Traveling with kids is hardly a simple endeavor. The disruption in routine and logistical challenges can be enough to call off the whole trip.
But there are ways to make the experience a little smoother and more enjoyable — and a lot of it starts with the packing process.
HuffPost asked parents to share the one thing they always make sure to pack when they travel with their children to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable. Here’s what they had to say:
“As a mother of a 3-year-old and an infant, the one item I always bring with me is my baby monitor and camera and the chargers for them. I like to book suites or vacation rentals with private pools, so that my husband and I can have the kids sleeping or napping in one room and we watch movies in the living room, or relax in the private pool or jacuzzi.
Having the baby monitor allows us to do this while still monitoring and listening to the kids. We put the kids to sleep in the pack and play, turn the noise machine on, and set up the camera, and then we can utilize the rest of the house or suite and enjoy our vacation too.” ― Stephanie Claytor, founder of the travel brand Blacktrekking
“We always take a kids travel journal with us so that our boys can record all their adventures. Rather than a formatted journal with daily prompts, we prefer a standard notebook as this allows for more creative freedom. Some days they may just want to write a line or two, other days they may want to draw a picture or stick in tickets, and other days they may be inspired to write pages and pages. With a standard notebook they can write what they want when they want. And we always have glue and scissors at the ready to stick things in.” ― Jenny Lynn, blogger at TraveLynn Family
“We never travel without the special stuffed animals that the kids sleep with so they feel some comfort from home during naps on the go or unexpected delays.” ― Caroline Hershey, blogger at Jet With a Set
“I’d say I’d never travel without quick-dry alcohol ear drops to prevent ear infections you can get from lakes, pools or ocean spots on the road. Kids can get screaming ear infections, because of their short tubes, and sitting in urgent care can ruin your whole day and cut a trip short. And you only have so many days for vacation.” ― Maria De La O., editor at Roam Family Travel
A Snack Stash
“Snacks are a must-have to keep hunger at bay and avoid any mid-flight meltdowns. I make sure to pack a variety of healthy and non-messy snacks that my kids enjoy.” ― Marvyn Harrison, founder of Dope Black Dads
“I always bring my mirrorless camera to capture memorable moments my family and I can relive forever. This is something I didn’t have as a child, but something I know my children will appreciate in the future.” ― Roland Pollard, digital content creator
“I always bring my DSLR camera, because I like to slow down and capture some moments through my big lens that isn’t my mobile device I use all the time.” ― Jennifer Borget, digital content creator
“There are so many things you have to pack when traveling with children, especially when they are younger. We often joke that the smaller the kids, the more stuff you need. But if I can mention just one thing that we always carry with us, it has to be a first-aid kit and, more precisely, adhesive bandages.
With three active and very adventurous boys, we have used bandages on more occasions than I can remember, and this hasn’t changed ever since their first steps. Even now, when our kids are teenagers, we always carry a few bandages with us, just in case. And yes, we still use them on practically every trip.” ― Jurga Rubinovaite, blogger at FullSuitcase.com
Dollar Store Toys
“My favorite kid travel hack is toys from the dollar store! They’re cheap but still have the new toy appeal that kids look for. Guaranteed entertainment that doesn’t revolve around a screen! ― Riky Williams aka @MommyCocktail
“The one item we always take with us when we travel, without fail and no matter what, is a tablet. Specifically, three tablets, one for each of our kids. We don’t allow tablets at home, opting for limited TV and video game time, coloring and books instead, so when they get to use tablets on trips, it feels like a true vacation and something extra special (and helps avoid the age-old question of ‘Are we there yet?’). We download their favorite movies and TV shows beforehand so that on long road trips they always have something to watch. It entertains them and helps keep us focused on the task at hand.” ― PJ and Thomas McKay, bloggers at The Property Lovers
“My kids are 6 and 8. Each of them having a tablet with games that don’t require Wi-Fi keeps them contentedly in their own universes with only the occasional breaks for food or the bathroom and little need to ask the question parents hate. Forgetting car chargers or not checking to see if they have games that don’t require Wi-Fi can fully nullify this hack.” ― La Guardia Cross, YouTube influencer
“One indispensable item in my arsenal is a well-curated, compact entertainment bag for each of my kids. It invariably includes an activity book that incites curiosity, offering various puzzles and riddles. I also pack a book that has a narrative interesting to them. Some small old figurines that they haven’t played with in a while also make their way into the bag. Their surprise in rediscovering these forgotten toys adds a pinch of excitement to the journey and sparks imagination and indulging in some storytelling.
A simple notebook and set of pencils allows them to jot down their thoughts or doodle. The notebook also doubles as a gaming pad where we can play traditional paper games like tic-tac-toe or hangman, or even invent our own games. A few random Lego bricks are also thrown in to challenge them to build something creative with limited resources. Finally, a Rubik’s cube or another brain teaser is a must.” ― Sergei Urban, founder of The Dad Lab
“Invest in lightweight, space-saving packing cubes. These handy organizers not only keep your luggage tidy but also maximize space. Each child can have their own cube, making it easy to find their clothes and accessories. Additionally, packing cubes help prevent the dreaded ‘suitcase explosion’ when searching for a specific item. It’s a game-changer for stress-free travel!” ― James Brockbank, founder of The Family Vacation Guide
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.