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How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Be Organized When Packing

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the Ziploc bag method of packing for a vacation and it’s revolutionized our organization on trips. It’s so simple that a picture is probably all you need to get how it works, but for those who like specific step-by-step details, here’s how it works for us:

1. Do all the laundry.

Since we only have 6-10 outfits total for each member of our family, if we’re going on a trip longer than a few days, we have to do all the laundry in order to have enough clothes to pack.

2. Lay out an outfit for each child for each day.

As I’m folding the laundry, I make piles of matching outfits for each child for every day that we’ll be gone. I also lay out an extra outfit for each child and a few extra shirts for our child who tends to be messy. 🙂 In addition, I set aside socks and underwear, as well as pajamas.

3. Roll the clothes for each day and put into a labeled bag.

I label a bag for each day of the week we’ll be gone, plus an extras bag, a socks & underwear bag and a PJ bag. If you have more than three children or your children are older, you may need to have individual bags for each child. Since we just have three young children, we can still fit their outfits into one ziptop bag per day.

4. When traveling, set out the bag of clothes for the next day the night before, along with shoes.

Instead of having to rummage through a suitcase for clothes each morning, just set out the appropriate bag, along with socks, shoes and underwear the night before. It makes getting everyone ready a snap in the mornings!

5. Stick the extras bag in the car or diaper bag to have on hand in case it’s needed.

If there’s a diaper blowout or a spill or other accident, you’re prepared with extra outfits for everyone!

6. Save your bags to re-use for the next trip.

We label the ziptop bags with tape so we can re-use them again and again. We store them in our suitcases to be at-the-ready for our next trip.

Coming tomorrow: How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Pack an Emergency Box

How do you stay organized when packing for a trip? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Other posts in the Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children series

  1. How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Be Organized When Packing
  2. How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Pack an Emergency Box
  3. How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Bring Some Good Books & Audios

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  • Erin says:

    Great idea! I really love this and will definitely implement it on our next trip. One thing that really scares me now that we have 2 children is having everyone sleep in one room in the hotel. I can just envision it being trouble if the baby wakes up and disturbs my 2-year-old.

    At least I won’t have to experience this until Christmas when we take a road trip to see my husband’s family in Texas. By that time, the baby will be 1 and my older one will be getting close to 3. I’m hoping things are simpler by then!

    • Heather says:

      I used to stress a lot about the kids’ sleep schedules, etc. while in hotels. The agony of trying to get them all asleep and keep them asleep! Finally, by the time my 4th one was born, I just gave up (mentally), and now I enjoy myself a lot more. I accept the fact that we all will get less sleep than we should, and that we will do better when we get home. And if by chance, the night goes well, I really appreciate it as a nice surprise blessing! The beauty of low expectations . . . .

    • Melissa says:

      I’m in the same situation with a 2 year old and baby. I would really like to go on vacation but it almost seems like too much work. Really wondering how it’s going to go when we’re camping with two little kids in a tent that used to seem huge and will now seem way too small.

      I really like the ideas here and would love to see more on traveling with kids – and especially camping with kids.

      • Beth says:

        I totally understand the stress of this! 🙂 I have a 2 and one year old (and soon to be new baby in August). I think low expectations is key as well! I think it also goes a little easier if the kids are used to sleeping in the same room, which not all are for various reasons. Ours weren’t used to being in the same room until the past couple months when we had to out of necessity (new baby coming, living in a small apartment for a while as we try to sell our house in KC). Now that the first few ROUGH 🙂 weeks of that are done, they do fairly well in the same room, so I’m a little less stressed about traveling with them! =) But yeah, low expectations…..that is a KEY principle, I think! 🙂 I need to take that to heart and hopefully enjoy our vacations more….we haven’t attempted many as of yet but I’m hoping to change that. Like you said, it seems like so much work….but at the same time, I want to do it. 🙂 I love these tips and I plan to implement them on our next trip!! Great ideas!!

      • Carrie says:

        It’s worth the money to spring for a 2-room suite. Really worth it.

        • Heather says:

          Yes, I will second that! We get great discounts through my husband’s work, and have done it a few times. Wonderful!

          • Christine says:

            We’ve done that too. We take the pack n play along, and the couch in the living room area usually turns into a bed.

      • Brandy says:

        When we go to the beach, we get a condo. If you are going along the coast, you can get a 1 bedroom for a week much cheaper than any hotel in the area.

      • Sabrina says:

        I’m actually preparing a post on our most recent camping trip with a 2 year old and a 9 month old! We travel a lot, and have not really let having kids put a stop to this. Here’s my number 1 tip for you when traveling (especially camping) with young ones: Bring something fun for them. We went camping last week, and I litterally brought no toys for my son. I figured the “great outdoors” would be enough entertainment for him. It would have been, if I wanted to run around the whole time following him from campsite to campsite; other people have mini golf sets, horseshoe games, vollyball…Also, this is not a very frugal idea, but it makes life easier: get a bigger tent :0) we bought one at costco for $149, it’s supposed to sleep 8 (not sure where :0) there’s enough room for the pack and play (if I remember to bring it) our suitcases, an enclosed patio area in case of rain, and best of all…I can finally get dressed standing up! Oh, and one last tip that sorta helped us last week. I brough an empty shoe box. When my son got antsy, we walked around collecting “cool stuff” to put in the box. We found some small sticks, rocks, 1 sea shell, and some crayons.

    • Ashli says:

      We have gone on vacation with our kids several times and stayed in the same room. I would highly suggest taking a small fan with you. The white noise helps in keeping others asleep when one wakes up. It works great for us! Good luck!

