Whether your family is heading out for a long flight or a quick road trip, reduce your pre-trip stress with our simple family travel packing tips. From making a list to creative carry-ons, you'll help prevent adult and kid meltdowns away from home (it's amazing how the smallest of stuffed animals can test everyone's sanity).
1. Give everyone his or her own bag.
Individual suitcases (preferably different colors—red for one, blue for another) help you locate items in a hurry. This will make life easy at the airport, as even little kids are not only capable of toting around a mini-Pullman—they often enjoy it.
2. Assemble one toiletry kit for all the kids.
Today’s rules regarding carry-on liquids mean more shampoos in checked baggage—and more potential for messy spills. Checking one bag with all spillable items (as well as beauty items such as hair dryers and makeup) saves you from a potential trip to the Laundromat upon arrival. It also eases unpacking, allowing you to deposit the entire case right in the bathroom.
3. Make packing lists for each child.
List each item as it’s packed, and stow the complete itemization in the suitcase. The arrangement will help you repack at the end of the trip and give you the peace of mind of knowing everything that came is going back home.
4. Pack a family carry-on.
One bag of essentials saves heartache if a bag is temporarily lost. Include one outfit for everyone, as well as prescriptions and other must-haves. A communal bag also simplifies car travel, giving quick access to overnight necessities for midway stops instead of unpacking the whole car.
5. Consider creative carry-ons.
Soft coolers make great carry-on luggage. Roomy and crushable, they’re perfect for nonbreakable items (such as those extra outfits) and help you cut your food bill by becoming picnic baskets for takeout meals.
6. Think plastic.
Plastic bags protect delicate items from spills inside your suitcase. They’ll also be invaluable at trip’s end for dirty laundry and any wet clothes coming home.
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Photo Credit: iStockphoto / wojciech_gajda