Universal fact: Small people come with a lot of crap.

Wherever you go,the small people go, and therefore their crap.

But packing for a family holiday?  You need a week off just to pack the crap.

Remember when you used to fill a whole suitcase with your own stuff?  All the clothes that you bought especially for your holiday, and justifying the fact they cost nearly as much as your holiday because you will wear them loads (you won’t).


packing for a family holiday



Nowadays you pack the bare essentials for yourself.  A bulging make-up bag has been replaced by a concealer and a travel sized mascara.  You don’t pack any shoes as the only pair you will be wearing all week are the ones on your feet.

If only it were that simple when it came to packing for the small people.  Heaven forbid you should forget anything.  That would make you the worst mother ever.  Especially if say you forgot your sons teddy bear. You know the one he sleeps with every night and has done since he was born.  The one he calls you to come get in the middle of the night when it falls out of bed.  The one he whispers too before he goes to sleep.  The one that has helped nurse him through illness and been casualty to sickness bugs and survived the washing machine.  Yes that one.  What kind of mother would forget such a thing?

packing for a family holiday


Yes OK, it was me.  In my defence my husband also forgot the teddy. It can’t be all my fault surely.  I realised OUR mistake 2 and a half hours into our 3 hour journey to our holiday destination.  I shouted at my husband.  A lot.  I wept.  A lot.  I berated myself for being a terrible mother.  I felt sick thinking of my poor little boy and how he would cope. And I hadn’t brought nearly enough wine to cope with the sleepless nights we were bound to endure without bear.

As it happens my child is apparently very fickle and didn’t even bat an eyelid at going to sleep with a random teddy I found in the car.  Poor bear.

But since that day I have lived by the boy scout motto when it comes to packing: “Be prepared”.

Pie Chart


Stuff you Need

The essential things like nappies (a whole case full) and wet wipes, clothes, toothbrushes, passports and wine.  The stuff you are going to be pretty stuffed without.  Bear.  Don’t forget the bear.


Random Kids Stuff

Toys that they can’t bear to leave at home but will stay in the case until your return. Colouring books, story books, buckets and spades, scooters, games, balls.  A stick that the big one found and insists on taking with you.  An insane amount of stuff to keep them entertained in your home away from home.

Of course they won’t use any of it and you will instead spend an insane amount of money on lots of ‘holiday purchases’ – aka ‘cheap crap toys’.  Which you will then have to bring home again, where they will be immediately forgotten along with all the other magazine tat and pound shop purchases that were deemed essential at the time.


Apocalypse Snack Stuff

If your small people are anything like mine they are bottomless pits and seems to constantly be grazing.  Holiday destinations are not known for being close to a reasonably priced food store.  Hence the suitcase full of food that could feed a small army, but will probably not last the week with two small boys and a growth spurt.  At least it will be empty before you return home and you will have space for all the cheap crap toys you have purchased.


Whatever the Weather Stuff

Holidaying in this country can be tricky when it comes to the weather.  So you prepare for every eventuality.  The suitcases are full of shorts and t-shirts, sun-cream and sun-hats but you will also find jumpers and hoodies and rain-coats and umbrellas.  Don’t forget the wellies!  You will curse packing all this ‘whatever the weather’ stuff because you know you won’t use it.  But if you didn’t pack it, you would need it, and curse yourself for not packing it. It’s a win win packing dilemma!


Just in Case Stuff

All the stuff you might need but probably won’t.  Extra pants for the big one in case of accidents (even though he hasn’t had an accident for 3 and half years).  Blankets for the little one in case it’s cold at night.  A Magazine to read when you have some chill out time (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha).


Emergency Stuff

Plasters for scrapped knees, Calpol for fevers,  Savlon for insect bites, treats for bribery, stain remover, and an extra bottle of wine.


Extra Just In Case Stuff

A few more PJ’s.  Some extra nappies.  A few bath toys.  Tea Towels.  Toilet rolls. The arm bands the big one has always refused to wear.  Anything else that will fit in my arms as I wonder from room to room assessing what I may have forgotten to pack.


Of course you will only use the ‘Stuff you Need’ which accounted for a whole 5% of your luggage.

And you will still forget something.

And there’s only one thing worse than packing for a family holiday…

The unpacking.

Mount laundry


Have you ever forgotten anything essential?


