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I was talking to a friend recently about keeping things smooth and simple when travelling with kids and she was shocked to hear that I had only ever checked luggage once!
As a single mom, only having carry-on luggage doesn’t just keep costs down, it also makes navigating the airport a lot quicker and easier. I don’t have to juggle multiple suitcases before getting to a check-in counter or worry about luggage going missing.
With most airlines, each person gets one carry-on and one personal item, so between 2 backpacks and 2 small suitcases, I’m able to pack enough for at least two weeks of travel.
Today, I’m excited to be partnering with Excedrin® (which provides fast relief from different headache types) to bring you a post on how I pack for all eventualities while travelling with kids and still manage to pack light, because we all know that packing too much or too little can be equally painful!
This post will serve as more of an overview and I’ll be going more in-depth with each of these topics over the next couple weeks. The pictures in this post are from packing for a wedding with two overnights in a hotel with my daughter.
Preparing for Travelling with Kids
The biggest thing with travelling is planning ahead:
- Know what you’ll be doing on your trip. (And have a printed itinerary if possible)
- Know what the weather will be like.
- Order groceries to be delivered, or at least know where you’ll be eating.
- Plan activities for downtime with the kids
- Prepare the kids to handle downtime well and what to expect
- Have phone numbers for everything – not just in your phone, but written down as well
Knowing that you’ll be having one formal dinner and more casual arrangements the rest of the week helps you pack more efficiently. Likewise to knowing if you’ll need an umbrella and rain ponchos, or sweaters and warm socks.
Planning your itinerary is not just great for packing, it’s good for creating realistic expectations for your trip and catching any gaps in your planning. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to catch special deals and avoid headaches later that can be stressful and expensive.
If you plan well enough, you can avoid the temptation to pack everything!
Checking luggage can cost upwards of $30, so if you’re packing rain ponchos, bandaids, and extra’s of everything in order to save a potential $5 should you need those items on your trip, you’re not really saving money. (I just look for opportunities to turn my “replacement items” into souvenirs! If you end up needing a sweater, try to get one that’s unique and special to your trip.)
Packing Light and Packing Well
If you don’t already have some good travel gear, now is the perfect time to assess what you might need for successful family travel.
Good quality suitcases that are light yet durable and have wheels are essential.
Next, I love using lots of little travel bags, travel-sized toiletry bottles, and for longer trips, vacuum sealing-type bags.
When deciding what to pack, go over your plans first and then take note of what you use in your daily life. There are lots of little things that you may not realize that you use, and then also travel-specific things like pain relief after a day of travel or lip balm on a dry flight.
If possible, pre-pack to get an idea of how much you can realistically bring and so you have some time to trouble-shoot a too-stuffed suitcase. You may need to get creative, or re-evaluate your outfits or what you thought was essential packing.
For breakable items like my camera, I take the removable padded inserts from my camera bag and wrap them around the lens and the body. I used to wrap them in my clothing but if your bag gets inspected that can lead to unintended damage.
I pack personal items in a small fabric bag, which on my return flight will serve as a bag for dirty clothing.
All toiletries go in sealed bags so if they leak (which is more likely to happen in the high-pressure flight) it doesn’t get everywhere.
Clothing with nice details should be turned inside out to avoid rips, and make sure to take advantage of any empty space – for example, stuffing socks into shoes which also doubles to help keep their shape.
Keep electronics like laptops easily accessible for airport personnel to inspect, and keep the bare minimum of necessities in your purse or backpack. (Mine just has my wallet, re-usable water bottles, a couple snacks for the airport and plane, a book for me, my phone, a battery charger, a copy of our itinerary and important numbers, lip balm, and Excedrin for pain relief.) For some, relief starts in just 15 minutes.
We had a great time at the wedding, dancing until midnight (Ella eventually fell asleep on a bed made out of chairs), and then eating a late brunch with the wedding party before spending a day exploring Dearborn, Michigan. I wore high heels for the wedding and my slip-ons were perfect for serving double duty while travelling and walking around the city.
Excedrin® Extra Strength and my re-usable water bottle were definitely life savers for keeping me pain-free and hydrated. I felt good despite slugging around our luggage while carrying my 5 year old, and then spending the day chasing her all around museums after a long night celebrating my friend. For aspirin-free pain relief, try Excedrin® Tension Headache.
Ella was happy with her backpack of things to keep her happy and entertained – and she’s now old enough at 5 that I’ve bought her a half-size carry-on suitcase, so for longer trips I have her roll her own clothes.
I purchased the majority of my travel toiletries, including Excedrin, at my local Walmart in the pharmacy area.
What are your tips for travelling light with kids? Do you have any travel hacks for making the most of your carry-on?