So you are going on a vacation! You have everything booked with your travel agent and your itinerary is all planned out. Now you just have to pack before you head off on your fabulous trip.
There are a lot of different kinds of packers out there. Some people can just throw some clothes and a toothbrush in a suitcase the night before they depart and are perfectly happy with what they have with them during their trip.
When I pack I am the complete opposite of this. I start months in advance with spreadsheets and lists and meticulous plans. The actual packing usually starts a week or more in advance, takes over my entire bedroom at times, and goes on for hours. Believe it or not I enjoy this process.
Now you don’t have to be like me (though if you are, WELCOME!) but if you’d like to be somewhere in the middle of these two styles, feel confident you have packed everything you will need, and take some of the stress out of packing, or just wondering what you really need to bring on vacation then this blog is for you.
I have already covered outfit planning and packing clothing in another blog linked here.
Outfit Planning Guide – What Clothes To Pack On Vacation!
So in this blog I am going to cover packing everything else beside clothing. All the things you will want to consider bringing with you on vacation!
A quick note upfront. Packing can be stressful. Remember that in most locations and on most trips if you forget something and it is absolutely critical that you have it you will have the ability to get to a store and buy it or have it delivered to your hotel. So don’t let packing turn into a panic. Plus that’s why I have created these lists to help you make sure you cover all your packing bases.
When making my toiletries packing list I like to go through my morning and evening bathroom routines in my head to make sure I am packing every item that I use on a regular basis.
I have tried to cover all the categories and types of items with this list. A few I’d like to expand on.
Basically all hotels will provide shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap, many also have hair dryers so you’d have the option to use what is provided instead.
First Aid items can be key to your comfort on vacation, if you are sick or uncomfortable you are not going to have a happy vacation. Packing these first aid items can really save your trip.
Liquid Hand Soap might seem like an odd item to add but most hotels only have a bar of soap which in my experience tends to make a mess on the counter. If you are used to liquid hand soap at home and have the space it’s worth bringing some with you for a longer vacation.
Glasses wearers don’t just bring your glasses but bring a spar too, and bring a copy or have digital access to your prescription, and don’t forget a lease cloth and repair kit.
When flying keep in mind the TSA’s 3x1x1 rule for carry on liquids, gels and sprays. To carry them on the plane these items have to be 3oz or less in size and each (1) person gets to bring a 1 quart sized clear bag of liquids with them. A 1 quart bag is larger than your normal ziplock sandwich bag so make sure you are checking the size correct. I use a reusable 1 quart clear plastic bag from Amazon that is TSA compliant. This bag is far more durable than a ziplock and I can easily wipe it down inside or out. Have your bag ready to go before your arrive at the airport so you can just pull it from your bag when you go through security. Liquid prescriptions (as well as formula and breast milk) are exempt from this rule but will be screened, make sure you tell the TSA official early in the security process that you have a medical liquid with you.
When checking a bag there are no size limitations on liquids, gels, and sprays. So if you are ok with checking a bag putting your toiletries in there can be much simpler. When packing liquids in a suitcase make sure items are either in a ziplock bag or something that will prevent a leak from getting all over your packed clothing.
I typically check a bag and place my toiletries in there but I will bring a few things on the plane with me like lotion, chapstick, and hand sanitizer. So I will prep those in my clear 1 quart bag.
A tip to make packing easier is to just leave your toiletry bag always packed as much as you can. I do this by using refillable travel bottles and buying duplicates of items like deodorant to leave in the travel bag. Then when I have a new trip I can fill up any empty bottles and throw in the things I don’t keep duplicates of and I am ready to go.
For a toiletry bag or kit make sure it is something leak proof, and that has a secure closure. I am also a fan of a pack flat bag that unfolds and that you can hang in the bathroom once you arrive. This lets you same room in your suitcase and give convenient access to your items during your stay.
When traveling with prescription medications make sure you always have them in a bag that you will be keeping with you. Don’t place them in checked luggage. If you are going on a cruise or to a resort where they transfer your luggage for you keep your prescriptions in your day bag with you. Things can happen and bags can get misplaced you don’t want your pills being misplaced with them and be put in a situation where you are unable to take your medication as needed.
