Posted: April 24, 2014

Packing Tips for Family Travel
When traveling with the family, it's particularly important to remember all the essentials without packing too much.

A trip with the family is an exciting adventure, but packing for the excursion can often be a hassle. It's important not to forget the items necessary to keep your kids happy and healthy – especially when you have an infant or toddler. Take these packing suggestions into consideration when you're preparing for your next getaway with the kids:

Start Early

People tend to start loading their bags just before they leave for the airport or the night prior; however, those with children have a much greater responsibility and may want to start packing earlier. Beginning the process a few days beforehand can help you avoid dumping items into a suitcase when you're in a hurry as well as dreaded wave of realization when you notice that you've forgotten something.

Don't Overpack

Common sense says to bring every single thing you could possibly need while out of town – extra sweaters if the weather gets cold, multiple pairs of shoes for different occasions and countless pairs of socks just in case. But too much can be bad. Every extra bag you bring isn't just more money out of your wallet (airlines typically charge a fee for oversized or excess baggage), but every additional suitcase you bring is like having to carry another child. One way to avoid packing too much is to write a list of everything you need and then challenge yourself to pare it down to half that. Compressible bags can also be very helpful – they allow you to pack much more and save your clothes from wrinkles. If you're bringing a stroller aboard, take advantage of the extra space – throw that baby blanket or toiletries in the pouch or the bassinet. You might also have your children bring backpacks as their carry-ons for a little extra space. When possible, stay at a hotel with laundry facilities so you can choose to bring fewer clothes along and, instead, do laundry when you run out of clean clothes when out of town.

Remember the Oft-Forgotten Essentials

The basics are simple to remember: clothes, camera, swimsuit, toiletries and medications. But some items that we use every have become so commonplace that they're easy to forget. While it's important not to pack too much, it's also a huge pain when you arrive in your hotel room and find that you've forgotten necessary items. Chargers and batteries are two essential items often left behind. Those traveling abroad should also remember to bring a voltage converter (though you may want to check with your airport hotel to make sure they aren't already provided to guests). Anyone who's traveled with young ones before knows that you can never have too many socks, but there's no need to over-do it (a pack of plain white socks can be purchased up on the cheap if necessary). Some people also bring along an empty, lightweight duffel bag for bringing back souvenirs and other items picked up along the way.

You also won't want to forget a first-aid kit. It should include bandages, cortisone cream, children's aspirin and ibuprofen, ear and eye drops, nasal spray and any necessary medications. You may also want to bring along extra prescriptions and contact information for a health care provider where you'll be staying (ask your physician to recommend a doctor in your destination).

Know the TSA Rules

The Transportation Security Administration has strict rules for what can and cannot be brought on the plane. Sharp objects, some sporting goods, self defense items and flammable materials are strictly prohibited. Liquids in carry-ons should also be packed carefully – the TSA's 3-1-1 rule states that you can only have 3.4 ounces or less and it must be contained in a clear, 1-quart plastic bag.

Additionally, you may want to invest in a TSA-approved lock. Some people find that their locks are broken when they pick up their luggage at the baggage claim. That's because authorities sometimes need to inspect bags, which requires them to clip the lock if it isn't the right kind. You can purchase one that lets TSA security open the lock using a universal key – they typically feature one of two brand logos.

Don't Forget About Yourself

Parents can become so concerned with the well-being of their children that they forget to take care of themselves. The same goes with packing. It's important to make sure your kids have everything they need, but take some time and care when it comes to preparing your own luggage. Don't sacrifice space in your bag by excluding essentials in order to make more room for kids' toys and other unnecessary items. Making sure you have everything you need to be comfortable while out of town is necessary to make the experience enjoyable for yourself, which will in turn make it more enjoyable for your young ones.

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