Sometimes getting there is half the fun. Other times, just packing your bags is enough to make you doubt the wisdom of ever leaving the house with your family. We know because we’ve been there ourselves, knee deep in piles of clothes and baby accessories, wondering if we’re packing too much or not nearly enough. But preparing for a family trip doesn’t have to be so stressful. These six tips will solve your what-to-pack dilemma, make getting ready for your trip much easier and leave you time to actually look forward to your vacation.
Make a List First
Yup, we know this sounds too easy to even mention, but taking a minute to jot down a family packing list before you start throwing things in bags is a crucial preliminary step — and one that time-crunched parents often overlook. Check the weather at your destination and list only the clothing you’ll need based on the forecast. Make a second packing list for kids’ travel items and essentials. Bathtime helpers like a Tub Stopper are always a smart idea, as are bottle accessories like the On-The-Go Drying Rack with Bottle Brush if you’re traveling with babies.
Pile It Up Before You Pack It
Before you ever put an item in a suitcase, you need to lay everything out where you can see it. That way you’ll be able to notice if you’re accidentally doubling up on clothing items or if your spouse already planned to bring a spare charger. When you’re looking at what to pack for your kids, leave behind large, heavy or loud toys, but be sure to bring smaller items your kids can’t sleep without. A favorite stuffed animal or doll is always a welcome surprise for your kids when you’re unpacking in new surroundings. And blow-up toys, especially beach balls, are easy ways to entertain kids without taking up any of your precious suitcase space.
Create a Cross-Packing Plan
Now it’s time to cross-pack. Simply put: include at least one complete change of clothes for each member of your family in each suitcase. That way, if a bag gets lost, everyone will have at least one fresh outfit. With a baby on board, add an additional sleep sack or pajama, a few diapers and an On-The-Go Wipes Dispenser with Diaper Pouch to each suitcase too. If it’s a diaper emergency, you’ll be happy not to have to dig through every suitcase looking for a change of clothes.
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Plan for Delays When Packing the Carry-On
We probably don’t need to tell you that having essentials on hand will make your trip a zillion times less stressful. When you’re traveling, think ahead to what you’ll need if you miss a meal or get delayed, and pack accordingly. Bring plenty of diapers for babies and a 2-in-1 Go Potty™ with Travel Bag for your toilet-trained little ones. Throw in a change of clothes for your baby and for yourself while you’re at it. There’s a decent chance your clothes will get splattered with something or other as you try to feed and maneuver your baby at the airport or in a tight airplane seat.
If your babies are eating solids, pack enough healthy and filling snacks (don’t expect flights or airports to have kid-friendly, nutritious foods available). Cereal in a Flippy™ Snack Cup with Travel Cover, cut up fruit and cereal bars make easy travel snacks. Don’t forget to pack snacks for yourself too. And since you can never have enough wipes around, make room in your carry-on to tuck away some of those too.
Know the 3-1-1
The 3-1-1 is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rule limiting the amount of liquids that passengers can bring on flights. Everyone is allowed one quart-sized bag containing liquids in containers of up to 3.4 ounces each. If any of your items break that rule, chances are you’ll get asked to throw them out. Another tip for flying with babies is to make sure your large creams and ointments are packed in the luggage you’re planning to check. In your carry-on, bring sample sizes or refillable smaller bottles for things like diaper cream. Don’t panic if you are traveling with formula or breast milk. The TSA will make exceptions, allowing formula, breast milk and juice in reasonable quantities in carry-on bags. Just remember to remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately.
Zip Through the Security Screening
All strollers and baby carriers have to be screened — you’ll need to take your kids out of them first—and toys, blankets and stuffed animals must go through the x-ray machine. (Remember to clean out stroller pockets and baskets before you arrive, so you’re not accidentally caught with a large bottle of sunscreen.)
If you’ve purchased an airplane seat for your baby or small child — instead of seating them on your lap —make sure the car seat you take onboard is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (look for an FAA sticker) so it can get through security. Keep in mind that you can’t seat your child in a booster onboard. Any car seat or booster you’re not bringing as a carry-on can get checked in with your luggage (for free). Once you’re done with security, you can finally sit back, relax and enjoy the trip.
Want to find other helpful tools for traveling with little ones? Don’t miss our fantastic on-the-go solutions for your baby and toddler essentials.