Skip to main content

Tips to Pack for Summer Family Vacation

Planning a summer family vacation? Here's a list of packing tips for traveling with babies and young children.
kids with fully packed suitcases ready for family vacation
By: Courtney Key

The countdown is on until summer break arrives. Warm nights, ice cream trucks, and beach days will soon be here, and that makes me pretty darn excited. Every year we take a family vacation to Cape Cod, a trip I daydream about during cold New England winters.

My son's first trip was when he was only three weeks old. As first-time parents we couldn't believe how many things this little baby needed! This summer will be our third trip with our son and each year I manage to pack smarter. Here are some high-level tips I've picked up over the years that you can use for your family vacation packing.


  • Make a working list (I like using Google docs) that you can edit and update each year
  • Shop sales for items you'll need. Some examples: sunscreen, swim gear, beach toys, favorite snacks, etc.
  • Plan 1-2 special activities ahead of time


Tips to Pack for Summer Family Vacation swimsuit

To this day I still over-pack when it comes to clothing – more so for myself than my son. We pretty much live in bathing suits, sweats and pajamas the entire week. My rule of thumb here is to pack 2 changes of clothes per day for kiddos.

This is what I pack for my son:

  • 10 t-shirts/ tank tops
  • 5 pairs of shorts
  • 6-8 bathing suits and swim shirts, sunhats (my favorite hat is pictured below from Hanna Anderson)
  • 1 "nice" outfit (think linen pants, sundresses, etc.)
  • 5 pairs of PJs
  • 2 sweatshirts and 2 pairs of lounge pants (especially with AC)

TIP: Where we stay there are washing machines for guests, which is a total lifesaver. If you don't have this luxury, bring some detergent and hand wash clothes in the tub. Then air dry clothes overnight if you can. I realize that may sound crazy, but it will get you through the week.

Bedtime/Nap Routine

Tips to Pack for Summer Family Vacation nap time

The beauty of an outdoor vacation is that your kiddos will be beat! It's still important to try and recreate their sleep routine to ensure long sleeps and naps.

Must haves include:

  • Favorite blanket and pillow, sleep sack
  • Lovie, special stuffed animal/toy, bedtime books
  • Nightlight, baby monitor (especially for naps), noise machine
  • Depending on your child's age you may need a pack 'n play or bed rail

TIP: Whatever your child sleeps with at home, pack. Yes, this may be an extra bag to bring, but a full night's rest is well worth the effort. If your child is still in a crib like mine, you can call your vacation spot to see if they can bring a crib to the room. We even pack my son's mattress because we know how much he likes it.


If you have a place to cook or grill, a grocery trip can be a huge cost saver. Dining out isn't a realistic option for us because my son has a dairy intolerance, and it can get costly. Plus, a toddler and a restaurant don't exactly turn into a relaxing experience. We like to grill up some BBQ and I even bring a crock pot so cooking is quick and easy.

TIP: Find the local grocery store flyer and make a shopping list for the week. If you don't have a place to cook, dedicate one suitcase to pack foods your family likes. You can even bring a cooler for perishable items. My favorite items include: peanut butter and fluff sammys, fresh fruit, and s'mores to make on the beach.


pack for summer family vacation toys

You never know what the weather will be like, so pack favorite toys for indoor play. I let my son pick of 3-5 toys to pack and it was a great resource when we needed a break from the sun. Wooden train tracks, puzzles, racecars, and legos were a hit last year. This article also has wonderful toys that travel well.

TIP: Take out new library books and DVDs to enjoy.

Depending on where you vacation, there are unique offerings based on your family's interests. It's a great idea to ask the reception area about local parks, museums, zoos, etc.

I hope that you enjoy your summer vacation. I know that I can't wait for ours! Do you have travel tips that I missed -- I'm always looking for new ways to save space, time and money. Share below!

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.