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Family Travel Packing Dilemmas Solved

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Before I had children, packing was easy. Fun, even. I stuffed strapless sundresses, a couple of bikinis, high-heel sandals, some frilly underwear, and a pile of magazines into a bag and off I’d go. Now that I'm a mom, however, packing has taken on a whole new and scary dimension. There’s so much to remember, lug, and keep track of! (And the items packed aren't nearly as sexy.) Below are four family travel packing dilemmas and sanity saving packing tips to solve them.

4 Packing Dilemmas Solved

4 Family Travel Packing Dilemmas Solved (Photo purchased from

How do I keep from forgetting something?

As a newbie Travel Mama I was always worried I would forget something important, like diapers, formula, the favorite stuffed bunny…or the baby. So, I began writing out a long list before each trip detailing what to pack for each family member. This was time-consuming and straining on my brain as I struggled to remember every single thing to bring.

Print a packing list!

It finally occurred to me to create a packing list, with columns for every family member. Over time, I have perfected my packing lists. They are broken down into several different categories, such as Toiletries/Bath, Entertainment, and Clothing/Accessories. Before you start fretting over how to create some big ol’ list from scratch…use mine! I've created all sorts of packing lists to make travel easier for you. Go ahead and print one before each trip. That’s what I do!

Sanity saving solution: keep a separate stash of medicines just for travel!

Sanity saving solution: keep a separate stash of medicines just for travel! (Photo purchased from

What should I pack in case of illness?

I used to raid the medicine cabinet before each trip, grabbing whatever ointments, syrups and pills I thought anyone in the family might need while away from home. I may sound like a hypochondriac, but who wants to run out in the middle of the night in a strange town seeking teething tablets or decongestants? Once back home, I returned the medicines to their rightful place in the medicine cabinet. Then, on the next trip, I started the process all over again.

Keep a stash of travel medicines!

It was a pain to raid and replenish the medicine cabinet before and after each trip. Now, I keep a separate zipper-lock plastic bag full of medical necessities for travel. Before each vacation I take a look at the “Medicines” category on my handy-dandy packing list and replace anything that is missing or running low.

Pre-packed travel activity kit from Allpakt

Pre-packed travel activity kit from Allpakt (Photo credit: Allpakt)

How do I find the best travel toys?

When I first started traveling with children I read chat boards, visited toy stores and websites, and asked fellow parents for advice in my quest to find the best travel toys to purchase for each trip. When we returned home, I unpacked those long-sought-after toys and threw them into the toy box. Then, before the next trip, I started the research process over again and ran around the house trying to piece together toy sets.

Hide travel toys between trips!

Now that I am an experienced Travel Mama, I have learned to hide the travel toys. Kids bore of their toys quickly. Ever notice how a new toy gets tossed aside after about a week but the toys over at a friend’s house seem downright enchanting to a child? Those toys aren’t shiny and new. They’re just unfamiliar. Find the best travel toys by age group now!

Make room in your suitcase by shipping ahead! ~ Four Packing Sanity Savers

Make room in your suitcase by shipping ahead! (Photo purchased from

How do I make room for all this STUFF?

With many airlines now charging for checked bags, it can be an expensive endeavor to tote along all of the paraphernalia young travelers require. Plus, it's stressful trying to cram all your child’s diapers, wipes, baby food, and sand toys into your luggage, all while trying to keep your bag’s weight under the 50 pound limit. Depending on where you’re headed, you might be able to load up on some of these items after arrival, but who wants to take time out of your precious, hard-earned vacation to shop for baby necessities?

Rent baby and toddler travel gear!

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was ready and waiting for you upon your arrival instead? Rent baby and toddler gear to save space and sanity when traveling with young children.

Preparing for a trip with children may require a little more work, but these four solutions to packing dilemmas parents can spend more time planning vacation activities and less time stuffing suitcases.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Heather Greenwood Davis says

    Totally agree. I love packing lists for family travel. There’s nothing worse than getting somewhere and realizing you forgot that favourite blanket at home or worse…at the hotel! Yours are great.

  2. I HATE PACKING! It is the worst part of family travel because I do obsess over all the details. Having a standard packing list does help a lot. I also have to remind myself that we can usually buy anything we’ve forgotten once we get there.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      I hate packing too – which is why I developed our packing lists to make the process as easy as possible. Still, it’s my least favorite part about traveling!

  3. Great tips! For a family of four, one being a newborn that enjoys travel and hopes to do more in the future, these tips will really come in handy.

  4. Amie O'Shaughnessy says

    Always dishing out great tips! Packing can enhance or detract from a trip!

  5. Keryn @ Walking On Travels says

    I have the same problem as Tamara. I don’t check my med kit often enough to make sure nothing has expired. I tend to forget to put more bandaids in too because I always think I did it last time. Great packing tips!

  6. Great tips! We also keep our traveling medical kit ready to go, we just need to remember to check it once in a while for expiration dates.

  7. Amy Whitley says

    We always carry on only, and people wonder how, but it’s exactly like you say here…organization and pre-planning are key!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Amy – We try to use carry ons only as well, unless we’re going skiing or visiting multiple climates that require lots of STUFF. It’s easier to do now that we don’t have any babies/toddlers because those little guys require a lot of paraphernalia!

  8. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

    Great tips. The only thing I would add is that WestJet credit card holders get 1 checked bag per flight for free. It’s about a $120 a year in fees for the card, but it could end up paying for itself if you fly a lot. Oh and they also give an annual $99 companion ticket anywhere they fly….

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Great tip, Jody! A lot of credit cards offer a free checked bag to customers. Good thing to keep in mind!

  9. Honey Savage says

    Your website has been a total blessing! My husband is depoloyed and I am planning a trip for us when he gets home. This will be the first time we travel with our 18 month old and all your tips/lists/suggestions are wonderful! It will make the packing and traveling so much more enjoyable! Thank you so much!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Honey – Oh, I’m so glad to be of help! I hope you, your husband and baby will have a wonderful and well-deserved trip. Enjoy!

  10. Wondering if anyone knows where I can find small children’s medicine to pack? Acetaminophen or ibuprofen? Also having trouble finding kid toiletries in travel sizes… Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks! Your site has been very helpful!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Denise – It is my understanding that medicine does not need to follow the 3.4 ounce guidelines. Just be sure to keep it in its original packaging and you should be fine. I’ve never had a problem bringing liquid ibuprofin or other meds on board a plane. I’ve had a tough time finding kids’ sized toothpaste but finally did find some at Target. As far as shampoo/conditioner and other liquids for kids go, I suggest purchasing small refillable travel containers and filling them with your favorite brands. I hope that helps!

  11. Another awesome thing we had when I was growing up for long car rides was Adventures in Odessy – they have old school radio type stories that you can listen to in the car – used to keep me and my 3 siblings to and from Florida without too much fighting! Hope that helps some of you!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Jill – Great tip! I’ve not hear of Adventures in Odessy. I’ll have to look into this!

  12. The pop a tot from Jetset babies looks really neat!

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