We can all admit it—vacationing with little children isn’t really a vacation. Well, not for us at least. High chairs? Mile-high luggage? Diapers? Yeah, none of that sounds very relaxing. But knowing exactly what you need to bring (and what you don’t) can make traveling with children less stressful, and dare we say it—simpler. Keep reading to discover our top picks for what you should keep in the suitcase, and what stuff can stay at home, before your next foray with kids.

photo: Phil Shirley via Flickr

What to Ditch ASAP

1. The Car Seat
Did you know that most major car rental companies let you rent car seats? Sure, there’s an additional fee (nothing criminal), and you have to install it, but it saves you the hassle of schlepping a car seat, especially if you’re traveling with multiple kids who are still in them.

2. Your Child’s Favorite Lovie/Blankie
This is a tricky one. Yes, you want your child napping/sleeping with no issues, and their favorite stuffed friend is often a big part of that. BUT imagine the horror, tears, and sleepless nights should that special friend get lost or left somewhere. Try having stand-by lovies or a blankie substitute. If your child is old enough to understand, explain what would happen should lovie not return home at the end of the vacation.

3. The Entire Closet
Often we travel from a colder location to a warmer one. Guess what? Don’t bring along winter coats, scarves, etc. Just layer up for the drive to the airport/train station/car ride. Plus, make sure to check the extended weather where you’re going. Is it going to rain? If not, don’t pack an army of raincoats and boots. Are you going skiing? Leave the warm weather wear at home. The odds are wherever you are going has stores—in case there’s a sudden change in weather.

4. The Entire Medicine Cabinet
Yes, children get sick. And they love getting sick on vacation. Ok, maybe not love, but you get the idea. Instead of bringing every type of remedy (kids with allergies are the exception), be sure to make a list of the Urgent Care centers and Emergency Rooms in the area. If there is a serious problem—you know where to go. Otherwise, Tylenol and Saline usually do the trick.

5. A White Noise Machine
Unless you have a tiny tiny tiny one, don’t pack this. Guess what? Lots of parents’ choice for a white noise machine is actually an app. It has a million different types of sound, you can easily control the volume, and you’re bringing it with you anyway!

6. All Those Diapers/Wipes/Bibs
Pack what you need for a full day, but otherwise where ever you’re going (minus a few exotic locations) will have those things available at any grocery store or pharmacy. Or to save time, you can have those items shipped and delivered to your hotel/motel from a place like Amazon or Jet.

7. Towels
If you’re staying at a hotel, motel, resort, etc., there will be towels aplenty for you and your little ones. Unless where you’re staying specifically says to bring your own towels, don’t worry about packing them.

8. The Baby Bathtub
Talk about schlepping something so unnecessary. You can definitely make do without a baby bathtub. How? For starters, try getting in the bath with your baby and prop him or her up against you to bathe.

9. Shoes Shoes Shoes and more Shoes
No. Just no. Pack practical comfortable shoes for your kids. No one, and I mean no one, cares what shoes your kids are wearing. Even at restaurants. They get a pass. Plus, unless you have a child with very refined tastes, they should be fine with the same two pairs the entire trip.

10. Snacks for the Entire Trip
Once again, pack what you need to get through an entire day. Before you travel, scope out what sort of convenience stores and grocery stores are nearby. Does the hotel have its own shop with snacks and goodies? Unless your child has a very specific snack, and that’s the only one they’ll eat, plan enough for a day, and load up once you get to your location.

photo: Mundo Resnick via Flickr

What to Pack ASAP

1. IDs/Health Insurance Cards
This may seem obvious to those of us who constantly carry around health insurance cards, but not everyone does. Having IDs for children is also a good idea. It never hurts to be prepared.

2. Tylenol/Saline/Syringe
See “The Entire Medicine Cabinet” above. Tylenol and Saline work with a host of problems, including colds, fevers, teething, etc. And a syringe makes it easier to get the medicine into your child.

3. Small Scissors
Ok, this may sound weird, but hear us out. First off, a pair of scissors makes opening anything a lot easier. And with kids who are constantly wrapping things around their fingers, these can literally be a life (or limb) saver. Imagine a tiny string wrapped around a baby’s toe? Yes, it happens more often than we realize. Small scissors are perfect for getting that string off. There are, of course, many more uses for scissors, and knowing we have these adds a certain peace of mind.

4. Ziploc Bags
Fill these with snacks for the day of travel, and keep them handy. Whether you’re sticking in dirty clothes, bathing suits, small toys, toiletries on the way home or more snacks, Ziploc bags are one of the best and most useful things to pack on a trip.

5. Baby Carrier
Sometimes it is just easier to wear your little one. It’s also calming to them in a new and somewhat overwhelming environment. Wearing a baby to get on a plane is also a super easy experience—much better than dragging a stroller. Try checking the stroller and wearing the baby through security. Plus, if you’re planning outdoorsy activities like hiking, long walks, etc., a stroller isn’t always feasible.

What are your must-haves for travel with kids? Share with us in a comment below!

— Felissa Allard

 

what not to pack