  • Leslie says:

    We are leaving for a trip soon and this is perfect timing for this post! We have two toddlers and getting ready can be a hassle even at home so this makes it even better! Thanks!

  • Stef says:

    I am thrilled to find this tip- just in time because we are taking our first big trip with our 3 young boys (ages 5 and under). We leave in 2 1/2 weeks and I am starting to really think through all the steps I can take to help things go smoothly. Thanks for sharing this, I am going to put it to use!

  • Caitlyn says:

    I will definitely be doing this on our trip this month. I have 1 four year old and we will be traveling 13 hours one way to NJ/NY to visit family and will be gone for 8 days. This will save a lot of headache for me.

  • Kasee says:

    How did you know I am taking a road trip with my 2 young kids in a couple weeks and needed some organizing tips? Wow, look at you and your mind reading =) Thanks!

  • Mindy says:

    This is a nice idea for small children (small clothes) but I don’t think this would help those of us with bigger kids. Any ideas there?

    • kim says:

      what about one ziplock per kid per day. In each bag put a shirt, pants, undies, socks for one child.

    • Karrie says:

      You can get extra large bags that would hold bulkier clothes. Ziploc makes giant zipping bags, but I’ve gotten 2-packs of a really good size at the Dollar Tree, in the household section. I use them for holding small misc. things like hats, gloves, scarves, etc. and hang the bag over a clothes hanger in the closet (it has a cut-out handle).

    • Kristine says:

      I have three kids, ages 11, 9 and 9 (twins). I love the idea of using bags for organizing their clothes, but I think I would use them for just underwear and socks for my kids. I already use plastic bags for toiletries.

    • Lesa N says:

      I wait for space bags to go on sale or use those wonderful 20% off coupons at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Also- Ziploc has come out with larger travel bags and are perfect for this use. 🙂

    • Lea Stormhammer says:

      I have 2 VERY tall newly 6-year-olds – they’re the average size of a 3rd grader. We do one bag per kid per day – not quite as nice as having both kids in each bag, but still good!

      I find I can put a pair of socks, undies, pants and long-sleeve shirt in a gallon-size zipper-top bag for my son and tights or socks, bloomers/shorts and either a ankle or mid-calf length full dress or a skirt and a long-sleeve top for my daughter in these bags without a problem! Just fold flat and roll and then stack (it looks like Crystal did this in her pictures). I usually put the larger items in first and then the smaller. Squeeze the air out as you go – you’ll be surprised by how much fits.

      I sometimes do this with a top, undies and socks for my husband and I too. If any of us are going to be re-wearing our bottoms, I just put these things in bags and leave the bottoms loose!

      If I’m traveling with a suitcase and we’ll be staying in a hotel, I put the stuff that needs to be hung on hangers in full outfits and lay them out in the “hanging” part of my suitcase. I always find it easier to completely unpack when we get there – much easier than digging through a suitcase each day! We usually get a 2-room suite so that we can stay awake after the kids are in bed without keeping them up. I’ll have to try the fan though – what a great idea!

  • Kara says:

    Awesome advice! We just came back from a road trip and this method would have helped tremendously. We’ll do this for our next trip- camping!

  • Andie says:

    I did this on our trip to Disney World a few years ago. I put undies and socks with each outfit, so each bag had everything we needed for a day! I tried to have the kids in a certain color each day so that it was easier to keep track of them. I wore the same color when possible, but hubby never matched! It was so funny how many people commented “SOMEBODY didn’t get the memo about what color to wear!” :o)
    The bags made it so easy to get ready in the morning! Also, when packing the suitcases, we put the bags in different suitcases that way if the airline lost one suitcase, it wasn’t ALL of one person’s clothes…just an outfit or two for each person. Luckily, all our suitcases made it to Florida and back home again!

  • kim says:

    This is great, but your series is a tad late! I am leaving tomorrow for a trip, lol. I will be repacking though. The ziplocks sounds like a great idea.

  • Jenay Hale says:

    LOVE IT!! I am gonna use that one.. I dont have babies… but my 6 and 8 yr old will sure make a mess of things otherwise!

  • Andie says:

    If you have older kids and need bigger bags, just reuse your plastic shopping bags…just tie them closed. You won’t be able to see through the bags, but once the stuff is in there and labeled, you don’t need to see through them.

  • Natalie says:

    Love this!! Perfect timing for our trip next month! :o)

    Thank you.

  • Kimberlee says:

    Great idea! We did this for our family’s mission trip to Guatemala for a week and it really simplified things.

  • Lisa says:

    I use this when my daughter goes to Bible camp with our church for a week. The first time she went, she was only 8, and it worked so well, I just keep doing it. She gets a bag for each day, plus a few extra outfits for those extra dirty days, bags for toiletries, pjs, extra socks & underwear, items needed for each them night where they dress up, towels & washcloths, etc. When she comes home, I keep the bags to re-use the next year.

  • Sabrina says:

    I love this idea! I usually end up with clothes all over the place when I am packing :0) and unpacking at our final destination! We do have two ways we manage to stay a litte organized with
    1. We have a camping bin. It contains all of the items we usually take camping with us. A few canned goods, pancake mix where you just add water, first aid kit, seasoning, crackers, extra towels, camping stove, lantern, wet ones wipes, dish soap…This really saves time when we are packing, since all of the camping stuff is ready. When we get back from our trip, before putting the bin away, we evaluate to see if we need to add/remove any items.
    2. We keep our toiletries bag packed at all times. It used to be that when we go on a trip, I would ALWAYS forget a toothbrush, or a shaver, or a brush (and I would always forget at least one item of my husband’s!). Now, I keep a toiletries bag packed so that I don’t have to worry about that bag and the clothes at the same time. It really helps to use the coupons for free travel size items. I just buy them and stick them right into the travel bag (unless it’s full already).

