Packing for a big family vacation can be daunting. I remember when going away for a week meant simply worrying about my own bag and wardrobe. Now I know I'm not alone in saying that when the family travels, I'm responsible for every last person's entire wardrobe. Any other moms want to raise their hands??
When we traveled to Disney World with two young girls (ages 5 and 2 at the time) I got sucked into buying all kinds of adorable vacation gear and accessories. But actually managing all those tiny items in a sea of hotel room chaos was bound to cause frustration. To keep myself sane I armed myself with a big box of gallon sized zip-top baggies and set to work.
1. Organize by outfits: For each girl I set out organized piles of outfits onto my bed. Each outfit pile contained:
- All matching accessories: hairclips, sunglasses, matching hat or headband, etc.
Knowing our plan was to have fun in the parks by day and go out for a relaxed evening dinner at night, I planned for 2 outfits for each day. This may be overkill for your own travel plans. I personally just can't stand putting on sweaty, dirty clothes from earlier in the day after I've showered and cleaned up after swimming in the afternoons. Kids get messy at the parks--think melted ice cream cones!--and I know my girls enjoyed putting on their skirts or dresses for the evenings.
2. Zip it Up!: Slip each individual outfit pile into a gallon sized ziploc baggie. Squeeze the air out and it lays flat like a pancake. This helps with preventing wrinkles and saves room in the luggage!
Mark each bag with the child's name so they don't have to open it up to check for sizes.
If you like to have your children match or coordinate, mark the bags accordingly. I had "Peanut, Outfit A" and "Little Pea, Outfit A" bags so it was easy for any one of us to grab what needed to be pulled together for the day.
If a certain outfit needs to be saved for a special occasion (like a character meal or shirts you want specifically worn at Magic Kingdom) make sure to note that too. Helpful husbands may not automatically recognize that little sundress bag as "special."
NOTE: While this method may seem wasteful, I did save all of the baggies used for this packing trick at the end of the trip. I just folded them neatly and stored in a pocket of our suitcase so that we can do this trick again this year.
3. Controlled Freedom: My 2 year old would pretty much wear whatever was presented to her but my 5 year old was finally at the age she had opinions about what she wanted to wear. The baggie trick is just perfect for allowing that freedom to make the choice of outfit knowing that everything is already put together.
The Peanut loved picking her baggie and then finding Little Pea's coordinating one. It saved us a huge mess from her ruffling through a neatly packed luggage. I never had to worry about the clothing getting wrinkled or unfolded.
4. The Extras: If you plan your outfit piles with all those ingredients I list, I can guarantee you will end up with spare clean items. Extra underwear, extra clean socks. When we found we had an extra something, I slipped it into a baggie and saved it for later in the week should we hit an emergency. I loved the peace of mind knowing our kids could get as dirty as they wanted and we would still be ok with a fresh change. If you make it to the end of the trip, the extras will still be clean enough to slip right back into the dressers at home and less laundry for you!
5. Our Master Clothing Packing List: Beyond the 2 outfits per day, these are the items I packed for each girl for our week long Disney vacation:
- 2 pairs of pajamas
- 2 swimsuits
- 1 swim cover up
- 1 pair of closed-toe walking shoes
- 1 pair of neutral sandals
- 1 pair of flip-flops for the pool
- 1 neutral sweater, dressy enough to be worn for dinner but casual enough to be worn into the parks on chilly mornings or on the air conditioned, chilly plane
Do you have any great packing survival secrets? Let's chat in the comments below!
P.S. This is the one of several posts about traveling that will be featured on my site this summer. I’m thrilled to be participating in the Melissa & Doug “On the Go” campaign to bring you family-friendly ideas for getting your kids out into the world for adventure. I hope you’ll follow along in the coming weeks.
If you’re interested in family travel, you may also enjoy the following Pinterest boards I host:
Wanderlust: How to inspire your children to explore the world and make family travel a fun game.
Road Trippin’: Road trip-specific survival tricks and tips for families.
Simple Disney Magic: Planning tips for your vacation, surviving the trip with your kids, and all around great ideas for bringing extra Disney magic to your life.