Before I was a mom, I was a full time traveler. So, I have alllll the packing tips. And now, as a mom who has taken a baby on an airplane and her two babes on many car trips, I'm giving 23 tips for traveling with kids over the holidays.
Some of my tips may seem so obvious and others might melt your brain. And the same tip might have those two different effects for two different people. Now, let's get into it…
I used to just be like okay, sure this shirt, I like those pants. No. You need to pack actual outfits. Do that for yourself AND your kids. Then you'll get there and have your outfits put together and it makes getting dressed once you're there so much easier.
Look at the number of days you're going to be gone and the activities you're planning to do and make a packing list. You'll know you need an athletic outfit for the first day, a casual outfit for the evening, and pajamas, the next day I need a casual outfit, a swimsuit, maybe an afternoon/evening outfit and so on. And ALWAYS an extra outfit or two for everyone in case anyone throws up, blows out, spills everywhere, etc. We all know it happens.
And I'm a big wear pants multiple times person. So it might be a pair of black leggings that I'll wear with the white shirt and the gray shirt and maybe even the zip up I packed.
3. Cubes (Tripped Travel Gear)
Okay HUGE packing cube fan. I loveee Tripped Travel Gear. The creators are full time travelers that have their own YouTube channel. Their packing cubes are amazing.
I've always found packing cubes to be a game changer. I made a video reviewing them back when I was a full time traveler on why I love them so much and how to use them. I like to use them so that each cube is an outfit. And these are my favorite which come in all different colors so one color can be me, one can be my toddler, one my babe, one for my husband. Then I just throw the cubes in the suitcase and when we get there I can toss the cubes out and know whose is whose. They also have new cubes that have different pockets, including a pocket for dirty clothes. I'll put my toddlers clothes in one of the pouches, my babies in the other pocket…it's great! Highly recommend, they keep things so organized.
4. Make a list during your day
Make a packing list early. I like to do it little by little. When you put the kids down for bed, decide what things you use for bedtime that you want to bring. Of course we need pajamas, but do we really want the sound machine or can we go a few nights without it? That way when you're packing, you just grab everything on the list, check it off, and you don't have to think oh are we gonna bring the monitor, do we want the sound machine, are we going to bring little forks for the kids or can they just regular big forks for the weekend?
One thing I do always include on our packing list is the water bottles with the closeable lids. Then you can shove it in your bags without the mouth piece touching anything or it spilling. That's always a must have on our packing list.
5. Tablet & headphones
Screen limitations out the window.
Table is a MUST for travel. We need them zeroed in, focused, and calm. And you don't just need the tablet, get age appropriate headphones too. They can't be playing their cartoons out loud on an airplane (and even if it's just you guys in the car…trust me, you will lose your sanity).
Play the soundtracks of their favorite movies and it works like a charm. AJ was OBSESSED with Cocomelon. We would listen to the songs in the car and it would drive me crazyyyy but it worked. She would be so happy and calmo listening to it.
7. New toys
Kids love new toys. They get so excited and when it's new, it holds their attention so long.
A new toy is a relative term, we used red solo cups when she was 10 months old on a plane and she was so fascinated and happy. Cups, popsicle sticks, just find random things and odds are, they'll work.
This is a fidget spinner that you stick to the window and wow. It's suctioned to the window so it's not going anywhere, they're not losing it…they're just spinning it while it's on the window and it keeps them so entertained.
9. I spy
If your kid is older, playing I spy is fantastic. The scenery is always changing, it can keep them busy for a while.
And with my toddler, we'll play a modified version. I'll say things like “do you see a tree?”. And she'll say “yes”. Then “do you see an elephant” and she'll say “yeah” so I tell her “nooo” and she finds it HILARIOUS.
10. Water color boards & Doodle boards
This is awesome. Not only because it's eco-friendly, but there's also no mess. There's like a little coloring stick/brush that is full of water and it comes with a booklet where they can just use the water brush it makes it colorful. Plus it dries and can be reused.
There's also doodle boards that they can write on and just push a button to erase it.