    • Mary says:

      I do the same thing but I also add a list in container of things I’ll need to add. If I buy it prior to next use I can add to container and scratch off list. Makes packing a lot easier.

    • Sara says:

      I do the same thing with our camping bin. I also typed and saved a document with our camping packing list. I just reprint the list each time we go to double check all our supplies are in the bin and didn’t get used the last time.

      I made a similar list last year for children’s camp. My hubby is the children’s pastor and packing for our family for the week is a beast for that. Unfortunately I didn’t type that list and now I don’t know what notebook it’s in.

      • Sabrina says:

        I really, really need to make a list for our packing stuff! I’m thinking of typing one up, and slipping it inside a sheet protector. I tend to forget jackets and socks for the kids and hubby :0)

  • Andrea says:

    This is what I do when I pack for my very messy and disorganized son on scout camping trips. The bags keep the clothing dry too.

  • I am looking forward to trying this one out! Thanks for sharing!

  • Andie says:

    For older kids, bigger clothes means bigger bags, just reuse your plastic shopping bags…just tie them closed. You won’t be able to see through the bags, but once the stuff is in there and labeled, you don’t need to see through them.

  • Karen says:

    I’ve done this for several years having to pack 4 kids for a week long camp in the summer. This is a great way to make sure you have packed them enough clothes. And if you have wet clothes at the end of the day you can put them into the empty zipper bag to keep the rest of your things dry.

  • jen says:

    For our larger family, it doesn’t all fit in one ziplock but I do ziplock each persons socks, underwear, even PJs so that stays organized in the suitcase. Otherwise, I just stack coordinating outfits on top of each other, in piles for each kid. When traveling, I do lay it out the night before. I just grab out an outfit off the stack and pull out a pair of underwear and socks. I do love ziplocks though and use them a ton when traveling (for toiletries, snacks, diapers, etc). And don’t forget something for the dirty clothes! 🙂 I have a few mesh bags that I store in the suitcases but garbage bags could work too.

    • Rebecca B says:

      I use mesh laundry bags on trips, too, but half the time I forget to bring them. Store them in the suitcase? What a BRILLIANT idea! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Anne says:

    definitely going to do this for our vacation in June!

  • Jessica says:

    That’s brilliant!
    Thanks for the tip. 😀

  • Darci says:

    Thank you for the tip!

    I used ziplock bags for small items, and extra bags for wet things. I like the idea of having a whole outfit in a bag! Never thought of it. I will be prepared for our trip later this Summer! ☺

  • Julie T. says:

    This is a fabulous idea!!! We’re traveling from Florida to Ohio for my sisters wedding in October and this idea will make it so much less stressful!!! My biggest pet peave when traveling with the kids is the complete chaos that becomes of our suitcases. Our kids are still small (ages 4, 2, and 1) so we should be able to fit everything into one bag like you did. I cannot thank you enough for this idea…you may have just saved my sanity!!! 🙂

  • Emily says:

    What a great way to keep dirty and clean clothes separate, too. Just stick the dirty’s in a bag after you take out the next day’s clothes. We’ll be leaving for a long weekend in a couple weeks and I’m seriously thinking this method will be great for us.

    Helps to keep the husband clean and organized, too. Also, he can’t ask, “Where is the ??? for the child?”

  • Stacy says:

    I love this idea. We are going to Disney in Sept and I have been dreading packing for my family and trying to keep things organized. This meathod will help me so much!! Each child has his/her own suitcase so I’ll just label each day indiviually. This way I can plan the “matching” shirts for each day in advance too. Thanks for posting this. 🙂

  • Candi says:

    I love this idea too! When we traveled to Ukraine we packed everything in baggies and then put all the dirty things in a zip bag to bring home. We didn’t have the luxury of laundromat so we took along a travel size Febreze and sprayed my husband’s dress slacks and suit coats to keep them fresh smelling.

  • Heather O'Sullivan says:

    Last August we went on a week long trip to Williamsburg VA with our 2 1/2 year old and 5 month old sons… With our hatchback car…
    To save space we only packed 4 days of clothes because the place we stayed offered free laundry facilities to guests. We also used small duffle bags for each person so we could fit more in our small car.

    The key for us was research!! Knowing ahead of time that I didn’t need to pack a weeks worth of clothes for each of us (plus extra for the babies) was a huge help. I was also able to do all the laundry before we left so there wasn’t a lot to do when we came home.

    I also did all the cooking while we were away.

    Hoping to get away this summer too!

  • B says:

    I love this idea. When I travel one might think I had stock in storage bags. I seperate all the tolietries by use (shower stuff, shaving stuff,..)

  • Heather says:

    I’m curious, wouldn’t this result in very wrinkled clothes? I have used the same concept, but put them on hangers instead. I put the shirt and shorts attached to the same hanger, then tape a ziplock bag with socks and underwear to the hanger. Obviously this would only work for road trips. But it works great if you’re staying at several different hotels. We just grab the number of hangers we need and hang them in our hotel room. The other clothes hangers we leave in the car. No need to drag everything in. It worked great for our three kids, who range in age of 2-10.

    • emily says:

      Rolling the clothes before bagging them helps with wrinkles. It really does work. All of my husband’s undershirts and my camis are rolled instead of folded. They have minimal, if any wrinkles, when we pull them out of the drawer. They also are free of the creases caused by folding.

