Family Trip Hacks: The Trip Pack

We like to travel. A LOT. Some people think we are crazy, but as we started having our kids we decided we would continue traveling and going on road trips and flights and just bring the kids along with us. It isn’t always a walk in the park, but the kids have become used to traveling and really handle it pretty well.

My first family travel tip is to go on lots of trips with your kids and start early!

That is the biggest secret behind being able to travel with kids. You just have to do it! And know that the first night is always kind of a train wreck with nobody sleeping well, middle of the night crying, a forgotten favorite stuffed animal, or horrible diaper rash. They go to bed late, and wake up at the crack of dawn ready to go, while we are covering our heads with the blanket trying to recover from the drive.

We have a six, four, and two year old and the hardest part about our trips is all the STUFF: Diapers and clothes and wipes and pajamas and remembering a swimsuit and on and on. My husband had a eureka moment a few trips back, and it has been the greatest idea so I’m going to share it while giving him all the credit! We realized that every time we went on a trip, in addition to trying to remember all the basic things like diapers and clothes and pajamas and shoes for the kids, we seemed to always get to our destination and end up buying the same things over and over because we would forget to pack them.

So my husband came up with the idea of the trip pack.

For road trips you can use a small Rubbermaid container or bag. For flights, the trip pack might need to be condensed, but you can apply the same concept and put it in a packing cube. In the trip pack for every vacation, we include:

  • Dish soap

  • Children’s Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Benadryl (and possibly cough medicine)

  • Diaper cream (if you have a child in diapers)

  • Hydrocortisone cream

  • A package of wipes

  • A small thing of laundry detergent

  • A Ziploc bag with some dryer sheets

  • Toothpaste (we’re both dentists, and we somehow still seem to forget this on half the trips!)

  • A thermometer

  • A wet brush and detangling spray (we have girls and this is a don’t leave home without it item that we always forget)

  • A travel size kids’ bath soap, and adult shampoo, conditioner, and body wash

  • A packable lightweight duffle bag or dirty clothes bag (I got one for eight bucks in the suitcase section at TJ Maxx because we always get to the end of our trip and need more space; if we have a washer and dryer wherever we are I try to come home with clean clothes, but if not I like to have the separate bag for our dirty clothes so we can just dump them straight in the wash when we get home)

  • Ziploc bags, small and large (we always seem to buy Ziploc bags on trips for snacks or leftovers or shell collections or projects, so now they are in our trip pack)

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug spray

  • A small wireless speaker (because dance parties!)

  • A cell phone charger (we try to remember to pack our own, and this is a charger we keep in the box as a back up)

  • A car charger (good to put in for trips where you fly and then rent a car)

  • A couple pairs of cheap sunglasses for when you forget your own

This is the main list of things that we take on every trip. The trick is to make sure you restock the trip pack when you return from your trip, then put it away, so that it’s ready for the next vacation. You can obviously modify this list if you have older kids or are going on a beach versus a ski trip or a road trip versus a flight, etc. — having a trip pack helps avoid spending trip money and having multiple visits to CVS or Walgreens to buy the same things over and over again.

For road trips (we don’t put this in the trip pack), we always bring a small blanket and pillow for each child. We try to get some kind of road trip entertainment or let each child pack a little bag of things they want to bring in the car. This makes them feel like they get to pick their own things and have a little control over their space in the car. We keep a little box in the car for trash so we can toss stuff in there and easily empty it when we stop to get gas. We also take a cooler with drinks and snacks on longer trips to keep everyone happy, and LOTS of DVDs. If you don’t have DVD players in your car, it is worth investing in a portable DVD player from Walmart — they are affordable and a trip lifesaver! I also keep one of the portable picnic blankets in the back of my car at all times; it seems to come in handy more times than you would think.  

Our other trip fail OVER AND OVER is forgetting a stroller.

So I will end this by saying, pack your stroller! We have the world’s largest collection of umbrella strollers that we have purchased on trips because we pack everything up and forget a stroller!!  

What things can you not live without on your trips that we should add to our trip pack? 

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