I’ve learned over the years not to tell the kids exactly when we’re going on vacation because they inevitably get uncontrollably excited. Cue the never-ending influx of questions like, “Is it time to go yet?”
Instead, I surprise them by pulling out the suitcases a few days to a week in advance and I give them jobs. Not only does this keep them busy, but it also helps me prepare for traveling with kids. More importantly, this helps them feel included, creates a sense of independence, and teaches them important life skills. I’ve created a few “tricks” to keep myself organized and to streamline the packing process to make the whole thing go smoother and faster. Here are my 10 packing tips.
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The Best Packing Tips for Traveling with Kids
1. ALWAYS start by making a list.
DO NOT skip this step. This is a packing tip I have learned the hard way. Whenever I don’t make a list, without fail, I’ll forget a critical item like my toothbrush or underwear, yet I’ll still remember to pack the baby’s favorite stuffy.
2. Get the laundry done first.
I plan our trips ahead so that I know what activities we’re doing and when we’ll be out in a new public place. Then, I plan to put our kids in bright, matching clothing so I can quickly spot them. By doing laundry first, I can make sure everyone’s bright yellow shirts are clean. Not to mention, the underwear again. Ha!
3. Enlist older children to help.
As you’re packing, ask your older children to bring you ‘X’ number of their PJs, socks, underwear, and the like. This helps them feel included and independent, and it’s teaching them a skill they’ll need in the future.
4. Start a few days before your scheduled trip.
This way, if you realize you’re low on something you need for the trip, you have time to run to the store and get it.
5. Babywear while you pack.
Packing can take time - time that you might not feel like you have if you’re caring for a fussy baby. Try babywearing while you pack to keep your baby content while you get the job done.
6. Pack the safety essentials.
Pack kids/baby Tylenol and Benadryl, as well as band-aids. Essentially, you want to make sure you have a kid’s first aid kit. LOL. Kids are amazing in that they always need a good band-aid whether there’s a boo-boo or not. Bonus points if it’s their favorite character.
7. Save yourself with crafts.
I always pack a new craft for rainy days or layovers - a packing tip I’ve learned as I’ve traveled with my family over the years. This comes in handy when we have time to kill and I don’t want them to kill each other. These don’t have to be expensive, either. I usually hit up the Dollar Store or Target’s $1 and $3 section for things like puzzles, mini lego sets, dolls, or a new coloring book.
8. Maximize your luggage and minimize your items.
I pack more than one family member to a suitcase, even if we’re gone for a week or more. When I’m strategic, I can get up to 3 family members’ clothes packed in one suitcase at a time. Traveling with kids can be stressful, so bringing less stuff can help you save money on baggage and limit stress. If you’re flying, make sure to weigh your suitcases before you leave so you don’t go over the weight limit and get fined.
9. Make room for organizers.
For a large family, it helps to bring items that keep you organized at your destination. These items might seem bulky, but you can find fold-up versions of laundry baskets, tabletop organizers, and more. For example, here’s a collapsible laundry basket and a foldable carrier for all your bathroom amenities.
10. Give kids (a little bit of) freedom.
I also let each kid pack their own book bag full of whatever they deem necessary. This serves to keep them busy while I’m packing, but it also is something they can pull out when we’re on the road or at our destination to play with and keep them entertained.
As you can see, traveling with kids doesn’t have to be stressful - it just requires some pre-planning! Plus, giving your kiddos new experiences makes all the craziness of travel totally worth it. Did you find this blog helpful? Let me know in the comments below - and don’t forget to share your own top packing tips!