With airline luggage rules becoming more and more restrictive, packing for family vacations is a challenge. It’s essential for parents to pack light and smart. Take a look at the following tips and tools to help make that next trip with the kids a packing breeze.
How to Pack Light: Storage Organization
Handy on so many levels, packing cubes keep everyone’s clothes organized, neat, and with fewer wrinkles. Purchase multiple sets with a different color for every kid, so each child’s clothes stay separate and easily identifiable in a larger family suitcase. Or, you can organize the kids’ own suitcase by day or destination with different cubes. The amount of compression you get from packing cubes will allow you to fit more items in your carry-on or suitcase.
That’s right—those same Ziploc bags you have in the kitchen holding leftovers and snacks are essential travel tools. Ziploc bags are super-handy for packing toiletries, keeping cords organized, and even for packing a wet swimsuit on the trip home. Plus, because you’re limited to taking 3-ounce bottles of liquids in a clear, quart-sized bag through airport security, it’s handy to have a few bags. You can purchase special designs for the kids such as Star Wars, Disney or even the Pittsburgh Steelers to make them different than the bags in your kitchen.
Vacuum Storage Bags
Similar to Ziplocs and packing cubes, vacuum bags also allow you to organize clothes and compress bulky items like sweaters and jackets. These are ideal for ski vacations when you need to pack things like bulky ski pants, ski coats and gear. Load them up, seal the bag, and extract the air to compress it to at least half of its normal size. If you don’t have a vacuum at your destination for the return trip, make sure to purchase a set of vacuum bags that include a hand pump (of course, you will need to pack the travel hand pump).
How to Pack Light: Rolling vs. Folding
There is often a great debate as to whether rolling or folding your clothes saves the most space. Rolled clothes are great for stuffing into a soft bag (like a duffle) and for clothes that won’t wrinkle (like jeans, T-shirts, socks). More can fit inside packing cubes and Ziploc bags when you roll clothes as well. Folding is better suited for your hard-sided suitcase and clothes that wrinkle easily (like that favorite Hawaiian shirt). Folding clothes can also work better when using the vacuum storage bags.
How to Pack Light: Mix and Match Clothing
Workout clothes or athleisure wear are not just for exercising—they make great travel outfits, too! Technical fabrics dry quickly, don’t wrinkle, are lightweight, and can be found in a range of solid colors, making outfits that are easy to mix and match. Get a few basic short-sleeve T-shirts for boys or these stretch tanks for girls, combine them with a couple pairs of warm-up pants, fleece pants or shorts, and the kids will have multiple easy outfits for the trip.
How to Pack Light: Do Laundry
If you can do laundry on the trip, you can pack half the amount of clothes and save a ton of space in your carry-on. These detergent sheets are the most convenient type of laundry detergent to pack. I’m not talking about dryer sheets (that’s next)—these are dissolving detergent sheets. The flat sheet design takes up no room in luggage and they dissolve 100 percent in water. One sheet per load is all you need, so pack what you plan to use in your Ziploc bag. Basic, but essential—don’t forget to toss a dryer sheet in with the laundry load for a fresh scent, plus static and wrinkle reduction. You can pack the dryer sheets in a Ziploc bag, or place them between clothes in the suitcase to keep them smelling fresh.
How to Pack Light: Microtechnology Devices
With the new microtechnology devices, gone are the days where parents need to lug books or DVDs to keep the kids entertained. For readers, the Kindle Paperwhite holds thousands of books, and the Amazon Fire is available in a kids’ edition that holds books, movies, and games, all in a kid-proof case.
Dave Parfitt lives in Rochester, New York, with his wife and two daughters. A runner with a PhD in neuroscience, he lived in numerous Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. cities before taking a college job in the Finger Lakes. He’s traveled worldwide, but a Walt Disney World trip with two budding princesses is the trip that elicited the family travel wanderlust. He shares his vacation tips and tricks on AdventuresbyDaddy.com.
Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.