Packing for a Family Trip

When packing for a trip with kids, organization and paring down are key.

Packing for a family vacation isn’t easy. Besides keeping on top of your own list, you must anticipate the needs of children who don’t pack for themselves. And while you may survive without any item you forgot to bring, your children likely won’t fare as well without their must-haves, whether it’s a comfort blanket, bedtime book or electronic gadget.

Here’s how to take the headache out of packing for your family getaway.


Family travel experts agreed on two essentials for any trip, no matter the ages of your kids: packing cubes and a first-aid kit.

Packing cubes: Inexpensive fabric containers (square or rectangular) that zip closed and fit into carry-on bags and suitcases are an efficient way to separate and organize items for multiple family members, said Rainer Jenss, the president and founder of the Family Travel Association, a trade group. “Each person gets his or her own cube so you know exactly whose stuff is whose,” he said.

The cubes, sold on or at a retailers like Target or Walmart, come in varying sizes, and Eric Stoen, the founder of the online family travel site Travel Babbo, recommends using three or four cubes for each average-size check-in suitcase, in addition to saving a small area of the bag for shoes or toiletries.

If you’re staying in multiple hotel rooms or renting a house with several bedrooms, packing cubes act as mini-suitcases and can be divided among the various rooms. And one packing cube that everyone in the family can share: the one for dirty laundry.

First-aid kit: A well-stocked first-aid kit should be a non-negotiable for any family getaway. Mr. Stoen said that he’s rarely been on a vacation with his three children, now ages 7, 9 and 11, without relying on the kit. “It could be a stomach bug, an allergic reaction or a scrape, but there’s always something we turn to our kit for,” he said. (The first-aid kit may also be needed by a grown-up.)

The first-aid kit should include:

  • Bandages of varying sizes
  • An antibiotic ointment like Neosporin
  • Children’s fever and pain medicine
  • Children’s motion sickness remedy
  • Thermometer
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Children’s allergy medicine
  • Children’s medicine for stomach flu and constipation
  • Children’s cold and flu medication
  • Rehydration tablets suitable for children