I remember the first time I traveled alone on a plane with both of my kids. My daughter was a toddler and my son a baby–and somehow I lugged a stroller, two car seats, a portable crib, a backpack carry-on and two rolling suitcases from the departures curb, where a taxi had dropped us off, to the ticket counter.
I attached one of the car seats onto my backpack while I carried my son in a front-carrier on my chest. I pushed the porta-crib and the other car seat in the stroller with one hand, and pulled the suitcase with the other hand. My 2-year-old daughter rolled the second suitcase.
That experience alone taught me to pack light when I’m traveling with my kids. Since then I have never brought a crib on a family vacation–or even more than one suitcase. I’ve learned to cut back on the kid clutter Here’s what you can do to make sure you never end up carrying a heap of stuff through the airport.
- Buy small items at the destination. Diapers, wipes, snacks, baby food–you can purchase these things at your destination, especially if you’re traveling within the United States. Bring what you need on the plane and then hit up a market when you arrive.
- Rent what you can. Baby’s Away (babysaway.com) is a baby and child equipment rental service with over 70 U.S. locations from Anaheim, Calif., to Hawaii, to New York City. Just call ahead and they can provide clean, quality equipment (cribs, high chairs, strollers, portable cribs, car seats, and even toys) for a reasonable price.
- Make kids carry their own stuff. Even a 3-year-old can roll a small suitcase. If you make a rule that the children must carry everything they pack, then they’ll be less likely to insist that they need to bring three stuffed animals, 20 books, five packs of gum, six pairs of shoes, and their entire collection of plastic bugs.
- Plan to do some wash. Your children don’t need an outfit for every day. Pack dark-colored and patterned clothing that doesn’t show dirt and wash socks and underwear in the hotel sink. Also, many hotels offer washers and driers for guests to use.
- Make some phone calls before you leave. Many hotels offer portable cribs, but often you must reserve these ahead of time. Also, if you’re renting a car, find out if the agency can provide a complimentary safety seat.
- Opt for lighter items. Always try to bring the lighter version. Instead of the big, bulky stroller push your tot in the small, skinny umbrella one. Instead of bulky hardcover books, toss the paperback ones into your case. Rather than lug a brand new bottle of baby shampoo, pour some into a small bottle.