No matter how many times you’ve done it, when you’re traveling with family, it helps to make a very detailed packing list. Especially with kiddos who travel better with “something familiar,” it’s worth the effort. Who wants a meltdown halfway through the airport when you realize you’ve forgotten something, anyway? (I’m talking about adult meltdowns—most kids do just fine. 😉 )
Here are travel packing tips from our (mom) experts, for the next time you pack for vacation.
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting
I’m an optimist, but with airlines having lost my checked luggage more than once (my bags went to Paris and Hawaii without me!), I try to pack light and use only carry-on bags. If I do need to check a suitcase, I use it to pack things I could replace if I had to. What stays with me includes everything my family will need on the plane:
- Our itinerary and confirmation numbers
- FAA-approved airplane harness for my child now that she’s outgrown her car seat (afflinks)
- In-flight entertainment for my child (yes, among travel games and art supplies, paper clips are on our list–amazing how a paper clip daisy chain can capture my child’s attention for such a long time)
- Snacks and a sturdy, portable, and eco-friendly water bottle that I fill up after we’re through security (my child can’t always drink easily from the big open cups they offer on the plane)
- A clean eye mask for particularly long or international flights
I also keep with me everything we’ll need within our first 24 hours at our destination:
- Credit cards and/or debit cards, passports (for international travel), IDs, and insurance cards
- My child’s lovey and portable white noise machine—can’t sleep without them!
- Our travel-specific toiletry bag (and all its contents: toothbrushes and toothpaste, hair brush, contact lenses and solution / glasses, travel version of a first aid kit, and vitamins)
- A money belt for added security if I’m traveling to certain destinations
- One day’s worth of clothes if they fit in the bag, or at least spare underwear and socks
- Spare iPhone charger and power adapter
- A travel list of the activities we planned so we’re sure to do everything we had in mind when we organized the trip (wouldn’t want to forget something fun we’d wanted to do!)
Some of the smaller items fit in what the airlines call a “personal item” (I call it my purse). The medium-sized essentials go into the carry-on that I’ll stow in the overhead compartment. It’s a good idea to pack my packing checklist so that if I lose everything, I know exactly what I need to replace. In a nutshell, if it’s critical travel gear, it stays within reach. Everything else can go in the checked bag just in case it decides to take its own adventure!
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from State By State
“…When we decided to move into our RV we had to do some major downsizing. It was difficult to decide what would come with us. The decision ultimately came down to how useful an item was. If something has multiple uses it makes it that much more appealing. Consider how you will use the item you are packing, if it is absolutely necessary, bring it.
Often we think we will need something, then end up never using it. It is amazing what we really can live without. The less you bring with you means the less you have to keep track of and the less you have to bring back with you. Try to stick with the necessities and not over plan for every possible disaster…” Find more at https://statebystate.net/we-minimalized-sort-of/.
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from World for a Girl
“As our children are still young, most of the packing still falls to me. Packing is definitely something that I start thinking about a week or two before each trip jotting down items on a handwritten list. We travel a lot and the longest that we’ve spent continuously on the road with the kids is 14 weeks. I’d like to think that we’ve got our packing strategy down to a tee. One item that has made our packing and re-packing easier is packing cubes. These simple fabric/mesh zip bags come in lots of sizes. We use them to keep everyone’s clothes separate. Even the kids know exactly which cube all the socks live in!
Perhaps my favourite thing about using packing cubes is that we don’t need to unpack all the time. For example, right now in our closet, there are lots of packing cubes already filled. For example, one contains the children’s travel toys (toys they don’t play with at home). Another contains travel size washing up liquid, an elastic washing line and all the other laundry items we need only when we’re on the road. Another is a travel First Aid Kit and so on. This system saves me so much time. I know that when we go on holiday next that all I need to do is fish out the already packed cubes and add some clean clothes. Try it, it’ll save you hours.”
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Tips from a Typical Mom
“…Make sure you check your kids bags if you let them pack themselves. You don’t want to arrive in Hawaii and have a bunch of winter clothes and no swimming suits packed! I usually make a checklist of things they need to pack so they can feel like they are independent, but I have them lay everything out on their beds and go and make sure they made good choices before they pack their bags.
It’s a time-saver for us to do it this way. I also have a tricky way to pack your jewelry so it doesn’t get all tangled. You can read that post over on my blog.”
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Mommy and Me Travels
“…Quick hitting packing list for each person: 2 (maybe 3) pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 7 pairs of underwear, 1 swimsuit, 7 pairs of socks. Some might think, no way can we pack so little. Remember most of the time you will be doing different activities so you can wear those pair of jeans more than once. And, if they do get dirty, just wash them in the sink or the bathtub. You can easily hand wash the clothes and hang them to dry. Voilà, clean clothes!
