Before having children, packing was much less stressful. Many of us out there could just throw some changes of clothes into a bag, toss in your passport, and be on your way.
But children have a tendency to complicate things. Now you’re faced with making sure they have enough clothing for the trip, you’ve got to keep track of them, and keep them entertained. It can feel like traveling with children requires a Master's degree in project management, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of all the essentials for packing with kids. Note that time amount of travel time is perhaps the biggest variable here, but these below points can be modified to factor that in.
Have you traveled with your children? What do you pack that may not have been listed here? Leave a comment below!
TLDR Quick Kids Travel Checklist:
- A large diaper bag that will fit at he bottom of the feet of your toddlerThis is not for everyday use but great when you travel as you will have less bags to account for.
- All liquid in a large ziploc to make going though security easy
- A charged ipad if you have a toddler with loaded cartoons (you get to pick and if there is no wifi or a delayed flight, it can save your life)
- Ship diapers/wipes/snacks directly to the hotel (amazon is your best friend)
- A mini crossbody clutch for passports
- large post-it tab on picture page of passports to speed up checking / security at airport
- As soon as you are done feeding your baby, clean the bottle and get ready for the next feeding - you never know what will happen that will get you distracted. In a plane, ask a flight attendant to clean with warm water
- Toiletries should be packed with dish washing liquid and laundry detergent (just fill travel containers with your regular product)
- A few toys and links(links are multi purpose: teether, toy, toy holder...)
- Lego, Kanoodle
- Colored handles or tags on all luggage, stroller, diaper bags: this will help dad collect luggage at airport
- A Booster seat that you can use as a bag
- Hanging toy for stroller
- Small transparent toiletries (one per kid)
Depending on where you’re going, you’ll have to plan for you and your children to change clothes.
For longer trips, you’ll require more changes of clothing, while for shorter trips less is needed. That all depends on the particular trip you are embarking on.
The second factor to consider is the weather. If it’s going to be cold, you’ll need to pack extra warm clothing, as well as pajama sets - that means at least two changes of clothing per day.
In warmer climates, you can get away with one change of clothing per day. But, if you are leaving a colder climate for a warmer one, you’ll need to factor in a change of clothing for the day of travel.
Third, you need to know whether you have the opportunity to wash clothing - or if you even want to - while traveling. For instance, if you are staying at a hotel that offers laundry services you can get away with packing less. But, if there is no opportunity to wash clothing, each day will require at least one change of clothing.
On average, parents will need to plan for at least one change of clothing per day. Yet, as demonstrated above, that can change based on weather and the ability to wash clothing.
Snacks - Does your child get “hangry” on long trips? That’s what snacks are for! The way you are traveling has a big impact on what kind of snacks you can pack.
By Plane - Airports have strict guidelines on what can be brought on a plane in terms of food. It must be sealed, so a bag of peanuts might be taken away. Consider staples like granola bars, crackers, and travel-sized fruit snacks.
By Car and Train - If you’re packing with kids for a car or train ride, the choice of snacks opens up significantly. Now, that home-packed bag of peanuts will do just fine. Additionally, you are typically able to pack more substantive snacks like sandwiches and meal-oriented items in tupperware.
As you consider nourishment on your travels, take note of where you may be able to purchase healthy and filling options for your children. Airports almost always have restaurants where you can sit for a nice meal, and airplanes typically are stocked with small snacks and drinks.
In terms of liquids, you can never go wrong with a travel mug for water. Some are even outfitted with a filter so you can use any water source to create clean drinking water. This will help you save space on things like juices which can be used only once.
But remember - if you’re traveling by plane, the mug will need to be empty. Travel mugs outfitted with filters are perfect for those layovers with water bubblers available.
It’s also important to note that parents with infants and breastfeeding children can bring formula and milk on a plane. These items are actually exempt from the limitations of carrying liquids on planes.
Parents can also bring ice packs for anything that needs to stay cold for an extended period of time.
Everybody gets bored, especially kids. And bored children - as most parents know - is a dangerous thing.
What your child needs for entertainment depends on the child in question. Do you have a bookworm on your hands? Then you’re in luck!
One way you can never go wrong is an iPad, or any other touch-based tablet. That’s because the amount of free apps and games available for download is staggering - you’d be hard-pressed to not be able to find at least something your child or children will like.
