least-stuffed suitcase and squish them in.

  48. Wipes!

  49. Repeat step 44, with considerable more difficulty.

  50. Onto you. Decide you will wear four layers of clothing on the plane so as not to have to pack anything. Ever, ever again.

  51. Your children proudly enter the room with their backpacks.

  52. Look inside your daughter’s backpack to see The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (in hard cover), one Lego, an inflated balloon, and her largest stuffed animal. Your oldest has been somewhat more reasonable with four red markers, six Lego, and three stuffed animals.

  53. Suggest that your oldest grab some paper and call it good.

Congratulations, you are packed! Except for the snacks, headache meds, tissues, travel clock, water bottles, iPad, toothbrush, hairbrush, toothpaste, shoes … guess you’d better get another suitcase.

*This post was originally published on Alamo is the Official Rental Car of the Walt Disney World® Resort and Disneyland® Resort.