Travel with Kids. What to Pack

Nov 23, 2016

I love travelling with my kids. Travelling with children can be an absolute blast, but the reality is that it's never going to be as easy or stress-free as if you were travelling without them. You have little humans to consider with everything you do, and being in foreign places will always mean you have a heightened sense of alert around you. Whilst I always return home exhausted and needing of another holiday to recover, the joy, learning, experiences and memories, make travelling with kids all worthwhile. 

Sitting with the local school children in Vanuatu at lunchtime.
Over the years, I've planned and packed many, many times for both short and long stays. We've done camping trips, (both on and off-grid), interstate holidays and overseas travel with our children from as young as 10 months old, so I've had the time to figure out which were the best things for us to pack for the kids, and what was not as necessary.

My son's first elephant safari in Bali at age 10 months. He slept through it. Can you spot him?

Other than the obvious things, like clothes, bathers, toiletries etc. here are my favourite items to pack, which should hopefully make travelling with children easier and more fun for everyone:

Travel with Kids. Top 10 things to Pack

  • Hotel Activity Pack

There are often times when travelling with kids that someone is going to need some down-time in your hotel. As hotel rooms aren't always the most interesting places for children to play, we always take this handy travel pack, kept in an A4 sized pencil case, full of open-ended creative materials that you can use for a range of different activities on the go. This has been pulled out and used in different ways on so many of our travels, even when I think we probably won't need it, so I'd always have it with me just in case. You can check out what we use all the materials for here.

  • Snap-Lock Bags
Seriously, I wouldn't travel without a stash of these plastic snap/zip-lock style bags. We use them when travelling all the time for things like separating outfits (if you're feeling super organised!), keeping wet or dirty items in (like bathers or socks etc.), storing and packing snacks for the day (often a banana or croissant from breakfast make their way in), keeping items like your phone etc. dry when by the pool/ocean, storing the sunscreen tube that just got a big split in it (yep, it happens) and so much more! I take both the sandwich size and the large bags with us.

  • Home Comforts (Favourite soft toy/night light/pillowcase)

We've slept in many different room configurations when travelling as a family. From two double beds in a single room, to separate rooms, to kids sleeping in a lounge room on a fold-out sofa bed and even once in a porta-cot in a bathroom. When it comes to getting (often over-tired and stimulated) kids to sleep in foreign places, having a few home comforts can make a big difference. Their favourite toy tends to go without saying. Other items that can be very small to pack but can really help, include a little night light and one of your child's pillowcases. Their pillowcase over a hotel pillow gives them somewhere familiar to lay their head, and can double at the end of your trip as a way to transport all your dirty clothes home.

  • Drink Bottle

It seems so obvious and yet I've often forgotten to pack one with us. Having your own drink bottle, in most circumstances, will help you save money instead of constantly buying drinks out for thirsty kids, and of course helps ensure everyone is kept well hydrated while travelling. I've found that even in the countries where we could only drink bottled water, it was still cheaper to buy large bottles of water and pour them into the kids' individual drink bottles that they could keep with them.

  • Snacks
Yes, there is food available pretty much anywhere you travel to, however, I've still found that having a bunch of pre-packaged snacks that my children are familiar with (eg. rice crackers, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, muesli bars, etc.) thrown in the suitcase can be an absolute sanity saver! Hungry kids can make for grumpy, whingy kids, and telling them that they can have something at the next rest stop or the next shop you pass etc. doesn't always cut it. It'll also save you money not having to buy food every time they get hungry. I've also found that in some foreign countries, my children may be feeling adventurous with food one minute, and another minute they just want to eat something familiar. Having those snacks with you will help you out with that, and as they're consumable, it means you don't have to take them back home with you.

  • Swim shirts/Rash Vests

If you're going to have kids in the water a lot, (which tends to be how many of our holidays play out), the best way to protect them is with a long sleeve swim shirt. It will also save you from reapplying sunscreen constantly to so much of their body. We always take a couple with us for each child to rotate daily as we've found that often things can take longer to dry than you imagine, particularly in really humid areas.
Other sun smart items that you should consider packing are sun and swim hats and sunglasses and goggles.
A couple of small pool toys/inflatables, if you can fit them in, we've found also great for keeping kids entertained in the water and for making new friends on your travels.

