It’s hard enough to get the kids into the car for a day at the park, let alone packing the whole brood—and all their stuff!—up for a family holiday. So if you’re wondering how you’re going to make it through all the car rides, plane trips and taxi jaunts without losing your mom cool, here are a few great travel hacks to make your next family vacation a little bit easier.
Go Luggage Free
This might sound crazy but hear us out: want to really simplify your next trip? Try a luggage service like Luggage Free. It's super easy to use: you just sign up online (or call, 24/7), select the size and quantity of your luggage, and enter pickup locations and a pre-printed label comes right to your home (or office). You can choose between a four- or two-hour window of time for pickup and can arrange to have the luggage picked up as early as several days in advance or even just the afternoon before your trip. Basically, all you have to do is pack. Considering that most airlines charge $40-$50 each way for checked luggage these days, you'll find the one-way base rates not much more than that and the added bonus of not having to wrangle a giant suitcase along with your toddler just might be worth its weight in gold. We tried it on a recent trip with kids and have to say it's hard to go back once you've done it! It's also great if you want to ship odd-sized items like skis or golf clubs but want the security of tracking and insurance.
Check it out for yourself at luggagefree.com
Use Tidy Snaps to Roll Your Clothes
Packing your bags can be a pain. Especially when you're a kid. But these fun little gadgets make it easy for anyone to roll up clothes into neat little packages (rolling clothes helps ward off wrinkles and saves tons of space). The Tidy Snap System comes with a special "flip board" that helps kids (and adults) fold and roll clothes neatly and 25 Tidy Bands that snap around the rolled clothes so they don't get all disheveled in your bags. Basically, it's like a snap bracelet for your clothes—and by the looks of this video, it'll make packing for your trip way more fun for everyone.
Pssst: Tidy Snap is also great for keeping clothes organized and color-coordinated in jam-packed closets.
Cost: $24.95 for a Starter Kit; additional bands available in 10 and 30-packs.
Push Two Hotel Chairs Together To Make a Toddler Bed
Most hotel rooms are small enough; why cramp things up even more by asking hotel staff to haul up a cot for your little sleepyheads. Keryn Means of WalkingOnTravels.com gave us this amazing tip: Take two hotel chairs (the cozy kinds with padded seats and smush them together to create the perfect toddler bed! The chair armrests make for the perfect bed rail, and once you put a few blankets or towels on the cushions, you'll have a cozy and clean place for your tot to sleep without sacrificing too much floor space. Brilliant.
Fill Easter Eggs With Small Toys To Keep Kids Busy
There's a reason Hatchimals and L.O.L. Dolls are so popular: Kids love surprises! So gather up some tiny toys and hide them inside plastic Easter eggs (or wrap them up in colorful wrapping paper) to gift yourself a good chunk of busy-time for your kiddo. No need to stress about what's inside the eggs—your kids will likely delight at anything they unveil, just for the simple fact that it came inside a colorful little package.
Pssst: If going to the Dollar Store for small toys isn't in your schedule, you can buy a whole assortment of egg-encased toys on Amazon for just $16.95.
Put Lost & Found Bracelets On Your Kids
Every parent worries about what would happen if their child wandered away in a crowd. If your kid is too young to remember her phone number or carry a GPS device or a cell phone, strap one of these "Lost and Found" bracelets so that whomever finds your child can easily and quickly contact you. The bands can store the child's name, your hotel name, flight number, two emergency contact numbers, and medical conditions or allergies; plus, all this information is written on the inside side of the band, so strangers won't get an easy glimpse of your child's personal information.
Cost: $14.95 for a pack of 25 on Target.com.
Bring an Amazon Fire Stick to Watch Movies On-The-Go
Cut back on hotel add-on costs at your hotel or ensure your kids will never be bored at Grandma's by bringing along your own streaming video stick. Devices like the Amazon Fire Stick or the Roku Streaming Stick are super-portable and work with any TV that has an HDMI port. All you need is a WiFi signal and you'll be able to watch Netflix, Hulu or other streaming video services on the go.
Cost: Roku sticks start at $29.99 and Amazon's Fire Stick starts at $39.99.
Get This Ride-On Suitcase That Doubles as an Airplane Bed
Toddlers on a plane: The words that send angst into even the calmest of parents. Long-haul flights can be a little less stressful with the JetKids By Stokke Bedbox, a suitcase that turns your child's airplane seat into an actual lay-flat toddler bed. Not only that, but the suitcase also acts as a ride-on scooter so your tots can zip around the airport before and after your flight. Read Red Tricycle's review of the BedBox here.