    • Crystal says:

      Not if you roll them carefully and don’t dress your children in clothes that wrinkle easily. We don’t buy clothes (except for my husband’s clothes) that require ironing at our house, so most of them are pretty wrinkle-proof to begin with!

      They won’t come out looking perfectly pressed, but I long ago stopped worrying about “perfectly pressed” clothes. If they are clean and they semi-match, we’re doing good. 🙂

      • BethB says:

        Hi, my name is Beth and I’m an iron-aholic. 🙂

        I don’t need to have things perfectly pressed and I don’t but clothing that needs to be in order to look nice. We finally found work shirts for my husband that come out of the dryer, if I’m careful, looking great. My craziness is that I iron my knit shirts. I know that sounds completely insane, and maybe it is, but I have A Thing about my long and short sleeve t-shirts fitting properly. I don’t put them in the dryer to keep them lasting longer and prevent shrinking. The problem is even with careful hanging they always end up super wrinkled and some shrink up anyway. I’ve found ironing returns them to their shape. It’s a sickness.

        Another random tangent, I so admire your ability to stick to so few items of clothing. I have a much smaller wardobe than I did in my credit card debt days (I had 40 sweaters when I was in grad school. Seriously. ) but I’m no where as minimalist as you are. Part of it is I work part-time teaching music lessons so I need everyday clothes, teaching/rehearsal clothes, and concert black. Some overlap but I usually need to change clothes before going to work if I’ve been running around with the kids all day. I’m also super self conscious and various items of clothing go in and out of favor depending on how ugly/fat/uncomfortable I feel in them. I’ve gotten much better about not going shopping every time I feel this way but I need more than six outfits to manage it. Maybe that’s a little nuts but I’ve come to accept it. I admire women who are able to manage those feelings better.

        Wow, longest random tangent comment ever. 🙂 I love the Ziploc thing, by the way.

      • Emily says:

        I am so with you! I think our iron comes out MAYBE 2 times a year – if that. Most recently, it came out because my dad was visiting and wanted it. 🙂

        My husband is a pastor so he dresses professionally most days of the week. We buy no-wrinkle clothes. I pull clothes out of the dryer immediately and hang them up. Haven’t had a problem yet!

        There is not enough time in my life to iron – like you, Crystal, if they’re clean and matching, we are also having a fabulous day! 😉

    • Michelle says:

      I actually don’t roll them, but fold them however they fit (mine are 6, 8, and 10), compress and lock the ziploc. Dress clothes we wouldn’t do this way, but for every day, it’s fine.

    • Andrea says:

      Getting out small wrinkles in a hotel without using their terrible irons is as simple as packing 1 hanger per person. Just hang the clothes in the bathroom and enjoy a hot shower. When you’re finished simply tug and smooth the clothes.

    • Clare says:

      If you are really concerned (and I agree with what everyone else said about rolling them) then just buy Downy Wrinkle Release. They often sell it in the travel section for around $2, but it is really worth the price. You spray it on and then smooth the wrinkles out. I love to use it even at home when I am in too much of a hurry to iron casual clothes.If you don’t want to use tha then hanging them in the bathroom while you shower can work wonders, too, especially on cotton clothing.;)

  • Elizabeth says:

    Forget the long trips, I think this will be fantastic the next time we go camping for the weekend! I can’t believe I never thought of this. I use ziplocks for so many other things. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Ryanne says:

    One suggestion I have is to pack LESS sets of clothes. I always pack enough for three or four days for all the kids and spend 2 hours at a laundromat once. It seems to work better for us and my husband takes a couple of kiddos to the park (or McDonald’s play place) while I work on laundry. It may not save as much money, but with three little ones, there is a lot less baggage to carry around especially if you have to fly or take a train.

    • Lisa says:

      I was thinking the same thing. When I’m by myself dragging 4 kids internatioanlly for 2 weeks, I don’t have enough clothes to ziploc seperate outfits for each kid for every day. (okay, I do have that much clothing, but I don’t want to bring it 😉 I always hit a laundromat or a friend’s washer and dryer at least once. The other plus is coming home with a suitcase full of clean clothes!

      • Michelle says:

        Oh, true… depending on the length of the trip, you wouldn’t have to pack a set for every day of the trip. I’ve done 5 sets or whatever and when we do laundry, we just repack outfits into the ziploc bags. Still works well.

  • Daphne says:

    thank you for suggesting that they keep the bags for future use! we are going on two trips this summer & will try these suggestions (except for the one about only 6-10 outfits!)

  • Mary says:

    Bigger kids? We just use a duffel bag per day…same concept, just larger bag. Works well when traveling…just bring in the duffel you need and leave the rest in car.

  • Chels B. says:

    Do the clothes come out wrinkled?

  • Thanks for the(se) timely post(s)! We are going on our first family trip, camping in 3 weeks and I am looking for any tips I can find!
    Have a lovely day!

  • Leslie M says:

    My mom did this when we went on a road trip from Florida to Niagara Falls, Canada. Each night when we got to a different hotel everybody grabbed their ziploc bag and their toiletry bag and we headed to the hotel room. Great memories!!!

  • Shannon says:

    Totally doing this!! Thanks!!

  • Tracy says:

    I’ve used this method for a while and find it makes our traveling far neater, simpler and less stressful.

    I pack an empty pillow case and use that as a laundry sack into which I toss the dirty clothing after bath time each evening.

    An added benefit while traveling internationally and we pack everything for our family of 5 into 2 backpacks, is that in the event of our backpacks getting wet, our possessions stay dry.

