Family Winter Vacation Packing List

Winter is a great time of year to spend more time with your family. But before you grab your skis, snowboards and sleds and go on a whirlwind tour of the state, double-check your winter vacation packing list for some important items that you’re bound to need. Here’s my family’s winter vacation packing list: It’s that time of year again for family winter vacation, and hopefully you’ve already started packing for the trip. It might be easy to take the simple route and throw everything into the car or just grab a couple suitcases and pack a week’s worth of clothing, but try to be a little more thoughtful this year.

The winter season is right around the corner, and it’s time to prepare for the cold weather. One of the most important things you need to do is make sure you have your family’s packing list completed so they can start preparing for their winter vacation. It’s best to discuss with each family member what they will be bringing with them on the trip. This helps you get a clearer picture of what everyone needs to pack for the trip. Of course, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news when it comes to avoiding over packing; that said, it is your responsibility as a parent to keep an eye on your child’s clothing and outdoor gear so they don’t go overboard and bring way too much stuff. Press Tab to write more…

Family Winter Vacation Packing List

Growing up in Alabama, I used to be terrified of winter travel, and subsequently winter packing. I had no idea what to wear and figured it was best to just stay indoors reading a book!

But my kids LOVE winter, as many kids do. And since we live in the San Francisco Bay Area and don’t get cold weather, we like to take at least one winter trip each year if possible. After doing this for a few years, we’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what to pack for cold weather.

Here’s our winter vacation packing list that doesn’t require us to pack multiple extra suitcases for all our stuff. I have some favorites that we’ve used for over a decade and some newer-to-us accessories that add convenience. I hope it’s helpful to your family!

How to Pack for Winter Travel

Before jumping into the winter packing list, here are some tips for packing minimally for winter travel. It can often feel like there’s so much bulk when traveling in winter, so here’s how to minimize that as much as possible:

  • If you’re flying, wear all your heaviest/bulkiest clothing on your travel day. Yes, that includes your boots and jacket!
  • Don’t be afraid of rewearing clothing. I’ve recommended a lot of wool below, and with good reason. Not only is it warm, but you can rewear wool clothing a number of times and it won’t smell since it has natural antibacterial properties. If you’re used to washing your clothing every day at home, I recommend extending that while traveling in winter with kids.
  • Alternate clothing. While you should definitely rewear things, try to alternate days if possible and leave the other clothing to air out in the meantime.
  • Pack LESS than you would for summer travel. Since the clothing is bulkier, you need to minimize the number of items. Plus, since you’ll be wearing outerwear and innerwear, your clothing can easily be reworn.
  • Wear layers. Layers will be much warmer than one really warm layer because the different layers will each insulate and trap heat. On top of that, layering gives you more options for mixing and matching different warm components. It also means you can easily adapt if the weather warms up. In general in cold weather, I recommend wearing a wool base layer, a mid layer, and a down outer layer. If it’s very cold, you can add in a wool sweater for another layer.
  • Use packing cubes. Whether you’re traveling by air or car, I cannot recommend packing cubes highly enough. They keep everything contained and smush the air out of some of the puffier clothing to save space.

What Do I Need to Pack for Winter? Winter Packing List For Kids

Here’s what I recommend bringing when packing for cold weather with kids:

  • 2 sets of base layers
  • 2-3 tops
  • 2-3 pairs of pants
  • 2 warm sweaters
  • 2-3 pairs of wool socks
  • 1 pair of waterproof socks (optional)
  • 1-2 pairs of shoes
  • 5-7 pairs of underwear
  • 1 warm coat, preferably waterproof
  • 1 pair of snow pants or bib (optional)
  • 1-2 pairs of gloves (ski gloves and/or wool gloves)
  • 1 warm hat
  • Mitten clips
  • Wool neck gaiter
  • Lip balm
  • Body lotion
  • Hand warmers

The great thing about winter travel with kids is that you’re almost always wearing outerwear, so clothing doesn’t get very dirty. Plus, with wool base layers, you can rewear them, and then your mid layer can easily be reworn multiple times, as well. So even though the items are bulkier, you don’t need nearly as many.

I’ve given a range for the number of items because this will vary a bit with kids. If you have really young children who may have toilet accidents or may spill food on themselves, it’s better to have an extra outfit in case of an emergency.

Winter Packing List Essential #1: Base Layers

If there’s one thing that’s almost more important than the outerwear, it’s good base layers. A base layer is what might also be called thermal underwear. It’s the layer you would wear closest to the skin.

Good base layers are important when packing for a winter vacation because if you get sweaty at all under all your layers (very likely), poor base layers will simply absorb the moisture and stay wet. And when you feel wet, you feel cold. Which is very bad, including for frostbite.

Wool Base Layers for Winter Packing

I really love wool base layers for the whole family. They’re perfect for wicking moisture and staying dry, and are ultra warm.

