The one thing I dreaded when our sweet girl was born was travel. I live 1000 miles from my family in Canada and it is a 16-hour drive that we try to make at least twice a year. We had a Grandma in Phoenix that was getting older and needing visitors. We had family spread all over the USA and Canada that we were close to and wanted to see. Family on Mission trips all over the world. Never mind a few fun vacations here and there on top of that!
I was determined to not let it stop us. It. Is. Exhausting. There are many things I wish I had known before we left and things I hope helps someone else in their journeys! We still love traveling but have learned a few things the hard way and have changed things quite a bit!
Packing Those Suitcases – Organize and Plan
- Do all laundry and put it away so you know where to even head in at and all of it is clean.
- Pack after the children go to bed (this should be self-explanatory!). Even if you pack till midnight! It is better than packing with kids and missing half you stuff when you get there because someone stuffed all the panties behind the dresser. Trust me on this!
- Plan how many suitcases you can take
- Roll pajamas with whatever they need for bedtime. Diaper, socks, pajamas. So when you tell your husband or partner after a weary day to go get the bedtime stuff all he has to do is grab a roll of pajamas and everything is there!
- Roll outfits for the morning together. Everything they need to start the day. Outfit, socks, panties etc. It saves SO much time and tears and clutter! Plus if you do this you can easily leave the clothes’ in the suitcases instead of having a clothes’ tornado to find that missing pair of socks! In that process messing up all the clothes’ and creating work!
- Have a separate wet bag for swimsuits. All swimsuits, goggles or whatever you need all in one place and if your flight or trip starts before the swimsuits are dry, throw them in and dry them at the next stop! No need to get everything wet!
- Keep the extra clothes in your travel bag or diaper bag or whatever you take for stops along the way. Along with sippies, snacks and whatever keeps you fueled and ready to go! We use backpacks.
- Battery pack phone chargers. 7 phone chargers? Able to charge 2 devices at once? Yes, Please!
- Enough outfits and clothes’ to last till your next laundry stop. We travel a lot and I have yet to bring more than 5 days worth at a time. Otherwise, you waste precious suitcase space! I do all this for myself to actually! The rolling and planning. It takes time at home but saves an insane amount of time on the trip.
- Take your car seats. They have to be FAA approved. Our favorite toddler and infant ones that we have used. The rental ones are just awful and all around a pain and you have to figure out how to get them in the car and it is easier to just check them (for free!) and pick them up at baggage claim! SO much less headache when you get there and the chances of them not having one. We put ours in a bag we bought with rollers, but the airline does provide clear plastic bags also.
- Bring a stroller. Trips can get in the way of nap time and it is exhausting to carry a 3-year old around! and also in the airport for a luggage hauler! Car seats can be checked it in at the right airplane door before you get on. It is waiting for you when you get off the plane. The best ones are the ones you can set up with one hand!
- Put babies and toddlers in carriers! You can scramble for boarding passes and pick up a suitcase, and even go to the bathroom and they are safely with you. People also do not touch babies as much if they are against you in a carrier. I liked this especially when she was pretty little. We also found a toddler to take good naps in a carrier also. Especially if a stroller is out of the question for hiking or some countries with crazy terrain for sidewalks that are no the best for strollers!
- Call ahead and reserve play pens or cribs. Within the USA and Canada we have never yet found a place without one. Other countries have not always had one.
Sometimes when you decide on that beach vacation you have this dreamy idea of packing just swimsuits and flip-flops! I have learned to always be prepared for a cloudy or rainy day or two not matter where we go! They can be need a hoodie or zip up hoodie. No matter how warm it is, and if you have spent all day in the sun and you have dinner at some nice air-conditioned place or in the shade, someone is going to be cold!
We seem to have about equal warm vacations and cold and the cold is definitely harder to pack for if you are flying. But again, layers! They can be can layer shirts and a sweater and a jacket if you decide not to bring the massive -40 degree parka along! Leggings for every outfit!
We actually have invested in some very nice thermal layering clothes to and they are WARM let me tell you! It saves so much room packing! Also, I do the same with the swimsuit bags. Each and every person has their roll of winter stuff and layers so all they have to do is grab it when they need it and it is all there.
I am a firm believer on less is better. They can be pay $25-$35 for checked bags. I would rather spend $25 getting wipes and diapers at our destination than lug around extra suitcases everywhere when it is just going to go in the trash anyways! What I pack on the plane and always figure 2 days worth in case of long lay overs and delayed flights:
- Snacks. I cannot stress this enough. No hangry children to deal with on a trip! Favorites and new ones for fun! Plus have you seen the price of snacks in an airport or gas station? Yikes! As they get older we do let them pick out one treat per child going to and from because it is fun and can entertain them for a while.
- Enough diapers and wipes for the travel day and that is it. We have been to many countries, even third world countries and every single one has had these necessities. Different brands, yes, but they work for a week!
- Bring your own formula. It is a pain. But I learned the hard way. No one wants belly aches to ruin a trip! I put mine in Ziploc bags with the labels for easier packing.
- Drink bottled water. ALL the time for your kids. Especially for formula! Different water, even in the USA is different in different places. We have wonderful well water that we love. We go to the city and drink the tap water and get sore throats. So we stop at a gas station and buy bottled water and fill them up at fountains and most airports have filtered water bottle refill places!
- Bring a sound machine. Wether it is traffic or the fridge makes a funny noise or Dad snores, it is a lifesaver! Lots of free apps you can get on your phone for this and saves one more thing to remember to bring along.
- Shelf stable milk. The days of hauling milk around are a pain and if your little is like mine and cannot function without milk I found an amazing solution! I bought organic shelf stable milk and did not have to worry about it going bad! I could throw a couple in my carry on and not have to worry about keeping it cold! You can bring a few along for traveling days and then get regular milk when you get to your destination and you have a fridge!
Most Importantly, Have Fun
I have found that if a trip is not fun for Mom, it is probably not fun for anyone! Take the time to pack and plan just a bit. That way you can take a nap because your husband knows where the swimsuits are and you spend less time being crazy Mama looking for everything. Truly change you reviews on relaxation. It might be a good cup of coffee at the pool while the kids go crazy in the pool.
Make it kid friendly. DO not expect much more out of them than you do at home. If you cannot miss nap time at home, do not miss it on a trip. Everyone is happier and the trip is so much more enjoyable if you do not have high expectations!
Pack clothes that work for the climate! Check the weather ahead of time and remind yourself that the people that live in that country wear clothes to. If you have to buy, you might have to buy! We have actually had some favorites that way because we try something new!
Lastly, Enjoy it! Memories are priceless and can never be taken back. Make them memorable!
Cheers to vacation!