Stuff We Like: Pack Light, Travel Fast, Part III – The Calm Traveler Family Packing List


Welcome back to Stuff We Like, a regular column where we shop and share items we think you’ll love. By reader request, I’m building a Stuff We Like series on one-bag packing and tools to help you organize and travel light.

Last time, I shared the Calm Traveler Packing List Template for Business Travel – many of you emailed to say how useful it was, so thank you! I have also written about the tiny bag I carry with me all the time, and the tech essentials inside it.

This week, thanks to multiple requests, I’m sharing the Calm Traveler Packing List Template for Family Travel! 

First: Instructions!

The Calm Traveler Packing List Template: Family Edition is a Google Sheet, and is visible here.

You’ll need to be signed in to Google.com using your Gmail address. Once you’re logged in, click the link above to view a copy of the spreadsheet.

Important! The above link is view-only, but you can save a copy of the sheet for yourself. Here is what you should do.

  1. Click the link! Magic, these internets, I tell you.
  2. The spreadsheet shall appear!
  3. Click FILE, and then Make a Copy:
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  • Name the copy or leave the name as-is, and save to your Google Drive:
    Make a Copy - copy document name and location, then OK button and cancel
  • That copy is yours, and you can edit it as much as you like – and you should, to make it useful for your travels!

    Do I use this on a computer or do I print it out?

    It’s up to you, but for most family trips, I print it out and cross off, highlight, and add things to the page as I go. I’ve also printed copies for my sons to let them pick out the clothing and items they need.

    There is a small space next to each item, and you can either specify a number for items needed, or put a “Y” for “Yup, I totally packed that.” Again, do what makes you feel comfortable and prepared!

    This packing list has spaces for two adults and three children. What if I have more than three children, or less than three? Or a surfeit of adults?! 

    Easy! You can add a column to the spreadsheet. Here’s how.

    1. Click the letter at the top of the column where you’d like to add space for another person.Column on spreadsheet highlighted after clicking.
    2. Click the tiny dropdown arrow next to the column letter:Arrow pointed at dropdown box
    3. Click “Insert 1 right” to make another column appear!Arrow pointing at Insert 1 Left menu option to add column to spreadsheet
    4. Make sure to do this twice so you have a column for the item itself, then a column to indicate how many or to check it off the list.

    You can add individuals — adults, children, or pets or whatever you need!

    Ready for a tour? Let’s do this! 

    Let’s start with the obvious part: Essentials! This packing template is similar to the Calm Traveler Business Packing list in that you identify essentials first – this time for everyone in your family:

    Essentials for two adults, three children including passports, bears or dolls, medication, mouth guard, inhalers, allergy meds etc

    My essentials are similar to the prior template – mouth guard, medication, Epi-pens. The same rules apply: essentials are the most important, irreplaceable, absolutely necessary personal items you need to have for this trip, and every trip. If it’s crucial and hard to replace, it’s an Essential. 

    You’ll note that for the kids, “bear,” “teddy,” and “dolly,” are essentials alongside “passport” and medications and inhalers. Essential has a wide definition when kids are involved!

    If your children or your adults have more essential items than there is room for here, you can easily add rows to the packing list by right-clicking on the row number and clicking “Insert 1 above.”

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    Then, we come to Toiletries and Miscellaneous for each person.

    Pretty self explanatory. As I mentioned in my last post, my toiletry bag stays mostly packed, and I’ll be going into more detail about that later. But for this trip, I’m assuming everyone will need sunscreen (unless you like to buy at your destination) and bug spray. I put “period supplies” in italics because you don’t always need to bring them, but if you do, you’ll want some with you!

    Each person has their own water bottle on this list, though in my family, unless someone is ill, we share one. Obviously everyone has their own toothbrushes and hairbrushes, but only one child’s list has toothpaste – unless you have finicky toothpaste users, one tube should work fore everybody, and a small one at that! And if folks like their own toothpaste, that’s cool. It’s not like it’s a piano and takes up all the room in the bag, right?

    Clothes

    Unlike the Business Traveler Template, I don’t have outfit planning on this template, because much of the time, vacations may not require outfit planning. This sample template I envisioned for a trip somewhere with a beach or pool, mostly casual, with three kids. I’m also assuming no laundry facilities – hence 7 pair of underwear.

    The method in which you’re traveling also influences how much you bring. Checking multiple bags can get awfully expensive, so consolidating and requiring items to do double-duty means fewer pieces of luggage. Double-duty means larger items can be worn more than once. Some t-shirts can be worn twice, or in some cases washed and hung to dry if you’re somewhere for more than a week. Merino wool and travel fabric t-shirts are great for this, and there are excellent ones available new and used. I have a separate entry on travel clothing coming soon!

