Friday, June 10, 2011

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Babies - Packing for the Trip

(Read about my "qualifications" to offer these travel tips in Part 1 of my Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Babies Series.)

Traveling with Toddlers and Babies Series
Part 2 ~ Packing For Your Trip (you are here!)

You may or may not be a "list person." I am a list person. Either way, I would highly recommend making a packing list for your trip with the little one(s).

Trip Planning Printables by Crown Bindery on Etsy
Trip Planning Printables by Crown Bindery

Start writing out your list a week or two before your trip, and then update it as you go about each day. You’ll realize that you'll want to have that Boppy/sippy cup/beloved tiara with you on your trip. Keep the list for your next trip! You may need to update it later based on your kid's age(s), but don't erase anything just in case.

Note: I’m using the term “carry-on” here, but if you’re on a road trip, think of that as the bag(s) that you’ll want to be accessible at all times in the car. You don’t want to be on the side of the freeway digging through the ones already loaded up in the trunk.

The Essentials - What to Pack

Pack Up Photograph by colourchrome on Etsy
Pack Up Photograph by colourchrome

  • The Busy Bag (see next section).
  • Your own Pack 'N Play sheet and/or crib sheet. The smell, the look, the feel... familiarity is a good thing!
  • Burn a CD of the kiddos' favorite songs, lullabies or singalong tunes.
  • Security blanket and/or comfort items for each child.
  • Sunscreen, hats, warm coats... think about weather during your entire trip.
  • You may need to bring your baby monitor depending on where you’re staying. Just don’t forget both parts of it (speaking from experience here).
  • Load some age-appropriate game apps and a few favorite movies on your smart phone or iPod Touch for emergency entertainment while you travel.
  • Consider making or buying a "Quiet Book" filled with lots of activities to keep the little ones busy.
  • You can rent gear when you get where you're going. Check for a U.S. directory or Travels with Baby for a worldwide directory. Or you could borrow gear from friends or family.
  • If you're renting a car, you can also rent a carseat with it. It can be expensive but it might be worth not having to lug yours through the airport. (Thanks, Briita!)
  • Don't forget that there are most likely stores where you're going so if you forget something, you can buy it there. =)
  • When you're done making a packing list, consider making a list of things that you need to take care of before you go (e.g., put your mail on hold).

The Busy Bag

Busy Bag by SweeterThanSweets
Little Sweets' Busy Bag
  • The Busy Bag is a small carry-on full of toys and activities for your little one(s). The toys should be new (or rarely used at home), cheap and many.
  • I only have one kid, but I would think it would be best for each kid to have his/her own Busy Bag.
  • Bring one out toy at a time and let them play with it until they're completely bored with it.
  • Some parents like to wrap up each item and let kids open each item separately, like a bunch of birthday gifts.
  • For Little Sweets (at 2 years old), this bag includes:
    • a plastic slinky (It's a belt, No, it's a lion's mane, No, it's tangled up in knots!)
    • those cheap shaped bracelets that are sold by the dozen
    • a pack of flashcards with shapes and letters on them
    • some cheap party favors from Wal-Mart
    • kids’ meal toys that haven’t been played with for awhile
    • crayons and paper or coloring book
    • several small board books
    • stickers
    • a magnetic drawing board
    • snacks
  • Put your Busy Bag away during the trip so it's still interesting on the way home.
  • When you get home, you may want to store your Busy Bag and all its contents away until your next trip if you're traveling again soon. When I took Little Sweets' bag out to take the photo above, she said, "We go on airplane, Mommy?" She knows this bag is full of fun stuff!

    Keep It in Your Carry-On

    Roller Duffle Carry-On by trndesigns on Etsy
    Roller Duffle Carry-On by trndesigns

    • A spare outfit (or at least shirt) for baby and one for you, too. You never know which one of you might need it.
    • An empty "wet bag" or two in case you need that spare shirt. You can buy cute ones here or bring a couple of big Ziplocs.
    • Tylenol or other medications you might need.
    • Empty water bottles to fill up once you get past security, if you’re flying.
    • A lightweight blanket in case the airline charges for them (yes, some do!) or doesn’t have enough.
    • A baby sling/carrier, especially helpful when getting through security since you don't need to remove babies from carriers.
    • Think disposable: Disposable bibs, bowls, spoons, bottle liners, sippy cups... Yes I know this is not eco-friendly, but it may be worth it to help you keep your sanity while traveling.
    • Pacifiers (yes, that’s plural) to encourage sucking during take-off and landing if you’re flying. Also bring a couple of pacifier clips, which can be a lifesaver! (Full disclosure: This is my step-sister's awesome Etsy shop, check it out!)
    • Burp cloths, nursing cover and breast pump if your little ones are still in that stage.
    • Hand sanitizer (make sure to put it in a zip-top bag if you're flying).
    • Extra diapers and wipes. I like to put Little Sweets in overnight diapers in case we can't do diaper changes as often as we normally would, but be aware of the increased risk of diaper rash.
    • Think of your carry-on bag as being full of things that if you lose them, you’d be able to live without them. Your kids will find more hiding spots in the airplane/rental car than you could even imagine… anything you carry-on could very easily get lost.
    • If you’re flying, you may need to bring proof of immunizations, age, social security card and/or passport. Check with your airline to see what documentation the little ones might need. Make sure it doesn't get put in the checked baggage.
    • Consider bringing your stroller and carseat all the way to the gate. The fewer people who handle your expensive baby gear, the better!
    • Despite this long list, plan to carry-on as little as possible. =) You need your hands free for getting through the airport.
    • Don’t forget the Busy Bag!

    What else do you think should be on this list of necessities? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.


      1. All good tips ( I've had 4) I'd add make sure your cell phone is fully charge in case of emergency and down load some games for older kids! I'd also carry gum for the older ones to help with cabin pressure and boredom!

        Happy Trails!

      2. Great tips! It's been many years since I've had to travel with young ones, but I remember it can be nerve wracking. Your tips should help a lot!

      3. Oh wow! You just reminded me of those days. My sweets are now 26 and 23. Times have changed! I did enjoy traveling with them back then. We took a lot of weekend trips. Thanks for bringing back the memories! I think I see a scrap page in my future about that!

        I do have to say, now it takes us about 20 minutes to throw what we need in a couple of suitcases.

        Sis and I would take lots of shopping trips with our mom. We would shop and sight see during the day and the kids (4 between the two of us) would be so good then they knew we would have an early dinner and the rest of the day would be theirs to do whatever they want. They always picked miniature golf or the pool. Our hotels HAD to have a pool.

        When they were older we went to lots of amusement parks. We were roller coaster junkies!

      4. Such good tips! Traveling with little ones unprepared is no fun at all. You'll be saving a lot of mommas' sanity with these fab tips :).

      5. I've been traveling with my 3 year old granddaughter and these are great tips. I forgot what it was like to do a road trip with a toddler!

      6. you inspired me to get a my little pony for my 18 MO for our next trip! a great "doll" I know she'll love!! and small and portable :)

      7. Oh, a fully charged cell phone is a definite must. Good one!

        Flexing mealtimes based on your daily plans is a great tip too!

        And Rebecca, they have My Little Ponies with hair brushes now and my daughter just loves brushing their hair! So fun to see her playing with a toy that reminds me of my own childhood.

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