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Having three young kids has definitely made me a seasoned Mom, and traveling as much as we have with them has also taught me a thing or two about packing for trips! During Marlowe’s first few years of life, we traveled nonstop. Kyle was away half the week for work, I was still acting and doing occasional jobs on the road, and Marlowe would come with me on planes, trains, and automobiles like it were her job. As fun as it was to go on little adventures all the time with my bestie, it wasn’t without lots of bumps in the road! I made SO many rookie mistakes and learned a lot about how to travel with a baby…and then a toddler. Once Major was born, packing got even more complicated! Transporting essentials for both a baby and a toddler means you need a lot of stuff…and it’s imperative to weed out the extraneous and make sure you’re only bringing the essentials. THREE kids in now, and I feel like I’m in a better position than ever to share my tips and tricks for packing kids for trips.
Our annual family trip to Maine is right around the corner, and I’m already thinking about our packing list. The tricky part is that we’re driving as a family up to Maine, so we have to be able to fit everything we bring in the car. The easy part is that we are staying at our home, with a washer and dryer, and so I know we will be able to have easy access to laundry whenever we need it. Plus, we don’t have to bring bedding or anything extra like that. Below I’m going to share some tips that pertain to both longer and shorter trips, as well as hotel stays when you are truly out of your comfort zone. I hope these tips help you plan well for your own trips, and please let me know if you have any must-know tips to add to the list!
WRITE A LIST OF CLOTHING/SHOES
A list is a must! In general, for my kids, I pack 1 outfit for each day of the trip, plus 2 simple spare outfits of solid colored pieces that can be paired with anything else in their trip wardrobe. I also pack 2 pairs of underwear for each day, and pajamas enough for half the days of the trip (they can repeat pajamas two nights in a row). I also bring 3 loveys for each child, in case one gets dirty. One of the loveys for each kid gets taken on the plane or in the car and becomes the “street lovey” that isn’t brought into bed at the end of the day! Obviously, it’s wonderful when you can have access to a washer/dryer on a trip with kids, but it’s important to be prepared even if you don’t! For shoes, each child gets 1 pair of sneakers, nice sandals, and 1 water shoe. For outerwear, I pack each with 1 hoodie or pullover fleece, 1 lightweight cardigan, and 1 light jacket, such as a raincoat or jean jacket. Obviously, I pack more layers in the wintertime!
Kids' Water Shoes
I buy these every year for my kids, they truly make our vacation more enjoyable whether you’re by the lake or a beach!
French Terry Zip-Up Hoodie
These zip-ups are great to have on vacation, especially for cooler summer nights. They are of great quality and come in four other colors.
My kids are obsessed with loveys and Jellycat’s are so plush and soft.
I just purchased this raincoat for Mateo. Raincoats can be a struggle to get on kids but not when they have their favorite animal on it!
Packing cubes are an absolute MUST when you are packing kids for a trip. These enable me to keep each of the kids’ things separate within the same suitcase, and truly do take the guesswork out. Depending on what your itinerary looks like, you can either pack each child in their own packing cube, OR you can arrange the cubes depending on the day, with everyone’s pieces of clothes tucked together for each day of the trip. Go with your own preference! On trips when we are changing locations a lot, I prefer the “by day” method, so I can leave the next day’s clothes in the packing cube at the top of the suitcase so it’s available when we arrive at the next location. If you prefer the “by child” method, I suggest getting different colored packing cubes for each kid so they’re extra simple to spot!
Travel Packing Cubes
I bought these packing cubes for our trip this year and I love that there are three different size options in the buddle. They also come in several colors!
I always, always roll my kids’ entire outfits together. Top, bottom, underwear, socks, and any accessories all get rolled up, and then put in the packing cube. It makes it so much easier to find coordinating outfits that way and takes the guesswork out.