There’s also a great opportunity for family gaming, which has obvious benefits beyond the specific trip. Board games during layovers are a great way to connect with your child!
With an iPad, you can also use video and music to entertain your child. Simply pull up YouTube or any other video service, and take advantage of the millions of videos to keep your child occupied.
If you’re traveling with more than one child, perhaps several approaches to travel entertainment are needed.
One thing many parents bring is materials children can get creative with. A drawing pad with some crayons is a great way to combine critical skillbuilding with fun!
Otherwise, bring the toys you know will keep your children occupied for as long as you need. One way to make them easier to travel with is toy links, which allow you to attach many to a strap for easy storage. You can also have your children carry their own toys with their own personal backpack.
Note: There are also tons of toys with hangers already installed!
Traveling with children is not only stressful for you, but for your children as well. Being thrust into unfamiliar situations can send kids into emotional distress, which in turn lays more stress on you.
Does your child have a favorite teddy bear? Or will a pacifier stop your child from crying? Make sure not to forget whatever objects your child finds comfort in - it can potentially make or break the enjoyment of travel for you.
One of the most important considerations for any traveler is travel documents. If you’re traveling domestically, you’ll need passports. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll potentially need visas.
These are best kept in either a separate compartment, or a separate bag altogether. While clothing, snacks, and entertainment can be all lumped together, travel documents need to be easily accessible when you need them.
Separate compartments or separate bags also helps you avoid losing your travel documents. The nightmare that is losing your passport while traveling is one no parent should have to go through!
Also, here’s a life hack - have you ever had to pull out your passport and fumbled with finding the picture page? Use some Post-It tabs to make it easy to open your passport to the correct page!
Now that you’ve learned about the essential items to pack while traveling with kids, organizing everything is the next step.
When organizing your items to pack, it’s important to take a full inventory of what you have. Clothing, snacks, entertainment, comfort items, and travel documents all need to come with you no matter what, so now it’s about making do.
You’ll also want to consider how many bags you want to travel with. Checking bags carries additional costs, but that may be the solution to traveling with absolutely everything you need. Regardless, if you’re traveling with children you should count on checking in at least one bag.
A great diaper bag that will fit under the seat is also crucial when traveling with babies.
Space efficiency is everything when packing for travel. The biggest variable is clothing - see below about recommended ways to pack various types of clothing:
Softer/Thinner Garments - Soft garments like t-shirts, pajamas, and undergarments are best rolled up tightly. You’ll want to line the bottom of your luggage with the rolled garments.
Stiffer/Thicker Garments - Thick wool garments, pants, and other pieces made of more robust fabrics should be folded. Then, place these garments right on top of your rolled garments.
As for your other items, grouping them together will allow for more ease of access. For instance, your snacks should all be together. Entertainment items like iPads, books, and more can be packed tightly.
As a special note, you can utilize the clothing you bring with you to secure electronic devices. But remember, often these objects have to be removed if you are bringing them in your carry-on bag.
Now, Take a Breath
Packing with kids first and foremost requires taking a deep breath. The effort you put into staying calm, cool, and collected will pay dividends much later on.
It’s important to pack just the essentials, so you’ll need to choose items to bring with extreme prejudice.
Here’s a quick re-hash of the most important considerations when packing clothing for kids:
Weather - Make sure to pack appropriate clothing for the climates you are leaving and going to. Are you leaving one cold place for another, or going from a warm destination to a cold one?
Length of Travel - How many days are you going to be away? Count on having at least one outfit per day, and more depending on activities.
Amenities - If you are able to do laundry where you’re going, you can definitely pack less and plan on washing clothes for repeat outfits.
Next, here’s a wrap-up of the other considerations when packing for kids:
Snacks - Pack healthy, small, sealed snacks for children if traveling on a plane, and consider bringing a cooler with more substantive nourishment for car and train trips.
Entertainment - Choose what works best for your child, but make sure it’s something that can keep them busy for extended periods of time.
Comfort Items - Used as a last resort, plan to bring items that can unfailingly pacify your child.
Travel Documents - Keep them separate and safe from your other belongings for easy access and accountability.
Have you had to travel with children before? What are your tips for parents based on your experiences? Leave a comment below!