You heard that right! Travelling with kids has some ups and downs but packing shouldn’t be one of them. A little planning ahead will save you some headaches when you are away from home.
No matter your destination, you too can pack only what you need and not feel like you have taken the whole house with you. Avoid the hiccups and plan ahead. Double-check that you have your travel documents, credit cards, cash, camera and travel insurance with you. Anything else that comes up, don’t sweat it. Relax and enjoy your vacation. Who needs a toothbrush anyway? Just kidding, pack the toothbrush.
Caitlyn’s Packing Tips
Step 1: Take out all of the clothing you think you will need for each child (one child at a time).
Step 2: Place the items into groups: underwear and socks; pajamas; swimsuits and a beach cover-up; bottoms; and tops. You may also need shorts and long pants and sleeves. Even if you are heading to a sunny destination, you will still need a sweater and even possibly a rain jacket. Don’t forget One pair of runners, One pair of sandals and One pair of water shoes for the ocean.
Mom Tip: download the weather app for your destination and if needed adjust your quantities to the change in weather.
Step 3: Once you have your items in groups go through them and remove any items you do not need and add where you do. When you have a child still in diapers make sure you pack enough for the trip put extra in your carry-on.
Step 4: Repeat this for every family member going on vacation.
Step 5: Once you have of the items picked out, go through them again and determine if you really need each item. Everyone over packs! Especially when going on a tropical vacation. The kids are normally in a bathing suit and seem to wear the same three outfits for 7 days. If you are anything like our family, we spend 90% of our vacation at the pool or beach side and live in swimsuits and cover-ups.
Step 6: Choose an outfit to wear on the plane. We always wear our runners and the light jacket or sweater to save room in the suitcase.
Tropical Destination Packing List
Don’t forget to pack these essentials:
Sunscreen and sun care products and a small emergency kit including band aids, thermometer, pain/fever medication, and remedies for an upset stomach. I store our care cards and our medical travel cards together in case we need to make a trip to the doctor or hospital while we are away.
Divide and Conquer: Next-Level Packing with Organizers
I purchased these packing cubes (also known as storage bags) for our last trip because my three girls shared one suitcase and it has changed how I pack forever. I was able to keep all of their items separated with different colored packing cubes and was able to separate underwear, swimsuits and pajamas from everyday clothing. I also roll clothing to save space.
Tips for Carry-On Baggage
We have a rule for carry-on baggage for the kids; you have to be able to carry it! Each child brings a backpack with some new activities and toys (thank you Melissa and Doug!), a book and an empty water bottle. Don’t forget to fill up water bottles after you go through security.
For the parents’ carry-on, try to stay minimal. Nothing is worse than trying to lug around multiple bags, kids, travel documents, and strollers through all of the travel checkpoints.
I also bring a book or download Netflix shows on my phone. Do not forget to bring headphones that are compatible with your airlines outlet so you can take advantage of inflight entertainment. Sitting in the same spot for more than 5 hours can be rough for active kids, so bring and iPad to keep them entertained.
Above all else, I make sure that I have snacks for the kids. Nothing is worse than a hangry child on a plan.
To Bring or Rent?
Items that you may consider renting include car seats and strollers, or even smaller items like baby carriers, toys and life jackets. Whether you decide to bring your own or rent these items all depend on where you are headed, for how long, and how much room you have left after packing your clothing and toiletries.
The thought of hauling a giant convertible car seat around an airport is not something I want to think about. But every country has its own regulations and car seat standards. The car seat you end up renting could be from a not-so-great brand, may not fit your child properly, or may be significantly more unsafe, making you second guess getting in the car. When we rent a car, we always bring our own car seats and booster seats. Sometimes we opt for a shuttle bus to the hotel. Many shuttles provide car seats for those travelling with small children. If you decide to take your own car seat some airlines let you use it on the plane and it is free to check-in a car seat.
Mom Tip: Make sure you place the car seat in a clear plastic bag provided by the airline. This will minimize damage as the straps can easily get caught in the moving luggage belts.
I feel this is a must-have on ANY vacation if you have children under five years of age. We take a single stroller and use it all the way to the gate and do a gate check. This lets us use it for the kids and it even stores the kids’ carry-on underneath the seat. We have traveled four times with our Baby Jogger City Elite and have been more than happy with how much use we got out it.
Many resort destinations have partnered with rental companies that provide strollers. Many of these rental companies have great products and you can ask for a certain brand or style to suit your vacation needs.
Baby Carrier: Not Just for Babies
We have an Ergo carrier that we have used from birth up to 2.5 years old. I even used it on our last trip with our 4 year old as she was getting very tired and it is hard to carry her on my hip. Some hotels and resorts are vast and getting to and from your hotel room can be quite the trek. At the end of a long day at the pool, your kids will insist on being carried back to their room.
There are lots of baby wearing products out there. If you are new to baby wearing, head to your local baby store and try them out and see what works best for you. Your arms and hips will thank you and you will have a happier baby or toddler!
A life jacket for your child can make your time at the pool so much more relaxing. If you have multiple children to watch, it is nice knowing that they can be more independent while still being safe. Check with your hotel prior to your departure to see if you can reserve/rent a life jacket during your stay.
Now for the toys! Pack as little as possible! Odds are that you will either buy toys on your vacation or be given some from other families that arrived before you. This is very common with beach toys – we do not pack beach toys.
Ready or Not Here You Go!
With planning and thoughtful packing you can reduce some of the stress involved in travelling with kids. I like to think of vacations as an experience and an opportunity to spend more one on one time together making memories. Family vacations with small children might not be the lawn chair relaxing vacations of your pre-child life, but they are worth it.