Travel Hacks to Help You Pack Like a Pro
Traveling with kids can be difficult. Heck, just getting kids over to their grandparents’ house can be stressful. So, when it comes to air travel, parents can get overwhelmed easily – especially when it comes to packing. Erica Levine Weber, mother of two and the travel writer behind The World Wide Webers, shares her best hacks on how to make packing a breeze for even the least-experienced families.
Together, Weber and her family visited 30 countries before her daughter’s first birthday, and since having their second baby, have added an additional 12 countries to their passports. Needless to say, Weber has packed a few bags before. Check out her tips to help you limit your packing problems.
Besides being a handful on their own, children can come with a lot equipment – strollers, portable cribs, car seats…you get it. Obviously, bringing all of this to the airport would rack up a pretty large baggage bill, so Weber recommends shipping these bulky items to your destination in advance, especially when traveling within the United States.
When traveling with their toddler, Owen, Paige and Matthew Sandlin of Florence, Alabama, employ Weber’s shipping tip, packing all sorts of baby gear like high chairs, snacks and even diapers.
“One of the things we learned to do, was to ship things in advance to the hotel, says Paige. “The big bulky things that we didn’t actually have to have with us while we went through: food, diapers, wipes. It just made things so much easier.”
When traveling abroad, Weber makes sure their accommodations will have baby gear upon arrival, or recommends looking for rental services on the ground (you’d be surprised how easy it is to find a stroller rental). You can also ask your hotel concierge, ride-share driver, car rental service, or even tour guide if they can make them available.
Wrap it up
If you’re packing for an entire family, take a bit of inspiration from burritos or tortilla wraps – utilizing their roll-up shape for packing clothes will be sure to give you a new appreciation for the classic Tex-Mex dish.
Weber explains that for each of her kids’ packed outfits, she rolls them into an individual “burrito” (socks and underwear tucked on top of pants, then a jacket or sweater, for example). That way, nothing gets lost and it’s even easier for her family to get dressed and out the door, sans arguments or misplaced items.
Before Weber makes a single clothing burrito, though, she gets strategic. First, she does all the outstanding dirty laundry at home and packs from that basket of clean clothes. “That’s what they are wearing the most,” Weber says, “and that’s the stuff [my daughter] will be least likely to put up a fight about.” Beyond that, she takes it a step further: limiting pajamas to only two sets, no matter how long the trip is – they only wear the pajamas when they’re clean anyway, she says – as well as only two pairs of shoes and plenty of thin, layerable options, which are more versatile than heavy sweaters when traveling to colder locales.
Once everything is packed, Weber does another pass over the suitcase and removes about 20 percent of the packed clothing. Because, she asks, “Have you ever been on a trip and actually worn everything in your suitcase?” Point taken.
One family, one suitcase
Juggling two toddlers as you navigate a massive airport is difficult enough on its own. Now, add two wheeled carry-on bags and four backpacks into the mix. Even for an experienced traveler like Weber, it’s the stuff of nightmares. So, she packs with a specific goal in mind: a single checked bag, packed for the whole family, then small personal items for each person. That’s it. With one bag, the whole family will be more mobile, the kids will be comfortable, and you’ll have an easier time navigating the airport when your gate changes 10 minutes before boarding.
Weber has a few tips for cutting down on extra baggage, too. For one, each family member’s items are organized into packing cubes in the larger family bag, so it’s easy to find each person’s clothing once they land.
Taking the concept of maximizing space to the next level, the Sandlins love the idea of utilizing vacuum-seal bags to counteract their habit of overpacking.
Weber has a strict “no toys” policy on packing – that’s right, other than in-flight entertainment (more on that in our next “Real Travel Hacks” video) she doesn’t bring any of her toddler’s toys on vacation, as they just take up too much space. When it comes to toiletries, she goes especially tiny here – packing electric toothbrush heads instead of full-sized toothbrushes (“They’re the perfect size for a kids’ toothbrush!”) and using a contact lens case for a dab or two of specific products, like children’s toothpaste.
When packing, every parent wants to be prepared for mishaps and emergencies, whether that’s an unexpected fever or your kid spilling spaghetti on their white shirt. But, Weber tries to make this emergency kit as tiny as possible, and that’s where the family dog comes in.
Bringing a few plastic bags to hold soiled kids clothes is a must, but there’s a way to be even more space-efficient here: use doggie clean-up bags. These tiny bags are the perfect size for little kids’ clothing or a wet bathing suit, and are small enough to literally fit in a pocket, making them more efficient than extra zip-top bags or grocery store plastics.
Speaking of dogs, the Sandlins always stash a lint roller in their bag – it defeats pet hair, crumbs and glitter, and fits easily in your carry-on.
Beyond that, Weber brings a toiletry bag that’s literally the size of her palm, containing single-use detergent packets, a single serving of kids’ allergy meds, as well as concentrated infant fever medication. That way, she’s prepared for everything, without sacrificing precious carry-on space. The Sandlins also recommend bringing a power strip. That way, phones, tablets, and other electronics can be charged simultaneously… even if you only find one outlet.
With all of these tips, however, Weber says there’s one crucial piece of advice: Don’t be too worried if you forgot something, even something crucial, while on your trip. “The fear of perfection, the anxiety of it, is unnecessary,” Weber says. “We forgot my daughter’s hat and gloves when we were going to Paris, so we just walked passed a store and got a pair of gloves. It’s not that big of a deal, and we all get ourselves a little too worked up.”
Our first trip as a family was to New York City. We got stuck there during a Nor’easter.
It was the longest two hours of our life.
One of the biggest things that we learned to do was to ship things in advance to the hotel. Food, diapers, wipes. It just made things so much easier because it was less to lug through the airport.
When you are traveling with a 16-month old, and when we don’t have access to laundry, we need to over-pack.
He is obsessed with leaving tings cleaner than they were before he found them. You’re constantly trying to make sure that we look our best and are presentable.
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