Packing List: Essentials for Travel with Kids

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Here’s a guide to what I typically pack for travel with my two kids:

Clothing
  • For a short trip, one change of clothing for each person per day + 2 extra shirts each. On a long trip, I would bring 5 outfits + 2 shirts & plan to do laundry on the road. Patterned clothes and dark colors wear longer than whites. Plan to dress in layers when possible rather than bringing bulky sweaters.
  • 3 pair of PJs per child (somehow sleepwear always seems to take a beating when we travel)
  • Something for me to sleep in & a separate pair of sweatpants (I cannot tell you how many times I end up needing something delivered or slipping out with the kids early in the morning & not wanting to get fully dressed)
  • A jacket for each person
  • One pair of shoes per person & one pair of socks per day of the trip (max 5 pair). If you plan to do a lot of walking, bring an extra pair of shoes.
Cosmetics
  • My cosmetics, toothpaste, glasses, extra contacts (and prescription)
  • A separate “cosmetics” bag for the kids with emergency items like infant Tylenol, nose drops, ipecac, powdered Pedialyte (or Electrolyte Strips), sunscreen, etc. I keep this packed so that I don’t forget anything. Double check expiration dates before you go, and write your child's dose on the bottle with a sharpie. You don’t ever want to be trying to find an open drugstore in a strange city in the middle of the night.
Baby Essentials
  • 5 diapers per child per day. For trips longer than 5 days, I bring 2-3 days worth of diapers and plan to buy more at my destination or have Amazon ship diapers ahead to your destination.
  • One full package of wipes. If your child requires a particular brand, you may want to bring enough for your entire trip.
  • A sling if you use one and a lightweight, compact umbrella stroller
  • Getting around on public transportation is really difficult with a big bulky stroller. If you have an expensive stroller, consider bringing a cheaper one. Most airlines do not pay for damage to checked or gate checked strollers. If you are comfortable with a sling, you might also try a supportive sling, like the Ergo Baby Carrier
  • Bottles and/or Sippies plus microwave sterilizing bags. If your child does not drink well from a cup, at least two bottles or sippies (one to be dirty and one to be clean). Sippy cups are not widely available in Europe (and bottle brands may be different than what your child is used to) so bring what you think you'll need.
  • A couple packages of favorite snack foods (especially if we’re traveling to Europe where transportable toddler snacks aren’t as available) plus a little baby food to get me started (I’ll buy more on arrival). If you have special needs (e.g. lactose free or dairy free formula) consider bringing enough for your entire trip (Soy formula can be difficult to find in Europe). Note that if you are traveling outside of your home country, you probably will not be able to bring fresh fruit, vegetables or meat products with you through customs, but most countries do allow packaged products in their original packaging.
  • Plastic Diaper Disposal Sacks (there is no Diaper Genie in the hotel room, so you’ll want to contain the smell!)

  • Utility
  • Powdered oxy and laundry detergent in separate ziplocks in case we dirty more clothing than I planned. Oxy and fragrance free laundry detergent can be difficult to find in Europe.
  • A few ziplock bags of various sizes. They always come in handy at some point.

  • Comforts
  • A few toys for the hotel room. You probably won't spend a lot of waking time in the hotel, and you'll have some toys in your airplane carryon, so you don't need much. Here is a list of our Favorite Travel Toys
  • Three to Five paperback children’s books (we read 3 books as part of our bedtime ritual. Bringing 5 allows for some choice & variation. We almost always end up buying a few new children's books when we travel, so it's good to start out light on books.
  • A lovey, plus a spare (or two) if possible. Each of my children has a blanket that they love. I bring 3 for each of them (1 to be clean, 1 to be in use, and 1 to be dirty) The blankets tend to get more use when we’re travelling as the kids need a little extra security.
  • An iPod and speakers or music on my laptop
Related Links:
Gear and Travel Toys for Traveling With Kids

Comments

  1. Melanie

    April 2, 2008 at 8:56 a.m.

    I've been searching for lists like these! Thank you!

  2. EllenRebekah

    April 26, 2008 at 9:28 p.m.

    My daughter was born in Norway and we traveled internationally back to Maryland when she was 3 mo old. At that age it wasn't hard. I hope to go back to visit this summer and I imagine it will be a lot different traveling with a 2.5 yr old. I have an Ergo and plan to take that and no stroller, especially since we have a wonderful but large Quinny Speedie SX. I am really interested in something like the Baby Sherpa for a travel bag but I'm not sure how that would work out with the Ergo. One on front, one back?? Both have the large straps and sternum/high back strap.