    I have to admit, and this might horrify some moms, but I’ve considered doing something very similar for my young childrens day-to-day clothing. I’ve often thought of either making a simple hanger (like a shoe hanger) or buying an inexpensive set of drawers, labeling each compartment with a day of the week and inserting a set of clothing per compartment. I’d have additional compartments for smart “going out” clothes, pj’s and 2-3 extra sets of clothes (rotate the clothing and days to avoid them wearing the same thing every Monday etc). I like to hang coats and jackets on hooks and their shoes would stay at the bottom of the closet as they do now.

    I imagine this might result in a once a week laundry run for clothing, but this might also be wishful thinking.

    • Jen B. says:

      Why would anyone think that is horrible? I do that with the 10 box shoe hangers – I match a shirt and shorts/pants, roll them up and put one outfit in each compartment. They actually make those with the names of the week already on them, but I find the shoe ones work better. It really helps with young ones who don’t know how to match outfits yet.

      • Tracy says:

        Thanks Jen. I live in South Africa so our choices of shoe boxes etc are different and more limited than yours in the US, but thanks for your encouragement to try it!

      • Katiria says:

        I’ve been doing that since my son started pre-k. I have a cloth shoe-hanger/rack that hangs in the closet like a hanger and has the days of the week on each insert. WHen I do laundry, I set out the clothes he has to wear for the week to school and everything is there in the morning, no need to stare at the closet and think “..hmm..what do i wear today…?” it saves everyone alot of time

  • This is a great idea! I think I will try this for our next trip, only I will use quart size bags and put socks, underwear, and hairbows in with the regular clothes and have one bag per day per girl (plus keep an extra days worth in the car). Love this idea!

  • Rebecca says:

    What a simple but effective idea! We are making a military move in 6 weeks with at least 5 kids, and I will find a way to make this work for all of us! I love the idea of using the plastic grocery bags for the older kids. This will make things so much easier! No matter how I have carefully packed their bags before, two days into the trip I find myself digging for socks or pj’s. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us!!

  • Jody says:

    When my son was younger I use to do this at the beginning of each week during the school year. Each morning he just pulled out the labeled bag for the day. It made mornings go so much smoother. And it was one less thing that I had to do the night before.

  • Tia says:

    Great tip! do you find that this method also saves space int he suitcase?

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, I forgot to mention that, but we were able to pack all of our children’s clothes in a small suitcase for last week’s trip using this method.

  • Amanda says:

    My husband always teases me because I will pack the bag as we use it each day. Like p.j.’s first for the family, then the outfit for the next day and so on. I love the idea of using the ziploc bags because if something spills in the suitcase or car then all the clothes will be clean.

  • Michelle says:

    I just posted a similar post on my blog! We’ve been doing this for years and it works wonderfully. We do one other thing before we head home to make UN packing easier. We do all the laundry we can, and then pack it back up into the suitcases (no ziploc bags, but you could use them if you wanted to), in groups (all the underwear/socks together, all the shirts together, etc.). When you get home, you just grab the shirts, and put them in the correct drawer, etc. Works great! And unpacking isn’t quite the chore it is when you’re trying to figure out who’s stuff is who’s, if it’s dirty or clean, and where the other sock is! 🙂

  • Ellen says:

    BRILLIANT idea!!!! Thanks for posting 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Several people mentioned doing shopping bags instead since they have more room. If you’re crafty and have extra fabric and zippers lying around, you could just make some easy bags- even embroider the day of the week on each if you have the capabilities!

    On another note, while it’s *slightly* illegal (shh, don’t tell on me!), when we traveled with a toddler last summer, we put one of the seats in the van down (stow and go style seats) so there’d be extra floor space, and brought a kids potty (yes, it had a lid!) so that we didn’t have to 1) stop every time he had to go and 2) had to make him hold it while trying to find a place to pull over. That saved 1) $ on pull-ups that we don’t buy otherwise and 2) his dignity- didn’t have to pee in his pants.

    • Courtney says:

      I love that idea! This past month I traveled 8 hours with both kids one in Cloth diapers. She had a whole bag just of diapers! But I have 5 wetbags…I could totally label those with days of the week, and then I’d have it for her diapers for the day. But I don’t think I could get clothes and diapers in together. But I like the reusable/multi function of a wetbag.
      Great post, thanks!

      • Jennifer says:

        We have 4 kids (7, 5, 3, and 2) and also travel with a potty seat in our mini-van. The potty has a lid on it too. I use plastic bags (small bathroom size, scented) and put them in the base of the potty. Then, after the kids go in there, I seal up the bag and throw it away at the next rest-stop. It works great! The mess is taken care of and we don’t have to make as many potty stops along the way to our destination.

    • My Boaz's Ruth says:

      The illegal aspect of this is not what I would be most concerned about — but the safety aspect. What if you got into an accident while your toddler was on the potty? Or just had to stop fast and your toddler pitched headfirst into the chair ahead, etc. They could get very hurt.

      For some reason, dad was not seatbelted (maybe leaning back to help the 3-yr old with something?) Nor was the younger child. Both were ejected from the car. Luckily neither were killed. But as much as you might think “I’ll be careful while my kid’s on the potty” — stuff happens.

      • Sabrina says:

        Jennifer may have meant they don’t have to make as many potty stops at gas stations, where the whole family needs to get out of the car. I kind of like the idea of carting around a potty seat. We can just pull off the road, pull out the seat real quick, let the boy do his thing, and get back on the road. No need to wait for the next gas station stop, no passing candy on the way to the restroom and having to hear a toddler cry because they want it…Gas station stops take up a lot of time on a road trip, especially young ones.

