Packing list and travel tips for kids

As we gear up to leave next week for a road trip and again in mid-July for two months, I think about all those tough early days traveling with the kids.  I specifically remember how rough it was with my younger one until she had a breakthrough within a few days of her 5th birthday in Colombia after being dragged around on buses for weeks. Now that they’re almost 7 and 11 they’re incredibly excited about travel, even though much of the time it’s hard for them. They leave their friends, grandparents, neighborhood pools, tacos, and familiar home for foreign countries where they can’t easily play with other kids on the playground, but somehow enjoy the experience enough to ask “where are we going next?”

I was all set to write up a post about why kids should get to see as much of the world around them, but then I found a post that explained it much better than I could here.

Over 10 years of travel with kids I’ve compiled a list of what you might need to take with you. Here’s what you need to go anywhere in the world and what to do in the days before you leave your house on a long trip. (**This page contains affiliate links)

Print this list and use a black permanent marker to cross off everything after it goes into the bag. Really wait to cross it out – I’ve been burned running around the house with this one!  And don’t walk out the door until that sheet is blacked out.

This list has worked for us for trips from one to six weeks. I hope it makes leaving home a little easier.

Prep house:

clean fridge

lower A/C (morning of)

close any curtains on windows

put some lights on timers

empty washer/DW

take trash out

water garden


Sunscreen (hard to find in some countries, or hard to translate the packaging in a foreign language.  We like Badger Face Stick and Blue Lizard brand.)

diapers, wipes, diaper cream (unscented baby wipes come in handy for bigger kids too and if you can’t shower for a while)

toothbrush/small toothpaste/floss

insect repellent – hard to find at times abroad. Do not get aerosol or liquid – get some kind of lotion type one. Sawyer controlled release is fantastic if you’re going to the jungle and need all night coverage. It also doesn’t smell. We used it in South America with no problems.  If you’re just going to the lake in the US, definitely go lower Deet though! Sawyer family formula is good too – and effective for ticks.

GoToob bottles for liquid toiletries:

shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion


any meds you may need, but not much of them. You can buy at any pharmacy worldwide and often much cheaper: Dramamine, ibuprofen, benadryl, a few cough drops and melatonin for jet lag


benadryl bite cream (bring this! I always need it)

travel size baby powder

disposable ear plugs

hair brush and a wide comb

minimal first aid kit – at least bandaids, neosporin

nail clippers



hand sanitizer

small travel towels (we have the Aqua Sphere Towel) – really bring a couple of these at least.  If you do any swimming on your trip you most likely won’t have enough towels to take out with you, and these help with hand washing laundry too since they soak up so much water and dry quickly. Worth the space in the suitcase.

baby size washcloths (there are never enough for a family anywhere we go). 

spray and wash stick – I always use this thing, and if you can’t get to laundry for a while you will probably need it. Hard to find abroad.

ziplocs – small and large.

shopping bags for when you go for groceries.


booster or car seat if needed (TRY NOT TO NEED IT!)

tiny scissors and/or hair scissors (needs to be checked). Pocketknife with scissors will work too.

permanent marker (thin)

sleep masks if they’ll help

gloves, hats, long underwear, ski socks

toy erasers (the best kid toy for travel and restaurants)

markers and paper

passports and shot records, save copies of all online where you can reach them

copies of auto insurance

laptop charger, line out cable, headphones, chargers for all devices

headphones for everyone’s devices

phone, ipad, laptop

power converter / plug adapter (example here but make sure you get the right one for the countries you’re going to visit)

flip flops for all / comfy pair of shoes



sun hats

tampons or other supplies

markers and paper

glasses, my sunglasses, kids sunglasses

pillows and blankets



comfy hoodie or jacket


jeans / pants


extra small purse bag for destination

winter hats, scarves, gloves


a pop up sponge for kitchen

Specifically for a road trip:

knives and dish towels (never sharp or enough in kitchens we stay in)

Foil, Plastic Wrap, Ziplocs, laundry detergent

tea filters, loose tea if you drink it

olive oil or any oils you use (because you don’t need to buy one on a trip for a little bit of oil use)

reusable water bottles for kids to fill at airport


If you feel you need to take a whole lot more, at my previous job I once found a copy of a trip list with everything you can imagine on it.  You can find it here.

Head to the airport, and on your way check out what’s good to eat at your flight stops.  Chances are, there’s a foodie who has put together a guide and you won’t have to eat bad airport food ever again.  See this one from Newark, for example.