Family Homeschool Travel

How to Create a Vacation Packing Checklist

I love to travel, but I don’t really love packing before the trip. Years ago, I realized that worrying about packing was keeping me from looking forward to my vacation (or mission trip or work trip). That’s when I created my own vacation packing checklist. And I have to admit it’s made a huge difference!

vacation packing checklist

I keep my list saved on my computer so I can easily print a copy when it’s time to pack. That means I don’t even have to think about packing anymore! All I need to do is print my list, pack according to what’s on it, and I’m good! (Yes, it is possible to buy most necessary items even while on vacation, but some things are harder to find. And besides, who wants to spend vacation time shopping for necessities?!)

I’m also a nerd, though, so I don’t have just one vacation packing list. I have several. Actually, my list has several pages and categories. But it’s not complicated. I’ll explain.

If, like my family, you go on different kinds of trips, you might want to personalize your vacation packing list(s).

For example, I have a list for each of these kinds of trips:

  • beach or other outdoor locations (because those trips require sunscreen, sunhats, swimsuits, water shoes, sunglasses, sand toys, beach towels, etc. that aren’t needed on other trips)
  • hiking trips and/or trips to the mountains (since those trips require hiking shoes, bug spray, backpacks for carrying snacks and water, etc.)
  • trips for my husband and me (in other words– trips the kids won’t attend) (so I can leave off things like tablets and chargers, snacks and drinks that the kids like but that my husband and I don’t, etc.)
  • trips the kids will attend (so I need to include tablets and chargers, snacks and drinks they like, games and/or entertainment, and anything else we generally take with us when the kids are with us but that we don’t need if they aren’t with us)
  • mission trips (We go on mission trips to the Amazon jungle areas of Peru, so there are no stores for buying contact lens solution or medicines, etc., if we forget something important.)
  • work trips (I know I need to take, for example, my computer and my planner when I go on a work trip.)

I know this may sound complicated, but it’s really not.

Here’s how I made a vacation packing checklist that works for all kinds of trips.

  • First, I created a list of items I’ll need for every single trip I go on. This list has several sections:
    • toiletries
    • clothing
    • miscellaneous
  • Then, I added other lists that are particular to a certain kind of trip and to the people who will attend. Such as:
    • work trip or conference
    • beach trip
    • hiking trip
    • mission trip
    • trip with kids
    • trip without kids

When I print my copy, I can either print all of the pages or choose just the ones that are relevant to the trip I’m packing for.

Here is an example of my toiletries packing list (the one I use no matter what kind of trip I’m going on). 

I put everything I normally need on the list (even things I feel like I would remember) so I know I don’t even have to think about the list or try to remember anything. It’s all on the list. No memory skills needed! Nothing to accidentally forget or overlook. I include thing like:

  • shampoo
  • dry shampoo
  • deodorant
  • razor
  • contact lenses
  • contact lens cases
  • saline solution
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • supplements
  • hairbrush
  • hairdryer (because the ones at most hotels don’t work very well)
  • makeup
  • lotion
  • soap (because I prefer to take my homemade goat milk soap rather than use the soap provided in the hotel)
  • self-sticking medical tape (because I’m allergic to the adhesive on bandaids)
  • activated charcoal tablets (in case of an upset tummy)
  • silver spray (to use if needed on scrapes, etc.)
  • zofran (in case of nausea)
  • ibuprofen
  • motion sickness medicine
  • chapstick

 

For my clothing list, the “general” clothing list includes things I know I’ll need no matter where I’m going. Then I have more specific clothing listed on the other vacation packing checklists for specific kinds of destinations. 

I wear flip flops most of the time, but I also take my tennis shoes (even if I don’t think I’ll need them) just in case plans change. So flip flops and tennis shoes (and socks) are always on my list.

I include workout clothes in case I want to sneak in a workout while I’m gone. And, (of course), I include underwear and nightclothes. On my vacation packing checklist, I list each item specifically, but I’ll be more general for my examples.

Sometimes I end up packing a set of workout clothes I don’t use. Sometimes I wear my flip flops the whole time and don’t need my tennis shoes. But it doesn’t matter.

By using my list to pack, I’ll be almost certain to have what I need when and if I need it. And there are only a few items that I may not use, so I’m not adding lots of potentially-unused items to my list.

Some of the kinds of clothing I pack for every single trip are:

  • flip flops (I have these on my list even though I usually wear them on my travel day. That way, if I decide to wear my tennis shoes instead, I’m sure to remember to pack my flip flops. It would be tragic if I forgot them!)
  • jacket (because I’m cold-natured and often wear a jacket in restaurants, stores, etc.)
  • tennis shoe
  • socks
  • pants/jeans
  • shirts
  • underwear
  • nightclothes
  • workout clothes

I have a list of foods for meals & snacks and drinks I like to take with me on car trips. If I’m flying, I leave off the foods for meals and the drinks and just pack the snacks.

