11 practical packing tips for a short family holiday

 In Journey preparation

Raise your hand if you like me LOVE packing for holidays whether it is a short getaway or a lifetime dream trip. If you do, this guide for a short family holiday packing is just for you. It will get you loading your bags like a pro in no time ( well, mums are pros, aren’t we!)

Packing by far is the most exciting part of the holiday planning – for me that is. I mean, who doesn’t get excited about bringing new bikinis to a new location, right? But despite all the positive emotional aspects attached to a holiday packing, it might get frustrating to figure out how to load the maximum amount of stuff into a minimum amount of a baggage space. I mean, why would you want to carry check-in bags if the trip is only a short break, right?

The truth is, there is no need for suffering. From the experience, it has taken us a few trips to work out the maths. 3 backpacks x 3 people = minimum necessities for each one, therefore, the weight is kept low. I am quite happy to share my short holiday packing tips and tricks.

Since boys are easier to pack for, I am going to make an accent on girls packing here. Would you agree that it’s complicated enough for us, ladies, to bring the ESSENTIALS for any trips, leave alone a quick getaway?? Yes, that’s darn right. Because in a girl’s life EVERYTHING is essential! Then we also twist our brains to flatpack the boys’ things which are mainly gadgets (bulky and heavy).

Choosing the right travel bag for a short trip

To start with, what bag is a good bag? Smaller the better, of course, with few compartments for different purposes, lightweight and have adjustable straps.  My preference is always a toughly built backpack. With wheels is a bonus but not important. My boys prefer backpacks with a pullout handle and wheels.

First, what a woman DOES NOT NEED TO BRING that isn’t of a significant importance and does not become life-threatening if left behind? My first candidate to stay home is a hairdryer. That’s right. The majority of hotels and rental apartments supply them. Even if they don’t, what’s the worst thing that can happen without it? Nothing! I ditched mine three years ago and didn’t use one since. BUT, if you really suffer without it invest in a travel size.

Making a list of what goes into the bag mentioned above

I have a habit of jotting down a packing list a few weeks prior to travel and keep checking/ticking it off as I go. On the top of my list if always documents: passports, hotel bookings, cash, cards, medicine, support documents. I scan and screenshot everything in case there will be no Internet to access the digital copies.

Secondly, I organize how I will be taking prescriptions. In most of the places we have been, no one ever checked my pills but I have not been to ALL places, therefore, cannot guarantee.

11 essential things a family should bring on a short family holiday ( a packing guide from a busy and very practical mum’s perspective ):


  1. Two pairs of pants. Pants are not only for boys! I always travel in the most comfortable set of leggings. Depending on a location, a three-quarter length if for a hot destination or a full length for a cooler climate. The second pair is casual, good for walking all day: a dressy short shorts or fitness shorts. My requirement for the longer leggings is they must be stretchy enough to handle a lot of sitting, as I get sore knees if they aren’t ( feeling like a weirdo now, I hope I am not the only with this problem!). I don’t fuss over a color, but dark for transportations is preferable and a lighter color for a daily wear.
  1. One dress. For nightly going outs, of course. The material must be lightweight and non-creasy, I don’t iron on holidays. Well, I don’t iron ever.
  2. Two tops and a long sleeve cardigan: a t-shirt for travel and a dressy shirt/singlet for a casual wear, something sexy or pretty to dress up the short shorts a for a casual wear. I always bring a warmer long sleeve top, especially on a plane. We take a lot of overnight flights, it has become the ritual for the sake of saving a daylight to more important things.
  1. Makeup:
  • a lip gloss as a day wear
  • a lipstick for an evening outing
  • an eyeliner, a mascara
  • a brow tweezers
  • nail file ( rounded)
  • nail clippers ( never a scissors as they are not allowed in a carry-on, I have lost a couple)

Sorry, girls, that’s all I use.

  1. Skin care. In a plastic sandwich bag to carry travel size containers filled with creams. It must be transparent for a faster customs checking line. Trust me, you don’t want them to get you to pull stuff out of your bag just to see if a cream tube is under a legal size. Blah!

