How to pack like a pro: CALPAK’s top 15 tips for family trips 

We’ve asked the experts behind our favorite luggage line to help us unpack the art of packing. These brilliant CALPAK team members break down everything from how to best pack up the kiddos to how to keep your travel bags clean. Take their advice, and you and your family will be ready for a road trip, or any other kind of trip, like total professionals.

5 pro packing tips for family trips   

From Jeannie Shin, CALPAK Director of Marketing and Sales

Behold CALPAK’s 5-point packing guide for parents! We asked Jeannie Shin for a roadmap — a way to go away on family vacay with everyone’s belongings in tow. Turns out, she has totally masterminded the packing process. If you take these steps, you’re golden.

1) Create a digital packing list

You can create this list on your phone, in Excel, or in a Google doc! Why digital? Because now you’ll have a list to reference for every trip that you can add to or adjust as your children age or your needs change. Having a digital packing list will keep you organized and help eliminate overpacking. I personally use Evernote and have check boxes next to everything I need. And an hour before I leave the house, I make sure to double-check the list for any last-minute items I may have forgotten (ex. toothbrush, computer, etc.).

2) Use packing cubes 

This is the most important tip I can provide: USE PACKING CUBES. They’re a game changer! They’ll bring so much organization to your entire trip that you’ll be thanking me every time you open your suitcase. I like to call them a traveling chest of drawers, and CALPAK’s packing cubes come in a set of five with compartment labels. It’s great to label them with each family member's name and a description of the items (ex. Jeannie’s day clothes, Roy’s pajamas, etc.). I personally love using the rolling method so that everything is visible through the mesh on top. As soon as I reach my destination, I put the packing cubes in drawers or on countertops so I can easily access my clothes instead of searching through my suitcase to find things.

3) Put together a “just in case” pouch

Whenever I travel, I like to have a pouch with first-aid and cleaning essentials (especially when traveling internationally). Staying clean and healthy is always my number one priority, and my “just in case” pouch is always within arm's reach. In the bag I have: Advil, Pepto, Tums, Band-Aids, Neosporin, disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, disposable masks, hand sanitizer, and a mini Lysol spray. Because I travel so much, I never unpack this pouch from my bag, and I have a kit ready to go for every trip.

4) Don’t forget their bedtime essentials

Super important: REST. Sleeping is already hard enough in a new environment, so try to bring items that remind your children of home. Could it be a blankie? A night light? A favorite pillow? It’s a small detail, but it could make a huge difference in the success of the trip ... lots of rest means they’re rejuvenated for daytime adventures.

5) Streamline your suitcase situation

While giving each family member a suitcase could be a great idea, it’s probably best to pack everything into one large bag and give everyone a duffel for arm’s-reach items. Operating out of a centralized suitcase means more space in your car (and fewer baggage fees). Plus, children typically get tired of carrying their bags, so it’s important to think through how you will be able to move all your belongings around. (Don’t forget about the stroller/car seats.) Another bonus tip is to use bags with a trolley sleeve: this this duffel bag/backpack has a back slot to slide over your suitcase trolley. It really helps take the weight off your shoulders. Literally.

Q&A: 5 family packing puzzles solved

From Sam Danan, CALPAK Art Director

Gearing up the entire crew for a family getaway is complicated. So we posed 5 parental packing conundrums, from which bags are best for kids to which one is right for a desert island scenario, to Sam Danan. She gave us all the goods on how to make this packing pickle simple.

1) What’s the best type of luggage for little kids to tote themselves?   

My 5-year-old nephew has recently been using the Hue Carry-On w/Front Pocket because he's "schooling from home," but he goes to my cousin's house almost every day so that she can guide him through his lesson plan. The front pocket stores his school laptop, activity book, and pens, while the inside of his luggage stores all the crafts and supplies that his mom replenishes daily. He loves using this luggage because he knows exactly where everything is, which makes digital school much easier.

2) How do you recommend streamline-packing favorite games, toys, and snacks? Is there a bag for that?  

Because I use my Luka Duffel Bag for EVERYTHING, I would also recommend using this bag for all of the above. There's a pocket for anything you need to store, so you can keep track of which supplies, games, and snacks you have without mixing them up when it's time for cleanup.

3) If two kids had to share (YIKES!) the “arm’s-reach” bag Jeannie mentions above, which one would you recommend?

Since we have different duffel bags, all uniquely designed, there's something for everyone. For a trip, I would recommend that a kid who likes to have lots of outfit options try the Stevyn Duffel Bag and a kid who is more organized about their belongings try the Luka Duffel Bag.