  3. Debbie

    April 26, 2008 at 9:55 p.m.

    When D was one I traveled with the Ergo on the front and the Baby Sherpa on the back and although I felt a little like a sandwich it worked fine. At 2.5 years, your daughter would be quite a bit heavier... are you still able to carry her comfortably on the front?

  4. Christy

    May 10, 2008 at 8:29 p.m.

    Hi, I have the same concern about whether or not to bother with a stroller in Europe. We are going to be in Italy (Venice and Siena) for the majority of our trip but will also be taking a cruise with ports of call in Croatia, Turkey, and Greek Isles. My duaghter is 2.5 years and 30 pounds. Should I get an Ergo (I've never tried one but think a neighbor has one that I can try) or a framed backpack carrier? I've traveled a lot in the US with her umbrella stroller but don't know if it's worth it with exploring old cities and ruins. Thanks you, I love your website!

  5. Debbie

    May 12, 2008 at 1:12 p.m.

    Christy,

    First of all, have a wonderful trip. Your itinerary sounds fantastic.

    This is a tough question. Venice is one of the least stroller friendly cities I can imagine (lots of stairs and bridges) and you would definitely want an alternative carrier there. I don't have first hand experience with the other cities you are visiting. The best way to get an idea of how stroller friendly they are is to check the "wheelchair accessibility" section of a guidebook. If you do bring a stroller, make sure it's sturdy and will hold up to the abuse of cobblestone streets (or Maclaren has been a real workhorse!)

    We love our Ergo, but with a 2.5 year old you might be reaching its limit for comfortable long distance walking. Take a walk around the block with your friend's Ergo and see how you feel.

    Frame backpacks are great at supporting heavier children comfortably, but they are also bulkier and can't be stowed in a backpack when not in use (though they often include a backpack where you can keep your other items for the day). One advantage to this type of carrier is that you can remove the backpack without taking the child out. This lets you put on a jacket or sit down in a restaurant, without disturbing a sleeping child. This type of backpack can also double nicely as a high-chair.

    We are happy with our REI Piggyback carrier and often use it for hiking. It has an optional sun/rain cover:
    http://www.rei.com/product/705789?vca...

    Kelty Kids makes a backpack / stroller combo that could be very useful. I don't have personal experience with it, but it does have good reviews on amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UT...

    Here is a link to all the child carrier backpacks Amazon sells
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UT...

    Whatever carrier you buy, make sure your child can sleep comfortably in it. Naptime is your time to see quiet museums, enjoy a nicer restaurant, or just relax.

    REI stores are a great place to try different carriers in person and they're generally happy to let you wander the store with your child in the carrier so that you can decide which one is most comfortable.

    Good luck!
    Debbie

  6. Michelle

    May 27, 2008 at 10:24 p.m.

    Hello! This is a great site with so many helpful information. We plan on taking our baby to Seattle in a couple of months and want to leave the carseat at home. How do you suggest we get from the airport to our hotel upon our arrival (and vice versa when departing)? I appreciate any tips!

    Regards,
    Michelle

  7. Debbie

    May 28, 2008 at 10:45 p.m.

    Until the light rail link to downtown is completed next year, the easiest thing to do is to use a car service that provides a child safety seat. In general, the car service is no more expensive than a taxi (and sometimes less since they charge a flat rate that does not increase if you hit traffic)

    We've used Airman Transporation in the past. Their phone number is 206-762-3511. You will need to book in advance and request the car seat at the time of booking. I always call the day before to reconfirm both the car and the carseat.

    Good luck! I hope you have a wonderful trip.

  8. Kimberly

    August 11, 2008 at 8:43 p.m.

    Do I need a carseat in Paris if I have a carservice take us to and from the airport? I plan on taking at least one bus tour. I can't seem to find any regulations on the laws in France. Thanks!

  9. Debbie

    August 11, 2008 at 9:02 p.m.

    I haven't been able to find an English version of the French car seat laws that is detailed enough to tell me whether there is an exemption for rental cars. There may be, but whatever the law is, it is no safer to put our child in a car without a car seat in Paris than it is in the US. The ride from the airport into town is fairly long and much of it is on the highway, and I would not recommend doing it without a car seat.

    Here are a couple of other suggestions
    1) use the train
    2) use the car service recommended in our paris tips - they'll provide a seat. Make sure that you tell them the age and size of your child so that they can provide the right type of seat.
    http://www.deliciousbaby.com/travel/f...
    3) if your child is old enough, you could bring a "ride safer travel vest" for car rides
    4) you can use a sit'n'stroll (and then you would have a carseat for taxis too

    busses are a different story because many do not have a seatbelt (and therefore you cannot install a safety seat. You would have to check with the tour company for details though...

