Travel Tips: How to Pack When Traveling With Kids

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Travel Tips: How to Pack When Traveling With Kids
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

If you’re traveling with kids, consider four things: eating, sleeping, playing and getting around. That’s the advice of seasoned family travel expert Corinne McDermott, founder of the blog Have Baby Will Travel. And if you’re lucky, you can manage it all with your sanity intact.

Toys, Wrapped – One per Hour of Travel
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Toys, Wrapped – One per Hour of Travel

The typical little kid has the attention span of a gnat. A new toy will keep her distracted and occupied for a short time – and the unwrapping is half the pleasure. We are not talking about Christmas in July – just a quick trip to the 99-cent store for stickers, little toy cars, crayons, little books. The good thing about these toys? “If they get broken or lost, it’s not a tragedy,” says McDermott. Be kind to your fellow travelers – avoid anything that beeps or has music or bright lights.

Have Baby Will Travel

Ample Snacks
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Ample Snacks

Go with the standbys: animal-shaped crackers, string cheese, squeezable fruit pouches. And bring enough to last you twice as long as you think you’ll be en route. You’ll thank yourself when you’ve been on the tarmac or in mind-numbing holiday traffic for two unplanned hours.

Plenty of Drinks
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Plenty of Drinks

Same goes for water and anything your child will want to drink. If you're flying, baby formula, breast milk and baby food are exceptions to security restrictions on liquids, in “reasonable” amounts. (It can pay to stretch the limits of reasonable.) Once you're through security, spend whatever it takes for the largest bottle of water you can tote. Planes are notoriously dehydrating.

A Secret Stash
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

A Secret Stash

If you believe in candy – and especially if you normally don’t – a secret stash of lollipops or anything sweet and forbidden can work magic in the most trying situations.

Spill-Proof Sippy Cups
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Spill-Proof Sippy Cups

So you can contain the liquid mess as best you can – in the car, on the plane, in a restaurant.

A Change of Clothes for Them, and for You
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

A Change of Clothes for Them, and for You

Murphy’s Law of traveling with kids means there will be a diaper blowout, the milk will leak everywhere and someone is bound to puke – on themselves and on you. In addition to clean clothes, be sure you have a discreet, waterproof and sealable container to contain the smell and mess. A couple of gallon- or quart-size plastic zipper bags can do in a pinch.

Your Preferred iDistraction
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Your Preferred iDistraction

If you’re open to technology, it’s one of your best friends when traveling. A good movie buys you 90 minutes of (relative) peace. Bonus points for earphones, so the whole car or cabin doesn’t have to hear “Let It Go” for the millionth time. Many parents relax their rules about media when traveling, which tends to make everyone happy. Plus, there’s an added benefit: weight. “In the pre-tablet days, my bag would be heavy with books, DVDs, a player. Now all of that’s in one light little thing,” says McDermott. “You just have to make sure it’s fully charged.”

Diapers and More
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Diapers and More

If your little one is in diapers or potty training, err on the side of caution – bring double the amount you think you need for the time you’re traveling (just like food, and for the same reasons). If you have a child who’s new to the potty, consider bringing a few pull-up diapers, just in case.

Of course, in the spirit of packing light, you can always get diapers at your destination, but you run the risk of not finding your brand. If you bring diapers with you (about five to seven per day, depending on your child), there will be a nice empty space on the return for souvenirs. And don’t forget the wipes – they’re so useful you won’t regret bringing a whole package (or two!).

Dark, Durable Clothes
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Dark, Durable Clothes

You never know where the day will take you, but you can guarantee that baby will get dirty. Jeans and darker-colored tops will help you weather what comes your way until you can change. And layer, layer, layer. You’ll want roughly two outfits per day, especially if you’re not planning to do any laundry.

The Lightest Stroller You Can Manage
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

The Lightest Stroller You Can Manage

Slings are a great, hands-free way to tote a baby, sure, but you still need a place to put stuff. “A stroller is not just a stroller,” says McDermott. “It’s a bed. It’s a high chair. It’s a luggage trolley. And it’s a comfort for you and your kids. It’s familiar. And you know they’ll sleep in it.”

A Lovey
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

A Lovey

If your child has a lovey, bring it. Whether it's a blankie, doll or stuffed animal, it will make the strangeness of other places feel safer and more familiar. If you’re paranoid about losing it, buy a backup and leave the original at home.

First Aid – but Just the Basics
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

First Aid – but Just the Basics

Unless you’re going off the grid, chances are there’s a gas station or drug store within driving distance of wherever you will be. Still, it pays to have a couple of key essentials on hand in case something happens in the middle of the night – children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen for freak fevers, cute bandages for little nicks and cuts, antihistamine, some children's fluid replacement drinks in case a stomach bug strikes. If you’re flying, you can usually lean on fellow passengers for anything more complicated, like tweezers. In a car, you should have a full first aid kit anyway.

Extra Credit: A Flashlight and Duct Tape
Pamela Follett/Demand Mediae

Extra Credit: A Flashlight and Duct Tape

A flashlight is an emergency tool that masquerades as a toy – just don’t let the kiddos run the down battery while they play with it. And duct tape can be a parent’s best friend. “My husband was a cameraman, so we always traveled with duct tape,” McDermott explains. “And so we always had something to babyproof a hotel room, cover up outlets, tie up cords. One time, we used it to fix our stroller.” Genius.

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