We just went on our first trip as a family a four, with both of our daughters. Traveling with kids is definitely more complicated, but it can be so amazing! This trip was phenomenal. But, I didn't really know what we needed until we were there. It reminded me of when you have a baby for the first time. You're all naive and you think you know what you need, but you really don't until the baby is there.
The number one thing I want you to take away from this is that your mindset of how you think this trip is going to go is how the trip is going to go.
Alright, with that being said, it still makes a world of difference to be well prepared so here are the things we packed and actually used…
Okay, this isn't something to pack, but if you're super stressed about traveling with your kids, this book gives such an amazing perspective and I promise it will make you less anxious about it.
It made me a lotttt less concerned. I was content with the fact that their sleep, naps, eating, etc. was going to be wacky and I accepted that.
People asked me why we took our girls on this Colorado trip since they won't even remember it. Well, I'll remember it. Traveling is a passion of mine so for me it creates beautiful memories for me to have with my kids that I can tell them about someday AND it also helps them get used to adjusting to new environments early which will help us all in the future.
I was not stressed about the plane at all and it went great. The key is to have your kid be nursing, eating, chewing, or drinking so their ears don't hurt. My oldest was just snacking/drinking, but my younger one I was breastfeeding on the way up and down. I clipped a muslin blanket in the tray table and made like a little tent.
I personally don't get uncomfortable when I breastfeed in public, but I know it can make other people uncomfortable so I just choose to coverup. So this was a great solution for me.
How I pack
I started by going okay we're going Wednesday to Wednesday and I wrote it out and wrote out the activities we're doing each day and then the outfits that we need for those days. And if I don't wear those exact outfits on those days, fine, but I'll have something for each day.
And I roll each outfit together when I pack it in the suitcase. So the shirt, pants, sweatshirt, etc. are all rolled together so it's easy to grab and I'm not searching for one piece of clothing while we're there and trying to get out the door for the day.
I let the girls have some screen time so I could focus on packing and get it done without much interruption.
Dress kids in yellow
I read a thing that said yellow is the first color to catch your eye. So I put my kids in yellow for the airport so they would be easy for me to spot.
I also had someone on Instagram tell me that they always take a picture of their kids at home right before they leave for the airport so that if god forbid, you can't find them, you can show that picture and it will show the people helping you look, not only what they look like, but the clothing they're in. So smart.
Carry on a change of clothes for everyone
When traveling with kids, put a change of clothes in your carry ons for everyone (yes, mom and dad too). Things spill, things get messy. It's nice to just have something clean and dry that you all can swap into if needed.
Travel water bottle (with covered mouth piece)
A water bottle is a must and the covered mouth piece is key. I did not want the mouth piece touching everything in the airport…gross.
These are what I ordered and they were great!
Back when I was cool and traveling full time, I swore by packing cubes. And, now, traveling with kids, they're still just as helpful. Not only does it fit better in the suitcase, but each of the girls can have their clothes in their own cube and then I have everything organized and know what I packed for which kid.
Washer and dryer
If you're staying in an Airbnb or VRBO, get one with a washer and dryer. This was amazingggg. Something will spill and when it did, it was so easy to just throw it in the washer and do a load vs packing everything up dirty, having to deal with it when we got home, and potentially running out of clothes.
And right before we left, I washed all of the clothes so I didn't have as much to do when we got home and I could just put everything back in the closet.
Prepare the tablet
I truly don't think I could make traveling with kids happen without a tablet. It's like the only thing I can rely on to keep my toddler occupied for the entire flight.
But, do not forget to download the shows or movies. If you don't, your kid will be stranded with nothing to watch on the tablet and that makes it a long trip for everybody.
Also, do not forget the headphones. I've tried a couple “fancy” ones, but these simple, over the ear ones work the best.
Prepare the carseats
We actually just got new travel carseats that were fantastic. They're only 7 pounds so they're super light which is a game changer.
But get them ready. Make sure the straps are tangled or stuck and you know you'll just be able to super easily pop em in and strap your babe in.
I used these and they were super nice, but it's going to depend on your family. For us, the girls are used to eating in a high chair and I had them practice using these ones before we left so it worked great. But, if your kids are pretty good at sitting and eating at a regular table, you probably don't need the extra weight of another thing to pack.
My neighbor gave me the idea of packing these in with the carseat (because you get to bring a carseat on for free) so that's what we did.
Get a carseat bag with straps so you can carry it around like backpack and not kill yourself trying to carry luggage, a carseat, kids, and a million other things.
There's also usually extra space in these so I also put diapers in here and the high chair seats.
Bring car seats to the gate
We brought the car seats all the way to the gate because we didn't want them getting lost and then be stuck stranded because we get to our destination and can't take our children in a car.
It's free to check them and you drop them & pick them up at the gate. Easy, peasy. And, it gives you peace of mind that they'll be where you need them to be and won't get lost.
Prepare for the event
I'm the worst at events because I don't like to buy new things just for the event, especially if I think I'm probably just going to wear something that one time.
I decided that this time I was getting to get a cute new dress for the wedding. Well, I forgot about the shoes and jewelry. And I had the dresses picked out for the girls but also no shoes. So two days before, I was running around trying to find us all shoes and it was a mess. So prep for the event more than 2 days in advance.
I'm in my mega-budget mindset right now where I am like “do not spend any money unless absolutely necessary”. So, these floaties seemed unnecessary to me at first. But, they're like $20 and my sister told me to buy them. I'm glad I did. My toddler jumped right in and was swimming around all by herself. I ended up being SO glad I bought these and packed them, even though they are a bit bulky.
I also had this other thing for my one year old that we could just plop her in. We obviously had to be a bit closer but that worked well too.
So, if you're going to be near water or a pool, you gotta have this.
ONE adult boards early
I had a friend give me this advice…do not board when they tell families with small children to board.
ONE adult can board early with all the “stuff”, get settled, maybe even get some snacks ready, and the other boards LAST with the kids so they're not on the plane as long and getting antsy before you even take off.
Airbnb with a bedroom door
We learned our lesson with this when we got a studio for a “staycation” we did. When the kids go to sleep, you need somewhere to hang out, watch TV, play a game, chat, etc.
When we were staying in the studio, we literally hung out in the car with a baby monitor until we were ready for bed…it was not ideal.
This time around was MUCH better. We could shut the bedroom door when the kids went to sleep and not stress about waking them up.
I like carrying my kids because it makes me hands-free. I have a whole blog on carriers. I have one for toddlers (my 3 1/2 year old still uses it) and one for babies and brought one of each o n this trip so I would have one for each of the girls.
Strollers are free
I didn't bring a stroller because I had the carriers, but if you prefer a stroller or want one for a certain activity you'll be doing, they are free to check too.
The stroller is nice to have, but I just wanted less things so I didn't take one.
I hope this was helpful. Again, the most important important factor when traveling with kids is your mindset/attitude. Do what you can to prepare, but go in with a good attitude, be okay with going with the flow, and if you believe it's going to be a great trip…it will be!