Holiday packing list: 11 top tips for packing for a staycation

A proper holiday packing list will allow you to avoid the stress of playing suitcase Jenga in the boot of your car. So use these tips on what and how to pack for a staycation...

summer BBQ in a field
(Image credit: Weber)

Thinking holiday packing list? Yup, we are about two weeks into the summer holidays, your social media is full of people drinking cocktails on some all-inclusive, everywhere at home is weirdly quiet and you are getting out-of-offices left, right and centre. You know what? We think it's probably time to get away, no?

Maybe booking a last minute trip to the Bahamas for the whole fam is a little unrealistic but a UK staycation? Totally doable. Get somewhere booked Thursday night; Friday, pack up the car, pick up the kids and you're off. Smug out-of-office all set.

But what exactly do you need to take on these last minute staycations? You've got to factor in the weather of course, this is the UK; pack enough stuff to keep the kids entertained, the adults entertained; and you can't forget the more practical things. Plus, remember this has all got to fit in your car. But don't panic, we've put together a load of tips for how to pack for a staycation...

Not got anywhere booked yet? Check out these Airbnbs that are perfect for a UK staycation

1. Make a holiday packing list for each person coming

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wooden desk with pretty stationary and house plants

(Image credit: Primark)
More holiday packing list must-haves

* Chargers!
* Medical kit
* Emergency breakdown cover for the car
* Insurance details
* Booking details and paperwork
* Headphones – one set per person
* Food and drink for the journey

Even if you aren't a list person, this is a super handy tip when you are packing for a staycation, or any kind of holiday for that matter. Make a list of each person going on the trip (that you are responsible for obviously, Auntie Marg doesn't need a packing list) and then write a specific list for that person. This just further ensures that dad's fishing rod won't be forgotten and neither will your kid's favourite toy. 

2. Get yourself some packing cubes 

AmazonBasics packing cubes

(Image credit: AmazonBasics)

Ah packing cubes. If you haven't heard of them, well, they are about to change your life. They come in a load of different sizes and allow you to properly organise your luggage, which makes it easier to pack and unpack. You can divide everything into separate cubes – kids' clothes, toiletries, tech, swimwear, you get the idea. You can also just leave your stuff in the cubes and pop them in the drawers when you arrive at your staycation destination. MARIE KONDO EAT YOUR HEART OUT!

Top tip: roll, don't fold your clothes. Takes up less room and stops your clothes getting as creased. And, if you want to know how to pack a suitcase like Marie Kondo, don't miss our tips.

3. Choose compact outdoor toys for kids' entertainment 

DOOKEY Sprinkle and Splash Play Mat

(Image credit: Dookey)

Right, entertainment. The great thing about staycations that you don't always get on holidays abroad is that you can take a load of toys and activities with you. Sure, you might not have a pool full of inflatables at your staycation spot, but games like badminton, swing ball and rounders can all come with you in the car and take up barely any room.

If you know the weather is going to be amazing too, pop in a small paddling pool that you can stick in the garden at your staycation home. Really, you don't have to stop at paddling pool, you could take a water slide and an array of water spraying garden toys, too. This set up sounds like it starting to rival that much loved inflatable donut you had last year.  

John Lewis have a fab outdoor games section so make sure you check that out for more inspiration. 

4. Take your streaming device with you 

the best streaming devices: amazon fire tv stick

(Image credit: Currys PC World)

And if you know outdoor games will only entertain for so long, you are probably going to need a back up in the form of a TV, especially if it rains or on evenings when you're all tired after a day trip. If your staycation has a smart TV then great, but if it doesn't you can take a streaming device with you, plug it into the TV that's there and can get Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Video and more, wherever you are. 

If you want more info on streaming devices, including deals and the best choices, head over to our guide. 

5. Pack a portable speaker

Ultimate Ears wonderboom

(Image credit: Ultimate Ears)

For all those late night discos you are going to be having. Or maybe just so you can listen to soft jazz while sat outside, trying to ignore your family's constant requests for a game of rounders. If you don't already have a portable speaker, we have rounded up the best over in our portable speakers buying guide so go and have a gander. 

6. Remember a BBQ for alfresco dinners 

Everdue by Heston

(Image credit: Everdue)

Since you are probably travelling by car to your staycation destination, and space is likely to be tight, we recommend taking a compact, portable BBQ. While disposable ones are perfectly fine, although maybe not so great for the planet, if you are planning on having a BBQ every night you are away it is worth upgrading to something more sturdy. 

We love the Everdure by Heston Cube portable BBQ. Yes that probably is because it looks adorable, but it also does to the job too. It's perfect for table top cooking and even comes with a chopping board and a food tray if you want to do some prep, say, at the beach. For more of the best portable BBQs check out our buying guide. 

7. And picnic ware for outdoor lunches

Camping set up by John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

If picnics are on the agenda during your staycation, make sure you pack all the necessities. Obviously a picnic blanket is a must, but things like plastic plates, cutlery and glasses also shouldn't be forgotten. You could even go all out and invest (we say invest you can actually get some really cheap ones now) in a picnic basket that has all the matching accessories already included. 

8. Throw in stuff for the beach (if you are going to be near the beach obvs)

(Image credit: Getty/Westend61)

Summer staycations usually do involve some kind of beach or large body of water, so make sure you have packed everything to need to keep things as hassle free as possible. Stuff like buckets and spades, fishing nets and what not, you can buy on holiday (and leave on holiday) but a beach umbrella, windbreak, pop up tent, picnic blanket and beach specific towels, those sorts of things should come with you from home. We also recommend throwing in a few camping chairs, they are easy to carry to the beach and we are sure they will get loads of use throughout the rest of the trip too.

P.S we actually found the dream beach bag a few weeks ago, and now it's on sale! Just in case you were interested...

9. Is camping part of your staycation?

Glamping set up by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Packing for a camping trip can be a pretty mammoth task, but lucky for you we've rounded up a list of the essentials over in our pick of the best buys for a camping trip. That covers all the practical stuff, but we also think it's worth mentioning the stuff that turns your site from a sea of green tarpaulin into a cute, cosy space that is actually nice to spend time in. For that you are going to need solar powered fairy lights, a ton of them. Small lanterns also look lovely dotted around and can be practical for guidance to the toilets.

You could go all out and take an outdoor projector for movie nights. Just remember to throw in an old sheet to project onto, or the side of the tent could work. Have a read through our round up on the best outdoor projectors to find one to take on your staycation. 

10. Pack the car strategically 

When you have finally decided on everything that you need to take on your staycation, the next hurdle is packing it all into the car. Pack strategically, people. There are few things worse than arriving at a new place in the dark (probably in the rain too) and having to unpack the entire car just to get to everyone's pjs. Think of things you need most and pack these last so they are the most accessible. Things like the BBQ and rounders bat probably won't be needed the second you arrive so they can get loaded in first. 

If you are using public transport to get to your staycation, the same rule applies. Important stuff on top, non-essentials on the bottom.

11. Invest in a roof box

Tired of playing suitcase Jenga every time you go away? Time to get a roof box. There are loads of sizes, styles and prices available if you need to add just a bit of extra space. They even come in bag form now!

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Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer before moving to the Livingetc team in 2021 where she took on a role as Digital Editor. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration. When she isn't writing about interiors, she is renovating her own spaces – be it wallpapering a hallway, painting kitchen cupboards or converting a van.