How to Pack for a Family Vacation

Packing for a vacation can be a challenge, especially if you're packing for young children. Read my tips for easily getting your family packed for a trip.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life!

Yesterday I offered some helpful tips for prepping your house before a trip. Today I’m talking about ways to simplify the process when you pack for a family vacation. Packing for yourself can be enough of a hassle, but it’s a whole new world when you’re packing for kids as well.

*I originally published this post when my kids were much younger. I’ve added some new tips, but I’m focusing on packing with young children because it does require a different mindset. I’d also like to encourage all you mamas of little ones that this process gets a lot easier as they get older so hang in there!

I’m a classic over-packer. I hate the feeling of not having something I need on a trip so I tend to overcompensate a little bit. Fortunately, I’ve tamed it down since having kids so we can actually fit it all in one car.

I’m a big believer in learning from prior experiences so I’ve started taking some extra steps to ease the stress. Packing us up in an orderly way will help to keep things running smoothly during the packing process, as well as the trip itself.

Use a “Don’t Forget” List

As I’m packing for my family, I keep a running list of things I definitely don’t want to leave behind. Travel bed anyone?! As I pack things, I cross them off, but I also do a double check during our final walkthrough.

Pack Ziploc Bags

Having plastic bags on hand can save your butt when you have wet or messy items. Wet swim suits, sandy shoes, or extra dirty clothes from an accident can all be packed in a Ziploc bag for the trip home.

I also use gallon-sized bags to keep things organized. Having a separate baggy for snacks or sunscreen makes it easy to toss in a backpack or beach bag. All the bottle or sippy cup parts can go in another bag. By keeping things separate, they’re less likely to get lost.

Pack basics instead of outfits

By packing mix-and-match basics, you ensure that you have multiple options. For kids, I recommend having a top and a bottom for each day of travel, plus one extra. While you probably won’t wear all the clothes, at least you won’t run out.

Bring special Activities

Grab a few cheap activities and/or books as a special treat for times when the kiddos are bored. Exploring new places is fun, but sometimes kids need a break. Having a few new (but inexpensive) things to do will keep boredom at bay.

This is also really helpful in case of unexpected delays at the airport or to keep kiddos quiet on the plane.

One last tip: remember that unless you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere, you can probably buy anything you forget (except for a favorite lovey – don’t forget that!)

What do you do to make packing easier?

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Five Favorite Spots in New York City


Make the most of your trip to the city that never sleeps. Check out 5 fabulous places to go in New York Ciity.

In June I got to take my very first trip to New York City! I was fortunate to have a lovely weekend away with my sister and we had a blast exploring this amazing place. There is literally an endless amount to do, and with only four days, we tried to see as much as possible without running ourselves ragged. While not everyone would take the same approach, we both wanted to feel rested from our vacation and not exhausted from constant sightseeing. Don’t worry because we still did a ton!

We stayed at the Hilton in Midtown, which was the perfect jumping-off spot for all of our little adventures. I have a horrible sense of direction so I was nervous about navigating the city, but other than one unplanned detour to Brooklyn on the subway, we were successful in finding our way around. I loved that we did so much walking, although by day two my legs were sore. It’s definitely different than what I’m used to in the suburbs of San Diego.

I have so many places on the list for my next visit, but in no particular order, here are my top five favorite things we did.

Central Park

I’ve seen it in countless movies, but walking the paths of the iconic Central Park was amazing. We started near The Met and wound our way past the Boathouse, the statues of Alice in Wonderland and Balto, and exited near The Plaza Hotel. It’s so much bigger than I imagined and felt like an oasis in the chaos of the city. There was so much activity and yet it still felt peaceful.

Cost: Free to stroll

Balto Statue

the statue of Balto, the sled dog

The Met

The Met was incredible. Between standing mere feet from world-famous works of art that I’ve only ever seen in books, admiring the architecture (which is almost as impressive as the art itself) and standing on the rooftop to gaze out over Central Park, it was awe-inspiring. (Side note: we also went to MOMA and while it was very cool, for me, it didn’t compare to the Met. MOMA offers free admission every Friday from 4-8 so we took advantage on our first night in the city since it was only a couple blocks from our hotel.)

Cost: Pay What You Can (suggested admission for adults is $25)

Monet at the Met

Monet’s Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies

Costume Institute

dress made using a 3D printer for the Costume Institute exhibit

The High Line

My sister voted this is as one of the top places she wanted to see and it was well worth the visit. A walking path constructed on out-of-use train tracks, the High Line starts in Chelsea and offers a truly unique view of the city as you stroll about one story above the road. Between the skyscrapers that surround the path and the gardens along the way, it’s an amazing way to see the city. It’s only about 1.5 miles and there are spots to exit along the way in case you don’t want to walk from start to finish.

Cost: Free


Hands down, this was one of the best recommendations we followed during the weekend. My sister’s coworker described this as a must-do and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a market combined with several small Italian dining areas and the food is DELICIOUS! Visually, there’s a lot going on and I felt like we could have strolled through much longer if we weren’t starving. There’s a farmer’s market-style produce section, a meat counter, fresh pasta, a whole area devoted to cheese and so much more. We shared a margherita pizza and a penne pasta dish with sweet sausage and a buttery sauce and it was all I could do to not lick the plate clean. Instead, we finished our Eataly experience with a nutella-filled crepe. Heaven!

Cost: Variable, but the price of food in the dining area is reasonable

Eataly NYC

See a Broadway show

The vacation package we’d purchased at our school auction included tickets to a show, and I was so excited for the Broadway experience. Although Hamilton wasn’t an option, there was a long list of choices and we decided on Book of Mormon. If you’ve never heard anything about BoM, then let me warn you… this is not a family show! I repeat. THIS IS NOT A FAMILY SHOW. BoM is both hilarious and horrifyingly inappropriate, which you’d expect from the creators of Southpark. Knowing only a little about the show, the music and choreography far surpassed my expectations. If you can stomach the offensive content, it’s highly entertaining!

Book of Mormon musical

What are your favorite things to do in New York??

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