Packing Tips – For Mom and Kids

Our family rolls our luggage through the airport.

I came across a great article on Travel + Leisure’s website, “QVC’s Lisa Robertson’s Top 10 Packing Tips”.  I nodded my head in agreement as it relates to my own suitcase then recognized these tips apply to packing for my kids too.  The following is my take on the T+L author’s tips as it relates to packing for the kids.

1.  “What activities to you KNOW you’re going to do?”  As Ms. Robertson, the T+L author, suggests, pack for what you know and “tweak at the end as space allows.”  The bulk of our suitcases are filled with main event items: ski gear for ski trips, beach gear for beach trips, etc.  When packing for the whole family, you have a enough to carry with just the essentials; leave the “mom-you-gotta-bring-it!” kids-size mask and snorkel at home (we figured that out a few trips to Florida too late).   But I do always pack a bathing suit for the kids no matter where I’m going.  Kids bathing suits are small and light enough and come in handy for a quick dip in the hotel pool after a long car ride or sightseeing or a run through the sprinkler at grandma’s house.

2.  “Can you avoid taking something that has to hang in a garment bag?” For kids, unless your daughter is a flower girl at a wedding, there shouldn’t be anything you need to bring in a garment bag.  Kids can look dressy or casual in just about any clothes.  Throw in a golf shirt for your boy and a cute (machine washable/wrinkle free) dress for your girl and you’ll be set for any occasion.

3. “What do you love to wear when you’re at home?”  I always let my older kids pick out their clothes so I know they’ll like what they’re wearing.  I may have to help balance the pack, otherwise I’ll end up with five of their favorite PJs instead of just two or all t-shirts and no shorts.  But the point is, let your kids wear what they like to wear so there’s no added struggle or tension getting dressed on your trip.

4.  “Should I pack that strappy dress?”   I admit, I have packed all too many outfits for my kids that never, or rarely, got worn at home. I thought, NOW is the time they can wear those matching sailor outfits their great-aunt bought them or that rigid ugly button down that sits on the hanger, thinking well, he’ll grow out of it soon so I HAVE to make him wear it!  And of course, I end up only putting on the 2 comfy worn out pants and t-shirts I brought for the plane/car ride and washing them every other day.  Stick to the comfortable outfits your kids love to wear and leave the “only for pictures” outfits for back home.

5. “How many pairs of shoes should you pack?”  Usually I only bring the shoes the kids wear on the plane/in the car and maybe one extra pair.  If we’re going skiing, I’ll bring snow boots, and if to warm weather maybe I’ll bring both a pair of sandals and tennis shoes, but I make a point to only bring one or two pairs of shoes for each kid.  Kids can get away with wearing more casual shoes to dressy occasions (unless it’s a wedding or a really special event), so as long as the every-day shoes are in nice shape, I try not to bring an extra pair for one night’s wear.

6. “Is everything machine washable?”  Your kids clothes should all be machine washable (unless you’re going to a wedding or a special event).  I always plan on bringing fewer outfits and washing at least once during the trip.  I bring several travel size laundry detergent packs to wash clothes in the sink in case I can’t find a washer machine to use.  When you arrive at your hotel, ask about guest laundry or a nearby laundromat.  Hotel laundry services are expensive especially for those tiny little pairs of underwear.  I find I can usually buy new play clothes cheaper than laundering through the hotel.

7.  “How many basics can multitask with different accessories?”  Kids don’t really accessorize as much as their moms do, but it is important to bring clothes for them that mix and match.

8. “Do I have to sit on it (to get it closed)?” As the T+L author suggests, don’t leave home with a suitcase you can barely close.  Especially traveling with kids, you don’t want yet another bag to carry home with any overflow or spend time recreating the puzzle in your suitcase.  We’ve taken to using a big rolling duffel bag for family trips.  You can throw a lot of stuff in there without worrying about the perfect fit and cinch it tight with the straps if it’s less than full.

9. “Am I a ‘Girl Scout’ (i.e. always prepared)?”  As the T+L author suggests, especially if you’re traveling internationally, do some research in advance to make sure you are prepared for local customs and availability of items you may need to buy there.  I always bring my own medicine for the kids, so I’m certain I’ll know the correct dosage or have what I need for a late night teething episode, for example.  See my packing lists for more items I bring and pick up at my destinations.

10. “What would Lisa (the T+L author) Do?”  Her suggestion of always carrying snacks and always having a wrap is pertinent to traveling with kids.  Kids get hungry, usually when it’s not convenient to stop for food, so be prepared with snacks for you and the kids wherever you go.  Also, a wrap (or two) can serve as a blanket for your kids or extra warmth while in a chilled museum or on the walk home from dinner.  It’s more versatile than a jacket, easier to carry and can be used by you or your kids.

You can find the full Travel + Leisure article, “QVC’s Lisa Robertson’s Top 10 Packing Tips”, here.

If you have any other packing tips from your family travels, please share in the comments below.