My No-Fail Packing System for Vacations with Kids

My No-Fail Packing System for Kids Get organized and stay organized for your whole trip. Here's my trick to making traveling with kids a breeze!Last summer, as we were getting ready to go on our three-week road trip, I came across the Ziploc bag packing system and thought… hey, that is really smart!

So I decided to try it.

And it rocked!

We have since used this system every time we go anywhere, and it works so well that part of me wants to put all of my kids clothes into baggies for “real life”!

The way the system works is pretty self-evident from the picture, but let me flesh it out for those of you (like me) that appreciate all the nitty gritty details.

  • As we are getting ready to go on our trips, I lay out all the kids clothes on the dining table. The table trick is one I learned from my mom. In 1982. Before there was an Internet.

  • For each day that we’ll be away, I make little stacks that contain one complete outfit, including underwear, tzitzit and socks. If it’s a Shabbat outfit, I throw in a belt and/or Shabbat shoes. Since my two year-old just potty trained, she got two complete outfits per day – just in case (and some extra diapers for nighttime).
  • I then pack up every day into a separate ziploc bag for each kid. Winter clothes tend to require the extra-large bags, but summer outfits can still mostly fit into gallon-size bags. I label each bag with the child’s name and the day.


  • As I’m zipping the bag shut, I carefully press out all the air, so that the bag will lay as flat as possible in the suitcase.
  • I usually make up a separate bag for PJs (one bag per child – unless it’s a short trip, and then all PJs go into the same bag). I also tend to pack a “Just In Case” bag, which is one complete extra outfit. If we’re going anywhere for longer than 4 or 5 days, I usually plan to do laundry while we’re away.
  • If we are driving to our destination and will be spending one or more nights on the road, I pack the bags for those day in a separate small carry-on. That way, when we get to our hotel (invariably at 1 o’clock in the morning), we just grab the small bag and leave the rest of the luggage in the trunk.

So, what are the benefits of this amazing system?

1.There is no need to unpack at your destination. Even if you do decide for some reason to unpack into a dresser, all you have to do is toss in the bags and you’re done.

2. It eliminates the whole, “Mom, I can’t find my underwear!” crisis in the morning. If they’ve found the right bag, they’ve found the undies.

3. It makes for a much neater hotel room / guest room since your kids aren’t tossing all their clothes around to find the missing underwear.

4. It’s fun telling my 5 year old, “Go find Tuesday,” and then go watching him sift through the bags for the one that has a T on it.

5. Last but not least, it makes it very easy to ensure that you’re not forgetting anything. Each outfit, in its entirety, is stuffed into a bag, so odds are you won’t miss packing a key component.

Since we love Mother Earth, we do reuse our plastic baggies. If I’m being organized (big IF), I store the baggies in the suitcase so they’re ready to go for next time.

Now I suppose that if your child wears exclusively dry-clean only and/or must-be-ironed-to-look-presentable clothing, you won’t be too keen on the idea of keeping their clothing in a ziploc bag for a week.

But for the rest of us wash-and-wear types, this system is golden. If you’re not already using it, try it on your next trip and let me know how much you love it!


  1. sara lea says

    I love this idea! Thanks so much for explaining it in such detail. We’re going on a trip in August and I can’t wait to try it. Thanks!

  2. We just used this system when we went to Colorado, and it worked great!

  3. so I guess this would save my husband from dressing my 4 year old in my 11 month old’s clothes? lol.

    • LOL, Dara! There’s another advantage I didn’t even think of. How funny!

      • true story. it happened! I had packed both boys’ clothes together and they do have some matching things…so there was z wearing shorts that were 12-18 mos and a shirt that was 18-24 mos. came out a bit tight on him, and looked hilarious. I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture!