    I hope this helps,
    Debbie

  10. Michelle

    August 22, 2008 at 10:01 a.m.

    You could try Babelfish (http://babelfish.yahoo.com/) to translate the French information into English. The translation can be spotty for very technical language, but I've found it better than relying on my high-school french :)

  11. Laurel

    May 13, 2009 at 4:18 p.m.

    Love this post! I especially love your recommendations for the ERGO baby carrier, which I always bring, along with a Kangaroo Korner Adjustable pouch for getting cuddly and hanging at the airport.

  12. lucinda

    May 19, 2009 at 7:29 p.m.

    thanx so much i am going to state sports and i am panicked about what to bring

  13. Punta Cana Mom

    June 8, 2009 at 12:40 p.m.

    Here is some official govt information on car seats (siege auto) in France:
    See page 2
    http://www2.securiteroutiere.gouv.fr/...

    Here is another summary (similar) that could be run through an auto-translater:
    http://www.beauty-frenchtouch.com/mam...

  14. Aida R

    June 13, 2009 at 10:28 p.m.

    Hi Debie,

    Great site! Thank you! I have a couple of questions for you if you don't mind.

    We are going to Europe for 2 weeks with our 4.5 years old and we cannot decide if we should take a large roller bag, or two carry-ons (we tend to travel as light as possible, do laundry, etc., and will have a laptop backpack).

    We are also debating to take an umbrella stroller or not. We hardly use a stroller anymore, but given how much we may walk there, it may not be a bad idea...

    Any insights? Thank you!!

  15. Kevin

    January 1, 2010 at 4:57 p.m.

    THANK YOU!

  16. Camille Ryckman

    February 19, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.

    My husband and I used the backback stroller combo for many, many trips with our little one. She was high enough to see everything and when she fell asleep she had great support. The best part is there was a very large pocket that allowed her baby supplies (couple diapers, wipes and sippy cup and snack) to be thrown in, no extra baby bag! The ease of being able to stroll it was great when there was wide open plazas and it did indeed convert to be used as a "high chair" while we were at cafes.

  17. Corinne

    February 24, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.

    Love your site!! Super helpful!! Thanks so much!! Just one key thing missing from packing list - bathing suits! :)

  18. Debbie

    February 24, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.

    Corinne,

    You're right! We almost never bring swimsuits, but for many people they are indispensable.

  19. Tatiane Renwick

    March 11, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

    Hi!

    We are off to America next month and we have a 2 and half old and we were wondering if we need to take our car seat. Does anyone know the laws over there.

  20. Tamitha Boltz

    June 8, 2010 at 1:46 p.m.

    Hello,
    This site was exactly what I have been looking for think I have now read every single word in it! I just wanted to double check with you about the baby backpack carrier, My guy and I are taking our son from Minneapolis to my guys Home for 2 weeks, we fly an overnight flight from msp to London, Heathrow, will stay in london a couple days then find a train to paris for couple days, then back to london and off to drive for Wales, I am trying to be a minimalist? I dont want to take anything I don't have to, Our last trip there I was prego and miserable from carrying heavy luggage. as with my first alone trip with my son on a train from Mn into Wi, he was a doll but all the luggage sucked badly! If I opt out for taking a umbrella stroller, or a car seat hoping mother n law will provide still once arrival. Is the simple back back carrier we use for hikes or State Fairs suitable for the airports and trains and site seeing? it's very basic, no pockets nothing just stands alone with him in it for lunches or breaks. This is turning into a book can you see I am very stressed. Not so much on how he will act as he was perfect on the 4 hour train ride, even napped all on his own. so with some of your ideas I am sure he will behave. Please any and all help would be graetly appreciated...should I give him a piece of gum as we get ready to take off? he only chews for a minute before wanting to swallow guess it's to be expected with a 2 year old. we are flying with Iceland air. Thanks so Much Tami

  21. Debbie

    June 8, 2010 at 7:16 p.m.

    Tamitha,

    Good luck on your flight! I think that if you are comfortable carrying your son in the backpack, that would be a great choice - especially if it is compact enough to fit in the overhead bin so that you do not have to check it.

    During takeoff you could give him gum, or something to drink out of a sippy cup (or with a straw).

    Good luck!

  22. Mansi

    October 4, 2010 at 2:46 p.m.

