Packing Guide for Travelling with Kids

April 26, 2018

Family trips are the stuff memories are made of, and you want to keep the stress to a minimum in order to maximise the joy! A big factor in preparing to travel with kids will be using a good travel checklist to ensure you have everything you need … while still keeping your luggage manageable.

Take everything you need, and bring back precious memories. Photo by Caleb Jones

Our packing guide has lots of tips and tricks, plus some advice on keeping your own luggage light to allow for the extras you need to take. Whether you’re travelling in Australia with kids or heading further afield, this travel checklist will help your family vacation to go more smoothly. (Remember to take your travel checklist with you to ensure you don’t leave anything behind when you pack for the return home.)

Travel Checklist for Family Trips

Favourite cuddly toy – every parent has faced the acute distress of a toddler losing their favourite toy, even for a few minutes. You don’t need to take many toys on a family trip, but this one has to be on your travel checklist!

A First Aid travel kit, including children’s bandaids and cough syrup, is a must for family trips. Many parents swear by paw paw ointment and tea tree oil as gentle, natural ways to soothe and heal minor cuts, scrapes and insect bites. Tea tree oil also helps to prevent mosquito bites. You can purchase both in small amounts for travel.

Familiar cups and spoons can ease meal times when travelling with a toddler, especially if they are likely to be upset about being in an unfamiliar environment. Remember that airlines might not allow metal cutlery in carry-on luggage. Check the carrier rules with your ATAS travel advisor.

Clothes are an obvious essential, and choosing what to pack will be different for each family trip. One item you mustn’t miss though is closed shoes when travelling in Australia with kids, and for many other destinations too. Closed shoes are often mandatory for certain adventure activities, and if you’re going to a beach destination, take shoes designed for water sports, such as reef shoes.

A favourite pillow can be very comforting, and is essential for road trips. If your children have small pillows, take them with you on the plane journey to encourage snoozing.

For baby travel, as well as the usual paraphernalia you take with you on every outing, a portable changing mat is an essential item for your vacation. It will free you to go anywhere without worrying about finding public toilets with a parent-and-baby changing room. Eco friendly, waterproof, wipeable, washable, roll-up mats are replacing disposable mats, but both work equally well.

Have a change of clothes in your carry on luggage or easily to hand in the car, because with kids, you just never know …

A comfortable lightweight day pack that will squash into your suitcase or use for your carry on luggage is a godsend when you travel with kids, enabling you to take all those essential items as you go out and about.

Lollies for kids to suck during flight take-off and landing will help ‘pop’ their ears and relieve pressure. A straw bottle or training cup can help too if you’re travelling with a toddler and want to avoid sugar. Babies will need a bottle or soother for the same purpose.

Sun protection, after-sun and First Aid must be on your beach holiday essentials list.

A rubbish bag or two will reduce the irritation of finding apple cores, tissues and empty chip packets cluttering up the floor around your plane or car seats. When you travel with a baby, rubbish bags can double as nappy sacks, and vice versa.

Nappies and baby travel wipes are essentials that you can purchase as you go, in order to keep packing light. Take enough for the first couple of days to give yourself time to find out where to buy more. Your ATAS travel planner will be able to find suitable holiday accommodation within reach of a shopping area.

Toiletries are, of course, essential items on your travel checklist, but only pack travel size amounts. Make sure you include sunscreen and aloe vera for sunburn or other skin irritations.

Portable entertainment is a must when you travel with kids, easing those down times when you need to be on the road, waiting for a flight or in your accommodation between adventures. Three of the best are audio books (use comfy headphones designed for kids if you can), a packet of balloons – the world’s best fallback toy for hours of hilarious fun (and they’re easy to pack too), and puzzles or picture making activities for tablet devices: there are some excellent apps around now. Don’t forget the charger for your devices!

Might Need

A portable toilet seat that fits onto a standard seat can be really useful when travelling with a toddler.

Travel sickness tablets and bags might be needed, not only for flights and road trips, but possible tours that involve choppy seas. It’s a case of being prepared for vulnerable little ones to reach their coping limit.

Milton tablets for sanitising baby bottles are very easy to pack, light to carry, and reliable.

Bathers for a winter family trip might seem like a strange item to pack, but your hotel could have an indoor pool, which is a fantastic facility to keep children entertained while giving you an opportunity to relax in or beside the water. Ask your travel agent to make this a priority when searching for suitable hotels.

Don’t forget the floaties! But remember that if you do forget something, there are shops in pretty much every destination. Photo by Leo Rivas

Swimming goggles and/or inflatable flotation devices might be important, especially if you’re travelling with a toddler, and they’re easily forgotten!

