There are two things that make packing difficult and these are extrapolated when you are trying to pack for children.
You can see why this is difficult. Trying to get the “right” balance in a suitcase is hard. On one hand, junior will be totally fine without a travel-crib mobile. On the other hand that travel mobile that I threw in saved us on several flights because baby J wailed in the airline bassinet until I got it out and figured out how to affix it to the overhead. Silence. Happy baby watching a mobile. Everyone in the cabin loved the travel mobile in that moment.
So how do you figure out the balance?
It is miserable having too much stuff when traveling with an infant. There is extra weight to drag around and too many extra items to find when little one has just scattered their toys across the hotel room with 15 minutes left to check out. This can be even more stressful if you realize are missing their one comfort toy or an item that you really need amid the mess. Yet, in that same moment, there are things that make your life so much easier when you have them…that travel mobile for example. Then, there are a lot of things that are likely unnecessary. How do you know what to take and what to leave at home? There are so many travel items that draw you in, promising to make life easier for you on the road. Yet these same items can complicate your travel if they are rarely used and only added weight.
The key is evaluating and knowing your child. Preparation is a lot more important with kids. The first time we traveled with J, I was a paranoid parent. I took a travel humidifier to the beach in Okinawa. Note the irony. It was super humid on the beach. There was no point in taking the humidifier. It took up valuable space, was useless, and more of a pain (trying to figure out how to work the thing) than anything else. The travel humidifier was simply something that promised to help, but had I taken some time to think about it and not get drawn into the promises rather than actual usefulness, I would have realized he didn’t need it at all.
The next trip, I almost didn’t take J’s travel mobile. When J was a baby, he loved his regular mobile at home and used to kick the sides of the bassinet to move it. So I threw it in our carryon. It turned out to be a lifesaver as I put it on every hotel crib and above every airplane bassinet. J would have been fine without the mobile, but it made life easier. This was because he liked mobiles. So I packed it for that reason.
We also found we couldn’t just throw things in a suitcase at the last minute anymore. We might leave something really important behind – like enough baby wipes – and that is not at all like forgetting your contact solution and having to pick up an extra bottle at an airport convenience store (luckily for us, Singapore Changi Airport has supermarkets in the basement). Our pre-child days of waiting until the last minute are over – we plan what to pack in advance and make a list of our essentials.
Certain things may not be essential, but they make life infinitely easier on the road. Take those things. I could share our packing list with you (and probably will later), but only you know your child well enough to know what the necessities are. Other things may seem useful, but in the end, will actually get in your way and be a burden as extra baggage that you resent carrying around. It is too easy to overpack which in turn leads to extra checked baggage fees, not enough space in the taxi, and potentially lost or forgotten items out on the road. Underpacking will cause you to forget the children’s tylenol and discover frantically that you need it after your child has a sore throat.
So I’ll conclude by once again exhorting you to KNOW YOUR CHILD. If you think about what your child truly needs, loves and is comforted by, then you’ll be able to pack much more effectively.