I will admit that I am one of those rare travellers that absolutely enjoy packing! The entire packing process gets me excited for our next family travel adventure, but more importantly, it reduces my travel anxiety by following my tried and true formula. I have developed these family travel packing tips over the last decade, and it has saved me from major disasters (*gasp* expired passports) many times over.  

The key to my family packing protocol for a big trip requires starting two weeks before we depart on our trip. Now I guarantee there will be a few eye rolls after reading that, but I assure you it is that one requirement that has averted more travel disasters than any of the rest on my list combined. 

Karpiak Caravan's tested packing protocol. We love to travel with on carry-on luggage.
We love to travel with just carry-on’s.

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Family Travel Packing Tips:

Step One – Check Passports!

When I start packing for a big trip, the first item on my family travel packing tips list is to pull out our passports and Nexus cards two weeks before departure and double-check that they are all accounted for, and none of them is expired or is expiring.

I followed this rule in preparation for our WWII-inspired road trip to Normandy in 2019 and discovered that Heath’s passport was expiring one month after our departure. Luckily by checking this two weeks prior, I was able to get an expedited passport for Heath with time to spare. Crisis averted!

Step Two – Pull out Luggage

The same day I pull out our passports I also pull out our luggage that we plan to travel with and lay them out in our bedroom. I go through each piece checking for items left from our last trip and clean or fix anything that requires it.

I find by laying out our luggage gives me a good visual idea of how much space we have to pack and what carryons we will require later in the packing process.

Step Three – First Packing Attempt

family travel packing tips

Ten days before departure is probably my favourite part of my family packing process. I pull out all the items that I think I will want to wear on the trip and make a pile inside my luggage. I am responsible for packing for Holter and Heath, so I will do this for their clothes and shoes.

Usually, this first packing attempt will end up with far more things than I actually need, but that is ok because it is part of my tried and true family packing protocol.

Now you may be asking why I do this 10 days before leaving? I do this first trial packing run and then walk away and think about it over the next week. If I take items out to wear them in the meantime, I will write them down on a notepad to review later. I find that over the course of that week, I will find myself removing items and packing more efficiently.

When you are packing for kids, these family travel packing tips really come in handy.

Step Four – Get Required Foreign Currency

One week before departure is when I go to our bank and get out any required foreign currency. Sometimes our bank requires a few days for Euros or lesser-used currencies, and this way, I have a buffer of 7 days just in case.

Step Five – Pack Clothes in Luggage

packed suitcase

Three days before departure, I go through my pile of clothes and physically pack them into my luggage to see if everything fits. This is my second trial packing run.

I use the roll technique and packing cubes, giving me a good idea if I’m overpacking or have room to add in a few more favourite items. I find that during this packing process, I will also find myself removing more items.

Step Six – Pull out Carry-ons

Three days before departure, I will have a good idea of what carryons I want to take and pull those out. I start packing things like eye masks, vitamins, charging cords, battery packs, headphones, wet wipes, hand sanitiser, pack of cards, pens, chapstick etc. 

Step Seven – Final Pack

The day before departure, I will pull everything out of our luggage that I packed, review every item and do a final pack, weighing each piece of luggage when I’m finished. At this point, Andrew will usually ask me to go through the items he has planned, and I will pack his suitcase for him. 

I will also lay out the outfit that I plan to wear on the plane and accessories to bring in my carry-on and set them aside. I will do this for Holter and Heath as well.

I will pack any remaining items needed in our carryons, change out my wallet (I like to travel with a minimal version with only the necessary credit cards and applicable currency) and organize my purse.

Step Eight – Check Flight Status

Step Eight: The day we leave, I check our flight status to make sure it is on time and pack my toiletries. Double, triple check our passports are where they are supposed to be (I dropped my passport in Iceland once and have been neurotic about checking them ever since!) and head out on our vacation stress-free!

There you have it. Our family travel packing tips will help ease the sometimes painful process of packing and help make your trip an unforgettable one.

Check out our post on Casandra’s favourite carry-on bag from Nomad Lane. We have tried many different canvas carry-ons, but this one has been a favourite for many years.

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packing luggage

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3 thoughts on “Caravan Packing Protocol – Family Travel Packing Tips

  1. Jane says:

    I’m exactly like you. I start packing two weeks before our trip making sure everything is planned and well thought out.

  2. AB says:

    I tend to sit on the other end of the spectrum….I often pack with only a few hours to spare for a family of three. I’m
    quite good at it by now and just dislike packing despite my love for travel. My mantra ‘Passports and money is all we need in a pinch’.

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