Mornings are chaotic under the best of circumstances. Put six people in a hotel room, and the chaos is amplified. With four kids and two adults, all digging through suitcases trying to find t-shirts, shorts, underwear, socks, it’s amazing how quickly a hotel room can go from pristine to pigsty!

I’ve come up with a ridiculously simple solution to the problem: Outfit Bags.

Whenever I pack for a trip, I think through how many outfits each person needs, and try to make sure that they have clothes that will go together. Then, instead of putting the clothes directly into the suitcase, I put each complete outfit into a zip-top bag labeled with the owner’s name. If I’m being really organized, I’ll even label it with the day the outfit is to be worn.

What You Need

Empty Outfit Bag

3-gallon Ziploc bags are perfect for adults or older kids’ outfit bags.

  • Zip-Top Bags
    I use two types of bags. For adults and older kids, I use the 3-gallon Ziplock Big Bags. They’re sturdy and the perfect size to hold one day’s worth of clothes for an adult. For young kids, I use regular 1-gallon sized Ziplock bags.You will need a minimum of one bag per person, per day. Our family has two adults, three older kids, and one younger kid. We need five 3-gallon bags and one 1-gallon bag per day. If you can, it’s convenient to bring a few extra empty outfit bags along. You never know when you’ll have a wet swimsuit or something that you’d rather keep separated from the rest of your clothes.

    1-Gallon Zip-Top Outfit Bag is ideal for babies, toddlers, and small children.

    1-Gallon Zip-Top Outfit Bag is ideal for babies, toddlers, and small children.

  • Labels
    I really like to re-use things if I can, so instead of writing on the bags themselves, I’ve created some simple outfit bag labels. You can download the printable labels here.

  • Marker or Pen
    I like to use colored markers to label my bags. Each person in our family has their favorite color, which makes the bags easy to identify. You could also color-code each day, if you decide to plan out which outfit you’ll wear each day.

Packing an Outfit Bag

Packed outfit bag

Packed and ready to go.

First, print your outfit bag labels. You’ll need one sheet per bag. Use the checklist on the label to make sure you don’t forget any of the essentials.

Next, assemble each outfit. Remember how your mother always told you to fold your clothes neatly? This time you really should! Bulky items like jeans and sweatshirts will fit into the bags more easily if they are folded. Slide the clothes into the zip-top bag.

Each page of the outfit bag label printable contains two identical labels. Use the marker or pen to fill out the labels, then cut them apart. Slide one label into each side of the zip-top outfit bag. This way, no matter which way the bag is facing, you’ll be able to quickly identify who it belongs to.

Finally, squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it. The more you can compress the bag, the more bags you’ll be able to pack in your suitcase.

Large Outfit Bag fits perfectly in a cary-on suitcase

Large Outfit Bag fits perfectly in a cary-on suitcase

While You’re Traveling

When it’s time to get ready in the morning, all you’ll have to do is hand each child their outfit bag for the day. No more digging around for socks!

When everyone is dressed, they should have an outfit bag with that evening’s pajamas still packed, and this morning’s pajamas ready to be re-packed. I put everyone’s outfit bag with clean pajamas on their bed, so it’s waiting for them when we get back to the hotel in the evening. The dirty pajamas can go into an extra outfit bag or directly into the suitcase.

I make a point of throwing away the outfit bag labels after we’ve worn that day’s clothing. That makes it easy to tell whether an outfit bag contains clean clothes or dirty ones.

Extra or empty outfit bags are great to have on hand for wet swimsuits or other items – especially if you have potty-training toddlers!

At the end of the trip, I gather up any loose clothing and pack it into outfit bags. At that point, I don’t care so much about whose clothes are in which bag. It’s all going straight into the laundry room when we get home anyway. The goal at this point is to compress the clothes so they fit into the suitcase, and to keep the hotel room relatively neat and tidy.

When You Get Home

Empty outfit bags store inside a suitcase, ready for the next trip.

Empty outfit bags store inside a suitcase, ready for the next trip.

When I’m unpacking, I empty all the outfit bags into a laundry basket and store the empty bags in the suitcase, so they’re right where I need them for our next trip.

Have you used outfit bags when you travel – or do you have questions? Share your tips in the comments below!