Five Tips for Packing Light, Even With Small Kids

Five Tips for Packing Light, Even With Small Kids

I’ve always taken pride in my ability to pack light and carry on my luggage no matter how far I’m going (for example, I didn’t check any bags when I went to Switzerland and Kenya in the same trip). Right after landing, I zip through baggage claim, skip long customs lines, and get a head start on my trip. And I definitely don’t want to think about the airline losing my luggage – can you imagine that happening with kids? (Pass)

Now that there’s an extra head to pack for, I’ve had to be flexible with my no-checked-luggage goals. Depending on the destination and trip length, I’ll either go for the carry on gold or take the extreme opposite and pack everything we own (if I have to check bags, I may as well take advantage of it).

For shorter trips, and especially for fair weather vacations, here are a few tips to packing light and avoid checking your and your little one’s bags.

Skip the toys

I usually stuff two kids books for daily reading and an iPad loaded with games into my purse for the flight. I’ll also pack some blocks and maybe one other toy in a suitcase and that’s it. The point of a vacation is to go out and do things, so the kids won’t need a bunch of toys back at the hotel to keep them busy. This is a huge space saver for packing light. Of course, if it backfires, you can always grab an emergency toy by adding a trip to the toy store. That’s a fun activity for kids too!

Buy perishables when you arrive

Milk, juice, snacks, etc. can all be bought at your destination. Other than a few baby food pouches in my purse in case he gets hungry en route, I leave all the perishables at home. You can grab a single serving-sized milk/juice/water once you’re in the airport terminal or wait for beverage service on the flight to keep them hydrated. If you don’t want to pay the airport markup for drinks, you can also carry on single serving amounts of liquid for little ones. Just be prepared for it to go through some extra screening.

Don’t overpack clothing

Seriously, you’re not going to a fashion show (or if you are, you can ignore this part). Bring one outfit for each day for older kids and bring a couple extra for younger kids that tend to spill more. If you have special events or activities (e.g., hiking or a wedding), you should obviously bring those additional outfits. But, in general, don’t bring anything for the sake of having options. Grab whichever outfits are your favorite, since you’re likely to take more pictures on vacation. But stop there and enjoy a lighter suitcase and fewer decisions during the trip.

Ship diapers to your destination

For trips that are more than a couple days (i.e., a long weekend), I prefer to ship my diapers to the hotel so they are there when I arrive. It costs me the same amount to buy them at home. And this way I don’t have to lug a bunch of disposable diapers around the airport. Plus, I can use Amazon’s two-day shipping to make sure they arrive exactly when I want them to. Alternatively, you can always pick up diapers at the drug store when you arrive.

Share toiletries

Don’t double pack things like soap, shampoo, lotion, and toothpaste. If your kids use special bath products, either use the kids’ products for the trip or use the hotel products. And don’t forget to buy travel sized toiletries or put everything into travel bottles to save even more space.

Remember, you’re traveling to spend time with your family and to share new experiences with the kids. They don’t need all the luxuries of home to have a good time. Packing light will help get you where you’re going faster and give you more time to spend together. And remember, if you forget anything important, you can always buy it when you get there!


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