Plus, since wool has natural cleaning properties, it rarely smells and can be worn a number of times before washing. This is super helpful when packing for cold weather because that means less laundry while on vacation! Good merino wool is also super soft, and stretches so one set lasts my kids through multiple years. (And it’s fine if the cuffs are a bit short when wearing underneath.)

Because they’re so soft and comfortable, my kids also wear them as pajamas, so we get TONS of use out of wool base layers for kids.

Here are some fantastic and super soft merino wool base layers: WoolinoSmartwoolMeriwool (adult here), Helly HansenHocosaSimply Merino

Synthetic Base Layers When Packing for Kids

The biggest downside to wool base layers is that they’re quite pricey – certainly way more than synthetic base layers. For this reason, we like to have a second set that are synthetic.

I’ve found that synthetic base layers tend to vary MUCH more widely in terms of quality. Some are mixed with a good bit of cotton (very bad for a base layer) and some don’t hold up at all. It’s very frustrating!

These are our very favorite inexpensive base layers for kids and adults. They last forever and are crazy warm. Plus, they have sizes for the whole family. In unbelievably cold conditions, I’ve been known to layer my wool and synthetic base layers together – it’s very toasty and perfect for a winter holiday packing list.

Kids TopBottom
Baby/Toddler TopBottom
Women’s TopBottom (warmest version of all, but there are a couple versions that are less warm)
Men’s TopBottom

Winter Packing Essential #2: Wool Socks

I’m at it with the wool again! Seriously, good wool socks are magical. Again, they’re more expensive than your average 10-pack of Hanes but good ones last so long and the difference in warmth and comfort is huge.

When buying wool socks for cold weather packing, it’s worth getting good quality ones. I tried these cheap ones out and they all had holes after about 6 months. We’ve had good quality ones for 6-7 years of regular use and they’re still going strong, and I’m slowly replacing old socks with holes with these wool ones. I’ll probably add a pair into everyone’s Easter basket. Wool socks are wonderful because they’re cool in summer and warm in winter!

There are my favorite wool socks of all time. They are unbeatably soft and have a lifetime guarantee. They will literally replace them if they EVER get a hole! It’s still a family-owned business and I love them so much.

These are some of the most popular wool socks and they’re also great, although I don’t prefer them quite as much.

Finally, these are some other wool socks that I’ve had for years and years and love!

Winter Packing List for Baby: Socks

Ah, baby socks! Almost impossible to get to stay on. I have finally found that these wool baby socks stay on relatively well and are very warm. They’re also super stretchy, so I like layering them over another pair of socks if it’s super cold.

These are my very favorite baby socks that stay on, so I love layering wool ones over those. And these booties are fantastic for staying on and are super warm and cozy!

If you know you’ll be going through a lot of wetness, I highly recommend layering a pair of waterproof socks on top of your wool socks.

Winter Packing Essential #3: Mid Layer

After your base layer, you’ll want to wear a mid layer. For this, I really love to wear a flannel button down of some sort. They’re super warm and functional, and don’t constrict with a layer under.

If it’s ultra cold, I’ll also layer a wool sweater on top. (I like this onethis one, and this one. I haven’t personally tried this one but it looks super warm and has fantastic reviews, and is on sale for less than half off.)

For my kids, I’ll also usually have them wear either a sweater or thermal-type shirt for a bit of added warmth. (Something like this or this.) Fleece is also a great option for a middle layer when packing for very cold weather – these fleece pants or this darling sherpa pullover for kids would be perfect mid layers.

Mid Layer Bottoms

Honestly, I don’t find the mid layer bottoms matter all that much since you have the base layer to keep you dry and possibly an outer layer of snow pants to keep you dry on the outside. If you aren’t wearing outwear pants, it’s a good idea to pay more attention to your bottoms. Quick dry pants like this can be great.

I personally prefer to hike and recreate in leggings (with pockets!) and this is my very favorite pair. If you won’t have an outer layer, I recommend against heavy materials like denim that will absorb moisture and stay wet. I love putting my kids in soft leggings or cozy and soft jogger style pants.

Winter Packing List Essential #4: Shoes

Shoes are definitely important to keep toes warm and dry, and to avoid frostbite when taking a winter vacation with kids. Even when hiking, I honestly prefer to just have everyone wear snow boots. It saves on the hassle of drying shoes out, and even if we don’t think they’re going to tromp through snow, somehow it always happens if snow is around.

Best Winter Snow Boots for Travel

These are some of my favorite durable, warm snow boots. (Also on Amazon.) They have great grip on them so they’re fine for hiking, too, so long as the height of the shaft doesn’t get in the way. A couple of my other favorite snow boots for kids are here and here.

We’ve also used the Cat & Jack winter boots – we found they worked fine for our young toddler wh

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