Packing for a trip can be an overwhelming task, but when you add kids to the mix, the task becomes more daunting. With the addition of each child comes more clothes, toys in every shape and size, and the need for new packing strategies. As a parent you need to have a game plan in place. There are things you will need to do before you go, things you will have to pack in your suitcase, and things you will need on the plane. Here are our tips for managing the mounds of clothes, eliminating the extras, and saving space in your suitcase.
Before You Go
- Stay at a hotel/bed & breakfast with a washing machine (a dryer is a bonus) Nobody really wants to do laundry while on vacation, but if it saves on paying checked bag fees, why not?
- Make copies of your passports, driver’s license and credit cards (front and back) Email a copy to yourself and to your spouse’s phone so you will have copies in case the originals are stolen, lost, or misplaced.
- Create a packing list for each child Have your child lay out their clothes. Make it simple: (2) t-shirts, (2) shorts, (2) pairs of underwear, swimsuit, pajamas, (2) socks, etc. Kids can help from a very early age, and allowing them to help gets them excited about the trip.
- Check the weather This will dictate what items you should be packing and prevent you from packing non-essentials.
- Roll your clothes Trust me, this will save you space. Roll them as tight as you can, and you will be amazed how many things you can fit in your bag.
- Use packing cubes We use one packing cube per child. They come out of the suitcase when we get to our hotel and then back in the bag when we leave. Everyone has a different color and we can easily pack 4 days of kids’ clothing in each.
- No electronics for kids when going overseas Do they ask to bring every device under the sun? Yes, and we always say no. I don’t need to manage a thousand different charger cords and neither do you. My husband and I bring our iPhones (check with your phone company ahead of time that yours will indeed work overseas) and an iPad and that is plenty. This leads to my next necessity…
- Bring electric adapters and chargers Be sure to check the electrical requirements for the countries you will be visiting. The UK is different than mainland Europe, which is different than North America, you get the idea. Check before you go.
- Have each child bring a new paperback book to read If the children are older, they can swap books when they finish. Also, a lot of bed and breakfasts or apartments will have a “take a book/leave a book” shelf for travelers. Another idea is to pop into a bookstore while on vacation and let your kid find a new book that intrigues them and now they have a souvenir.
- Limit each child to one lovey each My kids would try to bring every toy, blanket, and stuffed animal they could sneak past me if they could. Have a rule in place and stick to it. The last thing you want to do is to have to manage all the “extras”.
- Download a white noise app on your phone and/or bring earplugs Cities can be noisy places and sleeping in a new place can be difficult for both young and old. Everyone will sleep better with soothing sounds of raindrops or static white noise.
- Bring a reading light I love to read before bed, so I always have one with me. This is also helpful for navigating a dark hotel room in the middle of the night.
- Pack a duffle bag and plastic grocery bags inside your luggage Odds are you will acquire souvenirs on your trip and/or dirty laundry. Stick a duffle bag inside your suitcase just in case you need to check an extra bag for the ride home. Use grocery bags for dirty laundry or wet clothes.
- Pack a clothesline and laundry detergent They barely take up any space and if you find yourself staying somewhere without a washing machine you can quickly do some wash in the sink and hang it to dry overnight.
- Bring a first aid/medicine kit I try to have band aids, Neosporin, children’s Tylenol or Motrin, hand sanitizing wipes, and a probiotic for the kids (in case of diarrhea or stomach flu).
On the Plane
- Dress in layers and wear your heaviest shoes Layers are essential on a plane not only for you, but for your child as well. While it may sound weird to wear your heaviest shoes, but think about it. If you are wearing them, then your luggage is lighter. I don’t know, but it always seems to work for us.
- Bring essential medications We have a couple that have been prone to motion sickness so we try to bring ginger chews or Benadryl since they both seem to help. (Also, plastic trash bags and napkins in case we can’t find a “courtesy” barf bag). We also have a child with a peanut and tree nut allergy, so we always travel with our Epi-Pen. If anyone in your family has a daily medication, be sure to bring that with you in your carry-on.
- Bring hand wipes and bubble gum Hopefully these are both self-explanatory.
- Snacks It can take a very long time for those flight attendants to make it down the aisle, have your own snacks and avoid the whining.
- Bring sheets of paper, colored pencils, a small pencil sharpener and stickers These are easy travel supplies. The pencils won’t melt and stickers are fun anywhere, anytime. Paper can be used not only for coloring, but for games like Hangman, Dots, making paper airplanes, and letter writing, to name a few.
- ID necklaces for kids Obviously not necessary while they are on the plane, but you will want to have them handy when you deplane. We have the kids wear an ID necklace with a business card that includes our hotel name, address, and phone, as well as our telephone number. It makes all of us feel secure knowing they have all the information they need should we ever be separated.
- Bring a spare shirt for mom or dad and change of clothes for the kids Unfortunately, we have been on plane rides when accidents have occurred, so we have learned this the hard way. We pack one of my husband’s spare shirts (since it fits either one of us) and a spare set of shorts, underwear, socks, and a t-shirt that fit the oldest child (figuring that only one will spill, and they can fit into whatever we have on board until we land). This back up set of clothes has come in handy more times than I care to remember.
Packing for a trip with kids requires a lot of additional preparation, but with a little planning, comes great reward. Have your kids join you in the packing process and lessen your load. Just be sure to bring your patience, there’s a good chance you’re going to need it.