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Travel With Children Packing Tips

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Baby travel gearThe following tips are for the somewhat arduous task of packing for family travel. As always, the basic rule of travel packing applies:

Make a pile of everything you think that you’re absolutely going to need for your travels on the floor, then only pack half of it.

Here are some tips from Chaya Shepard, an experienced traveling mom who has been on the road with her daughter for 3+ years.

What to Pack for Traveling with Children

Less is sometimes more. Remember there are babies and children all over the world and people take care of them somehow. I have traveled for over a year continuously with my baby and now toddler. We have never traveled with a stroller, crib, playpen, or portable high chair. While I am not saying they never would have been useful, they just aren’t necessary. Our baby always slept in our bed with us, we carried her in an Ergo carrier and she ate on our laps, tied with a towel to a tall chair or standing on a chair, barricaded with two chair backs next to her. You can buy diapers, baby food, baby sunscreen and anything else you need all over the world. It’s true that some brands might be more expensive (especially brands you might be familiar with) and lower quality then in your own country, but if you are going to travel long term, all you have to do is ask around and experiment to find the ones that work for you.

I travel with the Ergo carrier. A baby carrier is essential if traveling with a kid who can’t keep up walking fast yet.we It is great for the airport, hiking, staying in hotels without elevators or with old elevators you wouldn’t want to use, museums, and traveling on crowded subways so you can use your hands to hold on, not hold baby.

What to pack in the diaper bag

  1. Plenty of diapers and wipes and a good changing pad, you never know when you might get delayed, you can’t buy diapers on a plane or bus.
  2. Antibacterial hand wipes and/or gel for washing up before eating.
  3. A change of clothes, as turbulence while eating, a leaky diaper or a motion sick kid will make you glad you brought an extra shirt and pants. If you have the room, an extra set for you wouldn’t be a bad idea either, trust me, my baby threw up on me in the first half hour of a six hour bus ride.
  4. Snacks and drinks. Bring plenty of them so if you are delayed eight hours you will have enough. Bring a water bottle to fill up at the water fountain after you go through security at the airport.
  5. Entertainment. Some of my favorite travel toys include: drawing board, pipe cleaners, a few books, something that plays music/has lights (in case of emergencies), a puppet and security object.
  6. Extra plastic bags for disposing of diapers, wrapping up dirty clothes etc.
  7. Toiletries/baby medicine bag. See health section for more details
  8. Mp3 player and headphones
  9. Carry extra cash because you never can know what to expect when traveling. If you planned on taking the bus, but arrived late and now have to take a taxi, be prepared to dish out some extra cash.

What to pack in the backpack/suitcase

  1. You won’t need as many clothes as you think you will. Even though kids get clothes dirty fast, plan on washing a couple items at least every other night, in the sink. Cotton clothes that can be layered and easily washed beat heavy denim and pieces that only work with a match (no matter how cute those hot pink checkered shorts are if you are only going to put them on your kid with the hot pink checkered shirt, don’t bring them!). Be sure to bring a light jacket because even warm places can get chilly at night and a good sun hat because even cold places can have strong sun.
  2. At least a few more toys, but remember you can make toys out of things you find. Going to the beach? Seashells make great toys. Going to the mountains? Small rocks can be collected. Kids are creative. Some of my favorites include: nesting cups, inflatable beach ball, chalk, and coloring books and crayons.
  3. Inflatable baby bathtub.
  4. Extra ziplock bags, always come in handy.
  5. Castille soap is great for showering, laundry, washing fruits and vegetables, dishes, and toys.
  6. Baby shampoo. Everyone in our family uses the tear-free formula to save space.
  7. Flashlight.
  8. Mini sewing kit.
  9. Knife/ All purpose tool.

What to pack for a beach vacation

  1. Swim shirt/shorts makes a lot more sense for sun protection than a bikini for your baby.
  2. Children’s sunscreen. This can be expensive to buy in other countries.
  3. Two good sun hats, because it’s so easy to misplace one.
  4. A sarong can be used as beach blanket, towel, cover up and is much more lightweight than anything else.
  5. Nesting cups are great for pouring sand and water and making sand castles.
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Filed under: Packing, Travel With Family

About the Author:

After traveling on her own for three or four years, Chaya met up with Wade Shepard, the editor of VagabondJourney.com. They were married in 2009, and continue to travel the world together with their young daughter. From time to time Chaya blogs about family travel and life on the road. has written 102 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Chaya Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, China