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Just like at home, on trips it is a good idea to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.
If at all possible, pack each child's clothes in a separate suitcase or small duffle bag. We've found the carry-ons with rollers to be invaluable for plane trips. The suitcases can double as the child's personal chest of drawers while on the trip.
Baby clothes should also be packed in their own separate suitcase, as you can get to it more easily and avoid lost items. If you can't bring a separate suitcase for your baby, put the clothes on top of yours in the suitcase.
Try to bring wrinkle-resistant clothes that can serve several purposes, and pack clothes in a few basic mix-and-match colors. Bold colors and patterns are more likely to hide stains. Don't forget to bring the stain stick though -- it will save you lots of time and money!
Resist the holiday urge to bring all new, beautiful clothes and shoes that your child has never worn. You may be surprised to get to your destination (as we did once) and find that: a) the shoes aren't comfortable; and b) all those new clothes either don't fit or aren't ones they want to wear.
Bring lots of plastic bags for toiletries, liquid medicines, wet diapers, and/or wet bathing suits. If you're really organized, you can pack each day's outfit for your child in its own plastic bag.
Take a night light, as well as a few of your child's favorite toys or items. Your child will be more secure and comfortable sleeping in a strange place when something familiar's there.
Here's a great tip for re-packing on the trip: Rather than trying to separate your children's dirty clothes, just turn them inside out. It saves space, and makes dirty clothes easy to spot. If you're traveling by car, bring a large plastic garbage bag and put all the dirty clothes in there. It makes it easy to take them to the laundromat or pop them in the wash when you get home.
Pack the car when the kids are asleep, or are off doing something else. The packing will go much faster, and you won't have to include all the extras your children suddenly decide they "can't live without."
Many luggage bags look alike, and can easily be mistaken by holiday travelers rushing from their plane. Try attaching a colorful luggage tag, stickers, or a bright tape to your bag, so you can quickly tell it apart from others. We learned this lesson the hard way on a trip to the beach, and have now equipped all of our bags with brightly nametags in strong plastic cases.
Assigning each child his or her own bag makes it easier to keep everyone's stuff organized.
Wheeled suitcases, duffels or backpacks are functional and fun. Even the youngest children can wheel their own small bag through an airport.
Choose wisely, and pack less. Especially if you're flying, you'll want less to misplace, less to wash, less to cart around, and less to cram into a rental car.
Pack clothes that can be easily mixed and matched, preferably in dark colors and patterns to hide stains, spills, and dirt.
Use an old duffel or mesh bag to stash towels, swimsuits, thongs, beach toys and sunscreen, so they're always easy to grab.
Ziploc bags are great for storing food, dirty diapers, toiletries, and more.
Leave some space in your suitcases for souvenirs that you will want to bring home.
Check List It, Pack It, Take It Along!
The Basics For Any Trip
Adults And Big Kids
- Wallet and/or purse and cash (can't forget the obvious!)
- Money pouch to wear under clothing
- Credit cards and/or traveler's checks (plus list of numbers of both kept in separate place)
- Passport and/or driver's license
- Car and house keys
- Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses (plus lens cleaner)
- Medical insurance cards (check coverage for destination)
- Prescriptions and other medications
- Itineraries, tickets and reservation confirmations
- Maps and directions, guidebooks, brochures
- Address book
- Tote bag, waist pack, backpack, or sturdy shoulder bag that crosses over your chest, for day use
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Comfortable clothing (think layers and coordinates) An outfit for a special evening at a nice restaurant or theater
- Outerwear as necessary (light or heavy jacket, depending on season)
- Stroller (even big kids get pooped after a long day of sightseeing)
- Camera and film
- Books and magazines for kids and adults
- Toys, playing cards, small games
- Flashlight and batteries
- Umbrella and rain jackets
- Large plastic bags for laundry and wet items
- Disposable wipes
- Pocket knife (For security reasons, pack in suitcase, not carry-on)
- Travel alarm
- Sewing kit
- First-aid kit
- Water/juice boxes, no-spill cups
- Extra duffel or tote bag for souvenirs
- Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash
- Combs, brushes, hair accessories, blow dryer (if hotel does not provide one)
- Shampoo and conditioner (biodegradable if possible)
- Sunscreens and lip balm
- Insect repellent
- Shaving gear
- Nail clippers, scissors and emery boards
- Cotton balls and/or swabs
- Feminine hygiene items
Just For Baby
- Disposable diapers and wipes
- For bottle-fed babies, bring your own milk, canned formula or bottled water for mixing powdered formula (nursing or bottle-feeding during take off and landing will help reduce pressure in baby's ears)
- Extra pacifiers, or secure to baby's clothing so they don't end up under your seat
- Small soft toy, rattle, teething ring and/or puppet
- Changing pad
- Baby powder and lotion
- Zippered plastic bags
- Wet wipes
- Nursing pads and burp pads
- Bottles, nipples and caps
- Formula and/or juice
- Changes of clothing
- Jacket or sweater
- Small, folding stroller with canopy or umbrella
- Front or back child-carrying pack, or sling style
- Waterproof sheets
- Bathing supplies
- Baby food and spoon