This summer I got to take my 3.5-year-old girls on our first airplane trip in 3 years. If you know anything about my upbringing, then you know how insane it is that it's been that long since we traveled! Crazy. It was a relatively short trip-3 nights, 4 days- but everything is a little bit harder when you are packing for two preschoolers! Today I thought I would share my favorite packing tips with you.
Before I pack, I always make a list of what we'll need. I usually start my list a few weeks in advance, because I always think of things between the time I write the list and when I actually pack. This time I kept my list on a sticky note on the back of my DIY dashboard in my planner- I LOVED it and will definitely be doing it again the next time we travel :)
Let's start with what I packed everything into: one carry-on size suitcase (don't pay for check-through unless you really need to!), a backpack for each child, one shoulder bag, a quart-size bag, a water-proof bag (plastic grocery bag or similar size), and wallet or card holder.
When you're traveling with kids (or, really, even without kids), the last thing you want to be doing is fishing through your bag trying to find something. It's so helpful to have everything organized where you can get to it quickly while you're traveling!
In the backpacks, I had the girls pack their own entertainment for the trip: a few books, a coloring book, some colored pencils, stickers, etc. I also stuck a new coloring book in each of their bags for them to find as a surprise on the trip. I didn't want their bags to be so heavy that I ended up carrying them myself, but I also wanted them to be responsible for some of their own things.
The shoulder bag is for the stuff we need while we're on the airplane (I used the brown and blue one in the top right corner of the last picture- anything that you can sling over your shoulder will work). Now that you have to pay for check-through baggage, everyone is bringing the biggest suitcases they can get onto the airplane. There's a good chance you will have your carry-on bag in an overhead bin or even under the plane. Neither one of those are easily accessible during the flight. By packing the stuff you need during the flight in a shoulder bag, you can quickly pull it out of the suitcase before stowing the larger bag and still have the essentials at your fingertips. Here's everything that went into that bag:
I have a change of clothes for each of the girls (in case they get really wet, have an accident etc), a sweater and pair of socks for each of us (in case we get cold), some wipes, tissues, gum (for the grownups to chew during takeoff and landing to help with ears popping), and snacks. With younger (baby to toddler) children, I brought some bottles and pacifiers to use for takeoff and landing. For older kids you could just give them gum or hard candy, but I was stuck for a while on what to do for preschoolers. My girls aren't using bottles or pacifiers, but they weren't ready for chewing gum or hard candy yet either. I stumbled on my solution at the drugstore one day:
I feel like such a genius telling you about this idea right now! Hahaha, no seriously. These things were perfect. The girls had never seen a ring pop before (I hadn't even seen one since I was in elementary school I don't think) so it was a novelty, and it was easy for them to suck on without making a mess like a regular lollipop. After each takeoff or landing, I stuck it back in the wrapper and they were able to use one ring pop for two flights!
I always pack one empty waterproof bag for dirty clothes. My carry-on suitcase came with the purple drawstring bag you see in the top picture, but I've also used a regular plastic grocery bag before. Just make sure it's waterproof and not plain fabric, in case you have... you know... clothes that are wet. As the result of an accident. Or other such things.
I packed each person's clothes into one gallon-size ziplock bag. I love this system because it makes it so much easier to find each person's clothes when you arrive! I always take them out of the bags as soon as I arrive at my destination, so nothing gets very wrinkled, and I pack any dressy clothes separately. Any clothes that are for special situations (like in our case, swimming suits) get their own bag.
I pack each of the ziplock bags of clothes in the bottom of the suitcase, then pack miscellaneous items- electronics, cables, toys, etc- in the nooks and crannies around the bags. Everyone's pajamas go on top of those, on the bottom side (when the suitcase is standing up), and the shoulder bag goes on top on the top side:
I pack the pajamas separately so that if we get there late, I don't have to unpack all of our clothes to get to what we need before falling into bed. I also put the white noise machine, and the girls' lovey's, at the top with the pajamas. Anything that we need to go to bed needs to be quickly accessible!
The wallet holds all of our travel documents: ID, plane tickets, car rental confirmation, addresses and phone numbers, passports, etc. I put that in the front zippered pocket along with my quart-size bag of toiletries (as most of you know, TSA will only let you through with travel size containers of liquids that all fit into a quart-size bag). I keep those in the outside pocket because you need both to get through security, and I need to be able to get them in and out quickly when we're going though the airport.
That's it! What are your favorite packing tips and other travel tips with little ones?