        • Still laughing over this one. F once put N in 6 mos shorts. Like 2 weeks ago. Sad thing is, she fit into them 🙁

  4. We have used this system somewhat successfully before, the one downside is the inflexibility of it. If you end up switching something up, either because something got dirty or wet, or plan for the day changed (needed socks\didn’t need socks, etc) because the kid had an issue with the outfit (is that just my kids? even if they helped plan it) you end up with zip loc bags that were raided for other stuff, or were missing one or two things or whatever. plus it felt like it was just SO many ziploc bags (that was when we had three, now we have 4). I tried putting two kids in one ziploc, and all the pjs for a given day in one bag, but they didn’t quite fit.
    Our most recent trip i tried a new system, i had all the clothes\pjs for the big 3 in one suitcase (the baby’s stuff stayed with mine), but to minimize the stuff strewn all over the place as they looked for stuff, i used a zipper mesh bag for all the smaller elements (underwear, tzitzis, socks, undershirts, belts, kippahs,). This way they or i could pull out an outfit\pjs pretty fast, and then look through the mesh bag for the other stuff. It worked ok in theory, except that my kids still ended up raiding the bag for that specific thing that they were looking for.
    I have heard of families who pack one little wheely per kid, but i am afraid that would take up too much room, and not be able to fit all the stuff anyway. I might try ziploc again for our next trip.

    But let’s talk for another second about logistics, we are staying in one place for 3 nights (including a shabbos), one place for one night, then another for another 6…i am not really sure how to do this without bringing in all the luggage each time. Maybe with ziplocs at least that one night i can do one overnight bag…

    Overthinking about, but i kind of enjoy the planning (otherwise i guess we wouldn’t do road trips….)

    • So for the logistics, I’d have three different bags in that situation. A small, medium and large one – and each bag would have the baggies for those days. I also have that “just in case” bag with a complete outfit (for longer trips, I’d have one per suitcase, if that makes sense). And for whatever reason, my kids love this system so much that they never go rifling through their other days.

      Oh, one caveat. If you’ll be doing laundry, you will obviously be able to cut down on the number of outfits and therefore reuse some of the bags. Bring a Sharpie in case you need to relabel bags.

  5. Great idea… Looking forward to trying it. Thanks!

  6. Ok I love it, but here is my big problem. The dirty clothes , do u put them back in the bags or do they get thrown about in the suitcase as what usually happens to us causing it to be a hurricane type situation.

    • Oh, so that’s such a good question and I have a solution! We bought a mesh laundry bag (it’s big) and at the end of the day, we just pile everything into the bag. When we are road-tripping, that bag is accessible, so the kids can change at a rest stop into their PJs. If you’re flying, you can just dump the dirty clothes into one of the suitcases, otherwise the mesh bag just winds up in the trunk and goes straight to the laundry room when we get home.

      (We usually drive a big chunk at night so after dinner, we have the kids brush teeth and change – that way, when we get to the motel at 2 a.m., they are already in PJs.)

  7. Brilliant!! This year we are staycationing but I will definitely keep this in mind for our next getaway.

  8. Someone beat me to the dirty clothes question and I love the mesh bag idea.

    We went away for the first time last summer and oh my word. The suitcase/clothes were a NIGHTMARE. I am so glad I found this post!!!!! Must go check my Ziploc coupons now 😉


  9. So Mara one day long long ago I was watching one of those talk shows and they talked about organization systems for everyday…if you were ever a girl scout and made “ditty bag”, a little bag with a drawstring. You hang all your clothes up and then attach a “ditty bag” with your underwear and socks. Also you can take a hanging sweater bag and lay each outfit for the week out in each hole.

  10. This IS a great system. I do similar when we road trip – one suitcase for each stop (so far we’ve only done road trips with one stop out, a longer stay, and then one stop back…so that’s 3 suitcases) and a separate bag for toiletries and jammies. Each of my kids gets a plastic office box with a lid/handle for their own toys/stuff and voila!

    Once, though, I was a unit head at a summer camp, where I had 8 and 9 year olds. A number of parents did this for their kids for their 10-day session and it was a nightmare. The kids didn’t know what to do when each day we showered at about 4pm. Should they put on the new clothes for that day? Should they put back on the dirty clothes they were wearing? Should they just put on clean underwear? So they ended up wearing all their clothes much too soon. So this is a good system when the mama is there to administer but was a total failure for kids to handle alone!

  11. I do ziploc bags for undies, another for socks etc. I do a list and a number of each item per child, and mark it when it enters the suitcase. I fold shirt into pants/skirt for each outfit. I find the problems with the day per bag outweigh the benefits for my family. Plus we usually take longer trips which means I’m doing laundry and reorganizing the bags in an unknown place is hard. Thanks for posting, nice to see how others do it.

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