Our seasoned travelers share their best packing tips for mastering the art of packing fast without worrying you will forget something important. With the help of some advanced planning and packing checklists, you can be packed and ready for your next adventure in less than 29 minutes! You might even find that you no longer dread this part of travel.
Are you ready to be a pro at packing? I’ll never forget a conversation I had at dinner one night with friends just hours before we took off on an international vacation with three kids. As we were wrapping up dinner I mentioned that we were going to go straight home and pack for our trip. I’ll never forget the stunned look on our friends’ faces.
“You’re just now packing for your trip!?!” they said.
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Perhaps my packing skills are a result of years of packing procrastination. Or perhaps it’s because I’m always up for a last-minute getaway. Either way, these packing tips and a handy packing checklist are the secret weapons in my packing strategy.
It’s All About Being Prepared
Let’s walk through the steps I take when packing and how I’m able to do it so quickly. These steps start when I unpack from my previous vacation.
My Best and Most Important Packing Tip
When I unpack my suitcase after a trip, I print out a packing list pdf and put it inside my empty suitcase. I do this for each member of the family. Having a checklist is the easiest way to stay organized and reduce the risk of forgetting something.
Get in a habit of doing this and you will be amazed at how fast you’re able to get the entire family packed.
Some Things Should Never be Unpacked
Next, I have a toiletry travel bag that’s always packed and ready to go. I use refillable bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and mouthwash. After each trip, I refill them and my toiletry bag is ready for the next adventure!
I have a printable list that I keep in my toiletry bag to easily identify anything I’m missing. I also make a list of current medications that anyone in our family is taking so that I won’t forget to pack them.
Keeping a stash of travel-sized personal items — lotion, toothpaste, lip balm and moisturizer — is helpful too.
TravelingMom Tip: When you receive make-up samples, save the travel-size containers they come in and use those for packing. Also, keep extra Ziploc plastic bags handy inside your toiletry bag just in case they’re needed.
Use Packing Cubes
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using packing cubes. They are the key to keeping your suitcase organized. Bonus: We find that we can fit more into our bag because we use them.
This has been especially helpful when packing the kids. I use the cubes to sort the types of items we are packing. I use one for clothes and another for shoes and the list goes on. This has saved my sanity! I also love that when we get to our hotel room we can just slide the cubes into the hotel drawers. They are great for keeping your clothes neatly folded too!
Here are some packing cubes that we recommend from Amazon. If you don’t want to buy packing cubes, here are some tips for using Ziploc bags to pack your kids’ stuff.
Packing Printables Save The Day
Here are 3 packing pdfs that will save the day when it comes time to pack in a hurry!
Specialty Packing Lists
Some trips require you to pack more than the basics. Here are the packing lists you need for those special family vacations.
Camping trip packing list (this one definitely takes longer than 29 minutes!)
Read More: All of our Family Vacation Packing Lists
Don’t Forget These Important Things
Every travel experience is different, so you must be prepared to tweak your suitcase each time to include the essentials for your current trip. This packing tip is a checklist of things you shouldn’t forget and things you want to check before you leave.
- Check your passports. Make sure no one’s passport expires within 6 months of your trip.
- Share your emergency contact info. If you are traveling with a group, make sure everyone in the group has each other’s information. This should include an emergency contact and a list of birthdates and allergies.
- Weigh your luggage. When flying, always weigh your luggage at home before arriving at the airport. If possible travel with carry-on luggage only.
- Check the details. If you’re flying, double-check that the name on your airline reservation matches your drivers license or passport. (Also note that you will need a Real ID starting in October 2021.)
- Check the car seat laws for your destination. Did you know that car seat laws are different in each state? Be sure to research this before your trip. Our favorite travel booster seats are the Bubble Bums. They are easy to inflate when it’s time to use them and they fold small enough that you can easily stick them in a kid’s backpack or even your purse.
- Back up your devices. Make sure your photos are backed up in case your device gets lost/stolen. Check out this valuable information on how to prepare your devices before traveling.
- Pack a car charger. If you’re renting a car at your destination, you’ll want to have the right cable for plugging into the car.
- Plan for your return. It’s good practice to make sure bills are paid for a couple of weeks after you plan to return home. You never know when the unexpected might happen and you aren’t able to return home when you had planned.
- Put a penny in the freezer. Read here to find out why.
More Packing Tips