“Preparing and planning was far more stressful than any trip,” says Azizian.
Now, Azizian’s advice to other parents is to minimize what you pack. But how do you know what’s worth bringing and what you can leave behind? We asked traveling parents to share their top packing tips to help you get started.
To keep life organized before and during a trip, Megan E. McKay, a Montana commercial airline ground attendant who blogs about travel with her toddler, Gavin, swears by packing cubes . She will divide her belongings into different cubes to make it easier to find items; an example is having a cube for her clothes, one for her son, and one for snacks on the plane.
“I organize my toiletry bag with little mini packing cubes, one for my makeup — and Gavin gets one for his toothbrush and toothpaste,” McKay says. “I feel like I can pack with my eyes closed now, but it was really stressful packing at first because I was so scared of forgetting something.”
Pack: A stroller suitable for travel
Working at an airport, McKay watched parents struggle with strollers for years.
“If you want to bring your 40-pound BOB jogging stroller because it helps you feel prepared and comfortable, just bring it,” she says. “But for me, I’m really ‘less is more’ mainly because I’m myself.”
For quick trips, McKay opts for the GB Pockit stroller, which can fold so compactly “it fits under the seat of the smallest commercial plane,” she says. It’s a no-frills option, but it’s especially handy for getting through airport security. Instead of running it through the metal detector, which will require a pat down, “it just goes through the regular x-ray machine,” she says. Plus, “it takes about 10 seconds to assemble.”
McKay’s second pick is the 3DLite stroller because it’s lightweight, designed for travel, and has features like a cup holder and storage basket. “If we’re going on a trip to a zoo or an amusement park, I want something that has a little punch, a little more practicality,” she says.
Leave behind: Your usual wardrobe
Konrad Waliszewski, CEO and co-founder of TripScout, a travel planning and entertainment platform, swears by light packing, including when traveling the world with his wife and three children. The family even brings detergent so they can wash the clothes in the sink.
“Make sure as an adult you don’t bring a lot of stuff,” he says. “Don’t bring extra shoes; keep it as minimalist as possible.
Carmen Sognonvi of the Top Flight Family blog agrees, especially when it comes to shoes. Her essentials are a pair of sneakers, flip flops or flip flops when heading to a hot weather destination and possibly a pair of formal shoes to dress up for a dinner date.
“Shoes take up way too much space, so be ruthless when you pare down to the essentials,” she says.
Pack: An ergonomic baby carrier
Mexico City-based travel blogger Luz Carreiro and her husband, Nico, have amassed a social following by sharing their dream trips with their baby, Gaia. From trips to the beach to camping, Carreiro has a favorite on-the-go item to make travel easier. “My ergonomic backpack where I wear it is my best piece of equipment,” says Carreiro.
“They’re really comfortable to wear,” she says. “I always recommend babywearing through the TSA just so you have your hands free.”
When Waliszewski and his wife started traveling with their first child, they found themselves packing an array of toys to keep him entertained. “Then you realize they can find a stick or a stone or whatever,” he says. Now they stick to packing a book and a toy for each child.
For their carefully curated toy selection, Waliszewski and McKay swear by magnetic toys, such as Tegu blocks, that won’t tip over during turbulence.
“Even if you’re traveling on a plane with an in-flight entertainment system, sometimes those break down,” says Sognonvi. “You don’t want to be stuck without entertainment on a long flight or during a long layover.”
Make sure any games, movies, or TV shows are downloaded before a flight or trip so you don’t have to rush to do it at the airport. Equally important: Be aware of battery life. Not all planes have electrical outlets for in-flight charging, so you might want to invest in portable chargers.
To cut down on the extra bulk when traveling with their 4-year-old, 16-month-old, Anthony Harris and his wife are forgoing the traditional car seat. Instead, they use the RideSafer Travel Vest.
“Research has shown it to be equivalent in safety to the bulkier child seat,” says Harris, CEO and Medical Director of HFit Health. “It was a complete game-changer, especially with two kids.”
McKay travels with the Cosco Scenera NEXT car seat. It’s lightweight, costs around $50, and is also FAA-approved for airplane seats. It’s different from the daily option she uses at home. “I recommend having a car seat designated only for travel so you’re not constantly uninstalling and reinstalling,” she says.
To verify this, McKay uses a padded backpack that protects car seat safety features in cargo. “They make it [car seat bags] that have removable wheels and stuff, but that’s too much,” she says. “I just need to have my hands free.”
Leave Behind: Checked Baggage
Controversial? Yes. Impossible? For some people. But if you can, Sognonvi says, you should skip checked baggage and travel only with hand luggage. She follows this practice for most (but not all) family trips. This works especially well if you’re traveling with kids big enough to carry their own bags.
“Their clothes are usually smaller and the kids usually don’t have a lot of toiletries,” says Sognonvi. “So you can actually use the extra capacity the kids have for your own clothes and toiletries.”
Skipping the baggage check-in lines—as well as using services like CLEAR and TSA PreCheck—saves the Sognonvi family valuable time and effort at the airport. “I highly recommend it,” she says.