'I have 5 kids. Here's how I'll have them packed for our next holiday in less than 1 hour.'

When my husband and I blended our families five years ago, one thing we didn’t consider was the logistics and space required to manage a family of seven. 

Huge seven or eight-seat SUVS or people-movers were the only vehicle option, and shared bedrooms will be the norm for our lot.... well, unless we find an affordable six-bedroom home sometime soon. 

Grocery shopping is an expedition in itself, requiring the seats of said vehicles to be folded down, meaning taking all kids to the supermarket is to be avoided (not that I'd want to take them food shopping). 

Watch: Alcohol Can Cancel Travel Insurance, Kylee Enwright Injured In Thailand While On Holidays. Post continues after the video. 

Video via Seven News.

Then there's the cost, which has become the single biggest deciding factor in almost everything we do. When everything is multiplied by seven, it’s the way it has to be. 

So when it came to planning our first family holiday, cost was a critical part of the decision-making process. We still wanted to make it fun, as it was our first big trip together after all.  

We settled on a week of camping, followed by a week at an Airbnb at Burrum Heads where the kids could play at the beach, chase crabs, and do plenty of fishing. We could cook our own meals, go on bike rides, play games - it would be a blast, with minimal additional expenses. 


What we didn’t anticipate was the packing: packing for this particular style of trip literally required an entire day, plus the evening before.

With seven people taking up most of the car space, a box trailer was an essential part of the process. Using our impeccable Tetris skills, we’d pack in the camping gear (including 7 x beds, 7 x chairs, barbecue, floors mats, 2 x tents, blankets, pillows, towels etc), along with games, bikes, and lights. 

Then there was the carefully planned food, and the ice to keep the food cold, plus drinks, all packed down into our super-sized cooler. All that went into the trailer, along with our bags. 

My packed trailer. Image: Supplied. 


Then there were the snacks and drinks for the big drive ahead, and headphones for their devices to avoid sending the parents mad during said drive. While this takes place, the kids are left to pack their own bags, often unable to find what they need, over-packing with unnecessary items, and getting distracted along the way, leaving us to run back and forth from the trailer, to the kids, and back again. 

It's a long process, leaving us exhausted before we even hit the road. Granted that, once we arrived, it felt worth it. 

Our annual family trip is our favourite time of the entire year and the packing proves time well spent, enabling us to enjoy our holiday with access to everything we need. 

But, each year, especially as the kids get older, their needs change a little more, our lives get a little busier, and the prospect of the ‘big pack’ feels a little more daunting. While we’ll no doubt tackle the project again next year, this year, we’ve decided to try something a little different.

After watching my parents enjoy all-inclusive cruises for the past ten years, we’ve chosen to give it a crack ourselves. In 2024, rather than our two-week camping/beach combo, we’ve opted for seven nights on a Carnival cruise ship - and that means packing will be a little different, too. 

There’ll be no giant cooler full of food. No bikes. No fishing rods. No tackle boxes. No board games. No beach chairs. And best of all, no camping equipment. 


That doesn’t mean a bit of planning isn’t required though. My goal? To have my five kids packed and ready to go two nights before we leave, and have the entire exercise take place in less than an hour. Here’s how I’m going to do it. 

Read the travel website and buy anything required the month before (or as early as possible).

Upon my dad's advice, a couple of weeks ago I thoroughly read the Carnival website to get a good idea of everything that was and wasn’t available on the cruise. With all meals taken care of, I could safely scratch food and drink - including the usually standard water bottle - off the packing list. 

With the terminal about an hour drive from our home, everyone will survive without drinks or snacks for the trip, with the knowledge we’ll be walking right into the buffet once we board. 

It became apparent that we might need an umbrella in case it rains, so I popped that down on my pre-pack shopping list. With the weather hot and the land stops beach-based, I also noted that two of my kids required rashies. 

After adding a few other things to the list, such as top-ups of required medications and a few other bits and pieces, I went out and purchased them all, so when it comes time to pack, there’ll be no panic attacks. 

TIP: if there’s an overseas component to the trip (which is our case there is), ensure everyone’s passport is up to date (with six months to spare) as early as possible. When I checked my kids', they were a couple of months expired, and I had to manage new photographs, and the application, with just six weeks to spare over the Christmas period. Not fun.


Wash and sort everything the week before, then live off basics until you leave.

The most difficult and stressful part of packing the main luggage is suddenly discovering your favourite shirt is missing or your swimmers are still in the washing basket. Or are they? Being unable to find necessary items inevitably prompts a meltdown (the kid and the parent), and the whole packing exercise is derailed. 

Getting all washing, sorting and putting away done the week before, ensures everything is where it’s supposed to be when the packing starts. Put aside a handful of your least favourite items and use those on repeat until it's time to pack. 

Pack a family essentials bag.

Rather than making kids responsible for essentials like passports, phone chargers, medication, wallets etc, grab one family backpack or carry-on style bag and pop everything in there. 

With a cruise, this bag should also include swimming gear. That way, once you board and you’re waiting for your cases to be taken to the room, you can make good use of your time and head straight for the pool - after lunch of course. 

Having everything in one place means you won’t have to dig around looking for key items, either when you’re boarding, or when you get to your room and everyone wants to charge their phones. 

Pack adult cases the week before.

Regardless of your kids’ ages, most will need a bit of supervision to ensure the packing process goes smoothly and they don’t under or over-pack. Trying to do this, while tackling the mammoth task of packing your own suitcase isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. Avoid this entirely by (over) packing your own bag a week ahead of time. That way, all you’ll have to worry about is looking over everyone's shoulder, and making sure the final packing is done and dusted quickly, without drama. 


Write a customised checklist for each child (including what not to pack).

If you’ve done the above, by the time the family packing event comes around, all that should need to be done is for the kids to grab what they need and put those things into their bags. 

This should be easy because you've (hopefully) already ensured everything is where it's supposed to be. Write a checklist for each child and be specific. For example: 5 x pairs of undies, 2 x pairs of board shorts, 1 x your favourite teddy. 

Spell out what they need in their toiletries bag, and get them to pack those and sit them on the bathroom bench, ready to brush their teeth the next couple of mornings, and pop into their already packed cases when it's time to go. 

But also include what not to pack, for example: no snacks, no games, and (happily, in this case) no towels. Give each kid their checklist and a pen to tick off each item as it goes into their bag. Once they're done, do a quick check and line up the bags. 

Check-in early. 

The sooner you check-in, the sooner you can pack, including items like passports, which are required as part of the cruise check-in process (if you’re making international stops). Obviously, you’ll want them handy, but if you can cross them off your list, by popping them into your ‘essentials bag’, it’ll be one less thing to worry about on your official packing day with the kids. 

Feature image: Getty. 

Do you enjoy a weekend away or a trip interstate? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.