Packing for a beach vacation used to be a breeze. Throw some bathing suits, cute sun dresses, and sandals in my suitcase and I was good to go. Before having a child that is. Now packing can be a bit more time-consuming and tedious. There were trips that I felt like we were going to the ends of the earth and if I didn’t pack that one specific toy we would be toast.
Luckily, my packing and traveling con kiddo skills have improved over the past few years. I hate paying extra to check bags when flying so I try very, very hard to avoid doing so. Not to toot my own horn, but last summer I managed to pack for a nine-day trip to Italy in one carry on suitcase. Of course I didn’t have my daughter with me, but I was still pretty impressed with my packing skills!
Here are some of my favorite and most useful tips when traveling with a toddler. Hopefully you’ll find a few that will make traveling less stressful and perhaps even save you some money!
- Pack undergarments and socks in Ziploc bags, one for each family member. Have a separate Ziploc for dirty ones in case you won’t be doing laundry while you are away. Label each bag accordingly.
You know those mesh laundry bags you can buy to wash delicates in? (If not, check them out here. You can usually find them at places like Marshalls too). They are great for packing kids outfits, bathing suits, and summer clothes in. They come in various sizes.
- Use every bit of space that your bag or suitcase allows. Even if it’s not meant to be an actual compartment, usually there’s some space where you can squeeze some flat things in like magazines, books, or even a pair of flip-flops.
- Pack things inside your shoes. Ok, not your stinky gym shoes, but a small bag of jewelry could easily slip inside the front part of your shoes. Plus, then you won’t have to worry about your jewelry getting lost among your clothes.
- If you’re packing hats, be it baseball caps or beach hats, pack things inside of them! That’s valuable space!
- I like to pack a lot of my carry on stuff for my daughter in Ziploc bags. I’ll have a few different bags of snacks, one for spare clothes, one with crayons and a small coloring book. I also take a few empty bags.
Roll your clothes instead of folding them. I have found it easier to fit more in that way and you can see what’s in there better.
- I always let my daughter pack her small backpack with whatever toys she wants to bring along. It helps her to feel involved in the packing process, which she loves, and usually helps to avoid a tantrum about the toy that wasn’t packed. Usually.
- If you have multiple legs on your journey, try to pack your suitcase so that the clothes you’ll need first are on top.
- Pack clothing items that can be worn in multiple ways. A cute skirt might work for walking around during the day and then dressed up with heels and accessories at night.
- If you have a Kindle, download books from your local library on it. It’s free, plus then you don’t have to worry about carrying the extra weight of books with you.
- Carry travel size versions of as many toiletries as you can.
- Speaking of, don’t get suckered into every single travel size item in the travel section of Target (like I often do). Take an inventory of what you already have and ask yourself if you really need that tiny, cute bottle of shampoo. (But for a germaphobe like me, you can never have too many sanitizing wipes!)
- Put a small pack of tissues in your purse. Guaranteed that if you don’t, you’ll find yourself stuck in a bathroom that is out of toilet paper.
- Pack snacks so that they are readily accessible. Whether you are driving or flying, you don’t want to be digging around frantically while your toddler is screaming that they are STARVING (even though they just ate five minutes ago).
- On the snack note, don’t hand over all the loot in the first hour of your trip. Stash some snacks away because there is nothing worse than traveling with a hungry toddler. Take it from me. Or my fellow passengers on our last airplane ride 🙂
- Pick up some dollar store toys and save them for the ride/flight. While kids love toys, they love new toys even more (even if it breaks within ten minutes of having it. Then just pull out your backup dollar store toy).
- Speaking of toys, try to avoid ones with lots of pieces when traveling. Inevitably, those pieces will get lost somewhere and we all know what happens then. Meltdown city.
- Dress comfortably, that includes you and the kiddo. Save the cute wedges and outfits for your destination or for when you’re traveling solo. Your child will not care if they spill goldfish or applesauce all over your new white shorts. Nor will they care if they are the best dressed baby on the plane in that adorable romper from your great-aunt. They only care that they are the best FED baby. (Plus, if you have one still in diapers, rompers can be a major pain to get on and off if they don’t have any snaps in the diaper area).
- Carry a lightweight cardigan in your purse when flying. It’s often freezing on the plane, plus it can also serve as a small blanket for your kiddo if need be.
- My 4-year-old loves her Leapfrog LeapPad. (Great birthday/holiday gift from the grandparents by the way). That thing has saved us from numerous meltdowns on long rides. I like to add a new video or learning activity right before we go away so that she has something new to watch. Headphones are a bonus 🙂
- Try and wear out the kids’ energy as much as possible before settling in for a long car ride or flight. But you also don’t want an overtired child so a good night’s sleep leading up to the trip is essential.
- Even if it feels like your kid is the loudest one on the plane or the only one who has ever had a complete meltdown mid-flight, I promise you that’s not the case. We have all been there and if not, well you probably will at some point. Kids feed off our energy so try to stay calm.
- If you’re taking a long car trip with the kids and you’re the only adult, make the snacks, toys, and anything else you may need easily accessible. Driving while trying to reach into your diaper bag is definitely not safe, so the more you can do before you get on the road, the better. I make sure to lay out some stuff on my passenger seat so when my daughter beckons/demands, I can just grab something next time we stop.
- Try to avoid buying water on the road or at the airport. When road tripping it, I always bring along full water bottles for all of us. At the airport, I’ve always managed to get my daughter’s sippy cup through security with no problem.
- Save a snack for takeoff and landing. The chewing/swallowing will help with ear discomfort. Applesauce pouches are always a hit with my daughter, plus they aren’t messy!
- Keep your child’s lovey (if they have one) nearby. You would hate for a nap not to happen because they didn’t have it.
- If you’re flying, make sure to put your ID back in your wallet right after you go through security. Otherwise, you may end up leaving it in your pants’ pocket and then freaking out when you are looking for it days later.
- Pack a yummy treat for yourself. Traveling with kids is no joke, you deserve it!
If all else fails, I’m not above a simple bribe to keep toddler-mania from happening. A promise of an ice cream cone at the end of a long car trip can go a long way!
What’s your best tip for traveling with kids?
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