  • Suzanne says:

    This is a great idea! Of course, my kids are teens now and I am not sure how they would feel about me bundling and laying out their clothes! 🙂 I will definitely share this post with friends.

  • Amber says:

    We are flying to IA in a few weeks to visit family and I only want to do carry on bags. My mom has purchased toiletry items for us already, so I only really need to worry about clothes. I am actually Priority mailing our socks, underwear and pj’s to her house so we don’t have to check any bags. I used to this when I traveled with work as well and hotels will accept packages for guests. I guess I would rather spend $10 on mailing costs than $20 on baggage costs.

  • Ally says:

    We are going on vacation to a cabin about 5 hours away in 1.5 weeks. The problem is in the last 6 years; it has rained the whole week, or been really hot all week, or really cold all week. We have a hard time judging exactly what it will be like for weather. How would you overcome that with the ziploc method? We have ‘messy’ clothes for this trip; which are seperate from our normal everyday clothes; so I have already packed them all up.

    • Crystal says:

      I stuck in jackets for everyone just in case this time. You could also label the bags “cold day” “hot day”, etc. and just bring a few of each and then decide which ones to go with when you get there.

  • amy says:

    These are wonderful ideas. Thank you for how much you share it greatly benefits me! I wanted to add too for families to not feel discouraged if trips are not as organized for certain occasions. I know when we go camping….I have to just count on the dressing of the children to be alittle disorganized in our suitcase, otherwise I set unrealistic expectations. We camp in Oregon. It rains and then is sunny. We change our clothes frequently through the day. Add sweatshirt, raincoat and boots…take off sweatshirt add shorts etc. multiply by 5 and gets alittle crazy. I wouldn’t give it up for the experiences we have as a family out camping.

  • Carrie says:

    Do you pack a new pair of pants for every single day of vacation? When I packed my kids for our trip I packed one skirt, one dress and one pants for each girl for 8 days. They could wear each one a few times.

    • Crystal says:

      I typically do. That way, if they spill on them, I don’t have to worry about finding a way to wash them. And it just makes it easier for me. If they were older, I’d probably not do an outfit for each day.

      Your children must be a lot neater than mine!

      • Carrie says:

        Well, we did stay with friends who all had washing machines so I knew I wasn’t taking a big chance. But in general when traveling my MO is more to pick interchangeable tops and bottoms so they can have a number of different outfits with the same few separates. Works for them and for me.

  • Wow! I LOVE this idea of the seperate bags! I’ve never tried it but it sure would make life easier. I usually unpack into the drawers in the hotel – but then pieces get seperated and it gets messy lol! I also think this would work well when I pack my kids for Grandma and Grandpa’s house – I think my mom would love to pull out a pack for the day that included the matching hair bows, socks etc! Great idea!

  • Kristine says:

    I love this idea!

  • Alesha says:

    Here’s my scenario: my hubby and I are going to OBX with his parents and we’re taking my 3 1/2 y.o. and my 16 month old boy. There will be a washing machine at the house we are staying in, so how little can I get by with for all of us? I like to have variety, but I can deal with that…. I just don’t want to have to wait for something to wash. I would like to have just one suitcase for clothes. Also, we will be staying across the beach from the house…. what would you make sure to take?

    • Jessica says:

      For a similiar trip with our 18 month old I packed 4 days worth for her since she is messy, 4 shirts each for us, 2 shorts, and 1 pair of pants. It worked for us for the week since I only had to do laundry once. I find that rolling the clothes even if they are not in a ziplock bag saves room. I fit all of our clothes, swim suits, water shoes, and a jacket/sweatshirt for each of us plus toillitries into a carry on size bag.

    • Sherri says:

      Last time we went to the beach, I packed 3-4 days’ worth of clothes for each of us. I found it easier, however, to do laundry just about every day while I was in the condo with the napping toddler. The washer/dryer were small, so it could only hold that much anyway. I figured if I had to be there for a couple of hours, I might as well accomplish something while I watched tv. It was so wonderful coming home with suitcases full of clean clothes instead of mound of dirty laundry.

  • Tiffany says:

    We have also been using the ziploc method for packing since our daughter was an infant. We love the method. Atleast once a year, we tend to take a road trip that lasts longer then a week or that requires multiple destinations along the way. When we will be staying different places we often pack all the clothes (kids and parents) in one bag for each leg of our journey. That way unpacking and getting settled takes less time. Last year we took three bags with us, the first for our stop along the way at a friends, the second for the cabin we were staying in for three nights, and the third for the hotel trips on the way back home. This way, our clothing was much more manageable and instead of lugging around three bags at each stop we only had one to worry about.

  • Vanette says:

    I have used this idea without the bags. I fold/roll each outfit with underwear & matching socks and stack in the ssuit case. If you pull the clothes out the night before and spray with a little water the wrinkles will be gone by morning.

  • Janette Tobin says:

    To those worried about wrinkling.. I do pack a full outfits in ziplock bags also. I pack 2 hangers (1 reg & 1 w/pant clips) per person in the suitcase. The night before I hang the outfits for the next day on the hangers & lightly mist them with water, no need to douse them. (I pack an empty spray bottle.) I shake the hanger with the clothes on it and let it hang at night. The clothes look GREAT the next morning. (I do this at home all the time.) It usually only take 5 minutes for the wrinkles to relax. After the clothes are hanging I put away the dirty clothes in the dirty clothes bag or hand wash them with a bar of Fels-Naptha laundry soap & hang to dry. In the morning, the kids jammies go in the dirty laundry bag, I change them into their clean (wrinkle free) clothes hanging up, I throw the toiletries & hangers in the suitcase, and we are good to go. Ziplock bags are the way to go! Before this method I would mix up dirty & clean clothes & at the end of a trip even the clean clothes would smell musty. So this makes for a much better smelling suitcase! 🙂

  • julie says:

    When we are getting ready to go on short trips 2-3 days, I pack “mix-n-match” clothes for my son. All shirts, sweaters, pants, shorts……can be interchanged! I love packing this way for him. Not to mention I KNOW that no matter what I pull out of the bag, he will match!

