By the time you are reading this, I will be at the beach with eight of my closest college friends and no kids! Meanwhile, my kids are at the beach about an hour away with my parents and my in-laws, and Jeff is holding down the fort at home. Yes, I’m totally living the dream right now, but it didn’t happen without some planning and prep ahead of time…
Traveling with kids is always an experience, and this trip – which includes two more weeks of vacation/travel in a couple of other locations after this – is no exception. (Edited to add: It even kicked off with a flat tire that turned a seven hour car ride into a fourteen hour one! No exaggeration.)
Anyway, I’ll be sharing a few details of my trip here (and on Instagram) in the next few weeks, but today I’m talking about one of the most complicated (and, actually, one of my favorite) parts of it — packing.
There are certainly people more qualified to discuss this and give advice than me, but here are three things that have worked for me so far, and a few things u do and don’t pack for a baby. I’d love to hear your tips too; and, if I’ve missed something, please leave a comment, and I will respond!
Tips for Packing:
1. MAKE A LIST (EARLY)
I couldn’t love list-making any more, and a color-coded packing list for something fun like vacation is about as good as it gets. 😉 I actually made this master list a few years ago when Sam was a baby and saved it on my computer. Since then, I’ve simply edited it to fit whatever trip we are taking and life stage we are in, and it’s been great. Basically, I just list everything I might want to take in several different categories; for me: Beach/Pool (things like sand toys, sunscreen, towels, chairs), Toiletries, Kitchen, and one for each family member. I like making this list well in advance so that I can add things to it that come up during a week or so of just doing “regular life” – things like Neosporin that you never think you’ll need, until you do or the kid-sized forks your baby loves, etc…. I use different color highlights for different things; but, in general, I “black out” things once I’ve packed them or put them on the dining room table for packing, highlight items in yellow that can’t be packed until the last minute, made things I need(ed) to buy blue, etc. I love being able to cross things off, and it eliminates most of my stress about not having everything / forgetting something important, etc. (Note: This is an Excel spread sheet, but it seems like it would work well on Google Sheets so it could also be accessed via phone, iPad, etc. It is kind-of pain to always have my computer booted up while packing.)
2. PUT BACK 1/4 of WHAT YOU WANT TO TAKE
Like I said above, I love making my list and checking it twice, but the truth is: I really don’t need all the things I think I will. For the kids, I decide on a reasonable number of pajamas, outfits, etc. (In this case – because we will be gone almost three weeks but do have access to a washer and dryer – those numbers were 5 and 10 respectively), and hold myself to it. If I go over the “allowed” amount of clothes, something has to go back. End of story.
For myself, however, I’m a little more lenient. As a general strategy, I wash and lay out everything I might want to take on the bed. I think about outfits, particular occasions we might have, etc. Then – and this is key – I put 1/4 of those items back. That way, I’m sure I have my favorites; but, I’m not completely overdoing it.
3. PACK BAGS WITHIN BAGS
For this particular trip, we are going to be switching locations a couple of times, so I folded up these L.L. Bean Zip-Top Boat & Tote bags and laid them flat across the top of our suitcases. That way, from our “home base,” I can pack smaller bags for each kid – and myself – with just the things we need for a night or two in one place, etc. If I choose to, I can also use these bags to separate dirty laundry for the way home (I pack a separate laundry bag for myself), take things to and from the beach, or whatever needs pop up.
I’m also a big fan of packing smaller items – bows, socks, underwear, etc. – in sealed plastic baggies to keep them from getting lost in a big suitcase.
And there you have it! Now…
What I Pack for Baby…
- Diapers – SO much cheaper to buy in bulk and bring from home. Another option is to have an Amazon order delivered right to your rental
- Pack & Play – this doubles as a “play pen” when you need to contain that baby so you can take a shower / fix dinner / whatever, and it’s nice to give baby his/her own designated sleeping area
- Highchair – ideally, a portable one or one that fits in a regular chair
- Umbrella stroller – no need for anything fancy. This will fold up and take up almost no room in the car, but be all you need once you get there. *Note* It probably won’t roll on the beach very well.
- Sound Machine – you can also use an app on your phone, but I always prefer just to bring mine from home. Totally worth the extra space
- Bottles and/or sippy cups + child dishes and cutlery – most vacation rentals have a fully stocked kitchen, but they rarely have baby-size stuff
- Dishwasher basket for bottle pieces – seems excessive, but you will be glad you have it!
- Medicine, Thermometer, & First Aid – Sam got sick on our very first trip away with him, and I remember wishing SO badly that I’d had a thermometer, Tylenol, etc. Now I travel with all of that stuff (Neosporin, bandaids, Benedryl… Even a Dr. Mom Otoscope). I hardly ever have to use it, but it’s nice knowing I have it. (Likewise, I’ve read before that you should always travel with outlet covers – or use tape to cover them – child safety latches, etc.)
What I Don’t Pack for Baby…
- Baby bath tub – the sink, or even a big bucket/bowl, works just fine (I also leave special baby towels at home and just use a regular one while traveling.)
- Monitor – most of the time the place where we are staying is smaller than home, and we will be sharing a room with the baby anyway
- Lots of toys or books – they will be busy exploring a new place and likely won’t need any extra entertainment; I usually take one or two favorites of each, that’s all
Obviously, I also take clothes, seven gallons of sunscreen, etc., but this is just a glimpse into the gear I take. #thankgoodnessfor minivanspace What am I forgetting? What are your “must haves” for traveling with a baby? What can you – easily – survive without?
Also, I’d love if you’d share your best tips for packing for travel with kids… Do you use any of the methods I mentioned? What works for you?!?
Have a great week!! (Links & Likes will be back NEXT Saturday. Until then….)
P.S. L.L. Bean gave me a large boat & tote back in exchange for this tote; but, I’ve loved these bags for years regardless. I use a giant one for our pool/beach bag (keep it packed and in the car all summer) that I’ve had since I graduated from high school (14 years ago, y’all), and have had the two overnight bags for the kids for a while. I love their products and would confidentially recommend them to anyone. 🙂