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Family holiday checklist: how to pack this summer

Not sure what to stick in your suitcase this summer? Our family holiday checklist should help to make it as stress-free as possible

Published 2 Aug 2018, 19:00 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 16:25 BST
Photograph by Getty

DO… Let the kids do their packing
Channel that holiday excitement by starting the packing process early. Discuss the basics, then let the kids make a list. Having your children invested in all stages of the trip is great practise for wannabee world explorers. Get them to lay out a pile of items for each day you'll be away, then review their merits together. Don't deprive them of every frivolous item, but use a bit of gentle diplomacy to explain why, say, a toothbrush might trump a glittery tutu.

DO… Leave a digital footprint
Scan and email yourself copies of passports, driving licence, any visas, and health and travel insurance documents for the whole brood. Don't forget to set off with proof of parenthood if you have a different surname to your little ones, and if you're away without the parent who does share their surname, be sure to take a marriage/divorce/birth certificate and/or a letter of consent from the absent parent. The latter isn't a legal requirement but will speed up any dealings with immigration officials, which can be particularly tricky these days.

DO… Pack what will save you time and money (and your sanity)
A checklist of essentials might include: a wetsuit (worth the investment for the increased time in the water it allows); a couple of portable power packs; spare leads and headphones; headphone splitters (makes screen time more of a family affair); and an extension socket.

DON'T… Be stingy 
More is more when it comes to home comforts. We're talking toys here — beloved teddies (keep a firm eye on those when leaving the train/plane) and a couple of cheap and cheerful new toys purchased at judicious intervals while in transit: these can make travel days fun for little ones (and thus, for you). Yes, you have to pay for most checked-in bags these days but even if you manage to cram your worldly goods into a carry-on, bulging bags may well be taken off you at the gate and put in the hold regardless. Keep those beloved essentials with you, plus a change of clothes, snacks and medication.

DON'T… Pack what you could get on arrival 
Most baby kit is available to rent at your destination, so consider ringing ahead. Do you really need that booster seat? What's more, plenty of day-to-day essentials can be brought cheaply wherever you are, from bulky nappies to cumbersome beach toys.

DON'T… Fold clothes
Folding clothes neatly might be something you tell the kids to do on a regular basis, but this is not the time to employ that tidy-freak tendency. You need to roll with it — literally. Rolling clothes saves space, shows what's in the suitcase at a glance, and despite what you might think, it doesn't add creases. If you'll be frequently moving from base to base, use a wheelie suitcase that can serve as a mobile wardrobe and can remain packed. Vac-sealed or zip-lock bags (that expel air to save space) are tremendously helpful, and help keep those much-needed items isolated and within easy reach.

Check out our family summer survival guide and our must-read books for kids.

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Where are you heading this summer? Here's where our team are off to — let us know using the hashtag #NGTUK on Twitter! 

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