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A Weekend Away: Packing Essentials for the Whole Family

October 1, 2020

A Weekend Away: Packing Essentials for the Whole Family

October 1, 2020

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The opinions are our own and we’ll only share what we love.

We do A LOT of weekend getaways with small kids. Each year, it gets a bit easier as the kids get older and we find we’re packing less. We thought we would share a few of our essentials that we use almost every time we head away for the weekend.

Bags – Choosing the Right Bag for the Job

Depending on the excursion, we use a variety of different bags. The wheeled carry-on luggage are most often we we choose – they stack nicely in the car and often fit behind the front seats on the floor. We have the one below from Target and it works well. We are also big fans of the Birdling duffle bags. Katie uses the Weekender, the Overnighter, and the Daytripper. The Birdling bags are more expensive, but they do go on sale now and then!

In summer, the whole adventure bag and all of the contents come along since it’s already packed for the season.

Read our Adventure Bag post to see what we keep in here during the summer

critical for space-saving and keeping organized

No matter which type of bag we pack, we love using the packing cubes for almost everything. For example, if we are packing hats and mittens, they all go in one packing cube. This helps keep the whole family organized. It can be helpful to have multiple color sets and use one color per family member. Here’s the ones we have:

Keep Your Hands-Free when Out & About

Bring a backpack if you plan to go out and about during your weekend away. We have found backpacks to be the easiest way to carry our gear while out with our families and, obviously, allows us to be hands-free. Most moms have already figured this hack out by now 🙂 Here’s the two backpacks we each have and use often.

We also have a “packable backpack” that comes in handy. It was inexpensive and we’ve had it for years. This is nice for when we go hiking because it allows us to have one backpack for out and about and stow away another one for hikes, biking, etc. without having to switch around too many times. Here is the link: packable backpack

Green Packable Backpack used in the Rocky Mountains


Bluetooth speaker
For those impromptu dance parties

We don’t go anywhere without bring a speaker. We’ve each had a variety of different speakers throughout the years. This one has been our favorite, and the one we both currently have.

Board Games –
the family-friendly and the adults-only

We asked and you answered – in an Instagram post a while back, we asked for your game suggestions and got some great answers. Our kids have a few games they enjoy, but we have the most fun after the kids are in bed. A few of our favorites are Catan, Codenames, Horse Racing, and many others depending on the mood.

Cocktail Hour –
Happy Hour is the Happiest Hour

Who doesn’t like a cocktail or a glass of wine while away for the weekend? We got these Yeti wine Ramblers as a gift from our friend/neighbor and we love them. They come everywhere with us (also another great gift idea).

A drink of choice for the group is Tito’s vodka and club soda with lots of lime. So, naturally, the citrus squeezer has made the list too!

These Yeti Rambler Colsters and Tumblers are a staple as well.

Kid Transportation

Our kids are much older now, so strollers aren’t an issue any longer. However, the utility wagons have come in handy on previous trips when they were all younger. They function as transportation of tired kids and also to haul beach gear around. Here’s a link to one we have, although it was a Costco deal a few years back.


We’ve gone through a variety of coolers over the years. Just like bags, we’ll choose a cooler based on the outing. Before going camping for a weekend this summer without electricity, we really wanted a big cooler that would keep our food cold the whole weekend. After some research, and not wanting to spend the money on a Yeti cooler, we ended up with this one here that served us well for the weekend: Catergator

The other thing we have found really helpful has been backpack coolers. We’ve taken them on most adventures. We have used the Yeti Backpack, which stays cold much better but it comes with a high price tag. We also have the one below by CleverMade, at a much better price point, and does the trick for most of our adventures.

Food on the Go

We bring a water bottle for each person in the family, especially the kids. We have this Thermos Funtainer and ThermoFlask for the young kids and it works well. This bigger water bottle is great for the older kids.

Kid’s water bottles and lunch box containers

These lunch cubes by Rubbermade Sistema are great (cannot find link!) for packing sandwiches and snacks on the go.

Depending on the weekend plans, we’ll sometimes bring an extra gallon of water in this refillable jug which can be left in the car for refills if we’re gone all day.

Sleeping Arrangements for the Kids

Portable toddler cots are great for the little ones. Even if there are enough bedrooms, it can be nice to separate the kids. We both have this cot and have used it for years, although the big kids (age 7) are now starting to outgrow it.

For blankets, we both use the Pottery Barn sleeping bags (these make great gifts!). More often than not, we pack our own homemade blankets because they wash up great and are so comfy! It’s hard to leave home without them. (Want to make your own blankets? We have an entire post on it here)

Laundry Bags

Nobody wants to mix their dirty clothes with their clean clothes while they’re away and it makes unpacking much easier when separated out. Bringing a washable laundry bag is an essential for every trip. Here is the one we have.

Instead of a laundry bag, we have been really digging this pop-up laundry basket. It collapses up really small inside it’s bag and pops up to stand on its own to throw clothes into. Depending on transportation space (truck vs. small car or flying), it’s sometimes nice to pack both the laundry bag and basket.

Hopefully this list was helpful! We’re always adapting and changing our gear as the kids age out of things. What items are we missing that you consider an essential when heading out of town?

If you enjoyed this post, here’s a few other packing-related posts from our blog that may be helpful as well:

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