4) Traveling with little ones by yourself is especially challenging. You’ve often got a stroller, a diaper bag, a pack ‘n play, and oh, yeah, your own bag. Which luggage piece is best for harried parent heroes?

Peace of mind while traveling comes from knowing that all of your things are in one place. Especially when you're a parent, you want to avoid shuffling through tons of bags just to find one thing. The Hue Trunk Luggage not only has deep compartments on both sides, it has zippered mesh pockets that allow you to actually see the things you need to reach quickly to meet your own needs and your child’s. Drop in two sets of labeled packing cubes on each side, and you'll be a hero to them and yourself!

5) What’s your desert island luggage item? If your entire family was stuck on a remote isle and could only take type of bag to live out of until your eventual rescue, which one would it be? 

Hands down the best luggage for this would be the Jen Atkin x CALPAK Trunk Luggage. Since every family member would be opening/closing it so often to find their own items, going zipperless with easy one-click locks is a game changer. And since it functions like a trunk of treasure, it would be the family's holy grail in terms of making sure their essential items are protected and cherished in an aluminum durable case.

Q&A: 5 ways to safeguard your gear like a pro

From Shelby Taylor, CALPAK Senior Designer

Maintaining your fave travel essentials, especially during this germy moment, is key. Here are Shelby Taylor’s helpful answers to our five questions on everything from basic sanitization to karmic deep cleans. This is how to maintain your best bags while protecting your health.

1) What are some basic tricks and tips for sanitizing (and re-sanitizing) everyone’s bags repeatedly while traveling? 

The very first thing you should do is purchase a luggage cover. A plastic cover is great for keeping out water and grime, but a fabric cover is great for going straight into your washing machine. It's easier to sanitize the cover than it is your bag.

Another perk is that if you have a luggage cover on your bag, you're going to be much less tempted to open it. (Kinda like when wearing a face mask, you're much less likely to touch your mouth with germy fingers.)

If you have a hard-sided bag, you should wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe or an alcohol wipe the second you arrive at your destination. No earlier, because you're likely to expose it to a few more germs. And no later, because you don't want your bag touching other things like your linens, furniture, etc.

If you have a soft-sided bag, you'll want to use a disinfecting spray instead. It's important to spray from a distance so that it can reach the bacteria, but not penetrate too deeply into the fibers. Let it sit, then remove your inner belongings completely. Give your bag some time to air dry.

2) Are there things to watch out for when sanitizing your luggage? Will you ruin them with certain types of cleaners or ways of cleaning?

Never use a harsh substance or tool to scrub your luggage. Products like bleach or a Magic Eraser can be great for getting out the worst germs in your home, but they can strip your bags of all color, print, and integrity.

Every cleanser is different. The best thing to do is look for a non-toxic cleaning product because it’s less likely to have bleach, and then test it in a small spot somewhere on your bag (preferably out of sight). If it stains, discolors, or ruins the integrity of the material, you can stop using the product before it's too late.

3) Are most luggage pieces weather-resistant? If you have to stash suitcases on top of the car, will it be OK if they get rained on or wind-beaten?

The common misconception is that because the shell and the fabric are water-resistant, the zippers must be too, but that's where most water and other liquids can creep in to ruin your clothes. My parents dealt with this all of the time when we'd put our luggage in the back of their truck. The best trick is to bring a few large black trash bags (You know, the ones with the red or yellow strings) and seal the luggage inside. Not only does it keep your luggage dry, it keeps the dirt and bugs off as well.

4) Which bag has the most protective outer layer for our most delicate or treasured items? Favorite pillows, blankies, etc.

Any of our hard-sided luggage bags will be the most protective of your belongings. As one more layer of protection and organization, I typically put everything into a packing cube as well. It makes me feel like my delicates are being treated with the utmost care.  

5) Say a child vomits on a bag in the car, or goes rogue and drags one through a gas station? We’re talking next-level dirty. How and what would you clean it with?

I know that this question is the karma I get for all the times I was carsick in my grandparent's back seat. Do not panic. It's tempting to be totally grossed out and assume your bag is done for, but that's not always the case.

You're going to need to take a dry paper towel or a cloth to wipe away as much gross-ness as you can. Remove everything that was inside as delicately as possible, avoiding any affected areas, and set them aside in a clean, dry place. Grab an additional towel or cloth and begin to clean with good 'ole soap and water. Harsh chemical cleaners can affect the smell in a way that you'll never get out, and it's not like a tennis shoe that you can throw in the washing machine.

Have patience and eventually, by scrubbing with soap and water, your bag will be in a better place. Remember to let it air-dry for as long as possible!