Packing For Vacation With Kids

We are leaving for Denver this week for a quick family trip – 4 days/3 nights to be exact. I know a lot of people don’t feel comfortable, or confident traveling with their children, especially when it is your first baby. I still get a little nervous thinking about traveling with a 3 month old and a 3 year old, but I have found with a little planning, a good list, and some organization, traveling can be enjoyable for the whole family. So I thought with the holidays around the corner, and my own trip on the horizon, I would put together some tips that have helped me feel better prepared for traveling with little people in tow.

Some of these tips I have picked up through experience, some are things I have adapted from what I found on Pinterest (but have forgotten their sources), and NOTHING on this is sponsored (in case you think I’m getting a kickback from the brands in the photos).

  1. Get a list started on what you think you needThe first thing I do when planning our packing is to track the weather the two weeks prior to arrival. I like to see what the temperature range is and get a feel for what we might need. I have also learned to bring items that layer well so I am not over-packing. I start writing a list of what I feel we are going to need. For this trip, my list for E has the following:
  • 2 short sleeve undershirts
  • 4 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 vest
  • 1 jacket
  • 2 sweatshirts
  • 2 jeans
  • 6 underwear & socks (there might be accidents while out at about)
  • 1 pair of shoes.

2. Vacuum Pack/Condense as much as possible

Now for the packing part. We always use one giant suitcase. I will put the kids clothing and my clothing in this bag and check it. In order to get the most space out of the luggage, I use gallon size ziploc baggies. These are essentially vacuum seal bags in my opinion. I organize the clothing into shirts/tops and underwear/socks. I pack each bag with as much as I can, then smash the air out and seal the bag. ***Note*** larger items like bulky jackets, pajamas, pants, I pack regularly, as they tend to not fit into the bags.

While I know you can always use packing cubes, I feel like they can be a little bulky. I know they are more environmentally friendly than the ziploc, but I use the ziploc as dual purpose. Once we arrive and start wearing our clothing, I designate a ziploc per person to put soiled/stinky clothing into. There is nothing I hate more than coming home and not knowing where the dirty/used laundry starts and the unused pieces begin. It’s basically like ensuring you won’t have to do the sniff test and more laundry when you get home.

3. Day-Of Travel Essentials

Once the luggage is packed for the trip, I move on to day-of travel items. Again, traveling with young kids, you need to be prepared for poopslosions, vomit, spilled juice, etc. I always carry one full outfit for each child in their own separate bag. For this, I use the Itzy Ritzy Wet Bag. Each child has their own print bag so when I need to grab it on the fly, I don’t have to wonder which bag has which child’s clothing.

You can also stuff extra things like diapers, snacks, wipes if you want. The bags are HUGE and can fit a fair amount in them. You could also use these for packing clothing in the suitcase, but they don’t get that excellent airtight seal you need for space saving purposes.

4. Pre-Pack the Kid’s Carry-Ons

The last thing is my todder’s carry-on. He has this super awesome airplane backpack that also comes with rolling luggage conversion. E loves this bag and it makes him feel like he is just as special as Mommy and Daddy with his bag of stuff. It also obviously doubles as storage for all of the things we need to keep him occupied on the flight.

This is what I normally put in his bag

  • Snacks, and lots of them! – I try and put some sort of veggie/fruit in the bag (think applesauce, freeze dried fruit, olives, a banana) and I bring some sort of cracker. I know part of the joy of traveling for kids is being allowed to eat junk food, so if we feel it is appropriate, we will buy a treat outside the gate.
  • Color pages/sticker pages – depending on your personal preference, pack at least one of these. We used to do coloring pages, but I have found crayons and markers will ALWAYS fall and roll 15 rows away. I now use these sticker sets by Melissa & Doug.
  • Cheap toys – we usually bring 3 small toys that are cheap but entertaining. The thought process is, entertaining enough to keep occupied but cheap enough that you won’t be upset they get lost or broken.
  • Water bottle – again, yes, you can buy this past the gate, but depending on where you are going, having a reusable water bottle with you will come in handy. The other great thing is that most airports have filtered fountains or areas to fill them up with after you pass TSA. This is especially helpful if you have a kid that is part camel, like mine. The other great thing is you can bring a spill-resistant one so that you can put your kid’s drinks during the flight in it and if they drop in the plane, you don’t get dirty looks. We have been OBSESSED with these Contigo bottles. We initially bought them in a two pack at Costco for $12 but I am willing to pay full retail for one!
  • Headphones – we bought a pair of fairly inexpensive wired headphones for E from Amazon a few years ago. These are obviously needed for using tablets/iPads.
  • iPad/Tablet – we have an iPad, but again, any tablet device will do. We try and download a few movies prior to leaving from Netflix or Amazon Prime Streaming to have ready for the flight. We also have the PBS Kids app, which allows you to download games to play without internet connection. The great thing about this app is that it is educational and you feel a little less guilty when your child is spending so much time in front of the screen. The other great app to get is the Libby app. The Libby app allows you to borrow audio books and digital books by linking your library card to the service on your device (I have heard not all libraries offer this, but I have a county library card so it is a huge network). I try and sync it up so that we have a few ebooks for him to read/look at. The super awesome thing about the Libby app is there is a narration option with the books, so you can open the book and click narrate and someone reads the story to your child, and it is all free and doesn’t require wireless service.

So there you have it, a pretty hassle free way to prepare for your trip. Now depending on the time you have, your (in)sanity level, and preference, I also suggest packing at least one full day prior to leaving. This way you have time to re-check and see if you have left something out (I’m thinking little things you see in your house as you leave, etc). I also TRY to make sure all our laundry is done prior to leaving, so when I come home I know we will all have clean clothing and I won’t be scrambling doing laundry the night we come back. If I am exceptionally ambitious, I try and clean the house too, but let’s be real, most of us don’t have that kind of time on our hands.

Let me know some of your travel hacks in the comments below. I would love to hear what has worked, or even failed, for you.

Until next time,

Monica