An Uncomplicated Life Blog: Family Vacation Must-Haves

Monday, August 6, 2018

Family Vacation Must-Haves

If you're traveling with children, check out these must haves to make your vacation more enjoyable

One of the truest things I've ever heard is that traveling with kids isn't a vacation; it's a trip. Actual vacations are for adults only, when you can actually relax, do the activities you want to do (without whining or complaining or figuring in nap schedules!) and maybe, just maybe, get a good night's sleep. Bringing the kids? Sure it can still be a fun time, but it's no vacation - it's a trip. It's still work. With no in-state family and now both of our folks owning vacation properties, we travel with our kids quite a bit. Today I'm sharing some of the best tips we've learned along the way to have as seamless a trip as possible, even with babies and toddlers in tow. These are my family vacation must-haves! *Affiliate links used*

What to pack for easier travel with babies and toddlers, vacationing with babies, family travel tips
Preparing to leave on the trip:
- Packing list
THIS IS ESSENTIAL. It seems silly, but when you're packing - especially if you've got two people contributing items to the suitcase - you've got to have a running list or you'll forget things. You think your husband put your toddlers swimsuits in, he thinks you did and the next thing you know, you've promised your child a dip in the pool and she has nothing to wear! You ruin a whole morning making an emergency trip to Target for a few suits with a fussy toddler when you could have been having fun in the pool. Same goes for you and your belongings! Make a packing list for you, too. When I packed for my sister's wedding a few years ago, I was so focused on not forgetting anything for my boys and making sure my dress was packed so that it wouldn't get ruined that I completely forgot to pack underwear. The town they got married in had ONE boutique (no Target, no Walmart) and I spent $120 on three pairs of panties that weren't even in my size. For the trip home I wore a pair that I had hand washed in the sink. That was fun. Make a packing list for everyone, and cross items off as they're packed.

- Spare travel outfit
Here's the thing about traveling with kids: They throw up. My kids never get car sick and Otto has legitimately only thrown up twice in his whole life, but the second you're stuck in a small space they do things they've never done before. Like vomit. All over themselves and on you too. I recommend a full change of clothes for them and at least a shirt for you. Pack it in the diaper bag or your carry on and be prepared for the worst! If you child has a history of car sick/air sickness or isn't fully potty trained yet, bring two outfits. Don't forget a small plastic bag you can tie the dirty clothes off in so you don't have to smell them, too!

For actual travel, either by car, plane or train:
The good news is that you don't have to pay to check your car seats! The bad news is that you've got to protect them from careless airline employees. You've also got to get them to the bag drop, and those suckers are heavy. We use these padded car seat covers to protect our seats while they're checked. They also have a backpack feature that makes them easier to transport, especially when you're lugging along kids and suitcases and diapers bags. It's the easiest way to travel with car seats, hands down!

Whether you're traveling by car, plane or train, headphones are essential. I know you don't want to hear the obnoxious movie or TV show you're letting your child watch, and neither does anyone else! When we flew home from Myrtle Beach this summer, and had nearly 12 hours of delays in Atlanta, we were thrilled to see our flight had in-headrest TV screens for the kids with a bunch of new shows they haven't seen. Both kids sat and intently watched Mickie Mouse Club at 11pm after a full day of travel, for the entire flight home. These headphones saved us and everyone around us from over-tired toddler meltdowns! And, from having to suffer through hearing Mickie Mouse Club for the hour and a half night time flight.
Newsflash: Most airlines have weight limits on gate checked strollers. That means your UppaBaby, City Select or BOB strollers are a hard no when you fly. Why you would gate check your expensive strollers is also beyond me... It's not like the airline staff are more gentle with your high end items, know what I mean?! We use the exact one I linked because it's PERFECT. It has a storage basket under it unlike a crappy umbrella stroller, it's got cup holders for sippy cups and your coffee, and a full bar you push with so that you can hang bags on it, too. When traveling with kids, I need that stroller to multitask, so it needs to carry more than just the child! This one in particular has a fully reclining seat, and we've gotten both boys in it (two toddlers will fit in it sitting up when the back is laid down). Or one child can nap in it while you're vacationing. It's so lightweight I can grab the folding handle with my pinky finger and it opens with a simple shake. Plus, it still has safety features like air-locked wheels. This is HANDS DOWN the best stroller to have with you, for air travel and on your trip - especially if you've got more than one child!

- Cheap entertainment
We're a big fan of getting a cheap activity book set like this one. It has stickers and crayons so there's tons to keep them busy, but if it gets lost or forgotten on the plane, it's not the end of the world! Also, it's like kids know how much you spent on it... And the cheapest toys always seem to be the most entertaining, I kid you not.

While you're vacationing:
The thing I've learned about baby and toddler sleep (and I have two kids who go to bed at 7pm and stay in their beds all night, not getting up or out of them until 6-7am!) is that you need to be as consistent as possible. Recreating the environment that they sleep in at home is key to great sleepers while you're on vacation. We bring a sound machine, since my kids still use one at home. This helps block out noisy hotel rooms, the fireworks we had to listen to every night at Myrtle Beach and just about any other obnoxious noise - in addition to being "more like home."

- "Lovies" or comfort toys
Same theory as above - you want to recreate their familiar sleeping habits at home. If your child sleeps with a lovie, you gotta bring it! And don't put it in checked baggage lest they lose it; bring it in your purse or carry on! Otto is IN LOVE with this thing, so much so that when I found it on Amazon to link it here, I quickly bought another just to have as a backup! Henry has a duck he got as a consolation prize when we forgot to pack his beloved bunny. We were headed to my parents cabin in rural Wisconsin and my mom had picked up a stuffed duck secondhand just to have some toys at the cabin. He's now attached to that thing but there's no buying a backup!
Traveling with kids is a literal trip! Pack these must-haves for your next family vacation, and you'll have the best time possible, even though your trip will still be work. I'm telling you, making packing lists is essential, that stroller is the best travel stroller there is - even if you've got more than one child - and do your best to re-create the sleep environment your child has at home. It will all pay off in the end if you use these family vacation must haves!


  1. oh my gosh yes true my friend! my toddlers need all of these things ha esp those headphones! they are a life savor!

  2. While I'm well beyond the traveling with toddlers stage, some of these ideas can be used/adapted for other passengers, such as spare traveling outfits (for spills), activity books (crosswords or sudoku), and a comfy blanket. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I think the whole family should travel with spare outfits. You never know what will happen!

  4. Cheap entertainment is definitely a must-have, especially since it's likely it'll be lost by the end of the trip! & I agree that a list is definitely essential!


  5. There are so many things to think about when traveling! Great to have a comprehensive list like this!

  6. I traveled with my family a few years ago and was so annoyed when I had to shell out money for the car seat cover. It ended up being the best money that I have ever spent! Having the back pack feature saved my sanity when my husband and I were navigating the airport with our two kids!

  7. I have never heard of the car seat carrier/protectors before! They are genius. I will need to look into these for my next holiday

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