Traveling you will encounter bathrooms and portapoties that are out of toilet paper, for any road trip or visit to a National Park pack some travel sized toilet paper you will be very happy if you need it.
Did you pack all the cords? That seems to be the hardest part when packing electronics, making sure you have all the right cords, adaptors, and batteries. Here are my three tips for packing electronics
1) Write it all down. Add all the cords you will need to your list so you can check them off as you pack
1) Get a cord case or create one with a ziplock and twist ties and keep all your cords together and organized.
2) Charge & Download Everything! Make sure you are starting with a full charge and that you have downloaded all the media content you want to consume during travel before you go.
A few more notes are specific items:
If you are bringing higher end electronics that you plan to leave in your room. Make sure your accommodations have a safe you can use to store them. In a pinch I would suggest leaving them in a locked suitcase.
Most of us prefer Bluetooth headphones these days but if you are flying make sure you bring a standard plug in pair as well so you can access the TV sound on the plane. You also might want to consider some larger noise canceling headphone for flights. If you plan to workout on vacation make sure you bring your athletic headphones as well if you use different ones.
For photography make sure you have plenty of space and back up memory cards.
International travelers you’ll want to check into what sort of power converter you will need for your destination and pack one with you.
I like to bring a small power strip with me on every trip. There are always things to charge and sometimes hotels run low on plugs so they are all over the room. With a power strip you can set up a charging area. You will also want to make sure you phone will still work in the country you are going to, you may need to adjust your phone plan or get a SIM card.
A small but real luxury when traveling can be to bring a streaming device with you to hook up to the TV. While some hotels offer the ability to log into your streaming account from the TV already it’s no ubiquitous yet. The option to have access to all your streaming services on vacation is really nice.
An absolute must for theme park travelers is a portable charger or a power bank that will allow you to charge your phone on the go. I suggest this for any vacationer but specifically theme park visitors as you will be using your phone all day to access the necessary theme park apps during your visit. Between this and photos your battery can easily run down.
Packing food can vary wildly between the kind of trip you are taking, how you are getting there, and how you like to travel. If you are driving to a beach vacation and staying somewhere with a kitchen you are going to pack food much differently than if you are flying to spend a weekend in a standard hotel room in Chicago. So depending on your travel style and vacation you may not need most of these items.
Packing food is also a fantastic way to save money on vacation. An alternative to packing is to have a grocery order delivered to your hotel or stopping at a grocery store at your destination. If you plan to do either of these make sure you have a grocery list and a store or service located in advance.
No matter where I am traveling I alway pack snacks. When flying I will pack a specific plastic baggie of my flight snacks. Keep in mind any food you bring on the plane will have to be pulled out of your larger bag when going through security. You also can’t have any liquid food over 3 oz. I also make sure to always have an empty water bottle when flying that I can fill up after security, depending on the length of the flight I may bring 2.
If you are flying internationally be aware that all food that you travel with has to be pre-packaged and fully sealed. Check the rules for you specific destination as well as some may have additional restrictions.
I will also pack snacks to have throughout the trip. Not only can snacks add up but sometimes while traveling you could be far from food options, or stopping for food is going to mess up your schedule, or maybe you are in a long theme park line. A granola bar in your bag can be the difference between a delightful day and a hangry melt down for travelers of all ages. I also love to have some snack options when I get back to the hotel room. I like to pack some food that I eat at home all the time and a few special treats.
If you plan to provide a lot of your own meals while on vacation and pack the food you’ll want to make a meal plan. Write it down and know what you will need. Then make sure you know what kind of dishes will be available where you are staying and pack what you need. Don’t forget the lunch boxes and food containers so you can items with you on the go. Disney travelers, Disney only provides paper straws on property so if you are not a fan make sure to pack a reusable straw. Also gum chewers Disney does not sell gum so make sure to pack plenty.
Packing your own breakfasts is a great way to save time on a vacation morning and to save a good chunk of money. I have eaten many an instant oatmeal made from coffee maker hot water. Instant oatmeal, some nuts, and dried fruit is my go to.
