I have tried many methods of packing for kids and keeping organized. What seems to work for me is that packing cubes and/or Ziploc bags are your best friend. I used Ziploc bags on our last trip but I have added a link to some awesome packing cubes here.
I have two children and I don’t usually unpack the suitcase when we are staying in a hotel or vacation rental unless the clothing item needs to be hanged. I tend to iron most items that need ironing before folding them very neatly. I stack by outfit with socks and underwear right on top of the outfit. Then I place the stacks in gallon size Ziploc bags and place the bags in the suitcase. The number of bags you need depend on the size of your child and the amount of outfits needed for the days away. You may get some creases due to folding, so if you would rather roll outfits that is fine too. I am ok with a little crease here and there, but thankfully most of the clothing items survive the trip and are not that creased. If the occasion requires perfection a little touch up ironing is done on location. Most hotels or vacation rentals have irons available as part of their amenities.
Overpacking is sometimes inevitable. I have learned it’s not the end of the world, but when you are flying it can be costly. To avoid over packing and being charged for heavy bags, it is ok to let your children rewear clothing items. It really depends on the climate and activities done in the clothing, but, if able, you can launder them. Most of the places that we stay in have a washer and dryer. To suit our family needs, we opt for a vacation rental with multiple bedrooms more often than a hotel. They usually have a full kitchen and laundry room. I am not saying I want to do laundry when traveling but throwing the play clothes in the laundry is not that hard. This is very helpful when you have young children.
If we are traveling for at least one week, for each child I pack 2-3 play outfits, 3-4 pajamas, two nice daytime outfits, and one nighttime/dinner outfit per child. Another tip is to have the pants and tops match more than one outfit. This way in pictures it looks like you packed an outfit a day but you are just mixing and matching. Pack one pair of dressy shoes, flip flops and/or water shoes, and one pair of sneakers. Bathroom items are a personal choice on what is needed, but I would stay within airline guidelines and know you can always run to WalMart or its equivalent. If you are going to a cold climate you will want to make sure that you are thinking about longs sleeves/layers, a coat, hats, gloves, and boots. I usually pack enough socks and underwear for all the days away because I feel as though we may need extra anyway with kids, and they do not weigh much. I also always pack the on-the-go diaper bag with a full change of clothes and emergency items for whatever may occur at any time, especially when flying.
A sweatshirt is also brought along with any cozy item or stuffed animal required by your child. I tend to offer a lot of grace to my children when traveling because it is out of their normal routine. I always let them pack a Ziploc bag full of favorite toys to bring on the trip. We know that they may get restless so iPads are charged and headphones brought along to help occupy them. Snacks are a must when traveling I always bring healthy items and treats as well. Vacation is meant to be fun and I want the kids to feel like it is an exciting thing that we are doing.
With young children it feels like you are bringing your whole house with you sometimes. Bringing multiples of things really isn’t necessary unless you are going to a place with no civilization. In that case good luck! I probably wouldn’t be going there with kids anyway. With young children, baby items are a must and can take up the whole suitcase, but be as minimal as you can. We bring one milk cup/bottle for each child and their water cups. We have learned that if able, bring shelf stable milk (for children over one year old) in your diaper bag. This will reduce any need for a cooler and can hold you over until you can get to a refrigerator. I have added a link to the shelf-stable milk that we buy here.
The milk for children may need to be brought in your carry-on-luggage if flying, but it is allowed most of the time since it is baby milk. Bring as many shelf-stable milks as you think you will need for travel and also for a few days until you can reach a store. In the past we brought enough baby food and diapers for a few days with a plan to purchase more when we arrive at our destination. These items are important and a priority when traveling with a baby, so do your best.
Give yourself some time to prepare when packing for your family. Don’t do it the night before as it could mean being up all night. If you want to avoid being disorganized follow these tips that have worked for me. I can also simply tell my husband to go to the suitcase or drawer and know that the children will be wearing what I have planned. My children are my pride and joy. It brings me a lot of joy to dress them and honor them in this way. I want them to look cared for. If all you take from this is to use a Ziploc bag for packing, then I have done my job. It really helps!