Packing for a trip can be daunting. Packing for a trip with kids can be even more daunting. The clothes, the gear, the toys, what should you bring and what should you not bring? There is a lot to consider. Here are my top tips for packing for travel with kids and my FREE downloadable packing checklists for both newborns/babies in diapers and older kids.
Packing can be kind of stressful and time consuming. If you leave it to the last minute, it can be even more stressful. Pack for you and your kids a couple of days to a week ahead of your trip and then the hardest part, don’t add anything to the bag. If you pack ahead of time, it is done and you are ready, but there is the temptation to throw in one more sweater, one more book, or “oh, did I remember the… ” Unless you know for sure that you forgot something, don’t keep adding to the bag.
Packing is time consuming. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to pack each person (checked bag and carry on). For me and the two littles, that is over two hours!! Make sure you are leaving yourself enough time to pack each person and you aren’t rushed. This will give you the time and space to remember all the little things and feel confident that you have what you need and aren’t over-packing.
I rarely have two hours at once to devote to packing, nor do I really want to spend that much time all together packing. Break up your packing into smaller chunks makes it easier and more fun (if you can call packing fun). I generally pack the two kids clothes/accessories at one time and then pack my clothes at another time and then the carry ons at another time. Breaking it up makes it less daunting and tedious.
With little ones, everything takes longer when they are around. If you can pack when they are otherwise occupied (at school, in bed, etc.) it is much easier to thoughtfully pack for them and yourself. I tried to involve my then five year old in packing his items for one trip and we ended up all over the place (not enough of this, too much of that), so unless your kids are super amazing, wait until they are older to involve them in the process.
My cousin used to pack each of his kid’s outfits in a ziploc bag labeled with the day of the week for a trip. So every day each child would pull out the ziploc for that day and have socks, underwear, a top, and a bottom. It was super easy and organized for them. The thought of doing this is totally overwhelming and constricting for me. Find a system that works for you and your kids and stick to it. With every trip you go on, packing will get easier and easier.
One of the things that makes packing easier for me is to stay in places that has laundry (partly why I love AirBNB). If there is laundry available, I can pack a lot less and then don’t have to worry if my kids go through 3 shirts in one day. And as an added bonus, you don’t end up with a mountain of laundry when you get home.
A co-worker of mine would pre-order on Amazon diapers and formula to be delivered at her destination so she wouldn’t have to pack them. We often stop at Target to pick up a few things once we reach our destination (ie. beach toys, chalk or toiletries). It is often easier and cheaper to buy items at your destination than to lug them on the plane and pay for an extra bag.
You can check a car seat for free and (most) airlines will let you put other items in the car seat bag as well (Hawaiian is the one airline that has not let us do this). We will use this to put a pack of diapers in, we have put a scooter and helmet in there, whatever is bulky and won’t fit in our regular luggage.
At the end of the day, you are going on vacation, you are most likely not going to far remote reaches of the earth where there are no stores. If you forget something, you can most likely buy it near where you are going. Most places have a Target or Walmart nearby where you can pick up whatever you forgot at your destination.
And finally for those of you who love to check things off your list, here are my packing lists to make packing even easier and make sure you don’t forget anything. These are my general guidelines for packing, but as always, customize for yourself what you do and don’t like to travel with.
What are your best packing tips and tricks? What is your version of the ziploc bag?
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