Prepping for a family vacation is busy enough, without worrying that you missed something critical for your kids. Use this kids vacation packing list to check off their list, so you can get back to yours! Below you’ll also find a printable with pictures, so you can hand it over to them. It’ll get them excited AND help you out.
So, what should your kids pack for a family vacation? What should go in their suitcase versus carry on or road trip backpack? When should they pack it, and what goes in last-minute? And what are those extra little things that can make a family trip go oh-so much smoother?
Let’s get into it all now.
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links to excellent travel-related products. If you use the links below to make a purchase, we’ll receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
- WHEN Should I Start Packing for a Family Vacation?
- WHAT Should Kids Pack in Their SUITCASE, Including for CAMP or the BEACH?
- WHAT Should Kids Pack in a CARRY ON or for a ROAD TRIP?
- Family Road Trip ESSENTIALS for a Happy Trip
When Should I START PACKING For a Family Vacation?
Start packing your clothes for a family vacation at least 3 or 4 days before you leave. This gives you time to finish any laundry you want for your trip. For travel essentials, start packing two weeks before your family vacation so you can pick up last-minute items without stressing. (Think: Extra power cords, kids travel trays, replacement for your worn-out backpack.)
Get your kids excited for family vacation with a Kids Travel Journal for Early Readers! It includes trip summary pages and a countdown calendar they can post on their wall. Circle when they should start packing their bags!
What Should Kids Pack in Their SUITCASE?
Kids should pack the following things in their suitcase:
- A variety of tops: shirts, tank tops, long-sleeved tops, dresses and sweaters
- A variety of bottoms: comfortable pants, like leggings and jogging pants, jeans, shorts/skirts and capris
- Underwear and socks
- Swimsuit/swim shorts
- A variety of footwear: shoes, sandals and boots (whatever they’re not wearing as a travel outfit), in a separate bag
- Day before you leave: jacket, splash pants, hat, umbrella (whatever outdoor items they won’t use on travel day)
- Morning you leave: toothbrush, toothpaste, brush/comb, hair ties
Put your kids to work AND get them excited for family vacation with a kids packing list printable with pictures. Includes a variety of pictures, so you can be clear on what they need. Think: short-sleeved versus long-sleeved tops. Write how many you want them to pack for each item, and away they go.
Kids Packing List for CAMP
A kids packing list for camp should also include:
- Soap/shampoo combo
- Face cloth and towel
- Laundry bag
- Tissue and wipes
- Bug spray
- Flashlight (we like the colorful FASTPRO mini flashlights)
- Binoculars (my friend loves their GeoSafari binoculars)
- Camera (my daughter loves her simple CIMELR camera)
- Journal/pens (find beautiful personalized kids notebooks on Etsy)
- Swim goggles
- Life jacket/floaties
- Favorite pre-packaged snacks
- Extra bags
Kids Packing List for THE BEACH
A family vacation packing list for the beach should include:
- Water shoes
- Cover-ups (I prefer the zip-up towel covers)
- Beach towels (check out this fun hamburger towel from Inspire Uplift!)
- Wet bag
- Change of clothes
- Bug spray
- Sand toys
- Swim goggles/snorkeling gear
- Life jackets/floaties (for families, inflatable rafts are awesome)
- Beach mats (get a waterproof sandproof mat that rolls up)
- Beach umbrella/shade (find a sun canopy with or without a floor)
- Folding wagon (once you get a collapsible wagon, you’ll wonder why you didn’t get it sooner!)
- Soft cooler (a soft cooler is handy, since it gets smaller as it empties) with drinks, snacks and wipes
- Portable picnic table (a low folding table will keep sand and bugs away, but you can still enjoy sitting on a beach)
What Should Kids Pack in a CARRY ON?
The 5 things that kids should pack in a carry on bag are:
- Entertainment: Include activity and reading books, favorite small (quiet) toys, and technology (with charger and headphones).
- Sweater: Planes are notoriously cold, so bring something warm and cozy. If there’s space, a travel pillow and blanket are also a good idea.
- Snacks: Bring along pre-wrapped snacks, including their favorite treats. It is vacation, after all! Pack some hand wipes, too.
- Water bottle: Keep it empty until you’re past security, and fill it up a few minutes before boarding time.
- Change of clothes: It’s always a good idea to pack a change of clothes in your carry on.
What Should Kids Pack for a ROAD TRIP?
Kids should pack the following things for a family road trip:
- Reading books
- Activity books (I love Melissa and Doug puffy sticker books)
- Binder with activity sheets (check out these awesome free kids travel printables)
- Travel games
- Notebook or journal (check out this Kids Travel Journal for Early Readers printable)
- Pens, pencils, markers and crayons (in a pencil box or case)
- Quiet toys (like cars, dolls, lego, small puzzles, glow-in-the-dark bracelets)
- Flashlight (we like the colorful FASTPRO mini flashlights)
- Kids binoculars (my friend loves their GeoSafari binoculars)
- Kids camera (my daughter loves her animal CIMELR camera)
- Electronics with charger and headphones (we use LeapFrog and Vtech laptops, and tablets only for movies)
- Soft toys
- Pillow and blanket
- Water bottle
- Snacks in kid-friendly containers (so they can eat on-demand … woohoo!)
- Sunglasses, sunhat and umbrella (for stops in any weather)
Let them pack their backpacks for the drive themselves, with this kids packing list printable with pictures! It’s comprehensive (so it’s actually helpful), and simple pictures means that even my preschooler could do it (also, so it’s actually helpful!).
PLUS Family Road Trip Essentials for a HAPPY Trip
Here are my favorite family road trip essentials to pack when traveling with kids:
- Porta potty: Even with potty-trained kids, this is SUPER handy when “I have to go pee!” sounds out in the middle of nowhere. Get a simple one to keep in the car (we like the Ikea one).
- Travel tray: Very handy for keeping toys, books and crayons from falling on the floor. Here are my favorite kids travel trays.
- Toy grabber: Extra handy when such things do fall on the floor. No more frequent stops to pick up those favorite toys! (Plus, they become entertainment themselves.)
- Window shade: Keep that lovely bright sun out of their eyes.
- Picnic blanket: Turn a blah stop into fun memories with a picnic in a pretty park. A good picnic blanket has a waterproof underside and rolls up nice and tight.
- Portable picnic table: Not a fan of bugs on food? Get a portable picnic table for that picnic.
- Cooler: Keep your yogurt drinks and sandwiches cold, so no one’s complaining come picnic time. Backpacks and tote bags are easiest to carry.
- Flexible tripod: Get that awesome family picture with a flexible tripod. It wraps around tree limbs and magnetizes to your car. Cool, right?!
Did I miss anything? What are your go-to things to keep everyone happy on family vacation? Let us know in the comments below!
You may also like:
- How to PLAN for a ROAD TRIP in 7 Steps
- Best FREE Kids Travel Game Printables
- Best Kids Travel TRAYS for Car, Plane and DIY
Featured photo credit: Torsten Dederichs from Unsplash.