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Claire Kirby

64 Comments on Packing For a Family Holiday

  1. Oh the packing! I do see it as a plus that I am now finally able to pack a sensible amount & not most of my house for myself, but yes I am so scared of missing something I need for the kids…


  2. Love this Claire! What on earth did we even pack before when we manage to scrape by on the bare minimum now? Never forget Teddy and the spare pj’s. We had one night filled with projectile vomiting while we were away. No spare pj’s. #fridayfrolics

  3. Ha! Brilliant. We are on holiday now and I’m freaking out that the laundry basket at home is already rammed because we have last minute house guests so had to strip all beds and tidy house as well as pack an entire caravan!! We take EVERYTHING! Because we can! But the unpacking and washing….erghhh! Nightmare! #fridayfrolics

  4. Spot on Claire! I always tell my husband that holidays with a toddler frighten me, because the week before and after are far too stressful!
    I understand your ‘never-forget-the-teddy’ bit; my little fellow has had his since he was four months and teddy has travelled the world with us. I put post-it notes all around the house so as not to forget teddy!
    Super post. Love the pie-chart:)

  5. Oh yes spot on, when we are going on holiday to Cornwall I just ram the car with everything – it looks like we are going to the dump instead! This summer we went abroad and I had to curtail my *extra extra crap that I think we need but know deep down we don’t* due to that party pooper *baggage allowance*. Also this year after spending silly money on 2 guide books – I left them behind and hubs didn’t remember either. Loved the pie chart, factually correct and very funny! #friday Frolics

  6. We are totally on the same wavelength tonight Claire! Haha, when you see my post you’ll see why! Hopefully it will make you feel better about the bear (poor bear…) I’m the queen of forgetting stuff (probably because the night before we go away I’m reading this instead of packing…can we call it research?!)
    Such good advice here, I’ll tick them off as I go along!

  7. This great advice. We tend to go on nights away and packing is a nightmare even for one night! I hadn’t even considered first aid things before. thanks for sharing #coolmumclub

  8. Whatever the weather stuff for UK holidays is mountainous!!!! I’ve been known to pack sandals, wellies, sun cream & hot water bottles all for the same trip. #coolmumclub lifeinthemumslane

  9. I am about to embark on the packing for our weekend away and I am quite sure I will be able to identify with all your packing categories – particularly the bunch of toys that no one will play with. I have on a previous occasion gotten so carried away packing the kids (and husbands’) stuff that I forgot to pack myself any clean knickers…. not cool having to rinse out the same pair every night and hang themout to dry ready to wear the next day! #coolmumclub

  10. OMG we just came back from a week away and I was literally unpacking and washing for a week!!!! My house felt like a Chinese laundry. So relate. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely lady x

  11. Amazing post! It helps me a lot about how and what to pack for us and my little girl. Most of the time I forget things, which are really important for my daughter. Therefore I need to start writing down everything necessary I need to pack, so next time we are about to go somewhere I will be prepared!

  12. This really made me laugh Claire. I’m trying to work out whether I take more than you or less! I think I’m getting better as my daughter gets older and you are so right about the shoes. I won’t give up though and still pack them all – high heels the lot, part of me still thinks I’m going away with the girls for 2 weeks partying! I actually did wear the same pair nearly all holiday this year. The triumph of comfort over style seems to win through these days. This summer has felt like a constant round of packing and unpacking. I wonder how many man hours we put in to the suitcase – dread to think! Never seem to get it right though. Nicky x

  13. I forget the essentials on a daily basis, so I’m dreading packing for our holiday to Butlins in Sept. Plus we have one more little person to pack for this time. You’re so right though, especially the makeup bag. My has dramatically reduced just in general, so on holiday mascara and concealer will prob do the trick lol. #fridayfrolics

  14. I once forgot my straighteners and had to spend a week with an 80’s perm.It’s so true that we take an awful lot of stuff we really don’t need though.I say stuff it all and fill with chocolate 🙂 #fridayfrolics

  15. Oh yes… I don’t think i can cope with all this. Think I’ll just stay at home!

    Once, a long time ago BC, my husband (then boyfriend) went away for a week and he forgot to pack any TROUSERS! 😀

    x Alice

    • We went away for a wedding. My husband forgot his tie and my brother in law forgot his shoes. Me and my sister in law sat in the bar whilst they went shopping (life before kids!)

