Packing and Traveling with Children: Part One
Before we had our daughter, my husband and I were the young, carefree jetsetters casually walking through the airport with one light carry-on and a personal item. We’d grab a bite to eat at some small, overpriced airport coffee shop and peacefully read a book while waiting for our flight. Fast forward a few years and we’re that family toting a car seat, overstuffed diaper bag, and empty stroller while the other spouse dashes off in pursuit of the fastest toddler on the earth (we draw the line at baby leashes).
Needless to say, our packing process looks pretty different than it did when we were the DINKs (double income no kids) taking off for the weekend. While we’re no Bucket List Family, our little-two-year old has done her fair share of traveling and I have learned my fair share about packing and flying with children. (In the interest of establishing my credibility on the subject, I should mention that we took her to London and Ireland earlier this year, as well as New York City and Walt Disney World.) Since Jackson, Wyoming, is a perfect family destination, I’m here to share some of my tips and tricks to make your travel as smooth as possible.
Use a List
First, a smooth and organized vacation starts before you even leave your home when you start work from a standard packing list. I keep this in the “notes” section on my phone. While it is a standard list, I do tailor it slightly by adding destination-specific items for each trip. I have a separate one for my daughter and me and will check each item off as I toss it in separate laundry baskets. While this seems obvious, having a standard packing list saves so much time. I don’t have to sit down and think about what to pack each time we travel somewhere. And honestly, since I started packing for myself and my daughter, the number of times I’ve almost forgotten to pack myself underwear is pretty startling. Luckily, it’s always on my list.
Use Packing Cubes
Because we’re dragging enough through the airport, and subsequently, the destination, I pack for myself and my daughter in the same bag. We use this Cotopaxi duffle/backpack hybrid and it works really well for both of us. (Not sponsored, although if anyone from Cotopaxi happens to be reading, you’re welcome to sponsor our humble little blog.) This bag has so many positives, and the only real negative is that it is not a Mary Poppins bag and eventually you do run out of space. To combat this, I use packing cubes. There are so many different sizes and varieties of packing cubes, but I use the small ones for my toddler so I can get really specific on what I pack in each one. For my daughter, I use one each for tops, bottoms, pajamas, and outerwear. Her socks and other accessories go in a small zipper pouch. I’m less picky about the ones I use but generally separate my clothes out the same way.
Bring Separate Toiletries
On the topic of space-saving while packing and flying with children, another way I try to make the best use of our space is to pack toiletries separately. For a trip to Europe, I picked up some clear vinyl pouches and used one for each type of toiletry. I used one for hair products and accessories, one for skincare, and one for makeup. They’re so small you can easily squeeze them into the cracks after you’ve packed all the big items. It’s way easier than trying to shove an entire travel case into your bag and you’ll generally only pack necessities. Again, my toddler gets her own pouch for toiletries. Keep in mind that if you decide not to check your bag, you will have to remove these at security.
Other space-saving tips:
- Buy what you can at your destination
We went on a few domestic trips this year where I bought diapers and wipes when we arrived. I always pack enough for the first day, just in case, but it’s easy enough to find a Target wherever you are (hallelujah) and grab the brand you like. This also works overseas with some research, but I opted not to do it and we packed all the diapers we would need for the trip.
- Use pouches for everything
I’m not sure if this is clear enough in the paragraph above, but I really really love pouches. It keeps things organized and when things are organized, you have a clearer head and a cleaner bag. Use pouches for everything.
- Consider the function of each item you’re packing and see if it can be multi-purpose
Once, my husband and I went to Stockholm and stayed in the worst Airbnb I’ve ever visited. There was literally blood on the mattress. We had to go out and buy new sheets and towels. (PSA, this will not be your experience if you book at Flat Creek!) When we went to Europe earlier this year, we all packed baby swaddle blankets. For my daughter, this was a comfort item. My husband used it as an airplane neck pillow. For me, it was protection against having to buy new bedding if our Airbnb experience went south. Admittedly, this isn’t the best example, but it should get you thinking about what you could do!
That’s a wrap for this week on packing and flying with children in tow. Stay tuned for the next segment on how to fly with toddlers without completely losing your cool! Seriously, it’s possible.
This post was brought to you by Flat Creek Inn, Jackson Hole’s closest motel to Grand Teton National Park.
Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She occasionally travels (not as much as she’d like) and always eats.
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