Packing is one of my least favorite parts about travel, but there is no way around this, especially with children in tow. I will admit, I have a tendency to overpack if I am able, but when I know I can’t, I have gotten pretty good about keeping it small and light.
Things to consider:
- Where are you going? What will the weather be like?
- Are you traveling alone? If so, how much stuff can you reasonably manage alone?
- What is your end destination? Will your sleeping accommodations be stationary or mobile upon arrival?
- What items are a MUST and what items are nice-to-haves?
- What items can you purchase upon arrival?
- How big is your bag?
- How many checked bags are you allowed?
Where are you going? What will the weather be like?
OK, so let’s start at the beginning. When I travel I always use weather.com and look at the monthly weather reports for the location I am traveling to. It will show me monthly averages for temperature and rainfall. Below is an example of what I found for Las Vegas.
I also use my phone’s weather application and will check the weather daily for about a week leading up to the departure date. This quick preventative measure helps me pack the right kind of clothes/accessories for the trip.
Are you traveling alone? If so, how much stuff can you reasonably manage alone?
Traveling alone with children is not the time to prove how much stuff you can carry. Make sure you can manage all of your bags, car seats, strollers, and kids by yourself before you get to the terminal. Personally, I have found that I can wear my daughter in a soft carrier, pull one large wheely bag, push a stroller that has the carseat (in its travel bag) resting in the seat, and wear a backpack. This is reaching my limits, but I know I can do it alone, so it works for me. Test out your gear before you Brave the skies alone.
All of the tips above will apply if you are traveling with two adults as well.
What is your end destination? Will your sleeping accommodations be stationary or mobile upon arrival?
If we are going to be sleeping in one place for the duration of the trip, I always seem to over pack. However, when we went for two weeks to Europe we brought one small carry on, one small backpack, two hiking backpacks and a stroller…for three of us. It was an amazing feat.
If you plan on doing a Nomadic trip where you change places every few days, packing light and easy is going to be a HUGE factor in everyone’s mental state of mind. If you are on the fence about bringing an item, you can most likely leave it behind. For trips like this I would suggest spending a good amount of time thinking through how and what you want to bring with you.
What items are a MUST and what items are nice-to-haves?
As stated previously, this will depend on the type of trip you are taking. A few examples of MUST haves vs. nice to haves for our family trip to Tucson, Arizona are in the table below:
Your list will look different than ours. Your family is different. How do you decide? I would put everything on one list (yes, write it down) and then go through the list once you are finished. When you can see it and visualize it all in your bag, you’ll be better able to decide what stays home and what goes with you.
What items can you purchase upon arrival?
If your destination is somewhere you are familiar with, then this part of packing becomes easy. You know there is a Target right by your hotel? EASY. Only pack what you’ll need for the travel day and first day, then head out to the store and get what you need. This is a great option when considering space and weight in your bag. Packing 14 pouches of baby food can get heavy, so think ahead.
If you don’t know your destination well, then it would be a good idea to look at the area on a map. If you are going to be staying in the middle of a National park where the only store is a small general store for hikers, then you may want to consider packing everything you need before you leave. **this is a great time to compare MUST vs Nice-to-have**
Items we typically purchase upon arrival: baby snacks/food, wipes, diapers, small consumable travel items
How big is your bag? How many checked bags are you allowed?
I have traveled across the US with my daughter for a three-night trip and we brought a car seat, a backpack, and one small carry on. We were staying with a friend who also had a young baby, so they had most of the large items (stroller/crib/bathtub) that we needed. I wanted to pack as light as possible for this trip, so I intentionally brought very little and relied heavily on my friends.
Bringing a carry on only is ideal for any short trip, but remember that you are not traveling solo any more. You have a baby and babies typically come with extra items. Chances are you will have to check a baby item anyway, so checking a bag isn’t the end of the world.
Checking a Bag:
Make sure to know the specific Airline rules before you fly. Different airlines come with different rules on what constitutes a free “baby-item” and how many bags are allowed to be checked for free. Our family mostly flies Delta and we recently became Silver Medallion Members, so we are allowed two free 70lb bags, plus our free baby items.
Visit our "Flying Resources" page to see if your airline has special requirements for children. (i.e. free checked "baby items")
Overall, packing for a trip with children doesn’t have to be painful. Spending a little time upfront thinking through what you may need can save you from having to spend lots of money on arrival or prevent you from spending extra cash on too many checked bags!
As always, we would love to hear your additional advice to parents and feedback on our blog posts! Please comment below.