  • Angie says:

    I hope someone else didn’t say this already. =) Although I haven’t used the plastic-bag packing to it’s fullest extent, when we travel in the winter (which is often b/c grandma and grandpa live up north), I pack all their winter coats, gloves, hats, snowpants and scarves in a big vacuum bag and them vacuum out the air. It saves a ton on space. Even if they don’t play outside, it’s comforting to know they have all their gear in case we have car trouble or something. Unless it’s blizzarding, they can usually handle running to the bathroom without a coat and we don’t have to deal with all that stuff in the front part of the van.

  • Stacey says:

    I have a packing list document saved on my computer so when it’s time to start packing for a trip, I just print it out and check items off as I pack them! This has saved me so much time and I don’t forget the commonly forgotten items such as batteries/charger for camera, medications, sunscreen, etc. No running to the local Walgreens for those items once we arrive at our destination. I love the baggie idea, though….I may try it with grocery bags for my 5 and 8 year old this summer.

    • Crystal says:

      Want to share your document?? 🙂 I’ve been thinking I really need to make one up myself!

    • Sarah in Alaska says:

      Yes. Please share your list. I always forget something and was going to make one this week. …if you share I won’t have to do that. 🙂

  • Tracey says:

    We have traveled with our children since they were small. Our oldest had been in 45 states and Canada by the time he was 5. Our youngest took his first cross country road trip when he was three weeks old. I was recovering from a C-section. We don’t have any problems. I do have a couple of concerns–Aren’t the clothes really wrinkled? As long as the hotel has a good iron and ironing board I guess you would be okay. What about changes in daily weather or even a child’s mood?

  • Rachel says:

    Although I resisted the idea for a long time, we’ve come to the point where each person having their own duffel works better than packing 1 big suitcase with everyone’s things (family of 6). But when we are making a two day drive to our destination, one bag gets designated as the overnight bag with one complete outfit & underthings & swimsuit rolled up per person so we aren’t unloading the whole car for just one night. Of course, this assumes we are staying at a place that seems fairly secure and high value items like the camera are brought in as well.

  • Kelly says:

    I get free samples of detergent all the time. I save them for vacations. The hotels we are staying in almost always have a washer / dryer room somewhere. If we’re going away for a whole week then I only pack enough clothes for 4 days and do laundry once mid-way through. People are always amazed that I can pack for a family of four with one big suitcase. Since many airline charge to check your bags now it saves money to pack less too.
    Just call ahead to make sure where you are staying has some machines. We just did a 7 day Disney Alaska cruise and this worked perfectly.

  • Becky says:

    I love love the Ziploc method! From the time my oldest was a baby I’ve always packed her clothes in ziploc bags for trips – especially overnights to the grandparents. That way everything is ready for them and they don’t have to fuss with finding outfits/socks with a potentially screaming baby in the mix.

    Now that we have 2 little girls I still pack their clothes this way. I also put together similar items – all church clothes/shoes for both girls together in one large bag or all swimsuits, coverups, sunscreen, hats, and swim diapers together so it’s just grab and go!

  • Karla says:

    Can’t wait to try this when we go on a long weekend in a couple of weeks. I always over pack. This should help. Any suggestions about packing food items? My sons have food allergies, so we always travel with food too.

  • Julie J says:

    This method brings back memories. When I was in 4th grade I went on the California Heritage trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento. We were advised to put our clothes in a Ziplock bag. My bag was stored under the bus near the tires. When we went to retrieve our luggage at the end of the day the baggies had melted to my clothes!!! I had to try and peel off the melted plastic but to no avail. It was very embarrassing.

  • Heather says:

    My son actually introduced me to this method of packing. He used it when packing for summer Boy Scouts camp several years ago. Too bad my boys are all too big now and their entire outfits no longer fit into one Ziploc bag no matter how tight we fold them!

    Now I just pack entire outfits together in the suitcase – divide the boy’s suitcase up into three sections and just put each outfit on top of each other in their designated section.

  • Joy says:

    We have 5 children (8, 7, 6, 4, & 2), which means our suitcases get full really fast. To help contain the chaos, I made laminated checklists for the 3 older girls, and 1 for me, DH, and the 2 younger girls.

    The 3 older girls are responsible for their packing, and are completely capable of doing so thanks to the checklist. For long weekends, they put everything in their school backpacks. This way it’s easy for everyone to know whose items are whose. (Which is especially easy for us to confuse with how close in age & size everyone is!)

    When we take longer trips, we pack 3 suitcases – 1 with undergarments, pajamas, toiletries, and shoes for the girls, 1 with clothes for the girls (using ziploc bags), and 1 for DH and I. I also pack 2 pillow cases, 1 white one and 1 colored one. This makes it easy for all of the girls (including the 2 year old!) to know where to put the dirty laundry, and it’s already sorted!

  • Lindsay says:

    I think this is genius! Will be trying it out on our road trip to Disney in 10 days. I think it will work wonderfully. Thank you!

