Our Google Docs Family Packing List

31 May 2023

On the cusp of summer travel season, I thought we could talk a bit about packing! Specifically, I wanted to share our family’s Google Docs packing list. As a family of five who travels relatively frequently and wants it to be as simple as possible – as we pack, at our destination, and when we arrive back home – implementing a master packing list a few years ago was a game-changer.

In today’s post, I’m going to share a version of our family packing list you can make your own, as well as a bit more about why we love it and how we use it. And then at the end, we’re going to have a travel lightning round in the comments :)

Reasons why we love our Google Docs family packing list:

1. We can quickly and easily make a packing list for every destination. Our master packing list includes everything our family might reasonably need for most trips. When we’re ready to pack for a specific trip, we simply copy and paste the list into a new Doc, delete anything we won’t need on that particular trip (for example, winter hats in the summer), and add any specific items we will need (for example, a Fourth of July outfit). In just a few minutes, we have a custom packing list that ensures we won’t forget anything we need while we’re away. No reinventing the wheel with every trip!

2. We can share it. It’s easy for two (or more!) people to share Google Docs, so John and I can easily add things to the packing list in the days leading up to the trip and reference it as we pack alongside each other the night before we leave. Packing is a joint affair in our family, so it’s nice to have a system we can both access easily.

3. We can reference it on our computers and phones. Again, this is helpful both in the run-up to the trip as well as while we’re packing. Though I prefer to reference the list on my laptop while I’m actively gathering items, I like being able to add something from my phone if I think of it while out running errands.

Of course, it should be said that there are other options with similar functionality to Google Docs – the iPhone Notes app is one that springs to mind. Use whatever you’re comfortable with, but if you don’t already have a favorite, GDocs works great for us!

4. Our list includes pre-trip tasks around the house, too. In addition to sections for each family member, toiletry sections, and supply sections, our master list includes reminders of things we need to do before leaving the house for a few days: things like cleaning the litter box, stopping the mail, and turning off our vacuum. Again, it’s so nice to not start from scratch every time we travel – and our packing list is the perfect place to keep these reminders, since we’re checking them off at the same time as we pack!

How to use our Google Docs family packing list:

1. Download the master packing list. You can open our master family packing list right here. Once open, copy and paste it into a new Google Doc and retitle it. I recommend something along the lines of “Master Packing List” :)

2. Tweak it once for your family. Spend a few minutes combing through our list and edit it to fit your family. Do you have two kids? Three kids? Four kids? Make a section for each of them. Adjust the toiletries and supplies to fit your needs. Keep it as general as you’d like or make it as specific as is helpful – whatever you need to do to make it your own!

Tip: As you’ll see in the doc, each family member has a color (and there’s a color for the household, too). This makes it easy to keep track of what’s left at a glance.

3. Tweak it for each destination. Once your master list is set, you’ll simply copy it, paste it into a new Doc, and tweak it for each trip: deleting items you don’t need, adding unique items you do need, and adjusting the details as needed.

4. Delete as you go. As I’m gathering items from the closet and around the house, I delete each item as I add it to the to-be-packed pile. I never print the list out, but you certainly could!

5. Update the master packing list as your family grows. Because the master list is specific, you will need to update it as your family grows to keep it relevant. For example, on our list, “Shep diapers” changed to “Shep pull-ups” changed to “Annie diapers” over the years.

Ready for a travel lightning round? Please answer in the comments, if you’d like:

1. Unpack right away or let it linger?
2. Packing cubes: love them/hate them/no opinion?
3. Favorite road trip snack?
4. Travel you’re looking forward to this summer?

I’ll answer in the comments, too!

P.S. Screen-free road trip tips with preschoolers and my North Carolina bucket list

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May 31, 2023 7:22 am

We unpack right away, and we love packing cubes! We have one trip this summer, and it’s our annual trip to Oak Island for 4th of July. We visit throughout the year, but we are always at OKI for 4th of July!

