How to pack for a family of 4

Some people are crazy cat ladies, some people are crazy bag ladies and some people are just plain crazy! Well, I am the crazy list lady… I make a list for E V E R Y T H I N G !! Yes – everything. Professionally, I am a product manager and in the process of getting PMP certified, so I have to be organized at work as well. With my job, I have used a number of task oriented applications and tested pretty much every single one. Even though my professional favorite task manager is Asana, for my personal life I prefer Trello. It is free to use and you can share your lists with anyone. This helps me and the hubby stay connected with our busy schedules.

Throughout our journey together I will share with you the lists I use and how I organize our life, but for this How To, I wanted to focus on packing for a family of 4. So here goes…

As you may know, I have 2 kids under 3 years old and really no time. So, my solution to everything is O R G A N I Z A T I O N ! Life is so much easier when you are organized and can be efficient.


Seriously. Put everything you can think of on the list including quantities. This way, as you are running around the house frantically collecting things while the kids are sleeping, you don’t forget to bring shorts for your oldest son. Or forget the kids birth certificate when flying. Oops!

We all know, you can always run to Target at your destination, but as a family of 4 we are already spending more money on plane tickets and hotels than we want, so I would prefer to spend the $10 on a cocktail than shorts I already own for my son.

We have traveled to various locations at various ages with both of our kids, and I kept the lists we made for each including items I wish I brought or didn’t even use. This has helped me get better each time we travel.

You can see and use my packing lists here.


Before kids, my husband and I could go on a week vacation to the beach and get both of our clothes in ONE carry-on size roller bag together. I know this seems like a challenge in itself for some people, but let me reassure you that I didn’t miss any clothing options and all 4+ pairs of shoes I squeezed into that little bag were worn with pride!

Personally, I hate lugging bags across the street let alone across the country, so my goal is always to simplify what I am bringing and make sure I have multiple uses or it is a M U S T   N E E D item.

For our family, I do all the packing. I enjoy puzzles and I find packing our clothes into bags like a big puzzle that I must solve! It makes it fun for me and pretty rewarding when I can cut down our luggage and reduce a bag. My husband is grateful as well because he is the one who carries it all.

When I am deciding on what to take for me and the rest of the family I ask myself 2 questions.

  1. Is this something I use daily? If not, weekly?
  2. Is this something I can mix and match? Dress up or down? Where for multiple occasions?

If the answer is YES, then it goes with us. If the answer is no, I ask if it is something I could buy at my destination? Can I get through 24 hours without it? If the answer is no, then I put it in a separate pile to try and squeeze into the bags if there is room.

One thing I can tell you, forget the bottle warmer and leave it at home. There is this magical thing called hot water and it is pretty much available everywhere you go. If you are using formula, just keep a bottle of water at room temp and mix with formula when your baby is hungry. If you start this young enough, you will never need to heat up another bottle again. Life changing!


In my mind, there is nothing worse for my anxiety than to be running around the house like a maniac the morning of your trip trying to gather everything on the list. You give your husband 5 things to find and you have to explain to him where they are and it just becomes a stressful beginning to a long travel day with kids. So, whenever possible, pull aside items the week prior to your departure date and slowly work down the packing list.

You will always need to do laundry a day or so before you leave, but there are surely clothes, gear or toys that the kids aren’t using that you can put aside to pack. Trust me this really helps. Also, if you think of something that you want to take and it isn’t on your list – grab it right then and there or you will never think of it again!


You are going on vacation – even if it is to grandma and grandpa’s, so take a deep breath and relax. You will do great!


What tips do you have when packing for a trip?

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