As some of you may already know from my Instagram, I’ve been traveling for the past two and a half weeks with my family that includes two tweens and a baby. We went from California to Seattle, back to California, rested for three days and packed up again for a road trip to Las Vegas, through Arizona, to Utah and back. It sounds fun AND exhausting, right? It was a whirlwind of packing, unpacking and moving from one place to another and I still can’t believe we survived it. And the best part of it all? It was actually really fun and much more enjoyable than I thought!
For the next few weeks, I want to share my tips for traveling for families in a series. For part one, I’ll share my tips and tricks for packing. By the end of the series, you’ll have a better idea of how to pack, what to keep in mind, and how to maintain your sanity during your travels and make priceless memories with your loved ones.
PART 1- HOW TO PACK FOR FAMILIES
1. Pack with purpose
I used to be an overpacker who packs things “just in case.” After traveling so many times with kids, I now realize this is one of key reasons why I always felt so overwhelmed.
Don’t pack just in case. Instead, pack with purpose.
Stick to basics and neutrals that you can style and layer differently. A few jeans, some shirts, one light jacket, one thicker jacket as needed. I always add one nicer outfit for each family member for dinners.
And remember you can always hand wash undies and socks in hotel rooms so you need less than you think.
2. Use Ziploc Bags
I wish I did this sooner. Kids clothing are so small that they fall out and get all over the place. This used to drive me crazy! I now pack them in ziploc bags which makes their little clothing so much more manageable.
You can do it in several ways– pack them by outfit or style. I like to pack them by style because I don’t have the energy or mental capacity to plan out their outfits in advance. In fact, planning out outfits stress me out so I just throw in different styles and worry about the rest later.
For example, make one bag for t-shirts, one bag for pants, one bag for toiletries, one bag for hair accessories, etc. You can label the bags to make it easier. This keeps all their little clothes organized and makes packing and finding clothes so much easier!
3. Roll the clothes
Instead of folding, I roll all my kids clothes, even in their dressers. Folding takes longer and it gets so frustrating when the kids mess them up after five minutes of folding, which is inevitable. You’d be surprised how much time and energy are saved when you start rolling the clothes.
So roll, roll, and roll away! You can still keep things organized this way and save so much time.
4. One bag for kids, one bag for parents
I always pack one bag for kids and one bag for the parents. If you only have one child, I suggest combining your husband’s with the baby’s and packing your own bag. I find that this makes packing and unpacking so much easier and it makes packing for the whole family feel less overwhelming because let’s face it, we moms need our own space!
Now that I have three kids, I pack all their clothes in one bigger luggage and me and my husband’s in a smaller one. When I only had two kids I packed my kids’ with my huband’s and packed a separate bag for myself.
5. Use hotel laundry bags for dirty clothes
Never mix clean and dirty clothes while you’re traveling. If you do this, you’ll come home to a giant bag of mess and endless laundry so that unpacking feels like a nightmare.
Most hotels provide plastic laundry bags (if they don’t you can use any other bag) in the closets. I always use this and instruct my family to put all their dirty clothes in there. When I’m traveling for an extended time, I’ll sometimes go through them and hand wash undies, socks and other lighter clothes so they can wear them again.
6. Pack one backpack per child for the airplane or car ride
My children always get to pack one bag (usually a backpack) that they can fill with goodies of their choice. I make sure they pack lightly and minimally with only necessities. Set ground rules like no big, heavy toys and packing only what they absolutely need. This usually includes neck pillows, books, their one favorite doll, colored pencils, paper, sunglasses, little toys, personal snacks etc.
7. Start your own family travel traditions
This is a fun way to make family travel more intentional and memorable. Over the years, we’ve created our own family travel traditions like travel snacks, travel music and travel items that remind us over and over again how lucky we are for the time that are given.
My family loves beef jerkey, Gardettos, cheetos, peanuts and flavored gum during travel. We also have our special neck pillows that we take with us every time we travel. We also have hats, windbreakers and other daily items that we only use while traveling so it’s fun to pull them out and use them at various places we visit.
My daughters even have one designated doll that they always bring with them whenever we travel. This is great because it gives them a sense of security and familiarity in unfamiliar places.
8. Think about what you may buy for the kids while traveling
There are things we end up buying for the kids while we travel, right? If you’re going on a hiking or camping trip this may be less relevant but if you’re visiting big cities with shopping centers, most likely you will come home with a few things. Think about this beforehand so you can pack as lightly as possible.
For example when we visit my parents in Seattle, we’re certain grandparents will want to buy my kids something. I ask my kids what they may want and if they say new shoes, I’ll pack one less pair so they can just wear the new ones back. If they say they’d like a new jacket, I’ll pack one less jacket. You get the idea. This way you’re leaving room for the items you may bring back because the last thing you want is an overflowing trunk on your way back.
9. Don’t forget a small first aid kit and all your chargers
I always pack a small first aid kit with bandaids, Neosporin, alcohol pads, Aquaphor, stain removers and sanitizing wipes or gels. A small pair of scissors always come in handy too.
And DON’T FORGET THE CHARGERS! It’s so easy to forget these little things but when you do, it becomes a nightmare. Be sure to pack phone chargers, camera chargers, battery chargers, etc. because not having them can ruin your trip and it’s not always easy to go buy one.
10. Lastly, don’t sweat the small stuff
Why would you sweat the small stuff when traveling takes us to places like this?
I used to make packing lists until packing became second nature to me. I’m now a lot more experienced and know how much to pack, what to pack and what not to pack. You will get there too, with some experience and practice.
However, this doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes and forget something important. This last trip I packed all my chargers in a laptop bag and forgot to load it in the car. It wasn’t fun and I ended up missing a lot of great photo opportunities because of this- but no worries, there’s always next time.
Remember things will go wrong and you will forget things, especially when you’re traveling with kids. Don’t expect perfection, instead expect the chaos and have fun with it!
In my family of five, meltdowns and tantrums are totally normal and expected, especially for long road trips. When a child has a bad attitude or meltdown, we roll with it and laugh about it later. It stresses me out in the moment of course, but I don’t dwell upon it. After all, it’s just a part of being one big family!
So don’t sweat the small stuff and just have fun because many years down the line, that one item you forgot or that one weird looking outfit won’t matter. What really matters though, is creating lifelong memories and being thankful for the time given with each other.
What do you think about my travel tips? Any other tips you’d like to add? If you enjoyed this post, please pin the photo below. It helps more parents find this post and supports this blog in many ways. Thank you!