Take microfibre towels for swimming if your hotel doesn’t allow you to take their towels to the beach. Microfibre is highly absorbent but thin and light, so the towels roll up small for packing and dry quickly.

Great to Have
A fabric child restraint that you can slip over a restaurant chair, or a portable fold-up seat that clips onto a table, can be really useful when travelling with a toddler, giving you more choice for eating out as you don’t have to search for venues with high chairs.

Take a favourite blanket if you have room. This can be a great comforter and double up as an extra layer for warmth. Blankets can also be excellent vacation toys! Throw them over chairs and small tables to make a den if the kids are getting bored while you spend time in your accommodation.

Pack tiny items in food containers in your luggage. These will be useful for carrying snacks when you go out on day trips or to restaurants that might not have food the kids are used to. Ask your ATAS travel advisor to locate you close to child-friendly restaurants, and do encourage children to try new tastes! It’s all part of the holiday adventure.

Collapsible travel bottles that pack down can be used to carry extra water or juice on day outings and road trips. There are eco-friendly bottles on the market that you can use time and again.

Muslin cloths are fantastic for their light weight, softness and versatility when you travel with a baby. Use them for wiping up milk, protecting your shoulders from dribble, shading the baby from sun, and doubling up as a bib, flannel or towel. And they dry quickly, so you can give them a quick wash each evening and drip dry overnight.

Use a travel bottle to take a small container of laundry detergent in case of accidents and for baby travel items like bibs. Alternatively, ask your travel agent to find hotels and resorts that provide a laundry service.

A small bottle of antibacterial hand wash gel will always be useful when you travel with kids, especially on road trips when you might not have easy access to toilets. Use them before meals and after visits to public attractions with lots of hands-on activities, such as a science museum or adventure playground.

For water-based vacations, take extra bathers for each member of the family, so one set can be drying while the others are in use. Putting on damp bathers is unpleasant at any age!

TOP TIP – The 100ml liquid restrictions for carry on luggage doesn’t apply to items for babies, such as milk and water. On domestic flights there is no restriction, but there are still some limits on international flights, so check with your travel agent.

Keeping it Light

When travelling with a toddler or baby, there are several items you’ll need to find room for in your luggage, in addition to your own clothing and toiletries. This calls for clever packing, and if you’re flying to your holiday destination, check the luggage allowance for the airline and fare you want to book. This can vary significantly, and there might be an additional charge for luggage over a particular weight. So keeping it light is essential.

Take lots of layers for snow holidays, in coordinating colours – yes, even for the kids!

Tips for packing light:

  • The first rule for light packing is light luggage. How heavy is your suitcase or carry on bag when it’s empty? Newer luggage tends to be more lightweight, so consider upgrading if your bags are old.
  • Shoes can be bulky and heavy, so look for a couple of good quality, lightweight, comfortable pairs in neutral colours that you can wear with smart casual pants for evening, as well as to the beach.
  • Sarongs are probably the most flexible item of clothing for mums (and to some extent, for dads too), from beachwear to neck scarves. They also roll up and fit into tiny spaces in your luggage. In winter, a pashmina is invaluable.
  • Take lots of thin layers for family trips to the snow: merino wool is light, warm and moisture-wicking, which means it draws sweat away from the body so you can wear merino tops a few times before they need to be washed.
  • Roll your clothes to pack them. This effectively keeps them flattened and makes more efficient use of luggage space. Always look for fabrics that resist creasing – there are many now that can be scrunched and still look good when you unpack.
  • Coordinate colours so that everything goes with everything. Black, white and light beige are a team that works for anyone! A couple of bright scarves are all you need to add. You can do this for kids too, but use more bright colours.
  • Take just enough of your favourite toiletries for the first day or two and buy more at your destination if you need to. Most pharmacies sell small bottles to fill with your own products for travelling, and they’re well worth the investment.

Find more travel advice here: The essentials of overseas travelling and A Traveller’s Guide to Carry On Luggage Rules.

Still deciding what to do for your next family vacation? Browse these articles and ask your local ATAS travel agent for advice: City Trip Planning – Our top 10 recommendations for couples,The very best family holidays (that the kid’s wont hate) or 10 Aussie Holiday ideas for the Easter long weekend.

Travelling with babies and young children can be a lot of fun. You’re likely to enjoy your holiday even more if you prepare well now, so you can be flexible when things don’t go according to plan. Browse more expert advice in the ATAS Blog.

When planning a family holiday, ATAS travel agents are here to help you do that. They can guide you through the options, find the best deals and advise on all aspects of your trip. When you’re ready to book, they will ensure everything is in place for a smooth journey and quality holiday experience.


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