Note: The BedBox only works as a bed for babies and toddlers, though older kids can use it as a way to put their feet up.
See It All Clearly
Of the many packing challenges, trying to find something in your suitcase can be one of the biggest. Digging through clothes and toiletries to find your favorite top will probably lead to the destruction your carefully organized bag, but that’s just what you have to do, right? Wrong. With these awesome EzPacking cubes, you’re able to fit more in your bag, separate outfits and even see what’s inside each cube. Pick up a set of these revolutionary time-savers here. Don't have time to buy? Use gallon-sized Ziploc bags instead.
Book a Sitter Ahead of Time
Want to actually enjoy your vacation? Plan on getting a babysitter for at least one night so you can have some kid-free time. If you already subscribe to Care.com, Urban Sitter or SitterCity, use it to enlist a reliable sitter at your destination.
Use Triangle-Shaped Crayons
Little artists are going to lose their crayons real quick if they're scribbling with traditional crayons. These triangle-shaped crayons don't easily slide off airplane trays, meaning your coloring kid can keep at it for longer.
Zip Lock Bags All Around!
Zip Lock bags are a must-have in your carry-on (and checked!) luggage. They're good for everything from separating your children's spare clothes for the plane or car ride (because mark our words, they will spill something on themselves) to holding all your diaper supplies so that your trip to the bathroom is as easy as possible. You can also use bags to label and pack snacks and to separate small toys in your carry-on bag.
Always Carry Lollipops
There's nothing that'll save your sanity quite like the instant calm-down power of a lollipop. Besides using them after your kid has a boo-boo or in a temper-taming pinch, they're also great at soothing achy ears on take-off and landing.
Separate Bickering Sibs
Do you have kids who can't keep their hands to themselves in the back seat? This ingenious creation from Etsy user CreativeMoms31 will keep combative kids separated (at least visually) in the car. And for just $16, it's a steal! Want something even simpler? Cardboard dividers, like this hilarious setup by Instagram user SexyMomsRock, work, too (and make for winning social media posts)!
Line Your Suitcase with Dryer Sheets
Between the car rides, plane trips and repeated wears, traveling can make it difficult to keep your clothes smelling fresh and clean. To maintain the freshness, try lining your suitcase with dryer sheets to make sure everything always smells like it just came out of the dryer.
Rent The Things You Don't Want to Carry
When you're trying to cram four people's clothes into two checkable suitcases, squeezing in a boatload of baby toys—not to mention the crib, exer-saucer and high chair—just isn't going to happen. Baby equipment rental companies such as Babys Away offer relatively inexpensive rentals of must-have baby stuff. Equipment includes everything from cribs, strollers, high chairs and car seats to Jumperoos, baby gates, and toys. Note: All the equipment is geared toward babies and toddlers.
Pack Dark Denim
Making versatile packing decisions can be difficult—you want to look cute in all of those vaycay photos—but you need something that you can wear for multiple days. An easy fix? Break out your dark denim! This stylish option can be dressy and even if you have small spills, no one will be able to tell.
Just Ship Everything
Have a supply of diapers shipped (using Amazon Prime, if you can, so you don't pay for shipping!) to your destination ahead of time so your diaper station is ready-to-go when you arrive. And since we're on the topic, why not ship your clothes and shoes, too? If your destination is Grandma's house, for instance, mail your stuff ahead of time so that you can head to the airport, luggage-free. It'll take some serious forethought, but you'll thank us later.
Use a Shoe Organizer in the Car
The last thing you want to do when your kid can't find her crayons is to pull over to the side of the road so you can fetch them from underneath the front seat. Keep the travel activities close at hand by hanging a shoe organizer over the back of the seat.
Bring Plastic Wrap
Kids and those little airplane cups (and turbulence!) are not a good combo. Your solution? Pack a bunch of Glad Press 'n' Seal sheets to turn plastic cups into the spill-proof kind. This hack works great at restaurants, too.
Bring Extra Band Aids
Not only do Band-Aids make boo-boos feel better, but they also work as outlet covers when you're on-the-go. Be sure to bring blue painter's tape, too, which works great for everything from outlet covering to softening sharp table corners to hanging blankets over bright windows so that your hotel room is as safe and soothing as possible.
Have a Scavenger Hunt at the Airport
When your kid starts making a bee-line for the off-limits zones of the airport, whip out a scavenger hunt to keep him safely distracted and busy. This one from The Game Gal is great and will keep your jet-setters busy for hours. Want other airport activity ideas? Check out these 16 Awesome Activities for Tiny Travelers.