We recently went on our first family vacation with 2 under 2. And guess what? We survived!! It is quite the accomplishment, believe me.
This trip was a long time in the making – we knew about it even before Pip was born – so I had lots of time to prepare. I read a lot of tips online and listened to a few podcasts on the topic of traveling with kids. Nothing that was totally comprehensive regarding packing, though. So, here I am! Writing about my packing tips for traveling with kids without depriving yourself! It’s kind of funny – before we had kids, my husband and I would take only a carry-on for luggage when we flew. It was so much easier to just walk in and out of the airport. Unfortunately, those days are over (for now). Kids change you in many ways.
I got a lot of flack for how much stuff we took on our vacation. Yes, there were things I could have left behind, and, looking back, should have left behind. But the majority of it was just the necessities for dealing with a not-quite-2-year-old and a 6-month-old. Y’know, the breast pump, bumbo, inflatable mattress, diapers. Here’s the deal: When I go on vacation, I don’t want to deprive myself! I don’t think we need to pack the whole house, but I do want to have all the conveniences that I’m used to.
When you travel with kids, you need to have everything to keep them alive and well! You can watch part of my packing tips by finding me on YouTube.
Packing Tips for Travelling with Kids without Depriving Yourself
Photo by Max Goncharov on Unsplash
Tip #1 – Start Early
Like I said, we knew about this trip MONTHS before our son, Pip, was born. Shortly after his arrival, we started the passport process. It took THREE tries to actually get them in our hands. I can’t stress this enough – plan, plan, plan. I’m a planner by nature (super Type A) but believe me when I say that you need to plan ahead to have a successful trip. I’m not talking about itinerary, route, transportation and accommodations. I’m talking about the packing.
You need to plan your packing.
• Make a master list
• Create individual bag lists to know what is going to go where
• Don’t forget a list of “Last Minute” items for those things that need to be thrown in 12-15 hours before you leave
*Keep it on the door or your purse so you see it right before you walk out
Consider the details and check out the amenities offered at your destination
• Any events you want to take part in
• The weather
• Stops along the way
• Timing for diaper changes + feeds
• Ability to pump (if necessary)
• Access to washing machine
Tip #2 – Minimize
Take one if you can, two if you have to. Don’t deprive yourselves. Take only what you know you will need and use. Things that are unlikely to be used can stay home.
I took a lot of things that we could have done without – I’ll know for next time. Take items that are more compact than their bulkier alternatives. We took a full-size blanket for Pip, but it was one that folded right down into nothingness. Likewise for hats, clothing, toiletries, etc.
Tip #3 – Take Multipurpose Items
If one item can do the work of 2 or 3, take that. For example, Pip is 6 months old. He’s eating food, but not able to sit on his own quite yet. We took our Bumbo and the tray to take the place of a highchair. He was able to eat in it and be set down there when we needed a safe place to put him for a few minutes.
Photo by Vidar Nordli Mathisen on Unsplash
Tip #4 – Wear The Bulky Stuff
We each wore a sweater/jacket and shoes on the plane to save suitcase room. We made sure they were items that we would also use at our destination.
*The climate was deathly hot, so we really didn’t use our sweaters or shoes, except for the kids during morning walks. We had planned to go biking, but it didn’t pan out this time.
Tip #4 – Maximize The Space You Have
Of all the packing tips for traveling without depriving yourself, this is the ultimate. Make sure you look into what types of bags (size + weight restrictions) you’re allowed, and what you can and cannot pack. Stay within the guidelines and stuff every inch of that suitcase! Travel bags come with multiple pockets. Make the most of them. Use empty space under certain items to cram in more stuff. If you’re traveling with an infant or toddler, you are allowed one diaper bag per child, on top of your personal item.
Use it wisely.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Tip #5 – Organize
Remember I said I’m Type A? Here’s where it comes in really handy.
• Use storage bags as divisions
• Use your lists, make separate ones for each suitcase so everyone knows what’s in there
• Group like items together
Tip #6 – Rent If You Can
We’ve all heard the horror stories of airplane cargo, right? I was super leery about taking my car seats along – I didn’t want them to get damaged! So, I found a company that rents out baby gear! We ended up renting 2 car seats and a play pen from Babierge.
Best. Decision. Ever. I didn’t have to worry about hauling MORE bulky crap along or getting them damaged. We did take our stroller along (surprise: it came back damaged), but only because I wanted it for in the airports. Highly recommend this – it worked great.
Tip #7 – Confine The Packing Mess To One Area
Packing is a nightmare for families. Just sayin’. If you can keep the mess to one area, you’ll feel a lot better about it and won’t be so overwhelmed by the task. Set up all the bags in one place and bring the items to the bags. It works. Trust me.
Tip #8 – Roll Your Clothes
The easiest of the packing tips for travelling with kids without depriving yourself. Instead of folding your clothes flat, like you normally would, roll them up. It saves a ton of room, especially if you roll a top and pants together. I was able to fit all our clothes, plus the bag for swimsuits and diapers, PLUS the bag of toiletries in one standard-size suitcase. That’s the power of rollin’.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Tip #9 – Use An Expandable Suitcase
Some suitcases have a bit of extra room built in. I’m not really sure why – I guess if you want to keep them the regular sizes for the way there, then fill them up with shopping on the way home they would be great. What I like them for is the extra space. The ones I used expanded about 2 inches. Which might as well’ve been a foot! It was so much extra room. It also saves on the zipper wear.
Tip #10 – Take Plastic Bags
Kids are messy. Spills happen. Swim suits don’t dry fast enough. Take some regular grocery bags for the messy things you don’t want to touch the rest of your luggage. Oh, and to clean up all that mess? Pack wipes in EVERY bag. Everywhere.
Tip #11 – Pack New Activities
Go to the dollar store and pick up some little toys, books and activities that are new to your kids. Save them for the drive or plane ride to keep them occupied the entire way. I also threw in some little photo albums to look at, since Sweet Girl is obsessed with “pitchers”.
Tip #12 – Pack A Million Snacks, And Then Pack A Million More
This tip I stole from various other resources, but it is so. true. I can’t tell you enough. I actually ended up having extra snacks, but it was nice to be able to munch on food the entire way there and back. Plan your route + feeding times and remember to take LOTS of snacks. Even more than you think you’ll need. Plus, you never know what everyone will be in the mood for!
Tip #13 – Ask For Help
The toughest of the packing tips for traveling with kids without depriving yourself. Well, at least for me. I hate asking for help!
• Have someone come watch the kids so you can pack uninterrupted
• Enlist the help of a travel partner, if necessary
• Get your super organized friend to come pack your suitcases for you
So there. Make the most of these packing tips for travelling with kids without depriving yourself. Check out my video where I go into these tips a little further!
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