Vacation Packing Tips: The Kid’s Suitcase

Kids Packing Outfits

Contents: 6 summer outfits, 1 winter outfit, 2 sets of pj’s, swimsuit, cover, sun hat, glasses, hoodie, 6 pairs of undies, 4 undershirts, 4 pairs of socks, 2 shoes, toiletry bag, 2 books, 2 stuffed animals, and one little suitcase.

by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer

A new year means new family travels. Yay! It also means lots of packing and unpacking. (Ugh!)

When I was a single traveling lady, I would throw random items into my carry-on and be on my way. If I forgot something, who cared? But now that I’m traveling with my kid, a little more organization is needed…because those preschool tantrums are for real!

Here are my tips and tricks for easy and streamlined packing when traveling with the kiddos:


1. Get your research on. No trip can be perfect, but 15 minutes with Google can ensure that an April snow shower in Santa Fe, New Mexico, won’t surprise you. (Who knew the town was at 7,000 feet above sea level?) Here are some things to ask yourself while planning:

  • Where am we going? Are the cultural customs to adhere to?
  • What will we be doing while we’re there?
  • What will the weather be?
  • How long will we be away?
  • And the BIG ONE: What are the kid wildcards? You know your child(ren). Are they beacons for mayhem? Does he wear shorts year-round? Does she need to wear dresses and tiaras everyday?

2. Make a packing list. Plan out each day of the trip and what your kid might want to wear. Add underwear, socks, and accessories for each outfit. Where possible, get the kids to help you choose the outfits.

Make a list and check it twice!

Make a list and check it twice!

As for outfits, how many should you bring? My rule of thumb is 1.4 outfits for every day (then round up). Example: 4 days x 1.4 = 5.6 (so 6 full outfits). If you’re only going for 1 day, pack 2 outfits. Don’t forget to take into account what your child will wear on the trip back home. Take one of the extra day’s outfits and put it aside for your carry-on. I usually pack something comfy that can double as a set of pj’s in case of lost luggage. It happens.

A few helpful outfit notes:

  • Pajamas: With pj’s, my calculation is based on 0.5 per night. Thus, 3 nights = 2 pairs. If you have a child who is prone to potty accidents, maybe 1 per night. But in most cases, it never hurts to wear pj’s again.
  • Shoes: Versatility is key. The more outfits a single pair can work with, the better. Also pack a pair of flip-flops to wear on questionable hotel carpets, in showers, and at pools.
  • Extra underwear: No explanations needed.
  • Mix and match: Pack items that can work with various tops and bottoms.
  • Lightweight jacket or sweatshirt: Even if you’re headed to the tropics, one will come in handy. Add to the carry-on.

Packing for Any-Age Child

1. Keep it together. Fold outfits together so all the pieces stay together. Some people like to fold underwear and socks into the mix; I prefer to keep them separate.

2. Fold versus roll. Some people prefer the folding technique; others like to roll. I’m a little obsessed with Marie Kondo and her Japanese technique of the vertical fold. The beauty of her techinique is you have easy access to everything without having to dig through piles of clothing.

Suitcase packed using the vertical fold technique. Everything is visible. No more digging to find your clothes.

Suitcase packed using the vertical fold technique. Everything is visible. No more digging to find your clothes.

3. Storage bags. Bring a few reusable storage bags, Ziplocs, or grocery bags for wet beachwear and exceptionally dirty items. I also pack the swim gear into Ziplocs so I can simply pop it into my beach bag.

Fold up swim gear and put into a plastic bag. Toss into beach bag. And when you leave the beach, throw the wet items in the baggie.

Fold up swim gear and put into a plastic bag. Toss into beach bag. And when you leave the beach, throw the wet items in the baggie.

4. Toiletry bag. My daughter loves having her own toiletry bag with sample-size bottles of her usual shampoo and body wash. Wrap the toothbrush in a washcloth.

5. Laundry. Pack a small sealable bag full of laundry detergent (I like the powder—it’s less prone to leaking) and some dryer sheets. The detergent comes in handy for small sink washes. The dryer sheet can be used to stuff into stinky clothing for the trip home.

6. Shoes and socks. Wrap the shoes in grocery bags and tuck the socks into the shoes.

Socks rolled and tucked into shoes.

Socks rolled and tucked into shoes.

7. Toys and books. Let your kid choose two books and a couple of must-have toys to pack in the suitcase.

Packing for Babies

1. Diapers. Pack enough diapers for 1 to 2 days (not including carry-on) and then buy diapers at your destination. Or purchase them from an online retailer and have them delivered there in time for your arrival.

2. Formula. Standard formula containers eat up precious cargo space, so pack the formula into Ziploc or reusable storage bags. And again, depending on how long you’ll be away, buy formula on the road or have it delivered so you don’t have to bring it along.

3. Snacks. Those of you who have kids with allergies know how hard it can be to find allergy-safe snacks on the road. Pack extra nonperishable snacks—fruit/veggie pouches, granola bars, seeds and dried fruits, crackers, and such—into suitcases. Don’t rely on just what you put in your carry-on.

Happy travels!

AndeepSinghAndeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.


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