    And, if you can do laundry, you can bring less! This is awesome. I love when a place we stay on vacation has laundry facilities. But even if there isn’t laundry options nearby, shorts and some shirts can be re-worn, especially if you’re going somewhere that you’ll be spending a lot of time in swimsuits.

    Though you can wash undergarments in a sink and hang to dry, they don’t take much room. Everything else I presume will be open to being worn twice, unless one person is like OH HECK NO. This does happen, as I well know, so you can adjust accordingly.

    What’s the special pink section at the bottom?

    Pink hued spreadsheet cells with items for travel clothing like yoga pants tshirt hoodie sneakers, etc

    This is the clothing you’ll wear while you travel – shorts or sweat pants, shirts, maybe hoodies if you’re always cold like I am. Sneakers take up a lot of room in luggage, so I wear them when I travel, especially on airplanes (also I don’t like walking barefoot through TSA).

    En Route

    En Route section includes confirmation paperwork for hotel, ear plugs, snacks, earbuds, and dramamine

    When I travel with my family, I typically look at the actual travel part of the trip as a separate thing to plan for. On this template, it’s a section apart from the destination and items we’ll need there. This is especially true if the journey involves a flight or a long drive.

    Items I need during the trip go in this section. If it’s a long car ride or series of flights, I might bring Anker batteries to recharge devices, and I might have a separate snack list if we’re driving all day.

    One of my kids can get carsick, so I pack Dramamine. We also have bags stashed in our cars, but if we’re going somewhere and we’re not in our own vehicles, I’ll add “bags” to this list in case we need them.

    Weather

    Weather on the spreadsheet, mostly sunny all week with highs in the mid 70s to high 80s with one day of rain. I'm optimistic about the weather on this pretend vacation

    Pretty self explanatory. If I plot out the weather (and any major things we’re doing, like rafting or going on a tour or something) I know what to expect while we’re gone and I don’t have to go looking for that info while I’m packing. It’s already here.

    MISC

    Miscellaneous column with laptop cord kindle camera and knitting listed

    This is a separate list area for anything you need that doesn’t quite fit in the other sections. Laptop, camera, knitting (although I know for the knitters, that goes under “Essentials”). Items for keeping young humans busy, like coloring books and crayons, stickers, or activity books, that kind of thing, could also go here.

    Activities

    Activities -pool toys deck of cards games and electronic charging station items

    Toys that are easy to pack! We have some fabric balls which have sponges inside that we use for playing catch in a pool. I tend to bring a few any time there’s a pool we might use because we can make a ton of games with them.

    The other items are sort of obvious – a deck of cards, UNO, games – anything that travels well that your family enjoys? Bring it. We tend to play a lot of card games in the evenings when we’re on vacation.

    There are some electronic accessories in this section, as I tend to think of watching movies or playing on tablets as “activity” rather than “miscellaneous,” though these two items could go in either location.

    The “Four USB Plug” is this plug here:

    Anker 4-Port USB wall charger, $26

    I tend to bring one of these with us because it turns that one really convenient outlet into a charging portal for everyone.

    And if that’s not a good option, I also sometimes travel with a “squid” style power trip:

    Squid style power trip with five outlets connected by short cords to a base
    Accell PowerSquid Outlet Multiplier, $17

    I don’t typically fly with one of these but if we’re driving somewhere, I bring one. It’s the more-useful cousin to a power strip, and turns one outlet into a Mega Charging Station (sounds like something out of Power Rangers, right?) for devices, phones, etc.

    Conclusion

    If you need to plot your outfits for specific days of your family trip, you can easily use the Miscellaneous section for that. And if there are items your family needs that aren’t easily added to this template, you can add as many columns and sections as you need. This is meant to be customized, and I’d really like to hear from you about how you’d alter this template to suit your needs!

    I’d said in the last entry that I’d write next about what I pack my clothing in – but I had so many requests for family travel with so many of you planning trips that I moved this up. So I’ll be back with packing advice and accessories. There are so many choices – packing cubes, compression bags, plastic pouches – and I’ll share my research into what works really well for me. I’ll also be sharing my master Toiletry Bag list, too.

    If this series is completely your catnip, please consider signing up for the Organization Academy mailing list. I send out weekly tips on digital and personal organization, and I send templates and guides like this one to the group early, too.

    I hope this template helps present and future you and your family. If you have questions or suggestions, absolutely let me know!

    What are your must-haves when you travel with your family? 

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