For the past few trips away with our boys we have taken just one suitcase for the whole family. It’s worked really well, and we’ve still come home with clothes that we haven’t worn! The main reason for keeping our packing to one bag is all the extra things we have found we need to take away with us – the pushchair, two car seats, (until recently) the travel cot, and all need to be balanced on the airport trolleys or squashed into the boot of the car.
Packing tips for holidays with small children
I hope these tips and tales of how we pack for our holidays will help you, too.
At home, I keep the boy’s clothes folded in the Marie Kondo style. This allows us to see all of the items of clothing at a glance. I write a “drawer map” for Rob so that he can keep to it when he’s getting the boys dressed or putting clothes away (in practice this means he doesn’t put clothes away and leaves them for me… but anyway).
Ignore the fact the vests aren’t standing up like all the others – this photo was taken in March 2014, when I was new to this! When it comes to packing for our holiday, I can easily grab a selection from the drawers and put them in the suitcase without much fuss. This way the clothes take up much less room and they’re easily visible in the cases.
Be ruthless. Do you really need an outfit per day? Could you manage on a 7 day trip with 4 t-shirts? Of course, you can, especially if 90% of the holiday is going to be spent by (or in) the pool. Do you need 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of trousers and a skirt and a dress? No. You will probably end up wearing those shorts that flatter and that summer dress that makes you feel all flirty and tanned and the others will go unloved in the suitcase taking up space. So don’t pack them!
A sturdy suitcase
We use a medium sized Revelation suitcase by Antler. It’s great because it has wheels that pivot individually and in all directions, which makes it easy to push or pull when you’re holding hands with little children!
Inside the suitcase, we use bags for life as section dividers. Basically, we divide the suitcase into thirds using three bags. James’ clothes share with Rob’s and mine go in with Noah’s. That way we can tell between the boy’s clothes without too much of an issue – Noah is already wearing age 2 clothes and they aren’t that different from James’ age 4 things! Rob gets part of the third bag because his trousers and shorts are bigger than everyone else’s.
Toiletries go in IKEA food bags and share the third bag for life with shoes, too. Keep hold of hotel freebies and put those in a food bag in your hand luggage.
Two pairs of shoes for everyone – trainers and sandals are pretty much all you’ll ever need (although I often sneak a third pair in for me – trainers, flip flops and a pair of wedges) – of course everyone is wearing one pair of shoes while we travel so only the spare pair need to fit inside the suitcase.
We always, always make an overnight bag. This includes at least one spare outfit for both boys, spare tops for Rob and me, and essential toiletries. A sling for Noah will usually sneak in, too (I put that inside an IKEA food bag too). Of course, we make sure to pack the chargers and electrical adapters in this essentials bag. This bag will go with us as carry-on if we’re flying or will be the first thing we grab on our way to check into a hotel if we’re road tripping.
When packing toys to take on holiday, this is not a time to be considering every eventuality. Think practically! If you’re going on a sunshine holiday where you’ll spend most of the time at the pool during the day and will have evening entertainment, you don’t want many toys at all. In fact, consider buying pool toys while you’re away, and if you must take something then stacking cups are brilliant because they will work in the water or in the hotel room.
If you’re on a road trip then think about where you’ll be visiting. If you plan to sneak in a couple of museums then will you buy souvenirs? If yes, then you don’t need to take many toys on holiday. Will you eat at McDonald’s at all – if yes, then you’ll be getting a toy or book then, and that will be plenty!
Sticker books don’t take up much room and can be done as entertainment during the journey. A well-loaded iPad will come in handy too if you’ve got a child who enjoys screen-based activities.
You’re (probably) not going to the end of the earth
If you run out of something or decide you really needed to bring something and didn’t pack it, the chances are there’ll be a store nearby that sells it.
My super top tip for packing for a holiday is – wash your clothes! If you’re going to a villa then make sure it’s one with a washing machine. Motels in the States usually have a laundry room. If you’re travelling near or to stay with friends, be cheeky and ask if you can do one load of washing while you’re there. If you’re on a resort, take washing liquid and use the balcony to dry your clothes. If not, then use the shower curtain rail while you’re exploring when on a city break. It makes a massive difference to the number of clothes you need to take with you if you can wear things more than once. And not having that huge pile of laundry to do when you arrive home is a great relief.
What are your must-dos when packing for holidays with children?