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TPG's guide to packing for spring break: Family edition

March 01, 2022
6 min read
parents packing a suitcase with children
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What’s more fun than packing for an entire family for a week away from home? What’s that you say, pretty much anything? Yup, that sounds about right.

Never fear, though. We have tips to help save your sanity so packing doesn’t feel like detention instead of the start of a fun school break.

While we can’t help you decide which of the three blue T-shirts sitting on your bed is the right one to take on vacation, we can offer guidance on how to decide what to bring and how to fit it all in -- without taking the whole house or ending up with a jumble of clothing that resembles the last crumbs in a bag of chips.

These tips will make packing for spring break with your kids as easy as child’s play. Ready? Let’s go!

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Do your homework

You don't want to overpack or underpack for your destination if you can avoid it. (Photo by Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Stop. Do not put anything in your bag until you’ve checked three things:

First, the weather at your destination. Knowing the actual temperatures (and not just what you hope they’ll be) can help you edit out the “just in case” clothes and only pack what you need.

Next, check the website of your hotel (or vacation rental) to see what in-room amenities it offers. Many family-friendly properties provide everything from highchairs and Pack 'n Plays to bottle warmers and baby-proofing kits -- and everything in between. If they have it, don’t bring it (and that goes for hair dryers, irons and toiletries, too).

Related: 9 best hotel amenities for babies and toddlers

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Finally, check local rental and delivery options at your destination. Can you get baby food and diapers delivered from Peapod when you arrive? Is there a company that will bring a double stroller right to your door? Lighten your packing load by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Write it down

Wait, it’s still not time to put anything in your bag. Instead, go grab a pad and paper. Now list what you’ll need to bring for each person in the family who can’t pack for themselves. Writing down what you need, instead of randomly grabbing items out of the drawer, will stop an overflow of items from hitting your suitcase. Remember, the goal here is to keep things simple and sane. That starts with streamlined packing.

Related: Your guide to packing for toddlers

Show and tell

No parent has ever complained about having too little to carry or bags that were too light. So before you pack everything on your list, lay it out on the bed or dresser so you can see what you have. Duplicates or triplicates showing up? Winnow them out. The hotel already provides something on your list? Jettison it. And while you’re at it, add some stain sticks and individual packs of detergent to your bag for quick wash-ups so you can get multiple wears out of items.

Plastic makes perfect

One word to make packing easier: plastic. First up, plastic dry cleaning bags. If you’re bringing any items you’re worried will wrinkle -- sundresses, button-down shirts, linen pants -- hang each item, then slip a dry cleaning bag over the top. Wrinkling is caused by friction. The plastic bag creates a layer of air that stops friction ... and wrinkling. You can include several items in one bag, but don’t overstuff them. You don’t need to put the plastic-covered clothing in a garment bag. Simply fold the bags in half or thirds and add them to the top of your bag. Bingo -- no wrinkles.

Now grab some Ziploc bags from the kitchen. Use these to follow the 3-1-1 rule (3.4-ounce products that fill one, one-quart bag) if you’re flying and plan to carry on toiletries. Also, use a baggie for any children’s item that seems messy (Play-Doh and crayons, check) or has tiny pieces that can get lost. For checked toiletries, add some leakage protection by popping sunscreen and other goopy products into baggies, too.

Stop, drop and roll

Rolling your clothes may help you save space and keep things organized. (Photo by Boy_Anupong/Getty Images)

If you’re worried about bag space, lean into rolling your clothing instead of folding. (Here’s how to fold a T-shirt: Lay shirts flat, fold arms in and then across each other, then fold the body in half lengthwise, creating a long rectangle which you can then roll from top to bottom.) Rolled items can be tucked up against each other in your bag to create rows of rolls. Or utilize packing cubes that will compress the rolled items to create more room in your bag. Cubes are also a good way to portion out clothing for each family member.

Related: This Army packing technique can save you money on checked bag fees

Cross-pack checked bags

OK, now it’s time to pack. But there’s one more thing to do before you put your items into suitcases, and that's to mix up your piles, or cubes, of clothes for kids and parents. Cross-packing means putting some of each person’s items into each suitcase. In other words, we’re not going to put all of the kid stuff in one bag and all of the adult stuff in another. By mixing items in each suitcase, you’ll be covered in case one bag gets delayed or goes missing and still have clothing for everyone to get by for a few days.

Stay calm and carry on 

Baby can’t sleep without a binky? Little ones have to cuddle with a special stuffie to relax? Those items should be in your carry-on at all times, not checked luggage. Also in your carry-on: all medicines, glasses/contacts and charging cords. Add in a change of clothes for small children (and ideally a clean shirt for you, too, because accidents happen). Also note that it’s OK to bring baby food, formula and filled bottles through security per Transportation Security Administration rules. Leave irreplaceable jewelry or high-value items at home so you don’t need to worry about or keep track of them.

There, that’s it. You’re packed; enjoy spring break!

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees