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Planning family trips is exciting, but there can be challenges. For many people, packing can be surprisingly stressful. What to bring, what not to bring, so many outfit choices, so many shoes. But the phrase ‘I have nothing to wear!‘ does not hold true for those savvy travelers who know how to pack a suitcase for a family trip.

As a professional writer and family travel expert, I’ve streamlined my suitcase packing, and that of my family members, down to a bit of a science. In fact, we’ve done multiple five week European holidays on a carry-on and small backpack a piece. If we can do it, so can you!

Whether you’re looking for tips on how to pack a suitcase for a week at the beach, or how to pack a suitcase for a month in Rome, these tips for travel packing lists (including a free printable family packing list) are sure to help you get organized and relieve pre-trip stress.

lady kneeling on suitcase to pack items for trip

How to Pack a Suitcase for a Family Trip with Carry-ons

Start with a Packing List

Get organized from the get go with a packing list. Have a list for both summer and winter trips. Itemize what you need or want to take, and how many of each item. Lay out those items a week in advance. Can you coordinate and mix outfits, accessorize with scarves, jewellery, belts? Pare down to what you really need, and you’ll be able to get in the suitcase.

Help kids make their own packing lists, including colourful drawings that can help them remember what they’d like to take. Involving them in trip planning in this small way helps create excitement and self-confidence.

Roll or Fold?

People have their favorite method of packing clothes. Many swear by either folding or rolling, though some many just toss things into a bag – usually too many things – and hope for the best.

I fold and it works well for me. I tuck everything into corners, and don’t mind ironing something if I have to. But if you roll, great! Pick the method that works for you, and stick to it.



We love accessories! Packing aids like packing cubes, shirt envelopes and vacuum bags that compress air to reduce larger clothing items can transform your packing. Every family member can have colour-coded cubes, some for socks, underwear, shirts, even laundry to keep it separate from clean clothes. Accessories can help keep your packing neat and tidy, find clothing items easily, and maximize space in the suitcase.

Tips and Tricks

Stuff soft items like socks, underwear and small jewelry bags into shoes and boots. Don’t let any space go to waste.

Wrap shoes in shower caps or plastic bags to keep other items clean. This is a genius hack!

Pack along a few Ziploc bags for wet items for last minute pool dips before departure.

Plan to do some sink laundry, especially of kids’ clothes, and small items like underwear and socks. No need to pack 30 pairs of anything for a 30 day trip, 5-7 should do just fine. If you have access to laundry facilities, do a load or two while away.

If your kids have spare room in their carry-ons, fill it with any extra items of your own. I used to squeeze a pair of extra shoes in my sons’ bags every time we travelled.

flay lay of items to pack into suitcase

Hot vs Cold

Our printable packing lists include reference to warm and cold weather trips and destinations. Remember, a swimsuit should be on both of those lists! One for the beach in summer, and for the hot tub at the ski resort.

If you’re planning a ski holiday, you can fit your helmet, gloves and scarf in your second carry-on duffle bag.

However, if you’re planning to fly with all of your gear, i.e. boots, skis, boards, you will have to check those specialty items. There are certain things that just need to fly cargo.

Make Travelling an Event

Travel is exciting! When I travelled as a child, flying was a very special occasion that required us all to dress up for the flight in our Sunday best. Old habits die hard, and I still do this today. The benefit in my mind is that flying is still a special occasion, and who knows? Upgrade to Business Class, anyone?  Don’t be afraid to dress up when travelling. Just because it’s a good outfit, doesn’t mean it can’t still be comfortable. It’s all in the choice of materials and items.

Pin for Later

lady sitting on suitcase to pack it for family trip

Packing Check List for Every Member of the Family

Now it’s your turn to pack! We’ve prepared this super helpful and FREE printable packing check list for each member of your family. Download here. Happy travels!

Got a great packing hack? Share it in the comments!

1 thought on “How to Pack a Suitcase for a Family Trip”

  1. Pingback: Planning a Trip to Switzerland with Family - Multigenerational Vacations

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