The Packing Dilemma When Travelling with Small Children

Kelsey P. Gonzalez October 3, 2010 2 Comments


Before my husband and I had children packing was easy; even last minute trips took a half an hour to pack for. We’d simply throw our clothes and a few toiletries into a suitcase and off we’d go. Life changed a bit with the arrival of our son. Suddenly there were strollers, car seats, diapers, wipes, and a host of other things that had to be drug along. It took me three days to get everything ready and even then there were often screeching u-turns in the middle of the street to head back for something we’d forgotten. With the birth of our daughter, packing has become hopeless. Just when our three-year old has outgrown the need for any of the ‘baby essentials,’ we’ve suddenly found ourselves back in the realm of diaper bags and pack-n-plays. It makes trips like the one we’re about to take kind of stressful.

Of course part of that stress may come from the fact that this time our ten-day trip to Austin, Texas is not just for vacation; we’ll be attending the wedding of my sister-in-law where both my husband and son will be part of the wedding party. With a host of pre- and post-wedding activities, dinners, and brunches, my usual supply of jeans and t-shirts simply won’t cut it. Now in addition to all the baby and pre-schooler necessities, I also have to pack them a wide selection of clothes that will be perfect for any weather or setting and that I won’t be embarrassed to look at for years to come in all the various wedding pictures. We also have to haul around two enormous car seats and figure out how to cram the belongings of four people into only three suitcases. It’s been a bit of an adventure to get everything worked out but I’ve found three quick things along the way that have made the packing dilemma—especially for children—a bit easier.

1. Mix and match. When it comes to clothes, packing a variety of items that can be mixed and matched is best; that way you end up with several different outfits from only a couple pairs of pants and a few shirts. It significantly cuts down on the number of items you need to bring without limiting the wardrobe selection. It also ensures that you don’t end up packing unnecessary items—like that one shirt that doesn’t go with anything. By bringing mix and match clothes, I’ve made sure that my kids have a number of wedding-appropriate outfits that don’t require ten extra suitcases!

2. If you can buy it there, leave it here. In the past I hauled several packs of diapers and wipes with me on all our trips. Eventually I learned to cut that down to just what I needed while we were traveling. Then when we arrived at our destination I would buy the rest of what we needed to take us through the duration of our trip. This saved us a ton of space in our suitcases and also cut back on their weight—something that’s essential when checking bags for a flight! Of course this tip not only works for diapers and wipes but also for things like snacks, disposable sippy cups, and even toiletries.

3. Improvise where possible. Since we’re staying with family this time we’ve had to make a few adjustments. We’re not willing to drag the pack-n-play with us on this trip so instead we’ll let our daughter share a bed with us. It’s one of those things we don’t do at home but that works best while traveling. When we’re not staying with family, we avoid the sleeping problem by using a portable crib provided by the hotel. Similarly, rental car agencies often provide car seats so you don’t have to go through the hassle of bringing yours with you. We’re not renting a car this time so sadly, we’ll have to haul ours half-way across the U.S.!

While I’ve admitted before that I can be a bit of an over-packer, on some things (like medication and jackets) I’d still rather take too much than risk having too little. Still, I’ve found the three tips above to be extremely helpful while packing for this trip; they’ve allowed me to take everything I’ll need for the wedding and its activities while fitting it all in just three bags. I’m hoping that will make the whole travel experience a lot less stressful. Since this is our first time traveling with both our son and our newborn daughter though, I guess we’ll find out!

Other Related Travel Tips:

Taking the Stress out of Vacation Prep

Lugging the bare necessities

First Aid Kit Essentials for the Traveling Family

Flying With a Disability: What Parents Should Know Before Arriving at the Airport

Flying High with Kids in the Sky

avatarAbout the Author:

Kelsey lives in Southern Utah with her husband, their 3-year old son, and their newborn daughter. They enjoy the adventure of exploring new places together and love building memories through family travel.

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2 Comments to “The Packing Dilemma When Travelling with Small Children”
  1. avatar Taking the Stress out of Vacation Prep When Travelling with Kids says:

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  2. avatar Planning for a Family Vacation to Maui Hawaii with our Baby says:

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