  • Baby Wipes

I don't have babies any more but baby wipes are still an essential when we travel. They are great at spot cleaning any messes on hotel fabrics, kids clothing and of course all those sticky hands and faces.

  • Scooters

Scooters? Really? Yes, I too would have questioned that at some point, but let me tell you, after travelling with them on our recent interstate trip to Sydney, they are definitely something that will be coming with us on most travel in the future (both interstate and overseas).

We first saw scooters on our travels, on a small island off the coast off Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, about a year and a half ago. Another family with two children similar in age to our kids, had brought them with them, and the four children enjoyed taking turns around the boardwalks of the resort. What a novel idea, I though.

One of the main things that we love to do when we travel is to explore. To get out there and really see the sights. Often this means lots of walking, which can end in a lot of complaining from children.
Bringing our scooters with us, means that we can explore further and wider than we normally would, whilst still burning energy for minimal effort. Plus, it's just really fun!

On this trip we brought two Micro adult scooters (black and white), two Micro Sprite scooters and four helmets (along with a weekend's worth of clothes and essentials for four people) in just two standard/large sized suitcases. (If we were travelling for a couple of weeks, we'd probably take one extra suitcase for extra clothes between our family of four or hand-luggage, which was unnecessary for this trip.) The larger adults scooters (with the bigger wheels) each weigh 5.3 kilograms and the more compact Micro Sprite weighs just 2.7 kilos. With a luggage weight allowance of 30 kilos per person, we easily come in under weight (in fact, both suitcases were under 20 kilos).

The fact that we were so easily able to pack all these extra scooters actually surprised us a little. At first I'd planned on only taking the kids' scooters with us but when we gave it a try, we found that we could pack them all! With the distance we ended up covering, boy am I glad that we did. I could never have kept up with the kids and travelled the distance we covered, on foot. We saw so much more than we would have if we were either walking or driving. It was great!

My kids adore their scooters and their lightweight and foldable design make them an easy wheeler for kids as young as five years old to use, store and carry. I love that they'll grow with them throughout all the primary years. My husband and I are rather fond of ours too. You can tell that they are top quality.

We can't wait to travel with them again!

  • Electronic Tablets with Books and Movies

Home routines, like reading a book before bed, can help children get to sleep in unfamiliar places. Bringing a lot of books with us can take up a lot of room and add a fair amount of weight to your suitcase, so having a tablet loaded up with books is a great alternative.
Kid's movies and educational games can also be great to have on your electronic tablet as well, as they can be a life saver in the hotel room, waiting around airports and for plane travel etc. Don't forget to also pack headphones so they can be used in busy places and if you're clever and bring the right cable and have the right know-how, you could hook your tablet up to your hotel room television (if there is one) and let the kids have a movie before bed.

  • First Aid Kit

Probably another obvious item to pack, but a first aid kit is something we've always had to use in some way or other with our kids and we'd never travel without it. In our first aid kit (for the kids) we have: band aids/surgical tape, antiseptic wipes, a bandage, antiseptic cream, insect bite cream, insect repellent, sunscreen, Aloe Vera after-sun cream, children's paracetamol, electrolyte icy poles (can be drunk or frozen for kids to suck on if dehydrated), jelly beans and throat lozenges (dry sore throats are common when in recycled and air-conditioned air). We usually have two first aid kits. One bigger one that stays in the luggage (kept in a large zip-lock bag is fine) and a smaller kit with the more basic items (eg. sunscreen, wipes, band aids) that is always in our day pack.

What other items have you found essential for making travel with children as fun and easy as can be?

Happy travels,
Debs :)

{Disclosure: this post is brought to you by Micro Scooters. We were gifted the scooters for our review. As always, opinions expressed in this post are my own and my families'.)

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