Mom Life

Top Packing Tips for Vacations with Little Kids

Packing for vacation always gives me anxiety. I really like being extra prepared, but I also like to try to pack as minimally as I can, so it’s a hard balance. My family and I have traveled a lot the past couple of years, so I thought I’d share my top packing tips for vacation by walking you through what I am bringing on our trip to Hawaii.

Almost as a rule, we never check in bags, which is crazy when you’re a family of four. We just hate having to wait for checked luggage after an already long flight, so we try to fit everything we need into our carry-on luggage.

Tip #1: Pick the Right Travel Bags

Choosing the right travel bags to bring will get you off on the right foot. I like to bring one suitcase with wheels and one backpack. My husband brings one 33L backpack, the Aer Travel Pack 2.

I have a Delsey expandable luggage with spinner wheels. It is extra sturdy but also lightweight. Having four wheels is a must these days. It just makes maneuvering it while holding a toddler’s hand or carrying an infant super easy.

I am also bringing my Caraa Diaper Bag Backpack (see my full review here). It is lightweight and can easily slide onto my wheelie bag, as I like to call it. The diaper bag is great because it has a wide opening, which makes it great for grabbing things when we’re on the plane. I keep the diaper bag under the seat in front of me during the flight.

Caraa diaper bag and spinner luggage
All packed for me and the girls for a four-day trip to Hawaii

Tip #2: Use Packing Cubes and Roll Outfits Together

Packing cubes are an absolute must. Aside from keeping all similar items together, packing cubes really compress all of your stuff.

I have one cube each for:

  • All my clothes, including swimsuits
  • My toddler’s clothes
  • My infant’s clothes
  • My girls’ swim stuff (rash guards, swim diapers, hooded cover-ups)
  • All our toiletries
packing with packing cubes
Pack with packing cubes to make the most of your space

Packing cubes also make it easy for separating your kids’ clothes. Once you get to your hotel room or Airbnb, you can just unpack each packing cube into its own drawer or, if your trip is short, you can even just keep everything in the cubes and grab what you need when you need it.

To make things even easier, I try to roll up outfits together. I’ll put underwear, bottoms, and the top in a stack and then roll them up together. This makes it easy for my husband to grab an outfit for the girls or even for my toddler to grab an outfit for herself for the day.

Aside from the packing cubes mentioned, the only other thing I am bringing is our Slumberpod. We have yet to try this out, but I’m excited to see how it works out. It is essentially a little tent that a travel crib or play yard can fit into and it makes for a blacked out room for your baby to sleep in. Our youngest is accustomed to sleeping with blackout curtains, so I am hoping this will make her feel like she’s in her room at home.

Tip #3: Make use of every inch of space.

Fill in the little gaps between your packing cubes with small items. I like to put rolled-up diapers. A lot of people like to just buy diapers when they get to their destination, but I just don’t like dealing with the hassle of going to the store, finding the brand we like, etc.

diapers in luggage
Squeeze diapers into the little gaps between packing cubes

Tip #4: Choose versatile items.

For Hawaii, I am only bringing one pair of shoes–a pair of Birkenstock Madrid sandals that I can wear with my dresses but can also wear to the pool.

I am doing the same for my girls. They are both wearing Nike sandals that can be worn with all their outfits but will also dry quickly if they wear them to the pool or beach. This means on the plane we are already wearing the only shoes we are bringing, so it’s one less thing to have in our luggages.

kids outfits for plane
The girls’ outfits for the plane

Tip #5: Organize your in-flight entertainment

I get super anxious about keeping the kids entertained during flights so that they don’t get restless and start kicking the seats or whining, so I try to make sure I am really prepared and organized. Here is everything I packed into my diaper bag backpack, which I will keep under the seat in front of me. These are all of the essentials I need to have handy for entertaining the girls.

travel essentials for kids

What’s in My Carry-On Backpack

  • Diaper clutch (This is a JuJuBe Be Quick in the Kaiju City print). It has diapers, a thin changing pad, a small sample tube of diaper rash cream, and little Arm & Hammer poop bags. This clutch is all I need to take with me for quick diaper changes on the plane.
  • Sunglasses for the girls, mostly just for fun
  • Melissa & Doug Seek and Find sticker pages. The pad was pretty big, so I just tore out two of the pages and folded them into the back pocket of my backpack.
  • Two activity bags, one for each girl. In each bag I have little things like slime, Play-doh, and more stickers.
  • A new Polly Pocket toy for the toddler. I try to have something new for each kid. My husband got a little busy book for the one-year-old.
  • Two snack bags, one for each kid. I have some apple sauce pouches, Larabars, a Mickey Mouse lollipop, Annie’s Fruit Tape (organic version of Fruit by the Foot I guess), two little chocolates each, and a packet of Lucky Charms marshmallows.
  • Med kit that has liquid Benadryl and Tylenol along with some first-aid stuff
  • Spare set of clothes for each girl
  • Water bottles (I bring them empty then fill after getting through security)

My husband also has some things for entertaining the girls too, including their iPad Minis set up with pre-downloaded YouTube videos. We plan to swap kids at the halfway mark of each flight, so I’ll watch the toddler for the first half while he watches the baby, then we switch.

Please check out my What’s in My Diaper Bag post to see what I typically carry on a non-travel day.

Tip #6: Be strategic about bringing car seats

When we just had our eldest daughter traveling with us, things were a little simpler. Now that we have two though, we really have to be smart about what we decide to bring. Bringing one car seat is one thing, but bringing two would be crazy difficult! For this trip, we decided to just get my husband’s parents to drive us to the airport and we rented a car that already has car seats through Turo. This simplifies things a lot. If we didn’t have my in-laws, we could have also opted for an airport car service with carseats to pick us up. I still think that would make more sense than trying to check in two car seats.

I hope this post was useful! Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the items mentioned here!

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