One last tip… Buy different color packing cubes. I usually can get the above clothing list into one cube per person. The larger cubes are great for the adults and then as you move on to the kids you can use the small and medium ones. I love packing cubes because I quickly can locate each person’s clothes and not have to pull everything out of the bag to located that one item that is hiding at the bottom.
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Captivating Compass
“Get ready to teach your kids life skills that will last a lifetime by teaching them to pack when they are young for camping trips or overnight sleep-overs. Teaching kids to pack for an entire trip, regardless of length or destination in just a carry on is doable! I’ve used the same checklist for nearly 15 years and it has never failed me (or the rest of the family).
It’s simple and easy enough for most 7-year-olds to do practically by themselves. The key is to give the kids the list and let them create their ‘outfit piles’ according to the list. Then, before it all goes in the carry-on, it is checked by an adult. Finally, outfits are put into a zipper-lock bag and it’s done! This method has worked so well for our family that we have been able to pack for 3 weeks in Switzerland (in the winter) using just a carry-on and backpack! You can grab the full packing tutorial over at https://www.captivatingcompass.com/packing-with-kids/.
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Grab My Passport
“Even as a seasoned traveler, I’m still guilty of overpacking. We love packing cubes and zip-tight storage bags to keep things organized, but one of my latest discoveries is grocery delivery services! On our recent week-long trip to Orlando, and our first with our newborn, I discovered Instacart and it was the greatest! [Groceries] arrived at our hotel lobby so quickly and everything was fresh! There are a lot of these types of services in the US, so check out what’s available in your travel area before you head out to help save some room in your suitcase.
Another quick tip we learned on our Orlando trip was all about taking advantage of checked car seats. Most airlines let you check a car seat for free, but they don’t specify that if you place your car seat in a protective carrier, that you can only put a car seat in it. We were able to toss a week’s worth of diapers in there with plenty of room to spare! Just tuck the diapers (or whatever) in the seat, buckle them in so they don’t get tossed around, and voilà, more space saved in your suitcase!”
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Gofamgo
“…Aside from our set of clothes and toiletries, our luggage always has a medicine kit for the most common health issues you can encounter while traveling. One issue that I don’t want to deal with is figuring out where the pharmacy is in an unfamiliar place. Not to mention, if they even carry the medicine that I am used to. It even gets more complicated when you are traveling abroad, where the medicine might be prohibited or carried in a different formulation…” More at https://gofamgo.com/staying-fit-for-travel-otc-remedies/
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from World Wise Kid
“One of the greatest parts of traveling is minimizing. Knowing you can survive for weeks on just the basics on your back is empowering. Packing light does involve conscious planning and investing in high quality gear.
Backpack. Unless we are travel camping, we carry on our luggage. We know our personal items are safe and will arrive with us. We love Osprey packs with their synching straps, padded electronics sleeves and thick hip belts. These packs give us maximum flexibility when finding our lodging down a cobblestone street, across a rice field or over muddy dirt roads.
Ultra-light. All items must be as light as possible – no big jackets, no heavy shoes. Down jackets are perfect (and currently conveniently fashionable!) A lightweight waterproof shell is an insulation layer and a must for day packs. We carry thin sarongs instead of bulky towels.
Educational tools. It’s hard to leave the paper travel guides and books behind but for minimalist travel, we have converted to ebooks on the Kindle and tablets. A library subscription gives us access to print resources. We use downloadable audio guides to destinations, and supplement studies with podcasts and YouTube videos. Each of the kids carry only an academics notebook and a journal/sketchpad for studies.
Traveling light means it’s fast and easy to pack up and go to a new destination. It’s easy to find what you need quickly. We off-load clothes, pamphlets and maps as we travel. We take lots of photos and few souvenirs.”
Packing for Travel: Packing List and Tips from Disabled Disney
“As a person with a lot of medical problems and disabled my packing is a little different then a normal healthy person. I have to make sure I have my medications and in an adequate amount for my trip and whatever equipment I need. I travel with a shower stool and a wheelchair…[and] a foldable cane for travel…!
My best tip is make sure your medications are in your carry on because if your luggage could get lost or held up you may not have your medications when you need them. We also travel as a family and when you have kids you have to take Ziplock bags with you! They are great for half-eaten snacks or if your kids are prone to motion sickness can be used in a pinch for those moments. We also go to Disneyland quite a bit. If you go on the water rides having a plastic baggy can protect anything you don’t want to get wet!”