We have been fortunate enough to take a few family vacations since Marley was born, and have always had so much fun. We have taken a few very fun and successful beach vacations to Florida and South Carolina, and even cloth diapered for two weeks while away from home. I think the key to having a low-stress vacation of any kind is to plan ahead, and when traveling with a toddler, that is even more important. The beauty of traveling locally, or within Canada and the US, is that you have the convenience of Target, Walmart etc for the comforts of home, or any forgotten item. Since this will be our first time taking Marley to a country outside of that, I am trying to pack for any conceivable circumstance, and not rely on having to buy things in Mexico. Have you ever had to buy bug spray or beach toys while in the Caribbean? That dollar store sand bucket and toys turns into a minimum $20 purchase. Ouch.
So I have been putting together a comprehensive list of what we may need to pack, and will use or discretion once it comes down to the final cut. My first and biggest tip is to start planning, and make a list at least a week before departure. I generally pull out the suitcases, place them in a out of the way area (spare room, dining room etc), and have a small pile for each family member as we start to gather things. Nothing gets actually packed until I am able to check things against a list and make final decisions on what is being packed.
Here are some lists that I have come up with, broken down by category.
- Valid passports (make sure they are valid for at least 6 months from departure)
- photo ID, birth certificates
- Cash, local currency and US (make sure to get smaller bills for tipping.)
- Pens (for filling out paperwork at the airport etc)
- Printed out travel plan confirmations
- Allergy/Medical ID bracelets
- Prescribed medications and a paper copy of the prescription, just in case.
First Aid, Personal Care and Miscellaneous
- Sunscreen (waterproof, kids, face etc)
- After sun care (aloe, lotion etc)
- Tylenol/Advil (kids and adult)
- Bug spray
- After bite
- Benedryl (kids and adult)
- Gas Relief (Pepto, Imodium, Laxative etc)
- Daily vitamins
- Saline nose spray
- Ear drops
- Band-aids (regular and blister ones)
- travel size laundry detergent
- travel size dish soap
- fabric softener sheets (freshen suitcases or drawers)
- Baby wipes
- Insulated drink cups (kids and adult)
- Hair care (shampoo, conditioner, brush, styling aid, elastics, bobby pins. Don’t forget kids stuff as well!)
- Razor, shaving cream
- Tooth brush and toothpaste (kids and adult)
- Eye care (contacts, glasses etc)
- Body and face wash and lotions
- hand sanitizer
- Wet bag or assorted zip loc bags (great for sandy/wet beach stuff or accidents)
- air freshener (musty rooms happen)
- Kleenex (travel size)
- Deck of cards
- Beach towels
- reading books
- Sunglasses and case
- iPad, iPod and accessories (waterproof case, headphones, charger)
- Camera and accessories (memory card, batteries, charger, carrying case, waterproof case)
- Food/Snack necessities. (I always bring tea because I am particular, peanut butter for fail proof snack, condiments, puffs, mum-mums etc)
- Lightweight travel stroller. (I am in love with my Bugaboo Bee, read about our travels with it here.)
- Stroller accessories (cup holder, extra shade, car seat adapter, parent organizer etc)
- Small toys, books etc
- Blanket, lovey etc
- Beach toys
- Soothers, plus extra
- Sippy cups, bottles
- diapers, wipes, travel change pad
- Travel high chair/booster
- Travel bassinet or other sleeper
- 2-3 pairs of shorts/skirts
- 1 sweater for evening, cold days
- 2-3 bathing suits
- 1 pair casual pants
- 3-4 t-shirts, tank tops
- 1-2 pairs of socks
- 2-3 mid-casual tops (button up, for evenings etc)
- 1-2 dresses
- closed toe walking shoes (runners)
- dress shoes (most all-inclusive resorts require men to be in closed toe shoes and pants)
- Sleeping clothes
- Beach bag/Purse
Of course, you use your discretion with what you take from these lists, but I feel that it’s a good guideline to start from. Some other tips:
- For all of the first aid stuff, I usually make a small kit and put it all together in a large zip loc bag, with everything labeled.
- With most personal care items, lotion/wash/haircare etc, you can get travel sizes to ensure they don’t take up all the room.
- If you are driving yourself to the airport, I always take a picture of the name/area of or parking spot, so we remember where we were. Also remember, that if you receive a payment ticket or pickup info from the parking lot, to keep it with the rest of your travel documents. Coming home in a blizzard and realizing you can’t call the valet to pick you up or cant remember what level/section you parked in, SUCKS. I speak from experience.
- One of the best packing tips I have ever heard is to plan out kids outfits, complete with hair accessories and undergarments, and have them in individual zip loc bags. Easy, peasy, right?
- Remember that when you are on a beach vacation, you spend 90% of your time on the beach or by a pool, so you really don’t need a ton of clothes and shoes, a mistake I make almost every time.
- Bringing along a deck of cards is great to pass some time once the kids are asleep and a good way to meet other people.
Once I have gotten our final items together, Jason usually takes over the actual packing. You see, he loves this part, and his limited days in the army taught him the always successful rolling technique of packing. Nothing is folded, everything is rolled up and placed in the suitcase that way. We manage to pack the three of us into one large and one medium suitcase, almost all the time. I always plan and lay out our traveling day outfits, so they are ready to go and there is no digging/rushing around trying to figure out what to wear on the day of departure. You will thank me if you have a especially early departure.
There is one more very important thing to think about: carry-on bags and what to pack in that. Firstly, make sure you have checked your airlines guidelines on carry-on size, and that you are within that range. I have a Lug Puddle Jumper Wheelie and LOVE it. Most airlines allow a woman to carry on a purse as well as a carry on, and a diaper bag is not considered a carry on item. Here is what I always have packed in my carry on:
- All of the ‘Most Important Items‘ from the list above. Make sure passports and travel documents are easily accessible. I have a Lug Tango Travel Wallet that is awesome and keeps everything handy.
- iPhone, iPad, iPod and headphones/chargers.
- Camera and accessories
- Sunglasses and case
- Baby wipes
- Change of clothes, including bathing suit, for both Marley and I. (If your luggage gets lost, you want to be prepared.)
- Items for Marley: Blankie, few small toys, book, snacks etc Anything needed to keep her entertained on the plane.
- Any other valuables that you would not want lost, should your luggage disappear
I am sure I have missed things, as every person and family is different, but this is the basic list we usually go by. Trust your instinct, plan things out as best you can and give yourself time to pack properly and accordingly. Most of all, once this is all done, know you now have a vacation ahead of you and regardless of the situation, you will be just fine. Have fun, soak up some sun and enjoy your family.
Do you have any tried, tested and true travel/packing tips? Share them in the comments section!