The Ultimate Guide For Packing Light With Kids For Travel

Going on a family vacation is a lot of fun, but the idea of packing for that trip with kids can be an intimidating task. This task can be made easier by following the practical tips, clever hacks, and advice found in this guide. Whether you are planning a weekend trip or a long-term vacation, find out how packing light with kids for travel can help make sure that you have everything you need with less stress.

Carousel and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

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The key to packing light is to go carry-on only. This can seem a challenge for a family, especially for an extended vacation, but it’s possible.
Our family has been on two-week vacations to Europe using only a carry-on and backpack for each person and on a 5-day trip to Paris with only a backpack per person.

Like us, you’ll likely find that you don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. The benefits are that it can save money by allowing you to purchase cheaper tickets, plus it’s easier to maneuver around the airport and get to and from your accommodations.

These are some helpful steps to take to make sure you’re packing light for your next trip.


Create a packing list that covers all of the necessities for you and your family. Think specifically about the things that you’ll need for your destination, the weather, how long you’re going to be there, and what you plan to do.

A packing list for a city vacation in the fall will look quite different than a beach vacation in the summer. And a packing list for staying in a vacation rental may look different than a stay in a hotel.
Organize the list into the main categories like toiletries, clothing, luggage, electronics, medical supplies, and documents.

Notebook with toy airplane


If the goal is to pack light, then using a carry-on plus a personal item for each person is a good place to start. With the right luggage, you can fit everything that you need into those two items.

Summer is the perfect time to employ this strategy since summer clothing is much lighter and easier to pack.

Open luggage with clothing inside, passport , tickets, toy plane outside

The luggage that you pick should be sturdy and easy to maneuver. Keep in mind that every place that you visit may not have smooth easy to roll-over sidewalks (think Europe’s cobblestoned streets and sidewalks).

For a personal item, selecting a good versatile backpack with sufficient pockets and compartments will help you store a lot and keep it all organized.


For an extended vacation, don’t try to bring a new outfit for every day of the trip. Staying at a home-sharing accommodation like VRBO or Airbnb provides you with more options for keeping your clothing clean.

For a family of four, this has been a game changer. Not only do we love the extra space of a home-sharing option, but many come with a washer and dryer, which is quite useful and changes the way that we pack for a trip.

Open luggage with clothing inside

Even absent these amenities, some small items can be easily hand-washed in the sink. You’ll be able to wear some items more than once allowing you to bring fewer items.

Stick to a specific color palette so that your tops, bottoms, and accessories can be mixed and matched as needed.

Use a weather app or website like Accuweather to get an idea of what the weather is usually like when you plan to visit so that you’ll have the appropriate clothing packed.


You can find travel-sized versions of nearly everything that you need. For liquids, use refillable, travel-approved containers. If you find that you’re running out of space, only bring what you can’t replace. Some basic items can be bought at your destination.


Bring a small first aid kit for any accidents that may occur. Also, include any regularly used medications such as pain relievers or allergy medication. Many medications that are usually taken as a liquid are now available in solid form.

Prioritize prescription medication and what you’ll need in transit as most basic medications and supplies can be purchased on arrival if you’re short on space.


Most items such as blankets and travel pillows can be brought on a plane without having to pack them in your luggage. They can be a big help in making kids comfortable on a long flight and helping them to sleep.

There are also great options for smaller lightweight travel strollers in place of the usual full-size ones that you may use at home. They’ll be easier to fold up and carry.

Children can have their items in a backpack that can carry small items such as snacks, toys, or other entertainment items they may like.


In addition to using the little ones to carry some of their snacks and games, planning ahead of time can save a bit of space. Placing snacks in resealable bags makes them easy to access and can keep things organized.

Even if meals and snacks will be served on the flight we’ve found that having some snacks handy has been very useful. We usually carry granola bars or something similar.

This can help if you have smaller kids who are less understanding when they’re hungry and there’s no food around!

While many flights have in-flight entertainment, if your kids have a favorite, they can be downloaded on an electronic device. Don’t forget their headphones!

Besides electronic entertainment, things like coloring books, activity books, and small toys can keep them busy and happy and don’t take up a lot of space.


A good backpack is extremely helpful in keeping your documents safe and organized. Choose one with ample interior compartments for easy storage and access.

Include in your package of documents physical and digital copies of important documents such as passports and any flight documentation.


Since you’ll be packing light and even re-wearing some clothing, you’ll want to have something handy that will clean up stains. You can carry something small like this that will work on stains.

Bring some detergent that is travel-friendly and nonliquid to wash clothing as needed. Even for a two-week vacation, this doesn’t have to be a regular occurrence.

Just washing a few items once to reuse them can greatly reduce the number of items that you’ll need to bring.


When packing, let the kids decide what they want to bring. They will especially love packing their backpack with the toys, gadgets, and snacks that they like best.

They can also pick the movies, shows, and games that they want to have downloaded on their devices.


After you have everything that you need, make sure to go over everything. It may be helpful to review each day’s activities and make sure that you have what you need for that day, this can help prevent forgetting necessary items.

Even if you manage to fit everything in the first time (major accomplishment), still go through everything and see what you could leave, if there are duplicates, some things are redundant, etc.


Lufthansa airplane

While there is a lot of preparation for a family trip, as long as you follow the tips from our guide you can pack light and travel easily. Packing is just the preparation for a family, trip, there’s so much more to consider. Check out our practical guide on planning family trips abroad for more tips to help you get ready for your trip. Safe travels!


  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog,, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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The Ultimate Guide For Packing Light With Kids For Travel
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