I used to find packing for my toddlers to be so challenging and stressful. I would either excessively over-pack or show up woefully unprepared. But after travelling with our girls on many trips (driving and flying, domestic and international) over the last almost-four years, I have fine-tuned my strategy and find the process pretty stress-free. Here are my top 5 tips for successful (and stress free) packing for a toddler:
- Start Early: I always start packing at least a week before we are scheduled to leave. That gives me time to think of all the things I generally forget during the first phase (read, sunglasses, Motrin, thermometer, etc.). This also gives me time to order a couple of things here and there that we may need; for our holiday trip this year, I need to order a couple of pairs of new white tights since ours are looking a bit dingy.
- Use a List (and Update): Every time we travel with the girls, I update and revise a “Toddler Travel” note on my phone. There are always things I think of mid-flight or drive that I quickly jot down so that I won’t forget for the next trip.
- Be Organized: I always start packing by laying out each and every outfit. Because I like my girls to wear matching or coordinated outfits (especially when visiting family out of town), this is a pretty time-consuming step. I make sure that I have everything each girl needs for each outfit (underwear, tights/socks, bloomers, hair bow, etc). I then use elastic bands to ensure that each outfit set stays together. I generally plan which outfits will be worn on each day and then all I have to do in the morning is grab a set and I have everything we need. This really makes getting ready so, so, so much easier when you’re not on in your home environment.
- Activities: However many activities you think you need for entertainment, bring more. We always travel with movies downloaded on the iPad (and earphones for each girl), playdoh (I was skeptical at first, but one of the BEST plane activities), gel stickers that easily peel off any surface, colouring books and crayons, books, and snacks. When in doubt, eating is our favourite activity – I always bring a variety of snacks because who knows what the girls will favour on any given day.
- Expect the Unexpected: There is no way to prepare for every possible eventuality, but if you are flexible and understand that travelling with throw you a curve ball (and pack accordingly), your trip will go smoother. For example, that cold front that passes through when you packed shorts, the five-hour flight delay, in-laws ordering your toddler spaghetti before family pictures, etc. Make sure you have a warm outfit (just in case, and conversely, a cooler outfit as well), see tip #4 above, and a 2-3 extra outfits. I find that these types of incidents are so much easier to address if you except to be surprised.
Upon reflection, these are really not revolutionary tips, but they have completely transformed a high-stress process to a manageable, successful one. Good Luck!
P.S. My packing never looks as good as the picture above, but it is aspirational at least.