These packing tips for families will help on your next trip because planning for any trip is stressful, but adding kids takes it to another level. 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.
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Before You Go
Plan to 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? Use sites like Hotels.com to find lodging with laundry options or Flipkey to find apartments.
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. We usually take five full outfits for a two week vacation because we know we will wash them. 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 items 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 go 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 they do, 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 to confirm that yours will work overseas) and our laptops which is plenty. If you want to know how to stay connected and save money while traveling, you will want to read our tips here.
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. We always bring along portable chargers too since we can never seem to keep a charge all day.
Have each child bring a 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. Our favorite is Sleep Pillow Sounds available in a free or paid version.
Bring a reading light
I love to read before bed, so I always bring a reading light with me. This is also helpful for navigating a dark hotel room in the middle of the night or searching through a crowded bag or floor of an airplane.
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. It may sound weird to wear your heaviest shoes, but think about it. If you are wearing them, 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, seasickness bands, or Benadryl since they all 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. Don’t miss our tips for dealing with motion sickness too.
Bring hand wipes and bubble gum
Hopefully these are both self-explanatory.
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. If you need some ideas, we have you covered with 25 Easy To Pack Travel Snacks, 25 Easy to Pack Nut Free Travel Snacks, and 25 Easy to Make and Pack Travel Snacks.
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. If you’re looking for other ideas to entertain the kids on the plane, we’ve got you covered with 25 Toys and Games to Entertain Kids on Planes.
ID necklaces for kids
Obviously these are 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.
What’s one thing you always bring in your travel bag? And don’t miss the extra tips below!