How to Pack for Travel with Kids

Planning a vacation always brings excitement. As the getaway gets closer, many moms start to feel anxious–this is usually due to all the required packing! It’s no secret that moms are usually the ones in charge of packing for the children. And as unfair as this burden may seem, packing and organizing ahead of travel will save a lot of frustration overall. Vacations are for having fun and relaxing, so please utilize some of these tips so you can travel in peace!

Make a List and Check it Twice

First and foremost, a list is a must! Consider creating a list that you can reference every time your family gets the travel bug. This list can be modified as the children grow and their needs change. But plan to consider all the essentials that you’ll be bringing on your trip. This will include everything from clothing to toiletries and even entertainment.

This list is crucial, momma! Ever arrive somewhere and realize you forgot the charger for your camera battery? Or your daughter’s glasses? Start with the absolute essentials and go from there. Don’t forget, you can purchase items at a nearby store if needed. But there are certain items that you can’t just pick up at the local corner store–as in, your son’s favorite blanket he refuses to sleep without . . .

How to Pack, in General

The way you pack for your children will depend on your mode of transportation and type of trip. You’ll most likely be packing a lot more if you’re taking a road trip versus flying. Regardless of the type of trip, you’ll still need outfits and the essentials. Consider purchasing mesh cube bags (they come in various sizes and colors) and using one or two per family member. You can also assign a color to each child to help you stay even more organized.

The number of days and whether there is a washer/dryer will help determine how many outfits to pack. If clothes cannot be washed while away (camping for instance), be sure to pack more than enough undergarments, socks, and outfits. Consider packing with each outfit already together. You can put a rubber band around the outfit and even label it with the day it should be worn. I love using packing cubes, color-matched for each child!

Always plan to bring a bag for dirty laundry, and a bag for swimsuits, wet mittens, and the like. Also, suitcases are always nice for flying, but duffel bags tend to take up less space in a vehicle. It’s important to consider what type of luggage is most practical for the mode of transportation.

In addition to clothing, don’t forget to pack your child’s toiletries, shoes, and diapers/wipes if needed. Pro-tip: pack wipes–they will come in handy regardless of the age of your child(ren).


Make sure you check out the local forecast of your destination prior to packing. If it’s going to be warm, no need for your child’s bulky winter coat. If you’re headed into a week of possible rain, don’t forget to pack umbrellas, raincoats, and boots. A lot of times weather can be inconsistent, so make sure you check it around a week out of when you plan to leave. This will give you plenty of time to pack ahead of the trip. The day before you leave, plan to check the weather again. If the forecast has changed, this will give you a chance to add or omit items from your kiddo’s luggage.

Meals and Snacks

Preparing snacks for travel is essential when it comes to children. If your family is going on a road trip, packing a cooler full of pre-made snacks will save both time and money. Label sandwich bags with names and dates. You can portion out your child’s favorite snacks ahead of time and have them ready when hunger arises. If flying, you won’t be able to bring as many snacks–but can still plan to have some sealed favorites at the ready.

Snacks and meals can also come in handy at the destination. Keep some favorites with you. If you have a kitchen or grill where you’re headed, plan accordingly. Sometimes going out to eat every night on vacation isn’t doable or realistic with little ones. Therefore, if you don’t pack your snacks and meals ahead of time, make sure to hit the local grocery store upon arrival.

Having a meal plan figured out prior to traveling is the best bet! Write down what you’ll be eating during the travel time and on the trip itself. Write the names of the restaurants you desire to visit and what part of the day you plan to go. Know that this can all be flexible, of course! You may decide to change meals around, and that’s okay. If you plan to hit the grocery store, a pre-written list of ingredients and desired meals will also help keep you organized and save time.


Okay, now that all the essentials are packed, it’s time to add the fun stuff! Packing items to entertain the children will make everyone happy, especially mom. Trust me–your child can only play the license plate game for so long before it loses its luster. Looking out the plane window is only exciting for so long before boredom arises. In addition, Wi-Fi won’t always be accessible on vacation. You’re going to want to have some tricks up your sleeve to help create fun memories.

Plan to pack some favorite board games (space permitting). If there isn’t space, card games are small enough to bring along. Paper, pencils, crayons, and markers are always great for little ones. Favorite books depending on the child’s age are wonderful, too. If they can read, a good chapter book at their level is a great way to keep them busy during travel. A fun picture book to look at or a “Where’s Waldo” type book are nice alternatives for non-readers.

I always like to have each of my children pack their own little backpacks full of what they want to bring for fun. It’s nice to give them ownership over items they can fit into the backpack. Sometimes, my son will bring a Lego set that he can build, tear down, and rebuild while away, or a favorite book or toy.

If you don’t mind technology on the trip, bring their tablets, or portable gaming systems if they are gamers. You can determine the amount of screentime you’ll allow based on the type of vacation and what’s going on each day.

Then sit back, relax and enjoy! Now momma, you can only plan for so much–the unforeseen always does seem to arise while on vacation. However, give yourself some grace! You have planned for this vacation and have packed accordingly. By being organized prior to a trip, you have the best chance of being able to let go a little while away. And we all know if mom is having a good time, it will be a good time for all. That’s the kind of family vacation we all deserve!

Travel with kids can be so tough. Sofia shares tips for traveling with toddlers!


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