  • cooler with ice packs or ice
  • refillable water bottle (I LOVE this 17-ounce Takeya water bottle! I like to have a smaller water bottle that I refill more often because it makes me feel like I’m making progress in drinking water for the day. If you like a larger water bottle, there are larger Takeya water bottles too.)
  • extra water for refills (I use a container like this to take extra water from home. Then I add water to my refillable water bottle as needed.)
  • bread (and gluten free bread for me)
  • mayo (small container with plastic knife)
  • lunch meat
  • sliced cheese
  • lettuce
  • potato chips (or Cheetos, etc.)
  • paper plates
  • napkins
  • wet wipes (to clean hands if we can’t wash them)
  • granola bars
  • fruit
  • extra baggies (to store opened bags of chips, etc.)
  • trash bags (or plastic grocery bags) for trash
  • cookies (gluten free for me)
  • cheese sticks
  • trail mix

Of course, I have a miscellaneous list that I use for my trips too! There are some items I know I’m going to need on nearly any trip I go on, so those things are included here. 

  • backpack (Even if I’m not sure I’ll use it, I always pack a backpack. There have been few trips when I haven’t used it for one reason or another!)
  • book to read (or Kindle with a book or two to read)
  • cell phone and charger
  • trash bags (or plastic grocery bags to use for trash)
  • extra zip-top bags to use for snacks, wet clothes, etc.
  • watch and charger
  • earrings/jewelry (I leave this off if I won’t need it.)
  • earbuds
  • pillow
  • blanket (for riding in the car since my husband likes it colder than I do)
  • knitting stuff and/or puzzle books, etc. (or something else to do while I ride (on trips where someone else will be driving)
  • money for vending machines and/or tips (depending on where I’m going)

I have a section for clothing and other necessities, and it is broken down into the kind of trip I’m taking. For example, for a beach trip, I include:

  • swimsuit
  • water shoes
  • sunscreen
  • sand toys
  • sun hat
  • insulated water bottle or cooler

I have a section for hiking trips and/or trips to the mountains. It includes things like:

  • hiking shoes
  • walking stick
  • backpack
  • packaged snacks
  • water bottles
  • bug spray
  • umbrella

There is a section for work trips when I’ll be staying in a hotel and will need things like:

  • computer
  • computer cord/charger
  • mouse/mouse pad
  • notebook
  • planner
  • pens/pencils
  • surge suppressor
  • money for tips
  • change for vending machines
  • business cards

I have an adult special needs daughter, so I have a section for things I need to pack when she will be traveling with me. Some examples are:

  • DVD player and movies
  • books
  • cups with straws
  • tablet and charger
  • headphones
  • her favorite snacks and drinks

And, if we’re going to be leaving the country, I have another list. Whether we’re going on a mission trip to the Amazon jungles of Peru or whether we’re going on a trip to another country, there are some things we’ll need to be sure we have with us. Those things are included on this list so I don’t have to worry about forgetting something important. 

  • passport for each person on the trip
  • color copy of each person’s passport (kept in a separate place or by another person)
  • medicines we won’t be able to buy during the trip
  • supplements we don’t be able to buy during the trip
  • other items (like extra batteries/chargers for cell phones) that we may not be able to buy on the trip
  • Pepto Bismol tablets/chewables
  • sore throat spray
  • antibiotic ointment
  • ibuprofen
  • acetaminophen
  • black walnut (for upset stomach)
  • activated charcoal (for upset stomach)
  • ace bandages
  • self-sticking medical tape (since I’m allergic to the adhesive used in bandaids)
  • Benadryl spray
  • silver ointment
  • silver liquid
  • motion sickness medicine

 

Create Your Own Vacation Packing Checklist

It took a bit of time and effort to create my overall vacation packing list and to create the other smaller lists related to particular trips and to those who will go on the trip, but it was SO worth it!

If you’d like to create your own vacation packing list, use the information I’ve included to get started. And, of course, use the template I’ve included here for you. Simply print the template, write (or type) in your items for each list, and you’re ready to go!

I highly suggest segmenting your list and saving it on your computer. Then you can adjust and add to it as needed.

Need to Edit Your List?

If you think of things you should have added to your list but forgot, just make a note in your phone or write it on the printed copy of your vacation packing list. When you get home, update the list in your computer so you don’t have to worry or think about it the next time you travel.

Do you have a vacation packing checklist? Or do you plan to make one? If you have tips or information about packing and would like to share them, please leave a comment! 

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About the author

Wendy

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 30 years ago, and they live in the South. Hannah, age 26, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 24, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 18, is the most recent homeschool graduate. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

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