  16. This is why I am too frightened to holiday abroad. we go to cornwall every year as I cant bear the thought of trying to pack all the unnecessary stuff into a suitcase when it currently fills the entire car. And I have one thing to say about the laundry pile – launderette service wash. take 2 bin liners of stuff, return a few hours later to find neatly folded clean dry laundry. I use the launderette once a year for holiday washing – with the bonus that you get to feel like you’re in Eastenders for a bit! I am however always disappointed when its not Dot Cotton serving me. Great post, I am absolutely that random item packer. #fridayfrolics

  17. We went away for ONE NIGHT and had to take so much stuff that I couldn’t actually see out the rearview mirror of the car. It is just not worth going anywhere at this point!!

  18. I hear you girlfriend. Such a horrible task, packing that is. Unpacking is just unthinkable too. I actually went away last weekend, kid-free. Do you know how liberating it was to pack just for myself? It was incredible. I actually enjoyed it. I packed so much shit for myself it wasn’t funny! The suitcase was all mine!! So liberating. #FridayFrolics

  19. Oh my this is so familiar. Especially the magazine, as IF we’ll ever get time to read that! At least that’s quite small I suppose. We thought we had left our eldest’s Big Bunny in a service station. She was hyperventilating with panic. So were we. We eventually found it tucked into one of the many bags but I will never recover. Becky x #FridayFrolics

  20. Haha! I was just as bad when I was a kid, I always felt bad leaving my dolls behind and ended up with about 16 coming along!
    The first time we went away with our baby we literally filled the car with his stuff and we had a carrier bag of stuff. Kids need a lot of crap!

  21. Oh hell yes – we seem to require the same amount of stuff for a couple of nights away as for 2 weeks – it takes me a week to prepare and about the same to recover and get on top of everything again. #FridayFrolics

  22. This post was spot on, and so funny….! 🙂
    Oh , no, Teddy was forgotten! The tragedy….! We once were able to forgot not Teddy, or baby’s bag, but OUR bag on our way to the airport… We had to turn back and get it, thats the amount of stuff that we were taking baby’s related (random, whatever the weather stuff…you know!) that our bag was actually meaningless compared to the two/three baby’s bags….therefore forgotten…. 🙂

  23. Toys, the bane of my existence! My son loves them but they are taking over the house. And yes when we are on a trip even those short ones I need to bring the whole house just so I can be sure that my son is entertained in the car =P


  24. This is fab! I am a terrible overpacker because what happens if you forget something? I mean it’s not like there’s shops and it’s not like we’d have our debit cards on us…oh wait! I could have done with this post before I had both my holidays this year! Nothing worse than coming back to all that blimmin washing though! Especially if it’s raining! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  25. I had to LOL at apocalypse snack stuff. On our recent flight home I ran out of snacks. I spent the whole flight worrying that the kid would wake and I wouldn’t be able to placate him with rice cakes.

  26. This is spot on, laugh out loud funny. The 5% of stuff you will actually use is so bang on. For me, I pack, thinking I have all the possible crap I wont ever need – then as the car engine is running I just run around the house collecting random items I definitely WILL NOT NEED EVER. I then realise that the only room for this crap is the footwell, where, well, my feet should be. I do decide these items are so important that I keep them there, being utterly uncomfortable the whole journey. These things then remain there for the length of the holiday, unused – and are then unpacked at home, now covered in muddy footprints.

    My parents had a ‘dog tag’ engraved with our home address and stitched it to my favourite toy, a result of a one time melt down on my part. The bear was returned from a campsite in France , a Little Chef and a Happy Eater (with free lollipops). Now they are parents.



  27. This is absolutely on the nail!
    My bear story is even worse. When my eldest was three we were getting the train back from staying at my parents. White Bear was carefully packed. However, the tearfulness caused by saying goodbye to Grandad could only be assuaged by getting White Bear out of the suitcase. On the train. Can you see where this is going? White Bear never made it off the train. I realised he was missing as we got down into the Underground at Euston. Sprinted back up the escalator as fast as you can sprint with a pre-schooler and a suitcase. Searched the train on hands and knees. Tearfully begged every member of Virgin staff I could find, from cleaners to station manager to help me. Stalked the Left Luggage office with multiple daily phone calls for a month. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Over three years later she still talks about White Bear, and wonders if he’s ok without her. Sob. Gulp. So you see, I really AM the worst mother in the world. And my husband wasn’t even there to share the blame.

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