Packing Tips for Traveling with Kids



Okay, I thought I use to be bad before, but once I had kids I became a bonafide over-packer. I am a planner and like to be prepared for everything: weather conditions, accidents, spills, you name it I am ready for it! This caused me to pack way too much stuff when I first started traveling with kids; leaving me feeling weighed down and frustrated.

However, years of family travel have taught me few things and now I am much more efficient at packing for kids. In fact, I recently packed clothes for two kids and one adult for a 20 day trip in one suitcase! Holla!! Damn it feels good to be a gangsta. Since it feels so good to be pro at packing, I wanted to share my Packing Tips for Traveling with Kids with you! Now you can feel gangsta too!

Before children, I would usually pack two-outfits per day of my trip. Day wear. Night wear. Sprinkle some backups (sexy/comfy). Throw in bathing suits, jammies and different pair of shoes for each outfit and I was just crazy. Obviously, I could not maintain this style of packing once I started traveling with kids. Although, I did try at first and it didn’t work out so well.

Fact: kids are messy. When I used to pack for them, I felt like I never had enough backup outfits, especially whne we first started camping. Camping is the worst, because the kids are playing all day and night outdoors and constantly getting dirty.

Once we started flying with the kids more often, I had to get better at packing less, but still packing enough. I had to concentrate and really narrow my packing list down, otherwise I’d be stuck paying baggage fees. No bueno for the budget traveler. Plus, I didn’t want to haul more crap than I had to around an airport. Solution? Read on.

1. Make a list: First thing I do, before packing for kids, is make a list. A written list helps me to visualize the number days and activities that are planned so that I can better narrow the clothing choices down. Then as I pick out outfits I can insert in the days that they would work best. This also helps keep you organized on the trip as there is no guess work. Once I’m on the trip I will forget what outfits I planned for what day, so I simply pull out the list and lay out the clothes for the next day. I love me list!!

2: Pack Early: Gone are the days when you can just throw some shorts in a bag and peace out of town. Once you start traveling with kids, early preparation is gold. I start separating their outfits about a week or so before the trip that way if I’m missing something, there is time to run to the store and complete the outfit. I like my kids to look good and that takes a little prep, but it is super fun to see it all come together. Plus it adds to the excitement of the upcoming trip. See my post about what this HotMama does before every vacation: Ready. Set. Go!

3. Mix & Match: This is where the list and early prep helps you out. Try as much as you can to have mix and match-able clothing to help you lessen the number of clothing articles packed. Color-coordination helps accomplish this task as well as making your photos super cute. See post here.

Packing tips for traveling with kids

4. Two pairs of shoes MAX: I know it is hard, especially for us ladies. We like to look good and plan outfits for a trip, but planning a bunch of outfits that require different shoes is ridiculous. I used to be ridiculous too, but now I’ve learned. When I’m packing for kids I pick out their most comfortable shoes and coordinate their outfits to work with those shoes. Beach vacations also require us to bring some flipflops, but those can be easily packed. Avoid packing heavy bulky shoes.

5. Think about comfort: I used to struggle with this one hard, because I wanted us to look great in our travel photos. Believe me when I say, nothing is more miserable than an uncomfortable children or parent! My son went through a phase when he hated jeans, but I had outfits planned that required jeans, so I packed them anyway! Big mistake. He threw a fit every morning to get ready and insisted on wearing sweatpants everyday. Well, I only pack one pair of sweats as a “just-in-case” item. He ended up wearing those single pair of sweats for over a week. Ugh. 

Packing tips for traveling with kids

The infamous SWEATPANTS!

Let’s not mention the number of times I’ve packed awful shoes and stupid outfits I thought I “might” like on a trip vs. at home. You never like an outfit on travel that you don’t like at home! Plan on being bloated, cold or hot and sore from activity and you’ll be fine.

Those shoes were ridiculous!

6. Roll Clothes: Instead of folding your clothes in your suitcase, I found that rolling them really helps save space and it helps to prevent wrinkles.  Rolling and mix-matching is what enabled me to pack my children’s clothes as well as my own into one suitcase for a 20 day trip.

Packing tips for traveling with kids

7. Mobile Pharmacy: Kids get hurt. Kids get sick. Make sure to pack a decent first-aid kit. Don’t get crazy and pack stuff you never use, but just the basics will do. Check out my post on the subject HERE.

8. Don’t pack what you don’t need: If you are staying at a hotel, chances are that hair dryers, basic toiletries and pool towels will be provided. Don’t waste space packing those things. 

9. Favorite Snacks: If you child has a favorite snack, make sure to pack those. You may not be able to find it where you are traveling. Snacks keep kids happy and content, especially if regular meal times are off schedule. I usually hit up the school snack isle and load up on special treats. This treats also come in hand during flights. See my post on flying with kids, HERE.

10. Toys & Activities: Kids need to be entertained, so make sure you bring something to keep the kids happy. Don’t bring too much either. Pick a couple favorite toys and a notepad or iPad and have it in a separate bag or backpack for easy access. I have my kids bring their own backpack with snacks and toys that they can get in and out of themselves throughout the travel.

Packing tips for traveling with kids

HotMama Tip: In general pack adaptable outfits that can transition from day to night a couple as well as a couple of backup outfits (in case of accidents). Don’t forget comfy jammies and EXTRA chonies (underwear). Doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you have multiple children, it is amazing how fast those articles of clothing add up, so to follow steps 1-6! I also found  The Everywhereist post was spot on with packing advice.

When you are a mom, over-packing is going to happen. Get a jumbo-suit case and load it up!

What Packing Tips do you have?

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Packing tips for traveling with kids

2 Comments
  1. avatar image
    Laura at April 9, 2014 Reply

    So true! Overpacking is a must when there’s toddlers in tow… 🙂

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at April 10, 2014 Reply

      I know. I hate it when I’m trying to pack it all, but I’m thankful for all those extra clothes when they enviably make a mess of their first outfit.

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