How to Pack a Family of Four in Two Carry-On Suitcases

Packing has a whole new meaning now that we have two kids in tow for all our trips. It is truly amazing the amount of stuff such little people need when we go away for just a weekend. We all know the basics—diapers, wipes, lotions, clothes, etc. But we also need their favorite stuffed animals, blankies, books, toys…the list goes on. If we left bunny behind, my daughter would never get to enjoy the beach (and neither would I, because I forgot her favorite stuffed toy and she wouldn’t let me forget it!). 

So, instead of packing like I am making a cross-country move, I have picked up a few tricks along the way to make it possible for us to travel with two carry-on bags for all four of us! First, a sampling of what I need to pack (my clothes, husband’s things, toiletries, kids’ clothes, and numerous kid things). Then, you’ll get to my best tips for how to pack for a family of four!



  • 2 carry on bags
  • Gallon-sized Ziploc bags

One great thing about young children is at least their clothing is tiny and easier to pack. But you do need more of it. I pack about two to three outfits for each day, because kids are not that clean. These are my four year old’s and baby’s clothes and diapers, and I stick them into Ziploc bags.


I apply tons of pressure and squeeze the air out of the bags. I pack right away so they stay tight, and I lay my husband’s shoes or something heavy on top to keep it weighed down, as the bags will expand over time. Vacuum bags are also great for this, but in a pinch, everyone has Ziplocs at home, and they are awesome room savers!


I do not love the Ziploc packing hack for my husband’s and my clothes. It tends to wrinkle them, so I like the roll move. Rolling saves space and helps prevent wrinkles!

rollclothingforpackingOur carry-on bag with our rolled clothing:


No shoe is packed empty! My husband’s belt and socks and whatever else fits will go into shoes.


To save room inside the luggage for special things like bunnies and books that help my girls go to sleep and save my sanity, I layer on the plane. Blazer, scarf, jewelry, AND everyone wears a baby blanket like a scarf (including my husband). One, they are incredibly soft and cozy on cold planes, and two, we need them for the trip. Win-win.


So, we survived packing! Now we just need to survive the plane/car ride with both kids—pile on the snacks and coloring books (and tablets)…

More Packing Tips:

How to Pack a Family of Four in Two Carry-On Suitcases