I love the idea of packing light. When traveling with kids, however, it’s more like ‘try to pack as light as you can’. Many of the ‘wants’ to a toddler are ‘needs’ if you want sanity on your trip. Here, I’ll share some tips I’ve collected on the way for things that do double-duty or are light and serve a cost or time-saving function. I should mention that this packing list is the same, whether we’re gone for 1 week or 3 weeks. I almost never pack more than 5 days worth of clothes, no matter how long our stay.
It’s not that hard to do laundry in a hotel bathroom sink, especially for undergarments. For items that can’t be wrung or washed, most hotels offer a dry-cleaning service, often with same or next day service. Of course, you won’t be bringing many of those, will you. 😉
To do laundry in your room, you’ll need a Flat Sink Stopper and some laundry soap. I’ve used baby shampoo with mixed results. Extra rinsing in very cold water helps to get all the suds out. You can bring a clothes line, but I just use the hotel pants hangers or hang them on the towel rod to dry.
Even though we’re packing for kids, maximizing the uses for our own things leaves more room for the toys and extras that we need to bring for the kids.
We really try to mix and match as much as possible. I pick a color scheme for myself and for my son. This way, I can minimize the bulk for each of us.
For myself, I do one light and one dark piece in each category: tank top, short sleeve shirt, shorts, capris, and pants. (the dark pant is usually my jeans). Add to that pajamas, swimsuit and undergarments, and that’s my packing list. Because they’re all in one color scheme, (say, khaki and navy) I can dress up or down and not necessarily wear the same outfit twice. Also, my swimsuits are tankinis so I can use the top as a bonus top with shorts. Pajamas are t-shirt and shorts so if I need to make a trip down the hall, I’m covered.
I do the same light/dark system with my son in his color scheme adding an extra piece to each category, and doubling the amount of shirts. With his swim shorts and regular shorts, I’ve now packed 5 or 6 pairs of shorts for him. I can cut down on this, but his clothes are so small, it’s worth bringing the extras in the hopes of minimal laundry duty.
Shoes: I bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes, one pair of semi-dressy shoes for dining out, and a pair of thin flip-flops for going to the pool and picking up continental breakfast to bring back to the room.
-Other Mom Stuff
A sarong should be in every mom’s bag. It’s a piece of thin-but-strong fabric about 45″ wide and about 66″ long. Mine is a neutral gray linen with fringed ends. I use this thing as a wrap when dining out, as a baby/toddler carrier, as a beach cover-up, a beach/picnic blanket, stroller shade (draping it over the stroller to encourage a public nap), stroller blanket(wrap his legs up with it when the weather has an unexpected chill), etc. It’s so versatile, lightweight, and dries quickly, I often just keep it in my diaper bag all the time.
As for make-up, bring the minimum. I find that sunscreen, self-tanner for foundation is gentle enough to use all over AND on my sensitive-skin face… also covers odd tan lines), powder blush (doubles as an eye-shadow), a neutral eyeshadow, mascara, eyebrow pencil (I use Almay Brow Defining Pencil, Dark Blonde ), and one lipstick can easily get me through the trip. The eyebrow pencil is because I have a picture of me that, thanks to the angle of the sun, looks like I have no eyebrows! Choose the blonde brow pencil no matter what your brow/hair color is; it’ll look more natural.
The hotel probably has a hairdryer. Call or check their website if you’re not sure.
A folded hotel towel on the floor of the tub or shower keeps him from slipping around, and keeps his sweet little skin off the who-knows-how-clean floor. (This also worked well when he was an infant, using just enough water to keep the towel wet.) I also tie a hand towel around the tub spout when he’s in the tub to minimize head-bonks.
I always bring a large drain cover or two (ours is ). I found that it works perfectly to cover the drain stop that has a little knob just where a busy bather could bump into.
For bath toys, we either use a small inflatable ball or animal, Munchkin Sea & Learn Bath Shapes, or we bring plastic sea animals that are about the size of Matchbox cars. These toys can also be used outside the tub, so do double-duty.
The hotel washcloths are too rough on delicate skin, so I bring a soft baby washcloth from home. As for shampoo, we either bring enough baby shampoo to share, or we do the pre-soaped cloths from Johnson & Johnson. Safety Q-tips keep little ears dry after being in water.
I also make sure to bring his Tylenol/Motrin, decongestant and our thermometer from home. There’s no way I’ll risk not having it on the plane. (More on carry-on items)
A roll tape makes quick work of baby-proofing a hotel room. Cover outlets, tape drawers shut, wrap cords. It’s also come in handy to keep the drapes closed. The painters tape comes off easily and doesn’t leave any residue.
Here’s an odd tip that has come in handy quite often… Palmolive makes a dishsoap cloth that suds when it you get it wet (Palmolive Lemon Dish Wipes). I cut them into strips (so I always have a clean one) and wash sippy cups and baby spoons in the bathroom when I have no kitchen. They’re handy on outings, too.
We always bring a night light. If you plug it in in the bathroom, the sleeping room’s not too bright, and middle of the night bathroom visits are much easier.
Because his bedtime is about the time other guests are going out for the evening, I bring our little iPod shuffle (loaded with soothing music) and speaker and keep it in there with him to help disguise the sounds of the hotel so he can sleep. When we get a room with a separate bedroom, I bring a baby monitor. I get to listen to soothing music in another room, and I know instantly if he needs my attention.
I’ve also used the baby monitor as a security device by reversing it when I go to bed so I can hear if anyone’s trying to get into our room. I’ve done this with ground floor rooms and outside corridor rooms. I also kind of booby-trap our room, which is probably funny. I put a half-empty paper bag a few steps in from the door (it would be loud if someone stepped on it, but not unsafe for us to get out in an emergency), and if on the ground floor something similar by the windows.
Often times, we mail most of the diapers and toys to our hotel a few days before we get there. Call your hotel to see how they want you to handle this if you do it. This has worked out great because when we use up all the diapers, we either have room to put the toys in our suitcase and leave the box, or we have room in the box to mail things home. Of course, you’ll want to have packed enough diapers in your suitcase to get you through the first day and a half. Even if you’ve paid for expedited shipping, delays happen so give yourself time to get to the store before you run out.
It’s so easy to overpack. Just remember, if you’re going to a major metropolitan area within the US, chances are you can buy what you need when you get there. There’s probably a grocery store or drugstore nearby. If you’re loyal to a brand, by all means, bring it. Otherwise, plan a trip to the local discount store to pick the rest.