Sarah Westphal
May 31, 2023 7:43 am

One thing I’ve done with my four kids since they were 5 or so is to print off their own individual packing lists with pictures of what was needed and a number of how many items they are to bring of that item, as they got older I switched out the picture for words. (Ex. ???? 5 to t-shirts 5) They have been responsible for packing their own stuff for years; as they go to week long overnight summer camps. They loved doing it as kids and now are used to it as pre-teens/teens. Of course when they were little I would have them display on their bed what they would be packing and make sure gaps were filled. Or have the older kids check the younger ones. My kids are now 9,10,11 and 13 and I greatly enjoy their independence in this area!

June 1, 2023 8:05 am
Reply to  Sarah Westphal

+1 on the checklist for the littles to get involved. My 7yo loves to lay things out (and has been known to do so a week in advance, causing some laundry issues…).
On the questions- unpack right away; packing cubes were game changers once I gave in and bought them in spring 2023- I’m a convert; Wawa iced tea, Sabra avocado “toast” dipper (like a Dunkaroo, but better), peanut M&Ms; my first trip to Belgium!

May 31, 2023 9:01 am

Love this idea! Going to start using a Family Packing List!
1. Unpack right away! I can’t stand the bags sitting around, although it does take a bit longer now since I have to unpack the kids too! :)
2. I love my packing cubes! I feel like they help me stay so organized.
3. Pretzels, Peanut M&Ms, Grapes, Seltzer Water
4. Family vacation to Hilton Head. We are going for the first time since we’ve had kids with our entire extended family! Very excited but slightly nervous for the 12 hour drive…

May 31, 2023 9:36 am

I created a similar master packing list in the Notes app about 5 years ago, and it has been SUCH a gamechanger! I use it every time I go anywhere overnight, and it has saved me so much time.
I generally unpack right away, but I’m not always good at putting the empty suitcase away. I like packing cubes, but I really love using pouches to corral other types of items (cords, snacks, etc.). My favorite road trip snack is goldfish crackers. This summer, I’m looking forward to hopefully visiting family over the 4th of July!

May 31, 2023 10:00 am

Unpack right away, love packing cubes, I don’t road trip often so maybe a bag of cheetos, looking forward to Cape Canaveral

May 31, 2023 10:14 am

Thanks for this idea! I use Anylist for packing lists, which I also use for groceries, books I want to read with the kids, birthday gift ideas etc. I also make lists for the kids to pack their own but do lots of double checking so they don’t pack all stained play clothes!
1. I try to unpack right away but there is always one bag that lingers for a few days! We pack all dirty laundry together so it all goes right into the washer.
2. LOVE packing cubes! Especially to separate all the kids clothes so everything isn’t an unfolded mess
3. Corn Nuts! I never eat them at any other time except road trips
4. I have a busy year! Staying in a beach house in Delaware this summer with my sisters and parents (11 of us) and just booked a trip to Ireland with my sisters in late August! Covid messed up our travel “rhythms” and we ended up with multiple extended family vacations this year, but next year is wide open for my immediate family to travel!

May 31, 2023 10:48 am

We have a family packing list too along with sections for beach & camping. SO helpful!
Unpack right away (and start the laundry!)
LOVE packing cubes (each member of our family has their own color)
Peach gummy rings
Beach time in St. Simons with extended family

May 31, 2023 11:01 am

Unpack right away!
I just bought packing cubes for a trip we’re taking this weekend (Foster’s first flight!!). I think I already love them based on how easily all of Foster’s clothes for a four-day trip fit in one cube!
Cheez-It snack mix, peanut butter M&Ms and kombucha (I desperately wish gas stations sold it!)
We have a jam-packed September that includes a family wedding in Cape Cod and a solo trip for Mama to Atlanta — I’m looking forward to both in equal measure, ha!

May 31, 2023 12:29 pm

Unpack right away. Love packing cubes. Sausage and cheese. Looking forward to the Cubs in London and a family wedding in Wisconsin.

My master list is location-agnostic, meaning it has items like mittens and sunscreen on it simultaneously. I find it easier to remove items rather than conjure up items.