A refillable water bottle is a must for all travelers, one for everyone in the party. For car trips or long flights you may even want to bring extra to fill up. If you are going to be doing a lot of outdoor activity, or just be outside in the heat consider hydration tablets to help your keep up your energy all day. I strongly suggest this for any theme park trips.
I always bring Airborne or a similar immune booster product with me when I travel. Not only are you exposed to a lot of germs on a plane but often traveling means being in large crowds. Plus on a big site-seeing or theme park trip you’ll be walking a lot and tired which is an easy recipe to get sick. I’ll take airborne though out my trip plus a few days leading up to it.
Make sure you have digital and hard copies of any important papers or information. This includes you itinerary with all of your confirmation numbers. Have digital copies of photos or any tickets or passes you have incase they get lost. I like to have a physical map if I am spending a few days in a larger city and I plan to walk around it a lot. I find it easier to visualize where I am going then on my phone and it will also save some battery life. But I make sure to review the map ahead of time as well. When doing a big road trip in a remote area, like a lot of National Parks I will bring a physical map as well in case of emergency. If you like to send postcards don’t forget addresses and stamps for the recipients.
I suggest traveling with a paired down wallet from your everyday wallet but make sure you have the items you need. Your ID, cash, ATM card, and 2 credit cards are the obvious choices but don’t forget things like your AAA card, not only for a car emergencies but many hotels, museums, ect. have AAA discounts. Things like military, teacher, and student IDs are worth packing in case of a discount as well. Then if you will be shopping for food or essentials at your destination don’t forget things like your Costco membership card or a Target Red Card.
If traveling internationally it is also a good idea to have a zerox copy of your passport and a digital photo of it. Incase of loss or theft. Go ahead and write the embassy phone number down and put it in your phone as well just incase.
I suggest brining an assortment of bags with you when you travel. I suggest a small and larger day bag a purse, hip-pack, or backpack for each traveler so that you can adjust as needed. I also suggest packing an extra duffel bag or similar into your suitcase so if you come home with more souvenirs or everything doesn’t seem to fit back into your suitcase you have room to grow.
If you are going somewhere that pick pocketing is a concern pick up an anti-theft wallet this normally hangs around your neck or on your waist under your shirt. There are also many options for day bags with straps that are slash proof.
If flying you will want TSA approved locks on all of your luggage and a portable bag scale to make sure you are under the weight limits.
You never know when you will need a ziplock or a trash bag and they just might come in handy so I never pack without them. Having a laundry bag is perfect for packing at the end of your trip. If you think you might have damp clothes when departing a wet bag is great as well.
Make sure to have some entertainment that can’t run out of battery life. I also suggest always having something for everyone to do with their hands while they watch or listen to entertainment as well. Coloring or activity books, crossword puzzles, or similar. A deck of cards or travel games can be a lot of fun too especially for road trips or if you find yourself with a long layover or delayed flight.
A pop up hamper is a great way to keep your hotel room organized and if you want to take it to the next level think about packing a cheep hanging organizer or over the door shoe organizer. Many families staying in smaller rooms swear by them.
I have always wiped down my airplane seat when I board a plane so anti bacterial wipes are a must for me. You never know when else they might come in handy too.
If you plan to do laundry while traveling make sure you have all the items you will need. Plus for all travel I suggest some stain wipes or a Tide to go pen incase of a spill.
Packing For Kids
Turns out kids need a lot of items! While every kid’s and family’s needs are different here is a lengthy list of items you will want to consider. Many of these you may have access to at you destination, for example Disney hotel rooms provide pack and plays upon request. Or some of them may not apply to the kind of vacation you are taking. But many of these items will apply across the board for any family and any vacation.
Be sure you are aware of the identification you may need for your children when traveling based on your transportation and where you’re traveling to. You may need copies of or their actual birth certificates or other documents. You may also want to consider an ID bracelet or ID temporary tattoo to help identify your child in the event they get separated from your group and are too young to memorize phone numbers etc. This is especially useful if you are traveling internationally where there may be a language barrier between the child and authorities or when visiting places like theme parks, or major cities with huge crowds.