My essentials for a skin care on the go:

  • a tube with a day cream ( I usually skip bringing a night cream for the sake of a space-saving and use the day version )
  • a tube with a body lotion ( I do use it as a makeup removal as well on trips, it’s easier )
  • a natural facial tissues ( a face washer and toner in one )
  • a travel size roll-on deodorant ( NOT A SPRAY )
  • a tube with a hair gel ( if I can’t straighten my hair, at least I can smooth it out for good photos LOL ). I do own a travel hair straightened but have hardly used it in years.

Don’t forget your toothbrush and a floss! I am very particular what goes in our mouths, so try to pack a small or a half used tube of a natural toothpaste as well.

  1. Medicals. In a sandwich bag with supplements including any prescriptions. Depends where a destination is, it’s advised to make a digital copy of the prescription document from a GP to pass customs flawlessly.
  2. Gadgets: A camera, phone, Ipad, chargers, USBs, a universal power adapter, a memory card ( for loads of photos ), a solar-powered USB charger is an absolute lifesaver on the go
  3. Hair care. Travel size hairbrush, a hair clip, and a hair tie
  4. Documents—because mums look after everything:
  • Travel Cash card. We use Qantas lately: competitive fees, no inactive fee charge plus earn points. I switched from a Travel Passport card after was charged for 12 months of inactivity. No, thank you. The card can be used at any overseas ATM that takes a Visa for a small withdrawal fee, at shops to pay for goods and services
  • Travel documents: accommodation reservations, flights itinerary, passport and/or birth certificates, tours and guides bookings. I scan them and email myself copies to keep everything handy
  • Cash. Talking about the currency of the country/ies we are going to. I have a habit of bringing a small amount of each currency to pay for the transport to our place of stay, snack, water, a local phone SIM card. Somewhere about the second day, I go to ATMs to get more cash. Never exchange money at airports, they charge much more than any other place. If you get stuck for cash, head to a local bank or ask at a local post office
  • Credit cards. At hotels, train stations and other places where I get something booked, they always ask for the original card the purchase or booking was made. Also, the majority of hotels will ask for a room staying bond with a credit card or cash. Most of the people I know won’t hand over cash for that, so a credit card is a preferred option
  • Driving licenses. Not only driving reservations but as extra secure IDs as well. Again, I make copies of those to store digitally. There is no need to have a child’s birth certificate if a child possesses a passport. If unsure, scan to your phone
  1. 2 x pairs of shoes. I wear my favorite Asics sports shoes to travel to and between destinations, excursion, and other active touristy things. Another pair is typically a pretty pair of sandals. Something soft and comfortable to walk around shops or a beach and pretty enough to wear out to dinner.
  2. All other stuff: 3 x undies, 1 x nightwear ( I hate spending money on things like pajamas so just use hubby’s long singlets ), 2 x bras ( one casual and one sports ), socks ( if needed or for the plane ride ), jewellery ( something I don’t typically wear but it’s a holiday, after all, might as well get pretty ). Let’s throw in a pair of nice earrings, a bracelet or a fine necklace ).

Pardon me, you ask, sorry to interrupt but what about shampoo or a shower gel?

Well, can you afford to buy one on a spot? Most certainly, I prefer to use hotels’ shower supplies ( they are included in the price, therefore I paid for them, right?) If I run out of their stuff or simply don’t like it, there is always a local shop or a market nearby. Every place I have ever been to sells local organic or natural skin and hair care, it is not a problem.

This concludes the girls packing part.


In regards to the boys packing— it is SO much easier. Honestly, all they need is t-shirts, pants, and socks. Again, things like toiletries could be purchased at a destination. I don’t sweat it. We normally pack a favorite deodorant stick, hair brushes and toothbrushes for my boys. Undies, socks, t-shirts, pants and always a long sleeve top.

Finally, most of the time I bring a small book to read, mainly on a plane ( in a hissing tone: I can hear you laughing! ). That doesn’t always go to a plan as I fall asleep or resolve to watching a movie and fall asleep again. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is have plenty of sleep while you can. For me, it naturally happens in the air.

To conclude, this is MY—a busy mum standard packing list. It doesn’t change much between destinations, there is no need. We go on a few planes and trains, so keeping it light is a priority for us, also Electronics make the most of the weight, so packing smart is not negotiable.



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