Packing is an art form, and the more kids you travel with, the more complicated it becomes. If you’re like most seasoned travelers, then you probably believe in a less-is-more philosophy. The trouble is that going anywhere with kids tends to mean packing more to keep everyone happy, or at least sane, while on the road. Soon, you find yourself in an unending and stressful quest to keep all of your luggage together. Does traveling with kids have to be this complicated? What to pack or not to pack… that is a big question.
The secret is that what you don’t pack is just as important as what you do pack. When you figure out what you can leave behind, packing what remains is easier. You won’t have as many bags to keep track of, and chances are good that you’ll save money on extra and overweight bag fees. Vacation Guide to Travel Size Products
To Pack or Not To Pack
Know Your Limits
Don’t pack a thing until you’ve checked baggage limits and weight restrictions. A luggage scale helps to keep you on track. Be informed about what’s allowed as carry-on items if you’re flying. Liquids are still restricted by the TSA.
However, baby essentials like formula and breast milk may be allowed in greater quantities. Get familiar with these amounts before your departure day, and plan accordingly. Few things are as disheartening as being forced to surrender a sizable portion of breast milk to the TSA.
Prepare a Day Pack
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, it makes sense for every member of your party to have a day pack. This is a smaller, easily portable bag that’s filled with essential items that will be used while traveling. Most kids love this idea, and if they have a special backpack to fill, it’s even better. If your kids are young enough, you’ll want to supervise what goes into this bag. Items that are lightweight and not bulky are ideal.
A small child’s day pack might include a favorite stuffed animal, a small picture book and a small toy. Crayons, coloring books and card games are also winners. A small water bottle with a tightly sealed lid and a snack like trail mix or dried fruit can provide comfort on the go.
Your own daypack will look different, though it should still be light. Keep all essential documents like tickets and reservation confirmations in the daypack. You can also include your wallet, cell phone with charger, prescription glasses and sunglasses and prescription medicines.
Create a First Aid Kit
Kids love to explore the world, and that’s especially true in new places. Unfortunately, exploration sometimes comes with cuts and scrapes. Most of these aren’t serious, and they won’t put much of a damper on the fun if you’re prepared. Many stores sell travel first aid kits, but there’s no reason why you can’t put one together yourself.
Essential items you might include in your first aid kit are assorted Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, a bug bite and sting treatment and antibiotic ointment. Toss in some individual pain-reliever packets, some for children and adults, and you’ll be ready to deal with any minor emergencies. Pack it all in a flat plastic container or even a plastic bag with a good seal. It’s a small, light addition to your baggage that ensures your adventures go as smoothly as possible.
Make Certain You Can Find Small Items
How often have you spent frustrating moments searching for tiny baby socks or toddler underwear in a larger suitcase? These frantic searches for necessary items have a way of sucking the fun out of a vacation. Make it easier by using clear plastic bags or nylon mesh bags to corral small items. You might pack all of your baby’s socks in one bag and underwear in another.
Alternatively, go with the “whole outfit” approach, packing all wearing apparel for a single day into a smaller bag. Top, shorts, socks, underwear and anything else that’s necessary gets popped into a bag before departure. Each day, you pull out a bag without having to search through every item in the suitcase to make an outfit.
Some Toys Are Better Left At Home
Playthings keep kids happy and occupied on the road, but not all toys are suitable for use in confined spaces like cars and airplanes, including toys that make noise. Also, if your little ones have a tendency to turn various toys into makeshift weapons, keep those at home too. This may make for fewer fights between siblings and having to make fewer apologies to startled adults.
Look for Ways to Burn Energy
Whether they are cooped up in a car for hours or are forced to occupy an airline seat without moving, kids end up having an excess of energy to burn when they are on the go. The simple solution is to pack a jump rope for each child. You can pull off the highway at parks and rest areas or find a relatively unpopulated corner of the airport to let the kids jump for awhile. In a pinch, those jump ropes can also be used as clotheslines or fasteners.
Bulky Baby Items
Traveling with infants is tricky and almost always involves a huge number of accessories. Instead of lugging a big stroller everywhere you go, look for the smallest, lightest umbrella stroller you can find. These can easily be checked at the gate at the airport or folded conveniently away in the car. If you need something bigger when you arrive at your destination, look for an opportunity to rent a more deluxe stroller.
If you’re going to be gone for several days and are packing jars of baby food, resist the impulse to pack enough food for every day. It’s easy enough to scope out a grocery store on the road so you don’t have to pack quite so much. The same is true for diapers. Bring enough to get you through two or three days, and buy the rest on the road.
What Comes and What Stays When Traveling With Children
Traveling with children can be a joy when you pack carefully. If you keep size and weight guidelines in mind, you’ll be less tempted to pack everything in sight. Moreover, if you resolve to leave bulky, noisy or easily purchased items behind, you’ll find that traveling light remains possible. Having young children doesn’t have to mean the end of your adventures when you follow these packing suggestions.