    Im just taking a small family trip to Chicago... and have a 4 year old. We have a small umbrella stroller that really came in handy with travelling especially with long wait times at airports, but she is getting older and I was wondering if it'd still be good to have. She has her own little carry on that I know shes excited to use.

  23. Debbie

    October 4, 2010 at 7:56 p.m.

    @Mansi For a 4 year old, you could go either way - it's a pain to bring along the stroller, but Chicago is a big airport! Think about how much walking she does at home, and whether you'd have a good way to carry her (and her carry on) if she gets tired.

  24. Caroline

    August 7, 2011 at 7:23 p.m.

    Thanks! Great site... most complete site out there at the moment. I've seen a lot of posts about travelling to Europe... my daughter is 11 months old and we will be travelling in Italy for 3 weeks. Wondering if there are any suggestions or concerns re: homogenized milk there? Or have most people just taken formula? Also, were diapers, wipes, food, etc.. easy to come by for babies or is it wise for me to bring all that stuff with me?

  25. Debbie

    August 7, 2011 at 8:40 p.m.

    Caroline,

    In some countries you'll find more ultrapasturized (shelf stable) milk than fresh milk, but I've never heard of a question about quality or safety. With respect to diapers, wipes, etc. If it is very important to you to have a specific brand (for example your child has an allergy) than you should bring that with you, but otherwise the products you need for baby should be easy to find in a pharmacy or department store.

    Have a great trip!

  26. Pegah Grossi

    August 18, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.

    Hi Debbie -

    God bless you and all your great advise....i've never been so interested in hearing everything you have to say all through out. I've already ordered a gogokids, the baby sherpa, the carseat you recommened, the pipe cleaners.... and so much more!!

    We are traveling to Paris, south of France and Barcelona in two weeks with our 14 month old little girl. Worried about the jet lag and how she will be with her cousins that will not be jet lagged as they live there, hopefully it will help her...
    Anyway, my question here is really about take off. My little girl will not take a bottle to help her ears for take off/landing. I was thinking of finding a lolipop of sort to have her suck on. Do you think that is a good idea or something better. She driks from a straw but not sure that will give her enough sucking time to help her ears....

    Thanks so much!
    Pegah

  27. Debbie

    August 19, 2011 at 7:48 a.m.

    Pegah,

    I'm so glad that the site was helpful! You can try having her drink from a straw and then if that's not working break out the lollypop or anything that she might be willing to chew on.

    Good luck!

  28. Audrey

    August 23, 2011 at 12:04 p.m.

    Thank you for these practical lists. We recently traveled 7 weeks in South Korea with our 1 year old, and were able to pack Mom, Dad, and Baby in one suitcase. We are getting ready for a month long visit to the Midwest, and I am revisiting these lists to get my bearings. SO HELPFUL!

  29. Miriam

    October 1, 2011 at 5:53 a.m.

    This is really helpful. thanks. Does anyone know if amazon will ship diapers and maybe even formula to spain? We are going there in two weeks and it would help not to have to lug these heavier items around. Last time we were in europe they didn't have the exact same Nestle good start and we'd like to have what our daughter is used to while on the road. thanks a bunch

  30. Debbie

    October 1, 2011 at 6:34 a.m.

    Miriam,

    Here's a link to Amazon's information about international shipping:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/custome...

  31. komeh

    October 5, 2011 at 7:51 p.m.

    Hi Debbie,
    I need your help, inputs, suggestions and recommendations. I will be traveling to West Africa end of November until early january with my son(he'll be 22months then). We'll be driving to NY(5hrs), taking a flight NY to Morocco (6hrs) staying in a hotel in morocco for (15hrs) then Morocco to Sierra Leone (6hrs). A total of 31hrs of traveling.

    These are some of my questions/concerns: Should I buy LO his own seat? How would I drag around the carseat?-Because my son won't stay put in just the airplane seat alone. Are their any good carriers for toddlers that age (he's a peanut for his age).

    Any other tips/suggestions/product recommendations are greatly appreciated.
    Thanks a lot!

  32. Debbie

    October 5, 2011 at 8:44 p.m.

    Komeh,

    Great questions. The safest choice is to always buy a seat for your child. However, in practice, if your child won't sit in his own seat, you're not getting that safety benefit. I think whether to purchase the separate seat or not is a personal decision based on your assessment of the risk and cost.

    Even if you don't buy a seat, it's worthwhile to buy the CARES harness (sometimes you can arrange to sit next to an empty seat) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001... That's the best (and lightest weight) way to strap your child in to an airplane seat without having to lug a carseat. I have used CARES for all three of my kids!