I strongly suggest that your stroller and baby carrier game be prepped in advance. Many vacations include a lot of walking so consider that children who are too old for a stroller at home may need to use one on vacation. Then optimize your stroller! With organizers for the handles, clips or hooks, and don’t forget a blanket and a fan so the kids have a bit of climate control. Stroller hand holders, rings that attach to the stroller that walking kiddos can hold onto is a great option for keeping the party all together if someone doesn’t want to be in the stroller at the moment. If you are going to have one big stroller you may even want to consider also brining a small umbrella stroller as an option for a quick trip to dinner or shorting outing.
If you are traveling to Orlando there are many companies that rent strollers and other baby equipment if traveling with it is not an easy option or if you want to upgrade strollers for vacation.
Of course if you are going to have a pool or be at the beach you will want all the water items! Be sure to pack multiple as needed and remember things don’t air dry the quickly in humid locations.
Many of the items we have discussed and listed above and needed for theme park travel but there are a few items that are very specific to theme parks you will want to pack if you are headed on a theme park vacation. I have restated a few key items on this sheet as well such as ponchos and a fan as they are absolutely key for a theme park visit.
If you collect or want to collect smashed pennies during your trip you will need pennies, quarters, and some $1 dollar bills though some of the newer machines provide the pennies for you and may even take a credit card.
It you want character autographs and want to pay less for the book pack and autograph book and a sharpie or fat pen so the characters can hold onto it more easily.
Glow sticks are a lot of fun at night while waiting for fireworks and ones from home will cost you much less than the ones at the parks. You can even take it up a notch and pack some light up toys. If you have tiny ones who might be startled by fireworks back some noise canceling headphones to put on them when the show starts.
If you have kids with you have a plan for in line activities, an app on your phone, or a handheld device or a small activity book or family game. Something to distract that can go easily into your park bag. The Play Disney Parks App has some fun options too.
If you don’t want to sit on the ground but want a good spot for the parade or other long wait shows pack a small fold-up waterproof blanket to sit on while you wait.
Disney World only offers paper straws which can wilt very quickly so if you drink a lot of beverage with a straw pack some reusable ones.
Then of course don’t forget your park specific items like those Mickey ears and Harry Potter wands if you have them at home.
For Universal you will want a fanny pack with a 3 prong clasp. These are the only bags you are allowed to take with you on to many of the rides. These can help you avoid using the lockers or allow you to keep a few items with you in line. You’ll also want a lanyard with a card holder for you park ticket. This is not needed at Disney World due to Magic Band and the Magic Mobile App.
A few items that will help you in your hotel room are clothes pins to hang up wet clothes on the provided clothes line in the shower. If you are a light sleeper you will want to consider ear plugs as the hallways can get loud as people return from the parks late or if you are trying to nap during the day. Most Disney value and moderate resorts are open air entrances and the long exterior hallways are full of rooms and their windows. It can be easy to miss your room as you walk by. A way to make it easier to find your room and to add some flare to your time there are window clings or other window decor the you can easily set up and remove. If you are celebrating a birthday or holiday it can also be fun to bring a few decorations with you. Jus make sure you won’t be putting any holes in the walls or doing anything to damage the room by setting up your decor. You can order an in room celebration kit from Disney Floral and Gifts but they are very expensive.
A super fun extra to pack for a Disney vacation are “Tinkerbell Gifts” or whatever you want to name them. These are small gifts to leave in the room for children each morning or in the afternoon when they return from the parks. Tinkerbell has left the gifts for the kids. This is great in two ways. One it can just be a really magical and fun extra for your kids. Two this is a way to provide new toys to your kids inexpensively during the trip to hopefully keep them from wanting lots of souvenirs at the parks where you would spend much more money on them. A great place to pick up Tinkerbell gifts is the dollar store, Five Below, Target, Walmart or even a local Disney Store outlet for clearance items.
You can use a similar tactic while traveling and give them out while driving or flying. This doesn’t have to be for a Disney vacation either. You could do this for any trip and name it whatever you want.
I feel like we really covered a ton of ground here and I hope all of you feel completely prepared to start adjusting this parking list to your particular trip or make your own.
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