Traveling with kids is challenging for so many reasons and in so many ways. Among hundreds of things that can go wrong, we need to do our best to make sure that whatever is under our control is executed perfectly. Packing wisely for a family vacation is one of those things. Below list has been compiled over the years, following a number of spectacular parenting failures and lessons learned the hard way. Some things I’ve mentioned may seem obvious, but believe me, there was a time when those were definitely NOT so obvious to me 🙂
Pack wet wipes. LOADS OF THEM.
Those little hands always manage to get sticky even in the driest environment! And the stickiness tends to spread on little faces, mommy’s clothes and daddy’s very expensive photo gear. I usually pack two types of wet wipes: gentle baby tissues to use for the kids, and the antibacterial travel ones for everyone else (yes, husbands get dirty, too! 🙂 ). I keep one of each in my carry on bag, plus extra packs in the check-in bag.
Consider a toddler size blanket, one per kid 🙂
For two main reasons. Reason one: airplanes. I’m always trying to get my boys as comfy as possible in order for them to sleep (translation: not to bother me too much when I try to relax with a Kindle 😉 ). Reason two: hotels usually provide a baby cot with either a heavy duvet or a single bed sheet to cover the kid. This just doesn’t work for us. A toddler size fluffy blanket taken from home is a lifesaver.
Pro tip: if you’re not planning to use it on a plane, throwing it inside a vacuum bag might be a good idea. Those things weigh next to nothing, but tend to take up loads of luggage space!
Don’t forget about a power bank.
Because stuff happens and sometimes playing emergency youtube videos to your toddler during the trip can save all of you from a major meltdown. And mama needs her social media fix, too. 🙂 Also, look at how cute is this one. If hubby doesn’t steal it for his own purposes, it can charge my phone 3 times! I’ve been using it for over 2 years and I’m very happy with it.
If you’re a reader – invest in a Kindle (or any other ebook reader).
I’m a big reader. However, hauling 10 books with me while hubby runs out of space for underwear and shoes seems a bit selfish. 🙂 Kindle is an easy solution. Added bonus: it lasts FOREVER. I’ve had the same one for close to 10 years now, still works perfectly! It’s an old model with lots of buttons, so sometimes it also doubles as an emergency toy for my little one. Packing it for a family vacation is a must!
Bullet journal will make your life easier.
I’m currently at a point in my life where I wouldn’t be able to survive without my bujo. It includes a generic packing list for the whole family, and I update it before each trip with details such as itinerary, things to do, restaurants to dine in, kids friendly activities, etc. For more info about my bujo travel setup, see here. It keeps me well organized throughout a chaotic event which is traveling with small children.
CamelBak kiddie bottles are a lifesaver.
Because they’re cute, small and spill-proof. 🙂 Also, whipping out a store-bought plastic bottle of water in a restaurant will most definitely be frowned upon. However, nobody bats an eyelash when my toddler casually sips from his favorite CamelBak. Saves us a lot on overpriced water in restaurants (“sorry madam, we only have Evian/Perrier/San Pelegrino limited edition, and the smallest size is 1 liter!”). Besides, when a toddler tells you he’s thirsty, you never really know if he means “I’m finishing this bottle!” or “I’ll just take one small sip, thank you very much!”.
Stock up on a large number of dry snacks.
Because life is full of surprises. You might find yourself waiting for a delayed train at night with all the food outlets closed. Your child might fall sick and the only thing he agrees to eat is fish-shaped crackers. You might decide to go on a spontaneous trek in a park with no restaurants/shops available… With small kids, throwing in some extra snacks while packing for family vacation is always a good thing.
Carrying leftover currency is a good idea.
We travel a lot and one thing we learned is not to change back any currency we might still have at the end of our trip. Simple reason: we will most probably need it again and having it with us while we travel is much more convenient than running around looking for an ATM or money exchange facility.
Pack some tried and tested medicine for kids.
Depending on your destination, kiddy medicine may or may not be easily available. To be on the safe side, we always pack some tried and tested medicine (especially painkillers!). We’ve had trips when such medicine was not available at all (Zanzibar) or when we seriously struggled with dosage instructions written in a foreign language (Portugal).
Don’t forget an extra dose of patience!
Let’s face it: family vacation can be a stressful, chaotic event. It can also create the most amazing memories for all of you. 🙂 It’s so much different than traveling solo, as a couple or with friends, but it is worth every minute of it, even the challenging ones! 🙂