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The ultimate guide for last-minute holiday packing

luggage for family travel

Do you struggle with last-minute holiday packing? Getting away on a family break, particularly with young children, can be incredibly stressful. Remembering and organising all of the different things each member of the family needs (and fitting it into a suitcase!) can be a nightmare, especially when it comes down to the last minute, as ours inevitably does.

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After all the travelling we’ve done as a family over the last few years, we’ve put together a basic guide outlining the main killer tactics we use. These will help make sure your last-minute holiday packing is as efficient, organised and stress-free as possible, even if you’re under siege by bouncy youngsters.

Make a packing list for each person

A good way of ensuring you don’t leave anything behind is to making a separate packing list for each person in the family. This way, you can cross off each item as its packed so there’s no last-minute panicky dig around. It’s also worth highlighting items on the list that need to be packed just before you leave. This could include things like a favourite teddy. Try to teach the kids to manage their list themselves. If they can pack the items on their lists, then all you have to do is check that they’ve remembered everything, and that it’s packed in the right place. Eventually, once they’ve got the hang of it, this will save you loads of time.

If you’re flying, check your baggage limits

If you’re flying, don’t start packing until you know your airline’s baggage and weight limits. Check in advance about carry-on regulations. Bear in mind that airlines usually allow baby formula, baby food and breast milk on board past the regulation carry-on liquid size, but do make sure to double-check with your specific airport/airline. Likewise, the majority of airlines don’t charge for checked car seats, cribs and strollers, but it’s worth checking to avoid any nasty surprises.

If you’re driving or travelling by train, prepare distractions for the kids

For trips closer to home – whether you’re visiting relatives or enjoying a half-term break with kids in tow – be prepared with an assortment of distraction techniques. While magnetic board games, books and screen-based consoles are great ways to limit the amount of ‘are we there yet’s yelled per hour, we’re bigger fans of parlour games and travel classics, such as I spy, 20 Questions or Number Plate Bingo. These will help you to start the break as you mean to go on: as a family. For inspiration, check out our selection of the best travel games for kids.

boy looking bored on train

Don’t forget the games and distractions!

Last-minute holiday packing means using packing separators to organise your stuff (not throwing everything into your suitcase in a heap!)

It might feel time-consuming, but sorting clothing and different items into separate lightweight zipper bags will make your time on the road so much easier. Divide separate items into bags of tops, bottoms, underwear etc., so you’re not scrabbling through suitcases trying to find a specific item. We also recommend taking a dirty laundry bag so there’s no mix-ups.

Pack versatile, practical clothing (and don’t forget the waterproofs!)

When it comes to packing clothing for the kids, it’s best to stick to comfortable favourites. Pack plenty of underwear and socks (there never seems to be enough!) and don’t forget any specific seasonal items, such as swimwear or wellington boots.

If you’re going on holiday in the UK, chances are you’ll need waterproof clothing at some point. Pack those rain coats and you won’t regret it. Don’t despair if it does rain, though. There are plenty of wet-weather family attractions in places like Cornwall, Devon and other parts of the country.

Last-minute holiday packing rule no. 1: Don’t forget any medicine and first-aid essentials

It’s always a good idea to travel with a first-aid kit. A basic kit should include painkillers, medication for allergic reactions, upset tummies, ibuprofen, anti-itch cream, Vaseline, a thermometer, bandages and plasters, antiseptic cream and tweezers. Don’t forget sunscreen and any mosquito spray/anti-malarials if necessary.

Store all your essentials in a backpack

backpack with contents

Make sure you take a backpack or two, to keep all your essentials together in one place.

Make sure you store everything that you absolutely can’t lose in one, easy-to-carry backpack that you can keep with you at all times. Think all of your important paperwork (passports, tickets, hotel and transport details and any important numbers/details), any toys/animals/blankets the kids can’t live without, your wallet, phone and charger, glasses, prescription medication, painkillers and any adapter you’ll need.

Make a list of the things you absolutely can’t forget. Check it as you walk out of the front door.

Pack a separate bag with anything you need to access on the road

In addition to your essentials backpack and games and distractions for the kids, if you’re going on a road-trip, it’s a good idea to have an easily accessible bag for the car.

This might include things like:

  • Snacks and water
  • Pyjamas, toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • An extra pair of clothes and a compact fleece for each child
  • An iPad, headphones and splitter (plus a charger)

Follow this last-minute packing guide and you’ll be all set. Enjoy your holidays!

Do you have any last-minute holiday packing tips? I’d love to hear about them, in the comments below.

This feature was created in collaboration with Center Parcs. All images are from Pixabay.

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The ultimate guide for last-minute holiday packing

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