7 Tips that Make Packing for Family Travel a Breeze

Sep 29, 2014
One of the most frequent questions I get is, "How do you prepare to travel with all of those little kids?" (Add the horrified voice in your mind and the unspoken Why?!).  The answer is very carefully?  Drinking lots of wine?  Both.  It requires a lot of planning and lists.  It also requires stamina.  Never in my life would I have thought that traveling with just one child would be easy.  Now, I think it is.  Honestly though, I feel like going to the grocery store with just one is a break.  Here is how we do it with three...

The first stage is planning, ok where are we going and how long will we be there?  That usually answers what and how much we need.  When we travel we are usually going to visit relatives (as we have none near us) and it helps that everyone has a washing machine.  It cuts down on a lot of the extra clothes that kids need.  They make a mess?  Fine.  Throw it in the wash.  That's not a luxury most people have when vacationing and it definitely affects how much I pack.

1. Choose the right airline


How can we travel with so much stuff without spending a fortune?   Family friendly airlines like Southwest and Jet Blue.  Southwest lets you check two infant pieces for every one piece of checked baggage for free!  That's with two bags free per seat.  It's really helpful.   They also let you bring any size stroller to the gate.  There are times when we travel with double BOB.  Certain trip where we do lots of walking it is worth it to have him.  (Our BOB is a boy.) Some airlines only allow umbrella type strollers at the gate.  While sometimes that's fine,  I really get annoyed by those restrictions.   I never had an umbrella stroller until Belle, so had they had that restriction sooner,  I would have been out of luck with my single BOB.  Boo!  Not family friendly.

2. There's an app for that, and it will help you.


I use an app called baby travel to help with the initial planning and to help me remember all of the incidentals that I may not think of.  It tends to overpack, so I use it as a suggestion and then go from there making my own list.  I make a list each time we travel and delete each thing as I pack.  There are things that it doesn't think of, so my lists are important.  For instance, I need a travel high chair.  I also travel with two pack and plays and a Shrunks travel bed for the Bear. The toddler version is really fantastic and is very convenient to have a bed with rails just for her.


3. Start planning and packing early.


Once I determine what we need I pick a place to start laying things out, each person gets a pile.  It makes a terrible mess.  My advice is to pick a place that won't bother you too much and where your "helpers" can't get into it.  Bwhahaha!  My biggest helper always has an opinion about everyone's wardrobe.  Needless to say, she is barred from the packing process. 

When we went to California, we had to pack for a lot of variable weather and occasions. We had everything from a semi formal wedding to lazy beach days.  The nights can be chilly too, so each of us needed layers as well as pool gear.  It was a LOT of junk.  This is where I get super smart and send a box.  I sent a box with crib bedding, swimsuits and other things that I didn't need at home.  My sweet aunt gladly stored it for a week or two until our arrival.  This saved me a ton of space!

4. Buy yourself some organizing sanity savers.


Everyone has packing cubes in a specific color.  I organize them and then I use a vacuum seal bag for things that can get wrinkled (underwear and pjs).  I then make final purges.  Do these shorts go with these pants and all of the shirts? Everything has to be able to be worn with everything else.  It's the benefit of laying things out!  I always want matching clothes for the kids and favorite dresses, etc.  They usually don't make the cut.  

Ok, piles are done, the list has been updated.  The cubes are ready!  The next thing is fitting all of those puzzle pieces together.  We ended up (on that trip) with 13 pieces of luggage including carseats and carry ons.  It was A LOT!  I never pack until every bag is full.  I have learned that what I bring seems to expand and we always seem to have more than we came with.   On our last trip to the farm, we need up putting an entire suitcase inside of another one.   We did an excellent job that time!

5.  Bring a change of clothes (for everyone) on the plane.


Bags are packed and now it's time to make sure we are ready for the plane.   I have learned the hard way that everyone needs a change of clothes.  The younger ones need two.  It has been a pooxperience.  Ugh.  I also take anything I might need in case the luggage is lost or we are delayed.  Lovies, pacis, diapers, jammies, everything to get through a night and a day. Let's say that I have spent some time in random places due to delays and I NEVER want to be unprepared with the kids.

6.  ALL THE SNACKS, but avoid sugar.


Next...snacks for the plane.  Like a ton.  The family friendly (and luggage friendly) airlines like Southwest don't have food.   They have some great junk snacks but my kids need a whole host of things and I prefer healthier options anyway.  Again, I like to be prepared.  For the plane I cut up several peppers, bought lots of yogurt based squeeze pouches  and raisins in boxes.  I try to buy things without a ton of sugar as crazy kids and a six hour plane ride do NOT mix.  

7. Digital Entertainment


Now for the most important element of plane entertainment...the IPAD.  Before it, with just the Bear,  I would have to pack an entire suitcase full of new toys and bring them out one at a time.  It was torture for everyone.   Trying to lug all of that stuff and keep track of it during the vacation was impossible. I do buy a small special toy for the plane and trip but just one and boy is it easier.   Technology is a wonderful thing!  

When I said that the most important piece is the iPad, I wasn't being honest.  The most important piece is my hubby.  Without him, his endless patience and his mad Sherpa like abilities, we would not got anywhere.  I know it sounds sappy but that is the truth.  Thanks babe!  I really regret not getting a picture at our last airport run, I had to laugh.  Happy traveling!


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