3 Easy Tips for Packing When Traveling With Kids

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car packedWhen it comes to traveling with kids, the preparation can be the most taxing part. Packing for myself is difficult enough, but when I try to anticipate the needs and wants and needed distractions for two other highly unpredictable little people, I tend to get panicky. That usually means I pack more and more and more until our suitcases and car are stuffed with so much stuff, they're bulging at the seams. It's crazy, and every time I vow I won't do it again. Then I do.

So in a quest to pack smarter for an upcoming trip with my children, I turned to an expert to help me. Tara Donohue Rudo, a Certified Professional Organizer, runs No More Piles and works to help busy families streamline their lives by saving time and reclaiming space. Exactly what I need -- to reclaim more space in my suitcase! Here are her three best tips to keep in mind when packing for your next trip.

1. Don’t pack the play room.

  • Bring one or two multi-use, thinking toys (one if kids are same gender and close in age, otherwise two). Pop beads and blocks are great since multiple kids can play at the same time. You can also create contests or themes to give the kids something ‘new’ to do: largest tower, most creative structure, longest necklace, etc.
  • Bring one, new, small unopened toy (preferably something you hid from the last birthday or holiday) for each kid to open. The shiny newness should last until you get home.
  • Bring a small, rainy day art bin. Coloring books, plain paper or notebooks, crayons, markers, stickers, and paint with water books. Nothing messy like glue, glitter, and small beads!

2. Lay out the clothes you want to pack, then put back half.

  • No more than three pairs of shoes per person. Wear one, pack two.
  • Mix and match clothes, so that three pants and three shirts equals nine outfits.
  • Unless you have kids who are potty training, you don’t need more socks and underwear than days of the trip.
  • You can always do a load of laundry or get one done. Most hotels and rental properties have laundry facilities, if you are really in a pinch. Or, pack a travel size of liquid detergent in case you need to wash something in the sink.

3. Make your electronics work for you.

  • Only one electronic game each. Don’t pack every device that the kids have. Have them each choose one. Only bring the number of games that fit in the carrying case. If they get bored, they can swap.
  • Load your iPad, iTouch, or tablet with appropriate movies, shows, books, and audio books. This will work if you have a rainy day, get stuck in traffic, or just need a few minutes to yourself. It also prevents you from packing a ton of DVDs or books. Don’t forget their headphones! Free Books and Free Audiobooks are apps available in iTunes.

What tips would you add to this list?


Image via johntrainor/Flickr



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nates... natesmom1228

Make a list of what you are going to need and use.

nonmember avatar Samantha

Still seems like entirely too much stuff is being packed. Sheesh. The clothes idea is a nice one though.

dusky... dusky_rose

Great tips!!!! I don't agree with the socks one though. My 5 year old is always getting his socks wet (don't ask me how). I make a list, so I don't forget things and don't feel like I'm forgetting something (then overpack).

jalaz77 jalaz77

List, always pack throughout the week and leave a small list of things to pack the morning of, like their iPods and toothbrushes. I have to say it has never been an issue packing up our kids' things.

Akash... AkashaGermaine

Sorry, I never have time to do laundry on vacation and our hotel doesn't do guest laundry. Unless I want to miss the fun I bring an outfit for each day for the adults and my daughter and two outfits for my 16 month old. Yeah it makes for more packing and more laundry afterwards but it's worth it to me.

Scott Lara

My tip? Parents. Don't take a vacation from being parents! Don't let your children run wild on a cruise ship. Tell them to respect other adults, crew and NOT to run down those long halls! Follow me on Twitter @scottlara1961

stace... stacey541

I would beg to differ with the Crayon/Marker idea if you are doing a car trip....crayons melt and I hate marker on my seats-I always opt for colored pencils.

RobynS RobynS

Love tip #2!

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