11. Things you can lose
Whatever you bring, make sure it's things you can lose. Things will get lost. If we have a favorite stuffed animal at home we sleep with, we'll buy a duplicate to bring on trips. Or, if we can't find the same, we just explain that their favorite baby (or whatever it is) needs to stay at home to stay safe but that we have a travel baby. And if you lose it, you lose it.
This is much easier than losing their favorite things and dealing with the meltdown that comes with never seeing that again.
12. Extra time
This might be my biggest piece of advice for traveling with kids: be a million hours early. Like way earlier than you think you need to be. For a plane, that way you can get through security nice and easy with no stress and there will plenty time for bathroom breaks, snacks, anything that may go wrong, etc. You might have an extra hour or two to hang out but it makes it sooo much more chill to not feel rushed, particularly when you have young kids with you. And, road trips that should be like 4 hours can be way longer than that with kids and all of the bathroom breaks and stops. Give yourself the time, you'll be glad you did.
13. Do things around nap time
Plan your travel around nap time. For long car rides, leave around the time the nap would start so they can do most of the napping in the car. If you're planning a plane ride, also do that so they will be in the air during nap time.
We've had better success with this in cars than planes. Cars are familiar and comfortable so our babes will almost always sleep if it's around nap time. We tried this on a plane and she didn't sleep but we had enough to keep her busy and she was tired so she was pretty zoned in on the show she was watching.
14. Sound machine hacks
There's a million ways to get white noise without a white noise machine. My fav is the iPhone hack. You go settings > accessibility > Audio/Visuals > Background Sounds > ON. And there's several options for the sound you choose.
Also, so many Spotify playlists that work great too.
With both of these, you have it with you all the time (as long as you have your phone, which I assume you do) and you can play it through headphones when you need to.
Sometimes we even just do the AC blasted loudly in the car or roll the window down slightly.
15. Bring a potty
Okay, if you're traveling in the car, bring a potty. You have no idea how many times we've just pulled over to the side of the road, opened both the front and back door to create a little cove, pulled out the travel potty, and had our toddler go right there. It's wonderful.
Definitely can get a little complicated when you need to bring poop back in the car with you but you'll manage (and it's much better than an accident if you don't have time to make it to a gas station).
16. Window shade cover
Put shades on the windows. That way when the sun comes in nice and hot, babes can still have a little bit of shade and not be too hot.
17. Car seat
If you're traveling on a plane, apparently a car seat is the safest way for toddlers and young kids to travel. I've had a few friends do it and say it is a b word to get the car seat on the plane but once it's on, they sit there because they know what to do in their car seat, they know they can't get out, and it's a safe place for them.
If it's my second, who's still a baby, I would for sure go with the carrier. I use Sakura Bloom Onbuhimo. It's amazing because it's so minimal. There's not a ton of things to mess with or a bunch of wrapping or anything.
19. Extra clothes for everyone
BRING EXTRA CLOTHES. For you, your baby, your toddler, remind your partner. We usually forget about the extra clothes for mom (and dad). I mentioned this for the list, but there might be a blow out, spit up, spills…you all need extra clothing.
20. Breastfeeding top / Muslin blanket
I breastfed my baby with one of those muslin covers and tucked it into the tray on the plane so I had a whole little area to breastfeed. It was fantastic and having by babe's head under there kept her from getting distracted and we get some privacy.
I also wore this shirt which was perfect and discrete for the flight
21. Avoid ear pain by swallowing
If you're a breastfeeding mom, breastfeeding on the way up and way down helps avoid the ear pain. If you're not, you'll want a bottle or a nook or some food. Anything that going to get them swallowing will help with the ear pressure a lot.
Okay we haven't used a slumberpod but I see where they would be extremely helpful. People swear by them. It's dark, it's cozy, they're contained.
23. CA Beach Co
Pack and plays are gnarly. They're so big, bulky, a real pain. Maybe we just have a weird one but I've always found it miserable to travel with and set up. The California Beach Co is INCREDIBLE! One of my all time fav products for babies and toddlers. I have a video showing how easy it is to pop up and pop down. It's just super lightweight and perfect for sleeping, the beach, giving a toddler their own place to play, or just containing your babe when you need to.
And there ya have it! Hope this is helpful for your holiday travels.