    WRT carriers - I like the ERGO and used it for both Darya and Eilan until they were just over 2. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001...

    Good luck!
    Debbie

  33. Holley

    July 11, 2012 at 8:29 p.m.

    We are leaving for Switzerland and France next week. We have 2 kids, 4 & 7 and we are bringing 1 single jogging stroller so the kids can sit tandem if the 7 year old needs to ride. Curious about laundry. We will be there 3 weeks and I have no idea about laundramat accessibility in Montreaux, Switzerland and Paris, France. Any thoughts...appreciated!!!

  34. Erin White

    June 2, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.

    Hi Debbie,
    I'm getting ready to go to Italy for five weeks while my husband does a fellowship there. We're taking our two-year old and our four-week old, and I'd like to pack as lightly as possible. I checked out your "Travel Gear" section and am thinking of going with one large roller bag and an Eagle Creek duffel, as you suggest. What size roller bag did you use for that trip? Was is as large as a 28"?

    Thanks!

  35. Debbie

    June 3, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.

    Holley,
    Many hotels have a laundry room that is available for guest use, but if not they will be able to recommend something nearby. You might want to plan to wash out small things (socks and underwear) or quick drying items in the sink.

    Erin,
    On shorter trips I use my carryon bag with the duffel. On longer trips I use a 27" expandable bag - I find that if my bag is bigger, I tend to go over the weight limit.

  36. Ellie

    July 30, 2014 at 8:07 p.m.

    Great list!
    I am also a big fan of the ergo baby carrier and find that much easier to take my kids around than strollers. We also love taking our travel crib with us so we don't have to worry about our baby having a safe place to sleep. We are not fans of co sleeping though.

  37. Tara E

    November 20, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.

    Travelling for 3 wks with our 4.5 yr old & 1yr old. Trying to decide if we want to go with carry ons & diaper bag or pay for 1 or 2 larger checked bags. We're bringing a umbrella stroller, playpen, 2 car seats. I'll bring my ergo as well. Trying to figure out how to make this as easy as possible.

  38. Debbie Oreizy

    November 23, 2014 at 6:44 p.m.

    Tara, you'll want to minimize the number of things you are carrying as much as possible, but make note of the fact that car seats sometimes get damaged in transit, so you might want to carry those on.

    Good luck!

  39. Alexa

    February 8, 2015 at 3:14 p.m.

    I really need this I searched but couldn't find one like this but I still don't know what to pack for my 12 year old daughter who is going away for the weekend for a basketball tordement.

  40. Kaitlin

    April 21, 2015 at 8:34 a.m.

    Good morning Debbie,
    I love the article it has some very good information. I am traveling with my 3 year old son to Scotland in August, but he is a big boy, he's already 40 inches tall and about 37 lbs. With the CARES harness he will be too tall come August to use that according to their safety height guidelines. Is there another alternative or would we be safe using the CARES harness?? He's a very well behaved, well mannered boy so I am unsure if the CARES harness is even necessary but just curious about it. Thank you!

  41. Sid

    May 18, 2015 at 3:22 a.m.

    Hi,
    Loved your site ... I really need help with some traveling tips for America ... Traveling with boys of age 7and5
    Thank you

  42. Sara

    June 8, 2015 at 4:47 p.m.

    Traveling to Austria and need tips!

  43. David

    August 5, 2015 at 9:52 a.m.

    Thank you for these practical lists. We recently traveled 7 weeks in South Korea with our 1 year old, and were able to pack Mom, Dad, and Baby in one suitcase.

  44. Flat Iron

    October 12, 2015 at 10:13 a.m.

    hi
    This site was exactly what I have been looking for think I have now read every single word in it!

  45. Lauren Wallace

    November 18, 2015 at 5:22 a.m.

    Hey, nice tips! I'm a professional mover and packing peoples' items and moving their homes has never been a problem, but packing my own stuff, or my family's is a great issue. That's why I'm searching for such lists of tips to solve this problem. Your tips are great and seem to work perfectly for me, thank you for sharing. Greets, Lauren from http://removalcompanieshampstead.co.uk/ :)

  46. john

    November 26, 2015 at 4:14 a.m.

    It's a nice guide.There are many cribs on the market but the top rated cribs are mentioned here http://thebestbabycribs.com/

  47. mike

    November 29, 2015 at 8:16 p.m.

    Great post.It will help me to care my baby during traveling.