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10 Notes

How to Pack for Family Vacation

by Katie Newingham

If you’re a mother who underestimated the prep time involved in planning a family vacation the first go around and now you’re nearly obsessive compulsive about it, you’re not alone.

I boarded my first plane with a 1-year-old, no stroller, no pack-n-play and only five diapers. I didn’t realize the time it takes to get a crying baby to sleep on a plane or the stress and pressure that follow from the eyes of the other passengers looking my direction in hopes that their stares would somehow soothe my baby.

I also didn’t expect to run out of diapers while on the last leg of our trip, our daughter to have a major blowout and listen closely, planes do not carry diapers. I learned to be resourceful and made a diaper out of a blanket and a sanitary napkin, but by the end of it I nearly swore off family vacations that involved air travel.

Hawaii changed everything…

Then my husband received a call from his boss saying we would be traveling to Hawaii as a family for two weeks on the company as a thank you for driving through a blizzard to meet with clients. Of course while there, my husband will have to work, so I will be without transportation and I am 7 months pregnant, with a 2-year-old but it’s Hawaii…right!

With a month to plan, I immediately made sure we would have a car seat and a pack-in-play in the rental car upon arrival. I will never travel again without a stroller, so I decided to bring a slim-line umbrella stroller to tow my 2-year-old around in the airport.

The 48-Hour Travel Time Principal

Traveling internationally taught me to pack enough in an overnight bag for 48-hours. It doesn’t matter if your planned travel time is a few hours, plan for the worst when you have children. Any kind of storm, or mechanical malfunction can land a plane for 24 hours and it’s up to us to pack enough snacks, toys, water and comfort items to get our kids through these times.

My plan of action started with a travel itinerary that includes both EST and the actual time in Hawaii. This is so I can try and keep as close to her schedule as possible on the way there and the way back. The itinerary also includes a day-by-day breakdown of what we’ll do when we get to Honolulu including directions to local Costco.

Next, I planned very carefully my daughter’s carry-on backpack. Each item in her bag had to be something that could hold her attention: DVD player with favorite movies, paper and crayons for coloring, favorite small books, 7 diapers and wipes, protein bars, dried fruit snacks and a 12oz empty water bottle to be filled once we make it through security.

My carry-on will include 2-3 outfits for each of us, as well as a toiletry bag, 7 more diapers and extra wipes, protein bars, fruit snacks, non-refrigerated milk boxes, water, blanket and stuffed animal.

Checked Baggage is for Toys

Toys are more important than clothes. We all want to look nice every day of our vacation, but wouldn’t you rather have a happy and stimulated child who sleeps well at night, so you can have some time alone?

We are allowed to check one bag per passenger, so here’s how I packed each one. Both my daughter’s clothing and mine will be packed in one large suitcase. I packed light, non-wrinkling dresses and shirts, shorts, a pair of jeans, layering pieces like cardigans and lightweight throw-over sweaters plus a jacket for rainy weather and a few sets of pajamas for each of us. We do have access to a washer and dryer in our unit!

My husband’s suitcase will be filled with his clothing, work related items, etc…

This is the most important lesson: The third suitcase will be filled with toys!!! From a kickboard to blowup rafts for the pool, snorkeling gear, puzzles, coloring books, DVDs, activity books, stuffed animals. Whatever fits goes basically and she gets to help pack this suitcase.

Attire on the Plane

We’ve all been in the airport as a beautiful mother with three children walks by in a flowing dress and heels. We all want to be her right? I tried this on my last vacation. I wore a bohemian printed maxi dress and cardigan to the airport for my 5-hour trip that turned into a 12-hour trip. Though it was comfortable on the plane, it was not comfortable walking for miles through the airport corridors. But my wakeup call happened when I stepped off the plane and the temperature was in the 40s with a dress and sandals on – NEVER AGAIN!

Now in the back of my mind I humorously think that well-dressed mom walking through the airport is trying this out for the first time and if everything goes off without a hitch she may try it again, but the moment she gets stuck in airports all day, she’ll go back to her most comfortable pair of jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirt.

Be sure to follow my adventures in the series “In Flight: 7 Months Pregnant, Toddler in Tow, 14-Hours to go starting Monday 7am EST.“

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