This Is How to Pack When You Travel With Kids (It's Possible)
Australian fashion stylist Sheree Commerford is a creative force to be reckoned with. Not only is she the founder and director of Captain and the Gypsy Kid (her ode to "style inspired by small folk"), but she's also a mom to two adorable children, Sugar and Captain. Our fascination with her beautiful family and her chic home is bordering on obsession—take a look for yourself. So we asked the effervescent and insanely hip Sydneysider for a few packing tips to keep in mind when traveling with kids. Scroll below to see what she had to say.
The first thing to remember is to pack the kids. Seriously. It's easy to forget them when you have a family of four, five, six, etc., especially if you have a baby that sits in a transferable car seat. Rule 101: Do a head count at all times (and this includes your partner). Our family has been traveling with an entourage of four since the kids were born. We started with eight-hour road trips working our way up to a three-month stint traveling through the U.S. and Europe when they were one and three.
We do a road trip here in Australia at least every 10 weeks, and we recently explored the South and the Midwest of the U.S. in an airstream—the kids now being four and six. I'm definitely no expert (and tend to overpack), but this is what I've learned along the way when it comes to the pros and cons of packing for your family (whether it be a short or long haul) in the air or on the road. Read on for my top eight packing tips to consider when traveling with kids.
When I'm traveling overseas, it is usually for a fun reason. An interesting work trip, a dream family holiday, or a chance to explore new magical places outside the confines of everyday life. A change in routine alone makes any getaway exciting, and this is when I really enjoy my clothes. It is all part of the excitement to be dressing the part, so never feel that travel has to compromise this love of self-expression for you or the kids. Don't let the practicality of packing light ruin the fun. So how do you do that?
Pack Ahead of Time
If you don't already do this, start. It's a total game changer. It will save you money and time in the end, and it will minimize potential stress. Start packing no less than a week before you travel. These pointers will help:
1. Make a list. Putting it on paper will help you plan things in a realistic timeframe so you're not up till 2 a.m. packing before your 6 a.m. flight (yep, we have all been there). It also helps you to not forget the crucial things, like a first aid kit, a favorite stuff toy, rescue remedy, and spare underpants (that's for the kids).
2. Try things on. This sounds punishing, but it's amazing how resentful you can get lugging clothes around that you have no use for. With the kids growing so fast, you need to know what fit last week, not last month. It helps you make those hard decisions about whether or not you or the kids will wear those pieces numerous times. It also allows you some creative time to piece together their holiday vibe.
3. Be sensible. Just like Coco Chanel said, "before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and remove one accessory," you should do the same, but make it two—two items from your bag that is. Unless you have minimalistic packing down pat, apply this for each person you've packed for.
4. Involve the kids. Kids love packing. Why? I have no idea, but I've found that letting them have ownership over what to wear helps a lot, and they're more willing to wear it if they packed it.
5. Sharing clothes. You can cut down considerably on what you take if your children are close enough in age to share some items of clothing. Our children are 20 months apart and share jackets, knits, shirts, and denim jeans.
Bring an Underwear Bag
That feeling of pulling a complete suitcase apart to find the tiniest pair of underpants or singular sock can push you over the edge. I allocate a shoe bag to each kid that I fill with their underwear, socks, singlets, swimwear, etc.
This can be hard with kids (especially bubs) and sometimes impossible in certain situations, but for the moments you can control, traveling plastic-free is worth aiming for. There are so many products on the market now that it's worth using a few alternatives like the ones below.
1. If you use ziplock bags for cosmetics/toothbrushes to keep them watertight and clean, try reusable silicone bags. They're resealable, reusable, and dishwasher-friendly, plus they're perfect for fresh food snacks.
2. Taking smart bottles or smart cups can help cut down on plastic and paper waste considerably. It also makes you think about refilling, which means you're always H20 prepped, especially on the plane. Check out Frank Green, where the kids can customize their own water bottle.
3. In the past, we were encouraged to buy smaller plastic bottles to fill from our bigger plastic bottles to minimize space and weight with our toiletries. For those that are not essential, consider buying them at your destination. This includes bodywash, shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer.
Make Individual Creative Packs
These do not have to be tricky or full of toys. Keep things simple so you're not lugging rubbish around the place. Things that are great to include are interactive maps and puzzles of where you are going and a crisp fresh notebook with their name on the front so the kids can journal the trip in their own way. We have given Sugar one every time we go somewhere, and I cannot wait for her to read these when she's older.
Download Audible on their devices. Have them help choose the stories they want to listen to so they get super excited. Don't forget music. Make travel playlists specifically for each child, and shape it to suit the location you're heading to. For example, for our road trip in the Californian desert, we played Johnny Cash, RL Burnside, and Bob Dylan. Results are always a dance-off or a sing-along, and you can hijack their music education with some quality time. Also downloading a meditation app to help them with jet lag and long travel stints can be calming.
Remember the Small Things
If you're traveling for a long time and want to keep the kiddies looking fresh, focus on the small things. Accessories take up no room and can turn the same white tee and jeans into a multitude of options.
At the end of the day, there will always be things you need that you don't have and things you have that you don't need. Remember you can always buy essentials when you're there, and you can donate to friends or Goodwill the pieces that you don't need. Easy.
What tips have you learned along the way? Share your family travel packing hacks in the comments below, and then shop our essentials to keep you organized.