I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles in my lifetime. My first transatlantic flight was three months before I was even born. Thanks to the military, I’ve moved more than 25 times in my life and most of those moves involved suitcases and moving across the country or across the world. As any military family can tell you, there are tips for packing a suitcase that make moving your family much easier on everyone.
I moved from the U.S. to Turkey when I was just 10 years old. I moved with two children under the age of four (and a 50 pound dog) from Japan to the U.S. I moved from Kansas to Hawai’i while six months pregnant and with two children under the age of seven. I moved from Hawai’i to the East Coast with three children under the age of nine. I’ve moved overseas with my own military uniforms and with my husband’s uniforms. Thanks to the military, I’ve moved under almost every circumstance imaginable.
Often after these arduous moves, we lived in temporary housing for weeks and even months. These tips are tried and true for keeping my family organized and helping my family settle into our temporary living situation quickly and feel more at home.
Tips for Packing a Suitcase Like a Military Family
Plan Your Outfits
Take the time to plan out how many and what types of outfits you’ll need for your travels. Carefully choose each outfit that you pack. Pack only outfits that fulfill your planned requirements. Do this for each family member.
- Length of Travel Time
- Length of Time Living in Temporary Housing
- Season and Temperature of Current Location
- Season and Temperature of New Location
- Packability of Clothing Items – Do they wrinkle easily?
- Washability of Clothing Items – Choose sturdy wash and wear items when possible.
- Mix and Match Clothing Items to Make Multiple Outfits
- Two or Three Shirts to Go with One Pair of Pants, Shorts or Skirt
Plan Your Shoes
Choose the minimum pairs of shoes you’ll need for your situation. Avoid packing a pair of shoes that only go with one outfit, unless it’s a required uniform or formal outfit. Choose neutral shoes that will meet a variety of situations , for example that can go from casual activities to more formal ones.
Fold Outfits Together
Pack complete outfits together. Include underwear, socks, belts and accessories. Packing complete outfits together makes it easy each morning to simply pull out one outfit bundle for each family member without having to tumble through everything in every suitcase to find what you need for an outfit (Imagine the unnecessary stress of finding socks, underwear, pants and tops for five people traveling every morning if the items are not packed together in an outfit bundle.).
Use Packing Cubes
Why Use Packing Cubes
- Easy to Organize Your Items by Family Member, Day, Event or Clothing Type
- Easy to Neatly Pack Your Suitcase
- Keeps Items Neat and Clean During Travel
- Easy to Remove and Relocate Items If Your Suitcase Is Too Heavy at the Airport
- Easy for TSA to Inspect Your Suitcase and Keep it Neat
- Easy to Unpack Place Items in Hotel or Temporary Living Situations
I’m so impressed with EzPacking Cubes. They’re well made from easy-to-clean plastic that is sturdy enough to hold up to many, many military moves. They hold their shape which means fewer wrinkles in clothing. They’re clear so you can easily spot the exact item your family members are looking for.
Pack Shoes in Bags to Keep Other Items and Your Suitcase Clean
Pack Each Family Member’s Items Separately
I pack each family members’ items together. Sometimes that means each person has their own suitcase. Sometimes my children share a suitcase and then I pack each child’s items on one side of the suitcase with no intermingling. It makes it much easier to find each family member’s items when everything is packed separately.
I love that EzPacking cubes come in a variety of colors. Any family with more than one child tends to have colors assigned to each family member. Packing each family member’s outfits and items in separate color-coded packing cubes makes it quick and easy for everyone to find their own items (without messing up anyone else’s items! Yes, I have three children and speak from experience.). With five in my family and five different packing cube colors, there are no mix-ups or confusion in finding clothes each morning no matter how chaotic our life moving is. Different colored packing cubes also makes it easy for multiple family members to share a suitcase, which means less luggage to drag around the world when you’re moving.
EzPacking cubes come in four different sizes with travel folding boards for the two clothing sized cubes to ensure your clothing fits perfectly.
You can choose individual EzPacking cubes in each different color or you can even split the Complete Bundle into two colors that you specify for the best value.
Keep Like Items Together
Items to Pack Together
- Military Uniform Items
- Hair Accessories
- Swim Suits
- Winter Accessories
- Personal Items
Consider Items to Pack in Your Carry-On
Packing a carry-on is always important, but as a military family there are often additional items that have to be carried. Consider your personal situation and pack only the items you must have in your carry-on. Yes, each child with a seat is authorized a carry-on but when you’re traveling across country (or the world) with young children, you will end up carry all those carry-ons along with exhausted children. Purposefully minimize the weight that you’ll be lugging around the world.
Items to Consider Packing in Your Carry-On
Valuables, jewelry, etc.
Laptop, tablet, other necessary electronics
Change of Clothes
Empty Water Bottle
Using small packing cubes to organize the categories of items in your carry on will make finding that one item you need in the dark on a crowded plane much easier and less stressful (Yes, I’ve had baby toys fall out and roll all the way to the back of the plane. Don’t be me.)
If you’re a military family (or travel like one), you need to check out EzPacking’s many packing tools. They’re a mother-son company that is still small enough to care about every order and send you a personalized card with your order (I am so charmed by that personal touch!). EzPacking was started when Monica (the mom) was frustrated in packing to send her child off to college. Their philosophy is to make a mom’s job easier (thank you!!). Monica’s son, Salo, works with her and as a mom, I think that’s just the best testimony of all. They pack and send orders out in a couple of days so you don’t have to wait to get packing and ready for your travels. They ship your order out often in the same, but ask that you allow one business day for processing. They’re happy to mail to APO/FPO/DPO addresses, which is perfect for military families stationed all over the world.