You want to take trips with your children, but the idea of all the packing makes you want to hide in the laundry room and eat chocolate. I get it and I’ve been there. But you really can pack for a trip with children without losing your mind.
Since Kyle and I have moved to the Portland suburbs, we’ve taken several road trips to visit our family in the Puget Sound area of western Washington. What used to be a quick four-hour jaunt for Kyle and me prior to having children is now an all-day schlep involving potty breaks and pit stops for play time.
Similarly, the packing used to be so easy. I could throw together my overnight bag in under fifteen minutes and we’d be on our way.
Now it seems like packing is a marathon. I would get the children’s clothes packed and feel victorious and then realize I still had to do eating supplies, bath items, baby gear, toys, medication and more!
Packing for kids also led to arguments in our family. Kyle and I have had our share of heated discussions the night before trips. I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve even threatened to never travel again.
Then we discovered these simple solutions. And we found you can pack for a trip with children with losing your mind.
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Start Packing for a Trip with Kids Early
You need to start packing earlier than the night before. Duh: it sounds simple. But we all have made this mistake.
Don’t want until the children are asleep the night before your trip to start packing. You will already be tired after a long day and you will end up arguing with your husband like me. You might even threaten to never take a trip again.
I’ve learned the hard way that there is incredible value in packing for five to ten minutes starting five days before the trip.
Here’s how I break down the marathon of packing:
A week before the trip
Get out your luggage for each family member.
Time commitment: 5-10 minutes depending on where it’s stored
Five days before trip
Plan to do your laundry about five days before the trip. Instead of folding or hanging the laundry as usual and placing the items in your child’s room, pack them for the trip immediately in the appropriate luggage.
Time commitment: 5-10 minutes
Four days before trip
When you make lunch for your child four days before the trip, package up some snacks and set them aside in your snack bag. Think about easy to transport healthy produce snacks like baby carrots and dried fruit as well as the typical pretzels and crackers.
Time commitment: 5 minutes
Three days before the trip
As you clean up toys with your children three days before your trip, help each of your children pick 3-5 items and pack them right away in a toy carry-on bag. Whether you’re flying or taking a road trip, we’ve found it helpful to have each child have a small backpack of toys.
Time commitment: 5 minutes per child
Two days before the trip
When you read bedtime stories to your child, grab a few favorite books and add them to the toy carry-on. I prefer to take books I wouldn’t be heartbroken over losing or forgetting. So I tend to grab the worn board books that are held together with packing tape or picture books that are easily replaceable.
Time commitment: 2 minutes per child
Packing in five and ten minute increments before the trip can really make it more manageable. It helps me prevent major overwhelm the night before a trip and also reduces the risk that I’ll forget something.
Have Dedicated Bags
Dedicated bags is another hack that’s really worked for my family. Each family member has their own dedicated bags for traveling.
We primarily take road trips so if you’re flying, you might need to combine into a larger suitcase. In the case of flying, we have a mom and dad suitcase and a children suitcase.
We have the bags for each family member stored in their closet. Thus, it’s easy to retrieve the luggage as start packing all week before the trip. Our children love getting their bags out for traveling.
We also have dedicated toiletries bags for each family member, too. Instead of rushing around, we just need to do a quick audit a day or two before the trip.
Delegate Packing Responsibilities
Get your husband or partner on board. and delegate some of the packing responsibilities. Who says it’s only mom’s responsibility to pack? It’s not.
A common excuse I’ve heard many husbands use is “I didn’t know what to pack.” While I’ll write another post another day about how mothers have to shoulder the mental load for families, that’s not today’s focus.
So let’s just solve this particular problem. Have a conversation at least a week before the trip about how you’ll be dividing up the packing responsibilities. Then hand your husband a copy of the packing list below.
Use Packing Lists for Kids
How do you know what’s already been packed and what can you delegate? Use packing lists!
Get the children involved if they are old enough with the printable packing lists for kids I created.
- Print it out in place it on a clipboard for your child.
- Write in the quantity of items they needs to pack and put an X over any items that aren’t needed (like a coat in summer).
- Place them in plastic sheet protector if you plan to reuse them.
- Hand your child a washable dry erase markers to mark off each item.
- Give you child their individual bags to put their items in.
- Check their work to make sure they didn’t have ten pairs of socks and no underwear.
Use Packing List for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Like I mentioned above, even your toddler can help you choose their toys for the trip. Your toddler and preschool children can also pack their clothes as well. You’ll need to check their work to make sure they didn’t have ten pairs of socks and no underwear of course!
This printable includes packing list for babies and toddler, a list for a preschooler and school-aged child, and the list for children to pack for themselves. So as you work through your toddler and preschooler’s list, ask them to bring the items and deposit them in their individual bag.
This saves you time and energy and teaches your children a value skill.
Pack for a Trip with Kids
You really can pack for a trip with children without losing your mind. Start about five days before and delegate to your children and husband. Print out and starting using our packing lists and enjoy the trip.
Get your packing lists here.