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How To Pack Lighter for Family Vacation + Printable Packing Checklist

how to pack lighter for family vacation momskoop

Every time our family travels, my husband seems to get everything he needs into just ONE bag. I’m always amazed! He definitely knows how to pack lighter for family vacation. And now you can learn the tricks as well!

Why should you pack lighter? Having less to worry about will improve any trip. Not only can packing light save you both time and money, but you might also enjoy your trip more. Here are some beneficial reasons to pack lighter for family vacation and tips on how your family can get in the habit as well.

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5 Reasons To Pack Lighter for Family Vacation

  1. Travel is just easier. Once you know what it’s like to travel with just one, smaller bag you’ll never want to go back to lugging around multiple suitcases. You don’t have rely on close parking at the airport or hotel, and you have direct access to all of your items during your layovers. Want even more physical freedom? Try a comfortable travel backpack
  2. You’ll save money. Airlines just keep adding fees and raising old one: luggage especially. Fewer bags = fewer fees! If you’ve got a lot to move, you might also need to hire a valet or private taxi to your hotel due to shuttle limits. Skip those worries by reducing down to what you can carry, allowing you to take advantage of more affordable transportation options or even walking when possible. 
  3. You’ll save time. I bet you can think of 20 things you’d rather be doing instead of standing at the luggage mover, waiting for your bags. With a carry-on bag, you can breeze right past all those people as they stand, waiting for the buzzer to sound. It’s also impossible for the airline to lose your bag if they never have it in the first place!carry on luggage pack lighter for family travel
  4. Feel more secure. If you travel with just what you can carry on, then all of your items are with you the entire trip. Jewelry, electronics, cash or credit cards, and any other valuable (or irreplaceable) items never leave your possession or get looked through by airport staff. For extra protection at times you may be distracted, try a TSA approved luggage lock.

  5. Pack and unpack quickly. Traveling light is also a bonus when it comes to packing and unpacking. I hate that “what did I forget?” feeling when I have multiple bags and suitcases. Then I have to rifle through them to double check. Ugh! It can take so much time. But, with one main bag you can easily peek to make sure you’ve got what you need.


How To Pack Lighter For Family Vacation

  1. Wear First. Pack Second. – Dress in layers. Pick out a few outerwear items that you can easily put on and take off. Wear them onto the plane so you can avoid carrying them. You can always take additional layers off on the plane. Super Tip: wear your heaviest shoes. Pack your flip flops, sandals, or other light shoes in shoe travel bags. Wear your boots or sneakers to avoid carrying the extra weight in your bag. 
  2. Bring clothing items that can be worn multiple times in different combinations. Skip that specialty dress and, instead, pack separates that will work twice: one way for day and another way for night, just by mixing and matching them. One of my favorites is a convertible clothing, like this Ultra-Versatile Convertible Long Shawl that you can wear 15 different ways!  
  3. Refresh instead of replace. Bring travel size wrinkle releaser spray and fabric deodorizer so that you can refresh items that may appear worn even though they aren’t “dirty”.  Did you get a little drip of lunch on your favorite shirt? Fabric stain wipes will help.

  4. Coordinate packing with your family BEFORE the day you’re leaving. Double check with your spouse or partner to make sure you aren’t bringing duplicates of the same items. There’s usually no reason you can’t share things like tissues or toothpaste. Also make sure to look over what the kids are packing. Mr. Poppers the stuffed penguin might be fun at home, but if he takes up half of their carry on bag he may need to just hear about the fun after you get back.



  5. Get an eReader. For many people, reading material is an essential for travel. Unfortunately books and magazines are also some of the heaviest items you can pack. Now, with an eReader, you can carry as many titles as you want. Bonus: if you get 2 chapters into a new book and realize you don’t like it – you have dozens of other titles to instantly pick from.
  6. Minimize souvenirs and gifts. Each time we travel, we have to remind our kids: leave room for gifts! However, with the exception of relatives sending special things home with the children, there’s really not as much reason to buy souvenirs these days. Thanks to online shopping, that Louisiana hot sauce you found in that one cool store can easily be ordered once you get home instead of hoping it doesn’t bust in your bag on the way home. 
  7. Pack Disposables. Are there items in your bag that have disposable options? Single use packages or travel sizes allow you to take familiar items you use daily but without the extra space of full size containers that need to return home.

    Did you know? Some hotels have reading areas for guests and you can donate the book or magazine you already finished on the plane.  
  8. Gift the Swag. If you’re traveling for a conference or work event, a bag of random swag is often part of the return trip. Offer the best stuff to your hotel housekeeper along with your tip. They might enjoy a t-shirt, tote bag, or water bottle. 
  9. Use the red dot method to evaluate what you do and don’t need. When packing for your trip, place a red (or other color) dot sticker on items you aren’t sure you’ll really need. If you use an item during your trip, remove the sticker. When you get home, take a quick look through your bag and see which items still have a red dot. Leave those items home next time.


As you can see, traveling with only what you need can make a huge difference in any family vacation or solo trip. By packing just your essentials, you’re free to concentrate on more important things like family and fun.

What are your favorite packing tricks? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Traveling with small children? Check this out:

Simple Ways to Entertain Kids on a Plane

How To Pack Lighter for Family Vacation and free printable packing list

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