  • Rochelle says:

    I love this idea. We are leaving on vacation Friday. I would love to see a post on good activities for a road trip. I have a 3, almost 4 year old and 19 month old and wondering how to keep them busy besides back to back DVDs.

  • Jennifer says:

    I do something similar when we are traveling and staying in a different location each night. My kids all have small duffle bags of their own. I will pack an outfit, pj’s, underwear and socks for everyone in each bag so that we don’t have to unpack the entire car when we stop. We just grab the one duffle bag we need and our bag with the toiletries in it and we are ready to walk in to the hotel.

  • Frances says:

    I LOVE this idea! I believe I will be stealing it for the two trips we have coming up this month 🙂 Thanks!!

  • Christine M says:

    Great ideas from everyone!!

  • Christine M says:

    Great ideas from everyone!!!

  • Emma K says:

    Love the idea and will try it on our next trip.

    Our last road trip we drove from TN to Calif. I packed a small suitcase with 3-4 days of clothes for each person and we had a larger suitcase with more clothes. We took the smaller suitcase into the hotel and left the larger one in the car. In retrospect I probably didn’t need all the clothes we had packed but I didn’t want to wear the same 4 outfits for a month. But it worked for us. Plus I had to pack a few outfits for colder days, which we actually ended up using since it snowed one day on our trip.

  • peever says:

    This is a good idea, but am I the only one who has kids that are super picky about clothes?! There’s no way I could hand my kids a bag that said “Tuesday” on it and expect them to wear what’s inside. I know they would insist on wearing “Thursday” instead or they’d want the pants from “Monday”, the shirt from “Wednesday”, and the underwear from “Saturday.” They’ve both been picking out their outfits since they were 18 months old because they are so picky about their clothes and I gave up on that battle. As long as it’s weather appropriate, I don’t care. My 3 yr old comes up with some pretty interesting outfits. 😉

    They both have small, rolling suitcases so their things are separate and they just pick out whatever they want to wear. It takes up more room in our van, but it’s a sanity saver for us. 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      Have them put the outfits together, and don’t bother labeling with the days. I put the outfits for my kids together, but I don’t label them, and let them grab the bag they want. It’s still so much better than having them rummage through a suitcase. EVERYTHING ends up wrinkled, and WHERE ARE THE SOCKS?????? 🙂

  • Katkerz says:

    Wow! Amazing idea yet oh so simple! I have two kids under three & will definitely do this for the next trip! Come to think of it, I think I need to do this for my husband and myself- we are quite the disorganized type!

  • Jessica C says:

    This is awesome! I love this idea, we are going camping next weekend and this is perfect. I love the idea of having an “extra” bag. I have a 4 yr old and my youngest will be 2 tomrrow, so I know that there will be accidents. You come up with the best ideas, and they are so simple. Love it!

  • Bobbie says:

    Great tip, I’ve been using ziplock bags since my 4 year old was born. They really help organize a messy diaper bag (mostly for the 1 year old). I have a zip lock bag for every genera; extra clothes, diapers (keeps them dry), drinks, snacks, and first aid. Definitely saves time when I can quickly grab which bag I need in a hurry. I love your blog!

  • Cassy says:

    That is a really great idea! Also, you can put the dirty clothes back into the bags to make packing easier and to keep the dirty clothes form soiling anything else!

  • Katiria says:

    Wow your timing is perfect, We are going on a trip and I was going to label everyones outfits within their own bags but I didn’t think of putting them in bags! That makes it much more convenient and you are right, they come in handy on trips -you never know when someboyd might feel sick and have to throw up -believe me it happens !

  • Mandi Kang says:

    Great idea about the zip lock bags. If you only have 6 sets of clothes, then how in the world do you launder them repeatedly and not have them look worn out? Do you just replace them when they get worn out looking?

  • Amber W. says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m going on a road trip in a few weeks with my 4 young children, and I look forward to trying this method out. I can’t believe I’ve never thought about it before!!!!

  • Melissa says:

    Great idea. I’ve done a similar method, by putting the clothes in pairs with socks and underwear and then roll them together and place in suitcase, just never used the baggies.

  • My Boaz's Ruth says:

    What size of bags are you using there?

  • Andrea says:

    Crystal, Thanks so much for this series of posts. I have three boys age 4 and under. We are planning a trip from Mississippi (our home) to Michigan for my Grandfather’s 90th birthday. Your advice and suggestions couldn’t have come at a better time! I love your blog and have learned so much! Thanks!

  • Stephanie says:

    I used to use this method for keeping my kids’ clothes put away when they were little. I have always been so pressed for time that it was just easier to assign one day to do laundry and create the bags for them as I was folding. I would put undies, socks and hair accessories (for my daughter) into gallon sized ziplock bags, roll the air out zip and put into their drawers. It made life so much easier for me. Especially when they hit that stubborn “I wanna do it myself” phase. I would say “sure!” and the little force of natures would grab whatever bag they wanted to wear that day. This way at least the socks would match!!

  • Tanya says:

    For car trips we bought one of these:,73728_Mountainsmith-Modular-Hauler-4.html

    It’s great for keeping each persons stuff in and there is plenty of room in the kids’ bins to keep extras like a favorite animal and blanket 🙂

  • Sarah haeberle says:

    I typed up a packing list that I saved on the computer and beforeach trip I print it out and check it off as it gets packed. It includes hot and cold weather stuff plus any random “extra” we have ever needed for a trip. After printing I cross off items I won’t be needing that trip. Each boy has a column, as do I, plus one of shared items for the boys, non-clothes items for myself, plus one for the carry-on bag for airplane rides. I never forget items on a trip now!!

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