How to Pack for Family Vacations – Tips from a Quad Mama


Traveling with kids is no easy task, but the memories are sooooo worth the days of packing and planning. Many of you have hounded requested me to share some tips we’ve learned as we’ve traveled with quadruplets. I by no means feel like an expert, but I’m happy to share some of our experiences that could be helpful to you as you prepare for your own family vacations.

Make a List and Check it Twice

I created a Packing Checklist on Google Docs for our first family trip to Nashville, TN and I’ve kept adding/deleting/revising it ever since.  There’s some great ones online too. Travel Mamas has a comprehensive list of “What To Pack for Babies and Toddlers. I used the All Ears “What to Pack for Your WDW Trip” packing list for our recent family vacation to Walt Disney World.

Research Your Destination

Prepare for pit stops along the way by using Mapquest or Google Maps. Get familiar with your lodging destination via their website and the amenities provided before you start packing – this saves room in your luggage when you do not have to pack items like towels, hairdryer, crib, etc. I like to check out sites like Trip Advisor to help plan out the activities in advance, so I can pack only  what is necessary. And be sure you plan for unpredictable weather with appropriate clothing!

Start Stockpiling

Head to your local Dollar Tree for road/flight distractions.  The boys LOVED the travel doodles that I found in the dollar section of Target. Your local library can be a free source of travel entertainment with new books and DVDs for the road.  Check for sales on diapers, wipes, and other supplies to stockpile for less.

Packing SuppliesDSC_5257c

I really find packing to be easier by using large Ziplock storage bags and packing for each day of the week.  (Thanks to Suz for teaching me this trick long ago!) For instance, for Tuesday I would pack 4 shirts, 4 shorts, and 4 pairs of socks in one zip lock, press out all of the air and label it “Tuesday”.  This makes it sooooo much easier to stay organized and make sure you aren’t missing any important items. (Plus it helps Dad to know what goes with what and helps the getting ready for the day a much smoother process!)

I also prefer packing things in clear plastic tubs vs. suitcases. Things are easier to find and you can stuff more in each container.

Feed the Children

Make sure you pack plenty of snacks for the trip and even for your hotel stay.  It saves a TON of money to have breakfast supplies and snacks on hand, and keeps you from making extra stops. There were multiple times when our boys started hitting a wall and I would get out a snack and it was like a restart for the entire van. Having breakfast supplies and in-between meal snacks helps stretch your budget and your time. Things I liked to have on hand: Bottled Water, Granola Bars, 100% Juice Boxes, Peanut Butter, Bread, Cereal, Crackers, Fresh Fruit, and Yogurt. Serious Eats has some great travel snack ideas as well.

Alright it’s YOUR TURN!  What are some of your best travel tips and packing ideas?  Or what other questions can I possibly assist you with? I recently posted some tips for travel safety that you might want to check out before you hit the road!

Safe Travels and Happy Memory Making!


17 thoughts on "How to Pack for Family Vacations – Tips from a Quad Mama"

  1. I'm liking the ziploc bag idea. I haven't tried it but definitely need a better way to get organized when packing.

  2. Dana says:

    This is great and the timing couldn't have been more perfect, we leave for Florida next week!! I really love the idea of packing the day's clothes in a Ziploc bag- brilliant!!

  3. Drea says:

    What a neat idea with the clear totes and ziplocks!!! We def. will do that next trip 🙂 we're on vacation now hehe…
    I pack two suit cases (duffle bags) for my boys ( ages 5 and 3 ), helps me to have their stuff apart, since they wear different sizes. And with the baby I put his clothing in my suitcase, since him and I share a room 🙂

    But the bag idea is way better!!

    One thing we do if we are making multiple stops along the way in a trip, is to make an over night bag, that way we dont have to bring in all the suitcases for one night.


    Also THE TAG PEN and Leapster are our best travel toys. WE LOVE THEM.. especially the TAG pen.

    1. QuatroMama says:

      These are super ideas, Drea! I wish I would have used the over night bag(s) on our last trip…would have saved digging through packed bins and bags in the dark parking lot at midnight! =)
      Thanks, Sweet Friend <3

  4. The Kishtons says:

    I am very interested in the ziploc bag idea. Are they regular size bags or are they giant-size? Love the tips!

  5. This is great information…thanks so much for sharing!

    We just did a "Tips for Summer Travel" meeting in our MoMs group last month. I posted a link to your blog on our Facebook page.

    And really, if you can manage a trip with four kiddos, I should seriously be able to handle my two for a short vacation trip. 🙂 Travelocity, here I come!

  6. jan says:

    We made several road trips when our triplets were younger – New England to Texas and back at 18 mos, then again at 3 1/2 – then New England to Fl and back at age 5 1/2. For the days that were “car” days, I bought a couple of packages of white tee shirts – very simple shorts or sweats (gets cold in the car sometimes) and everybody wore a white tee – no need to match up outfits. Not a big deal if it got messy. It may not have made for stunning photo ops, but it was practical and easy – then we had plenty of white undershirts for the next winter.

    Also, a potty in the van, with plastic bags and a can of Lysol. When we stopped for gas or whatever, no need to drag everyone into yucky restrooms – line the potty so you can throw away the bags and spray each time. My kids were and are good travelers and we never had many major meltdowns.

    One other tip – smaller overnight bags with just pj’s, underwear/shorts and white tees – no need to bring everything in to the hotel at night.

  7. debi9kids says:

    I have done the clear plastic totes for years! It’s SO much easier when you have a big family. (LOVE the ziplock bag idea!)
    We just got home from a 22 day trip with our brood and it was so much easier because I was super organized.

  8. Krystyn says:

    Okay…can you send me your list? Seriously, every time we pack, I hand write a list (like a dummy). We are driving to Texas next month, and I know I’m going to forget stuff!

    PS Loving the new site:)

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Check out the Travel Mamas Blog I linked. They have awesome comprehensive lists all ready to print! Have a great upcoming trip!

  9. QuatroMama – Thanks so much for the shout-out about the Travel Mamas packing lists!!! The packing lists are by far THE most popular feature on the site!

    Krystyn – I hope you’ll check out the lists on Travel Mamas & let me know how they work out on your trip. (I’ve got lots of road trip tips too!) Enjoy your trip to Texas!

  10. Teri Duggan says:

    When we travel for 15 hours or less, we travel at night when the girls are asleep. Hubby and I trade off often and we nap in between. That way you have less traffic which means a less stressful drive. They get their comfort item and are in pjs. That way the kids are refreshed when we get to destination. If they are awake for gas stops we let them out to run, run and run off more energy. I am curious to other peoples answers as we have two cross country moves within a 6 month period.

  11. D Murphy says:

    Very informative and some great ideas! I will definately have to bookmark this page for my next trip;)

  12. margaret says:

    So instead of placing the clothes directly into the suitcase you grab a ziplock bag and waste plastic…solely so you can see your clothes through a bag instead of directly in front of you? Briliiant!

  13. Cheri says:

    Margaret no need to be mean. When unpacking my clear tote, I leave the ziploc bags in the tote for the next time! When they don’t hold air RECYCLE!

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