Kelly Strawberry
May 31, 2023 12:33 pm

1. right away
2. no opinion & never used one
3. gummies/skittles
4. Denver to see Avett Bros at Red Rocks Amphitheater this summer. This trip was actually inspired by our Clurb retreat when someone asked what our dream concert would be. My response was “Avett Bros at Red Rocks!” so making it happen this year. :)

May 31, 2023 12:48 pm

We really like to unpack right away. We try to plan getting home early enough that we can completely unpack and put away the suitcases and bags and start laundry. We also like to have a couple frozen pizzas in the freezer so we can pop dinner in the oven while we unpack. It’s really nice coming home to food so we don’t have to think about it or plan it when we are tired from travel.

May 31, 2023 1:28 pm

I love this and can’t wait to customize for our fam! I also several trips ago (pre-baby) adopted your “dirty clothes suitcase” concept and it has made unpacking soooooo much easier. With that particular trick…

  1. I am now an unpack-right-away-er! I used to let it linger but the dirty clothes suitcase is a game changer.
  2. Love packing cubes. Need to buy more because I only have one set and I’ve started using them for the baby’s clothes rather than mine!
  3. Must have a salty (preferably cheesy) and a sweet – the best road trip snack pair ever are Goldfish and Cadbury mini eggs.
  4. Hopefully going “down the Cape” (we’re in Boston) to take our son to the beach for the first time!
May 31, 2023 2:05 pm

1. I unpack right away! There’s something satisfying about having everything back in its place as soon as I get home.
2. I love packing cubes and use them for every trip! They make staying organized so much easier.
3. Gummy bears, M&Ms, or chocolate-covered almonds.
4. My husband and I are going home (to Alberta, Canada) for a friend’s wedding and we’ll also be there to celebrate my dad’s birthday!

May 31, 2023 2:21 pm

Thanks so much for the lists. I struggle with making packing lists. I feel like I get so caught up in the moment of making the list that I could go on and on forever writing it, and never actually start packing LOL For the lightning round: 1) I unpack the dirty clothes by tossing them into the hamper right away. Everything else takes a week or so. 2) I aspire to get into packing cubes, but currently don’t use them. 3) Must be a trick question since I hate road trips LOL Favorite airport snack: gum and gummy bears. 4) I’m excited for all the trips with family, extended and immediate. And giddy about my daughter meeting Minnie Mouse and Jessie (from toy story) at Disney World this summer.

May 31, 2023 5:35 pm

I like to bring a Packable laundry basket and immediately dump it into the washing machine upon returning home jumpstarting our unpacking. I LOVE packing cubes. Each member of the family has their own color. Peanut m&ms are my favorite snack. We are heading on a beach couples trip on Friday.

June 1, 2023 1:51 pm
  1. Depends on how grueling the travel was :)
  2. Love the concept, but in practice they do not help me stay organized
  3. Protein bars, beef jerky, and as a treat- gummy worms
  4. We are headed to my hometown in New York for the 4th of July Celebration! And then to Cape Charles for a week in August. Perfect low-key trips for this stage of life with little kids.
June 2, 2023 3:08 pm

Late to the party on this one….
1) Unpack right away- however, this is somewhat new for us. Prior to having 3 kids, we would let clothes and shoes linger, but something about adding Samuel made our home feel more cluttered if left unpacked.
2) I’m actually not sure what packing cubes are! haha! Am I missing some novelty that would make our trips simpler?
3) My stomach doesn’t do great on long car rides so we keep it simple (perhaps boring) with clementines and apples. However, if we are not traveling on a Sunday then lunch at chick-fil-a is a must. :-)
4) The Kaufmann family mountain trip- David’s family lives fairly spread out over the U.S. and this is such a sweet time for us to all get together. Every year we wish is was longer but it’s a joy to feel that away about extended family.

June 2, 2023 9:41 pm

Love this and love all lists :)! Thank you!

June 21, 2023 5:46 pm

Half unpack right away. I for sure like to wash laundry right away. Everything else might sit for a couple days. I love packing cubes!! I am a huge snack person. I love salami, cheese, and chips/dip for road trips. We are going to Wyoming for a family reunion! Flying with 4 children for the first time! ????????