How to Pack Light for a 2-Week Family Vacation

Traveling with my two kids is exciting, fun, and something we always do together. However, the packing is another story entirely. Ensuring you have everything you need without taking half the house with you is a challenge most parents face, especially since we tend to pack unnecessary items “just in case.” But, after my years traveling abroad, I have narrowed down packing light to fine art, even when it’s for a two-week-long vacay with two kids in tow. So, here’s everything you need to know about packing light for extended family holidays.

Pack Your “Handy” Bag

Whether you’re heading out on a road trip or jetting off on a plane, there are a few essentials you’ll need easy access to. While it’s tempting to stuff these items into coat pockets or slide them into the side compartments of your bigger suitcases, this makes finding and accessing the things you need challenging. Instead, pack all these essentials into a lightweight backpack that is simple to store and carry. So, what items should land up in this backpack? Let’s look:

  • passport
  • tickets
  • charger
  • cell phone
  • small wallet (for example a minimalist money clip wallet)
  • small medicine kit
  • water and snacks
  • diapers
  • extra pair of clothes; compact fleeces for kids

Build a Capsule Wardrobe for All the Family Members

When packing the wardrobes everyone will wear while on vacation, stick to the concept of less is more. We all tend to over-pack items we don’t end up wearing, and it’s no different when packing for kids.

So, how do you pack what you need without overdoing it? Putting together a capsule wardrobe is an excellent option. In this case, you pack a minimal number of solid-colored clothing items that easily mix and match to make various outfits.

By doing this, you can narrow down each wardrobe to between four and five tops, two to three bottoms (skirts/shorts/jeans/leggings), two layering pieces like a jumper or light-weight cardigan, two pairs of shoes, socks, and underwear, and if necessary a bathing suit. And that’s it.

Another tip that makes this even more straightforward is to book accommodation with a washing machine or a laundry service, so you can reuse items instead of packing an entire outfit for every day you’re on vacation.

Organize Everything in Packing Cubes

Once you have your capsule wardrobe organized for each child, pack all the clothes into sturdy, zippered canvas packing cubes. Label each cube with the relevant child’s name and mention what each cube contains, for instance, “tops” or “bottoms.” By doing this, you can fit everything neatly into the suitcase and quickly unpack to find the correct item for the right child.

Additionally, pack a spare cube and label it “Laundry.” All worn items can fit into this cube until you get some washing done.

Share Toiletry Items That Can be Shared

Toiletries take up a lot of space in a suitcase, especially if you pack individual items for each family member. Instead of doing this, instead pack one larger toiletry bag containing toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and sunscreen that everyone can use. Again, this makes these items quick and easy to find.

Then pack other items into smaller, personal toiletry bags labeled with each person’s name. For instance, your daughter may have a specific face lotion she uses, or your husband may need a solution for contact lenses. Packing these into personalized bags makes them simple to find and store. Further, try looking for travel-size versions or decant just enough to cover your trip into small travel-size bottles and tubs.

Leave Unnecessary Electronics at Home

Electronics not only take up a lot of space in your luggage but also add to the weight. One way to minimize the number of electrical items you pack is to contact your hotel or B&B/Airbnb before packing to see whether they provide items like hair dryers or flat irons.

Some places have these items in the rooms, while others have them as items behind the front desk that you can request, which may not be listed on the website, so checking is always best.

But, if your accommodation doesn’t offer these items, try to find a travel-size hair dryer and flat iron that pack neatly into your bag and aren’t too bulky.


The more you practice packing light, the easier it becomes. The first few times following these tips, I had nightmares that I had left behind something I would need. As it turns out, I never did. Packing light means there is much less to carry and fewer heavy items to drag about, making travel with little ones much more manageable.

So, keep it simple. Stick to travel-sized toiletries and share the ones everyone needs, create capsule wardrobes contained in neatly-labeled packing cubes, and find accommodation with a laundry and the electronics you need. Lastly, enjoy traveling light!

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