Having a large family is a blessing. However, travelling with a large family, especially little kids, can be a very challenging experience. From the stress of packing everything essential to the fear of not losing a child somewhere around the airport, you have a lot on your plate to think about. Packing and organising the luggage seems like one of the biggest issues for new parents. So many things seem important, your kids insist on bringing their favourite toys as well, and the suitcase is starting to look like a war zone with nappies and shoes exploding all over the place.
Fortunately, a few simple tricks will allow you to organise your luggage and bring everything necessary without losing your mind in the process. Here are the tips you need to follow:
Make a meticulous list
The most important rule of organised packing is to write everything down. Even if you think you’ll remember everything, writing it down will help you visualise everything better. It will also be easier to pack when the time comes because you won’t have to think about anything. Just place the items from the list in bags. You can either use paper lists for each family member, printable checklists or use handy tools like Google Keep, where you can share your lists with your partner through your phones. Also, following a list will help you pack lighter, and you will pay more attention to what is essential and what is not.
Always know the weather and your plans
Check the weather predictions for your chosen destination regularly. As you know, weather changes quickly, so you need to start observing it up to a week before your travels. When you travel with kids, it’s also helpful to know the itinerary for the entire trip, so you can predict how many nice outfits, t-shirt & shorts combos and jackets each person will need for the whole period. If you’re going on a long trip, all you need is to pack one week’s worth of clothing. There’s no point in paying for additional luggage. You can just wash and re-use the clothes.
Pack with a colour scheme in mind
Instead of picking clothes randomly, consider potential colour schemes and mix and match options beforehand. Pick clothes in these shades if your kids stick to blue and grey. Choosing the colours will help you minimise the number of options you’ll bring, make the decision-making process faster, and help you ensure that you’re all in tone for the family pictures. Moreover, your kids will be happy that you picked their favourite clothes, so it’s a win-win situation.
Minimise the number of shoes
Shoes are always a huge dilemma, whether you travel alone or with kids. Even though most of us are tempted to bring almost every pair of shoes we own (because you know, we might need them for some occasion), you need to restrain yourself. Just think about it, if there are four of you, this will mean having an entire suitcase just for shoes. Trust me. You don’t want that. Instead, try to stick to the golden rule of travelling – one pair of comfortable shoes on your feet and a maximum of two more pairs in your suitcase. Also, if you plan on bringing heavy or bulky shoes on an aeroplane, it’s best to wear them while you travel because they add a lot to the weight of the luggage. As for packing shoes, it’s best to pack them in see-through bags that are perfectly sealed. Many home improvement stores sell shoe bags for luggage.
Use packing cubes
Since we’re talking about things home improvement stores sell, you need to try packing cubes! They are mesh bags or cubes that come in different sizes, and they are the perfect organisational tool for big family trips. Every member gets 1-2 cubes. You can even assign different colours for different family members, making finding their luggage easier. The clothes and essentials are separated by categories and placed inside the cubes, and then all the cubes get inside the suitcases. You don’t have to unpack everything just to find one item.
Roll and go to prevent clutter
Roll and go is another great tactic that will help you pack your family’s clothes faster and not bother about clothing options during your travels. It’s very similar to Marie Kondo’s vertical folding technique. It both saves time and space. Every child has some favourite clothing combinations. You need to pair the t-shirts with the pants, add the socks and underwear, and make a rollout of the entire outfit. This way, the clothes will take up less space in the luggage, and if your kids need a change, they can just get a roll and change without you worrying about what they will wear and how.
Keep dirty laundry together
Dirty laundry can take a lot of space when tossed freely in the luggage instead of being folded neatly. Keep the worn and dirty clothes together in a pile and an airtight bag, so you can easily throw them in the laundry when you get the chance or when you get back home. If space is limited, I would recommend using a travel space bag. They compress and will keep the unpleasant odours away from your clean clothes. You need to roll the bag to get the air out.
A small packing cube or a gallon-sized ziplock bag is enough to fit all your kids’ toiletries in. All you need is their toothbrushes, some toothpaste, a comb and a brush, a few hairbands, and a small bottle of all-purpose baby wash that can be used both as a soap and shampoo.
If you travel often, you should invest in travel-sized bottles for all the general cosmetics – shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste and soap. Many organised people keep a toiletry travel bag around the house with all the essentials pre-packed, including a spare toothbrush, razor, clippers, and tweezers. They seem like non-essential items right until the moment you start needing them.
First aid kit
If you’re travelling to an urban area, you probably won’t need a fully equipped first aid kit since there are plenty of drugstores around. But as any mother knows, kids are unpredictable, and you never know when you might need to patch them up. So, it’s always a good idea to have a few bandaids and a means of disinfection around. Other standard items you might find helpful are children’s Tylenol, some Ibuprofen for your potential headaches, and some vitamins and antihistamines if someone is prone to allergies.
Diapers and wipes
If you’re going on a long trip with a baby or a toddler, you’ll need plenty of diapers and wipes. The exact amount depends on the area you’re visiting and your itinerary. You can either pack enough for the whole trip (but that will take space) or pack enough for a few days and buy more on the road. It’s a good practice to pack most of the diapers in the suitcase and just place enough for a day or two in your diaper bag, the wipes, the cream, and the other regular attributes.
You never know when and where you might have to change your baby’s diaper, so you need to be prepared for all occasions. You can place a few essential diaper-changing items in a ziplock bag. You can easily move it from your diaper bag to your purse and not worry that you have forgotten something. And if you have to change a diaper on the way, the Beanko diaper changing system is a good thing because it provides you with the space needed to change a diaper safely, and it has a ton of pockets for you to store items.
Packing food and snacks
Eating at restaurants with kids can be tricky because they are noisy, fussy and often spill. Therefore, you’ll have to get used to eating in your hotel room or Airbnb, and packing snacks will save you a lot of time on the road. Since there are grocery stores almost everywhere, you don’t have to worry about bringing everything from home. Packing sandwiches, vegetables and some small crunchy snacks for a day or two are more than enough. After that, you can just shop from local stores and get your supplies on the spot.
Here is a list of some essential items every parent finds necessary at some point, and it’s better to have and not need them than the other way around:
- Hand or baby wipes – you can never have enough of these things;
- A roll of paper towels – kids make many messes, you need to be prepared;
- A knife – don’t let the kids have it, but you’ll need it for sure;
- Small bags for snacks – we all know why;
- Sippy cups – all toddlers need their sippy cups. In addition, many restaurants don’t have cups with lids for small children, so you’ll avoid many spills by bringing your own;
- Disposable cutlery, plates, and cups are always useful for snacks and all the meals you’ll eat in the hotel room.
Packing toys and electronics
This is another tricky point you need to consider. Every child has their favourite toys they cannot live without, and they all have electronic games and books they would like to bring. This is where personal backpacks come in place. Give every child one small backpack. They can place all their favourite items they would like to bring. The rule is to get anything they want, as long as it fits in the backpack. This includes iPads, books, toys, games, stuffed animals and everything else you can think of. This will train their resilience and organisational skills and give them a sense of responsibility.
As for packing electronics, limit your choices to one laptop, one camera and one of everything else you might need. You don’t need two laptops for a trip where you probably won’t have time to check your emails. Pack everything in a spacious laptop bag or a backpack with plenty of storage space for all the chargers and other odd items. Always bring your electronics in your carry-on to avoid damage and have them at hand in emergencies.