We’ve traveled once by plane when our oldest was 14 months, once from here to Massachusetts by car with all three kids last summer and have had a few overnighters here and there. I am by no means a traveling with kids expert, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. Traveling with kids can be overwhelming the first time, but think of it as a trial and error. You learn what is essential, not essential, and what to do better next time.
Here are somethings that I learned along the way:
Let’s begin with the clothes and toiletry essentials. Pack at least two outfits per day, especially for the kids. If you’re going to be in a place where you will have laundry access, then don’t pack two outfits for everyday you’ll be gone; instead, give yourself a cutoff. Toddler and baby clothes are small and can fit in a carry-on or a weekender bag. I love my Reisenthal Weekender so much that I bought another one. They are more expensive but they last for years and come in small, medium, or large.
When it comes to shoes, again, don’t overpack. Think of the weather and what you’ll be doing. I usually pack two, maybe three pairs for the kids because they’ll never wear the others if I bring more. No matter how you are traveling, make sure to pack yourself and your littles a change of clothes that is easily accessible. Either in your carry-on or in a wetbag (great for car rides and can be used for anything). When we took our plane ride, we were in the air for maybe two hours, but my daughter peed through her diaper and got me in that short time. I had packed her clothes in the carry-on suitcase but didn’t pack a change of clothes for myself — a mistake I’ll never make again. Thankfully, I was just damp and not completely soaked.
When it comes to toiletries for the littles, I try to pack as little as possible. Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo/body wash, lotion, and a scrubby. I know some kids need more due to various needs, but be smart about what you bring. I like SheaMoisture or Baby Dove because they’re soft on my kids’ skin and the bottles they come in are a good travel size. I usually use a wetbag for the kids’ items, but if you are looking for a toiletry bag, I love my L.L.Bean medium bag. I can usually fit all of my items in it except for a regular size shampoo/conditioner bottle. They also have a small, large, and family size bag if you want to pack everyone’s things together.
As parents we always want our littles to feel safe and comfortable, so pack their favorite blanket (if it’s not too big) and a stuffed animal/lovey if they have one. Again, set a limit and stick to it. I’ve found that if we are traveling to see family, my kids will usually find another lovey or two at the relative’s house that they will add to their bed if they want more to sleep with. If you use a sound machine, bring one with you. The more you can make their room feel like normal, the better. We love our Rhom Travel machine. It doesn’t require batteries, has three sounds, and great volume. Since having our twins and sleep training, I am never anywhere without our Travel Blackout Curtains if they are going to be napping somewhere. They suction right to the windows and are great for blocking out light. I don’t use them on our car windows — I’m not that crazy, but I’ve found that most AirBnBs don’t have curtains, but rather just shades, and I want my kids to have a good night of sleep. The curtains may be a bit heavy to take on a plane, but they are easy to throw in the car. They pack nice and small and come in their own carry bag.
Now to keep the little ones busy. I’ll tell you now, it’s easier with older kids than with littles. When on a road trip, we utilize our car organizers especially for our three-year-old. We sit it right next to her car seat where she can reach the books, water wow books, mini puzzles, toys, tablet, and snacks. She’s not big into coloring, but she loves puzzles so the Melissa and Doug mini packs are great and she can do them on a travel tray. The water wow books, mini puzzles, and travel coloring kits would be perfect for an airplane too. If you’re taking a plane ride, get your toddler a backpack and put their busy things in it. They’ll love it and they’ll think it’s the best thing ever. With the twins it’s harder for road trips because their seats are still rear facing and they can’t reach anything, so you have to hand it all to them. Plus their attention spans are still fairly short. They recently started enjoying felt books, so I’m thinking a Quiet Book or one with felt where they can make their own scenes would be good to keep them busy. I just have to remind myself it will get easier as they grow.
We all know how hangry kids and sometimes adults can get so always pack snacks. Whether traveling by plane or car, prepack a couple different snacks into snack cups or if you don’t want all the containers, I’ve seen a few options for one container with multiple snack compartments. That way, when your littles get crabby, you can grab a container and hand it to them and they don’t have to wait for you to set it up. Also, think of easy snacks like applesauce pouches, granola bars, and already packaged snacks because they’re small and you can throw the container away when they’re done. Don’t forget drinks. Bring an empty cup if traveling by plane and fill it up once you get through security. If you’re worried your baby will throw or drop it, grab a sippy cup strap.
I know there are a lot more things that babies will need like formula, diapers, wipes, teething oil, etc. If these are things that you can pick up once you get to your destination or on the way, do so. If your toddler isn’t fully potty trained overnight, then make sure they have a pull-up on and a waterproof protector on their seat because if they fall asleep, there could be a mess. Finally, an umbrella stroller is the easiest stroller to use when traveling, so make sure you have one.