CARRY ON ESSENTIALS
If you’ve never been traveling with kids when the airline has lost your luggage, you haven’t truly lived! LOL. Absolutely nothing is more stressful than having kids someplace new with NONE of the things you brought. It only had to happen to me once for me to wisen up and change my packing game. Now, I travel with a carry-on that has the essentials for each child, in case our luggage is missing for a day or so once we arrive at our destination: 1 clean outfit for each child, 1 swimsuit, 1 set of pajamas, 1 lovey (or blankey), 1 sweatshirt, and any bedtime essentials or toiletries (sunscreen, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc).
This carry-on also comes in handy when your child spills an entire can of cran-apple juice into his lap 20 minutes into a plane ride which as I’m sure you can tell from this sentence has absolutely never happened to me. Sigh.
Hardside Carry On Luggage
The quality of this carry-on is amazing and the spinner wheels makes it very easy to transport.
LV Monogram Keepall Bandouliere 45
I carry my Louis Vuitton travel bag with me whether I am boarding a plane or driving in a car. It is big enough to hold everything that we need but not too big to consider it a checked bag.
FIRST AID KIT
My kids have all gotten sick on vacation, at one time or another. I’ve started traveling with a little first aid kit so that there aren’t any mad dashes to 24-hour pharmacies in the middle of the night to pick up medicines. It also makes me feel calmer to know that I have what I need should anything take a turn! This is what I travel within a zip pouch: 1 thermometer, 1 nose Freida, saline drops, Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Motrin, Children’s Benadryl, Children’s Claritin, Children’s Vitamin C, Powder packets of Pedialyte, bandaids, Neosporin, itch relief gel, and antibacterial ointment. I also bring a baggie with the kids’ daily vitamins so they can stay healthy!
First Aid Zip Bag
This bag easily holds the first aid necessities that my family needs on vacation.
EXTRA ZIPLOCK BAGS
I never travel with the kids without 3-4 gallon-sized ziplock bags. These always come in handy for wet or dirty clothes, toys, garbage, snacks, or a laundry list of others things they can and will get used for.
I highly, highly recommend bringing your entire bedtime routine with you on your trip. I’ve cut corners on this and regretted it every time. My kids are happiest when they’ve slept a full night, and I’d argue that I’m at my best when they’ve done so as well! Now I make sure to bring their sound machine, night light, loveys, and they can each bring ONE of their stuffed animals from their beds. It makes them feel like they’re at home even when we’re on the road, and it’s worth the extra few pounds in the suitcase.
Frida Baby 2-in-1 Portable Sound Machine
This 2-in-1 sound machine and nightlight comes in handy for traveling purposes – two necessities for children in one unit.
SOCKS IN SHOES
Packing shoes can be such an awkward space-taker in a suitcase. I always stuff the kids’ shoes with their socks or even little toys to make the space count!
Each child gets to pick 2-3 books, and 2-3 little toys to bring on the trip. I put these in a pouch of the suitcase when they’re little (baby to toddler), and I have them carry their own stuff in a backpack once they’re a bit older to use during our travel day.
I also have a GREAT hack for airplanes: a few days before the trip, visit a dollar store and buy 4-5 little gadgets or toys or crafts for each kid. Put them in an opaque bag (I normally use a shoe bag) and then put that in your own purse or carry-on. Every couple hours of your travel day, take out a “new” toy for each kid from the bag, and let them discover it and have fun! My kids savagely LOVE anything new to them, even if it’s a plastic piece of crap. They always end up playing with these toys the entire trip, and it only cost me around fifteen dollars total!
INVEST IN GREAT SUITCASES/BAGS
I have 1 big suitcase that I pack all three of my kids in for bigger trips and 2 cute duffel bags that I use for shorter trips or road trips. Below, you can find some of my luggage favorites for kiddos. I recommend investing in great pieces that they can use for years to come!
Monos Check-In Large Luggage Cover
This is my go-to large suitcase that I use for all my trips. Monos suitcases are good quality at an affordable price.
Super Star - Sea Fog
These duffel bags are my favorite for the kids. We have had ours for years. Jujube offers amazing solid colors and prints and the bags are machine washable which is a huge plus!
Rockland Hardside Spinner Kids' Luggage
I prefer luggage on wheels for kids to alleviate any weight placed on their backs. These also come in cute animal options and are on MAJOR sale!