In general, we tend to travel pretty light, whether we're driving or flying. I don't like to have a whole lot of stuff to carry around or to take up valuable space. Plus, as you know, when you come home from traveling you almost always seem to have more than you did when you left home.
Babies are harder to pack light for, but if you're traveling with preschoolers and young kids, you don't have to pack up the whole house. We like to bring things that are small, thin, or easy to fold into a suitcase or duffle bag while traveling.
Clothing & toiletries
When it comes to packing clothes, take into consideration whether or not you can do laundry while you're away. If so, you can pack less. Instead of a whole new outfit for each day, for a typical week away without laundry facilities, I generally pack three bottoms, five tops, a sweatshirt or jacket, a pair of sneakers and a pair of sandals or flip-flops if its warm, seven pairs of underwear, and three pairs of pajamas.
When packing toiletries for the kids, we typically bring toothbrushes, travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, and soap. Even soap and shampoo aren't necessary if you don't mind using hotel supplied products.
In addition to clothes and toiletries, you will need things for the kids to do while traveling and after you get to your destination since there will likely be some downtime.
Drinks and Snacks
The most important thing we bring when traveling with the kids is plenty of things to eat and drink. We like to pack healthy sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, and a few goodies in reusable snack bags, like these bags from PlanetWise and MonkeyFoot Designs.
Snack pouches are great whether you buy them pre-filled from the store or buy reusable food pouches and fill them yourself. Our son loves applesauce so we typically fill reusable pouches with either store bought or homemade applesauce. Reusable pouches are also great for older infants and toddlers if you make your own homemade baby food.
We bring water and juice in insulated sippy cups, even though our son is getting older, to keep drinks colder longer and to keep spills contained. These cups from Tommee Tippee have been a favorite in our family for years. They have many different spout options to suit any child's preferences; we like the straw cups and the spout cups at this stage.
Things to do
Keep the Are We There Yets down to a dull roar with plenty of things to keep the kids occupied while traveling. We often bring along a magnetic doodle board to use in the car or on the plane. Some brands have travel sized versions. The kids can draw or practice their ABCs and 123s while in the back seat of the car or in a hotel room.
Plenty of books are essential for both younger and older kids (and adults, too). We like to have them for reading while traveling, but also for when we get to our destination. It's not bedtime in our family without a bedtime story or two. If you have a Kindle or iPad, then you can pack books into an even smaller space.
I am not opposed to bringing electronics along while traveling and in some cases, it has been our saving grace. We love the LeapPad Platinum for keeping Dub occupied and entertained. If you haven't tried the LeapPad Platinum yet, you can read my review for all of the great features it includes.
Along with the LeapPad (or iPad, music player, etc), we like to bring along kids headphones so that we aren't all subjected to the music and sound effects that come along with electronics.
Coloring books and crayons are always a favorite portable activity for my kids. We especially like to have them while traveling because not only can they keep the kids occupied in the car or plane, they are also great for keeping meltdowns at bay when you have tired, travel-weary kids in a restaurant.
Out and about
Traveling isn't all about being in the car or airplane though having the kids in a confined space seems to make those two places a bigger area of potential trouble. Eventually, you will get to your destination and will likely do some sightseeing or shopping. If your kids are preschool age or younger, you will need to have something for when you're out and about.
Strollers are nice to have, but a great quality baby carrier is worth its weight in gold. They are compact, easy to pack, lightweight to carry, and easy to use. I couldn't have survived without one. Seriously. Also, don't discount a carrier for preschoolers; we wore Dub up until he was four-and-a-half. Preschoolers get tired while walking too, and many high-quality carriers go up to at least 45 pounds.
Be sure to choose a good quality, soft structured carrier that will give you and your child proper support. Your back and shoulders will thank you. Some favorite carriers to look into are the Boba 4G, Tula Standard or Tula Toddler carrier, and Lillebaby. The Ergo is okay as well, but it isn't my personal preference, especially for toddlers and beyond.
For us, this is really all we need when traveling light with the kids. What are some of your traveling essentials?