What to Pack for a Vacation with the Kids

by Emese Graham
a family of five decide what to pack for their upcoming vacation

Travelling with kids is a special kind of chaos. Somehow you forgot to pack your underwear but remembered to pack your toddler’s favourite TV remote?? Don’t worry, we’ve been there. And we’re here to help!

There are a few key items that need to be on the packing list for a family holiday that will make the whole experience easier and more enjoyable, whether you’re travelling long haul or heading off on a weekend road trip. Our Flight Centre family Travel Experts have shared their top tips for how to make travelling with kids a breeze.

The Essentials

If you read nothing else in this article, this is the section to remember. There are certain items that you should always include when compiling a packing list for your family holiday to ensure you don’t get caught unprepared.

Top 10 items to pack for a family vacation

  1. Snacks, snacks, snacks
  2. Sandwich bags for half-eaten items
  3. Colouring books, pencils and a tablet
  4. Headphone splitter to share tablet between kids
  5. Packing cubes to easily separate items
  6. Spare clothes for both babies and parents
  7. Medications
  8. Baby wipes
  9. Pool floaties and pool toys
  10. Small backpack they can carry themselves

Medications and first aid

Firstly, medications and a first aid kit including band-aids, a thermometer, and (children’s) painkillers and allergy medications are always important.

A baby gate

If you’ll be staying in an apartment with toddlers or small children who can crawl or walk, a baby gate might be a good idea to keep them safe, and you relaxed. Many family friendly resorts and hotels can provide baby amenities like this for you. Ask your Travel Expert to help you choose a family-friendly accommodation.

Spare clothes

Of course you’re packing clothes for your holiday, but regardless of whether you’re flying or driving, it’s a good idea to have a spare change of clothes for both your kids and yourself that is easily accessible. No parent wants to be stuck on a plane trip with their child’s unwanted food, vomit, or worse, on their clothes for an extended period of time.

Food

No matter where you’re travelling, having food on hand that you know your kids will like is essential. Granola bars, cheese and crackers, and pre-chopped fruit are always winners for a car trip or flight. Having sandwich bags on hand for the endless half-eaten items is a great way to avoid wastage, and now that you can buy biodegradable zip lock bags, the environment loves them too.

“Snacks, snacks and more snacks for travelling – if you’re flying, bring something the kids can chew on during takeoff and landing to help with their ears,” says Flight Centre Travel Expert Catrin Taylor

Kids cutlery, plates and sippy cups

Most hotels and vacation stays don’t provide child-friendly cutlery or dinnerware, so to ensure your child can feed themselves (whatever stage they are at), taking your own child-friendly items is never a bad idea.

Packing cubes

We are total packing cube converts here at Flight Centre, and when it comes to packing for a family holiday, they might just be even more valuable! Being able to separate your clothes, shoes and underwear in a suitcase is great, but the ability to keep kids’ toys zipped up safely, zip away dirty clothes in their own bag, and organize kids outfits makes every parent’s life easier, trust us.

Beach and pool toys

If you’re heading somewhere warm, don’t forget to pack swimmers (or swim diapers if you’ve got little ones), rash tops for sun protection, and importantly a beach bag! If you’re flying somewhere, it can be easy to forget a beach bag, so a good idea is to swap out your regular carry-on luggage for something that could double as a beach bag.

If you’ve got room, beach toys are always a good idea to keep kids entertained, or if you’ll be making use of the resort pool, arm floaties are essential for little ones, and inflatable toys for the older kids.

“Inflatable pool toys are always a hit and then we just leave them at the resort for other kids to play with once we go home.” – Flight Centre Travel Expert Inga Brown

How to Keep Kids Entertained

Get them involved

Just as we recommend involving your kids in the planning of a trip, to get them excited, and teach them about what goes into it, it’s a great lesson to get them involved in being responsible for their own belongings too. Plus, if kids are carrying their snacks and games, that’s one less thing you have to do!

“Something I learned very early on – let them take a backpack with their snacks and toys, but they can only take what they can carry. They have to carry that backpack for a walk around the block and if they can carry the backpack and make it all the way around they can take it!” – Flight Centre Travel Expert Donne Pearce

When you’re on vacation

A holiday can turn out to be rather un-relaxing if your kids aren’t enjoying themselves, so keeping activities on hand for them is essential. Colouring books, tablets, snacks and games – every parent has a different trick because, let’s be honest, something might be a hit one day, and boring the next.

Flight Centre Travel Expert Hayley Taylor suggests taking, “a ‘dinner pack’ so you can go out for dinner and keep them entertained with new books, colouring books, pencils, or nano blocks. I always used to pack a little sandwich container so I could take them to dinner, and I knew they would eat something, and they didn’t have to wait for food.”

Entertaining kids on road trips

Keeping kids entertained on a long road trip is a true art form. One thing that always works, at least for a time, is having something new to share with them for the trip. If you Google “printable kids scavenger hunt” you’ll find a bunch of activity sheets you can print to take and keep the kids engaged. A goodie bag filled with new pencils, a colouring book or games they haven’t seen before is a great way to keep them entertained on a long road trip or flight. But make sure you’ve got an old favourite thrown in there too to fall back on in case they ask for it.

But choose wisely, as you don’t want to lose precious game pieces…

“Mini magnetic board games are great for the plane or car as you tend not to lose the pieces,” says Flight Centre Travel Expert Kellie Morris.

Check out more family road trip tips here!

Packing for Long Haul Flights

Travelling long haul with kids can in many ways be similar to a long road trip, only you can’t just stop for a run around when everyone (including the adults) desperately need to. The entertainment options mentioned above for a road trip come in handy here, but Flight Centre Travel Expert Catrin Taylor has some tips to make your life that little bit easier, and ensure your kids feel comfortable no matter where you are.

“Travelling with a baby carrier (up until about three and a half years) is easier than a stroller – or do both. I have been through many airports with the hand luggage stacked in the stroller and the baby wrapped onto me. And carriers are so valuable for long haul flying, too. Plus, if your baby is wrapped over a backpack you can’t take it off to be weighed…”

And what about when the kids get a little bit older?

“I make my kids bring their own hand luggage now (from the age of about three and a half) – little roller backpacks they can pull if they don’t want to carry”, says Catrin.

“They get packed with colouring books, snacks, headphones (a headphone splitter is super handy if you only have one tablet) their own drink bottles, a cuddly toy and a small blanket for long haul flights – they prefer their own things to help them get to sleep!”


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