Honey I Shrunk Your Luggage Allowance: Packing for Families - PassPorter.com
Award-winning travel guidebooks

   guidebooks   |   news   |   podcasts   |   boards   |   blog   |   worksheets   |   photos   |   articles   |   updates   |   register   |  

Honey I Shrunk Your Luggage Allowance: Packing for Families

by JoAnne Noel, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 2/25/2011

PassPorter.com > Articles > U.S. Travel > Planning  

Traveling with children is not for the faint of heart. But we love travel and our kids do, too, so long as we manage it well for them.

Part of that is bringing the right stuff. This isn't another packing list though; I'm talking about how you approach packing for families.

Here’s what I think: Traveling with kids requires a different mind-set from the days when all you needed was your carry-on and your sense of adventure. Since the terror threats of August 10 have changed what we can bring in our carry-on luggage, it’s getting harder to get by without checked baggage. Parents and others traveling with youngsters might as well embrace the change.

What are you taking?

Let’s start with some general considerations.

The longer you’re away, the more you’ll miss the familiar. A long weekend without the baby’s beloved play mat would probably be fine, but if you’re going for 8 days you might get tired of finding new comfy, safe and interesting places for her to wiggle.

What’s your tolerance for doing laundry on vacation? Some people say no way, while others view it as welcome downtime. This has a huge impact on the amount of clothes you bring. Many resorts have on site laundry facilities, which may make this decision easier.

Think about kitchenware. Many families have breakfasts or snacks in the room. The space required for a few familiar cups and dishes may be worth it—particularly things like no-spill sippy cups and the cereal bowls with Mickey or the princesses. Skip anything that can’t be properly cleaned with a quick rinse.

If you plan to rent a car, you can buy all the consumables you need, from oatmeal to diapers, once you get there. Some experienced travelers prefer ordering from a grocery delivery service, such as Goodings.

Your resort or hotel may provide many of the basics. Disney resorts, for example, can easily supply pack-and-plays for cribs (with, I hear, Disney-themed sheets), or bedrails for pre-schoolers.

You may want to rent the big stuff. Do you need a high chair for your condo? An exersaucer for your pre-walker? The Walt Disney Travel Company recommends All About Kids, though an internet search will yield other providers of rental equipment.

Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Photo Op photo
Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Photo Op

What is wrong with the luggage!? Waiting in line for pictures with Woody and Buzz. - photo by home4us123

How old are your kids?

The smaller the child, the more stuff he or she needs. Any infant needs lots of diapers, a million burp clothes, and several outfits per day. I cannot imagine spending more than a day or two with a child under a year old without doing laundry. (Though it would certainly be a dream come true—tell the Cast Member that if you get selected in the “Year of a Million Dreams” promotion!)

With infants and toddlers, you also have to carry more specialized food-related equipment. If your child uses bottles, bring a bottle brush and one of those dishwasher bottle baskets to keep it all together. We traveled with a “starter kit” of familiar baby food and then shopped.

The younger the child, the more helpful the familiar will be in other regards. The hotel’s pack-and-play can feel more like home with a favorite blanket and the usual lullabies on CD. Bringing the right assortment of the familiar-and-comforting without packing the whole house takes some thought. Give yourself time to examine your routine for a few days, and make lists.

Tip: Sweet Dreams for the Whole Family
Are you traveling with a toddler? Do they normally have a sound machine to sleep at home? Rather than dragging it along on your next vacation, save room in your luggage and download an app for your smartphone/iPhone/iPad, etc. I found a few free ones that have sounds similar to the $50+ sound machine we have at home. (One important note to remember: either turn off the ringer or put the phone in airplane mode so that a late night call doesn't wake the baby!) There are also a few apps out there for using your iPhone as a audio baby monitor which could also be really great for traveling. Anything to make traveling with a toddler a bit less difficult! - tip contributed by Stacey

Save This Tip

You will also need to be strategic about entertainment. Generally, the more creative a toy, the better. Building sets are a pain to keep together, but are compact and versatile. Dolls or action figures may work for your story-creating child. You probably don’t need a lot—it’s Disney World after all—but a well-worn favorite can be just the thing for an afternoon break.

How do you put it all together?

So now you’re trying to put a potty seat in a hard-sider you bought during your “carry-on only” years. Meet the traveling parent’s friend, the hockey bag (equipment bag). Big, shapeless, cheap, and bulletproof. Your oddest shaped items can be safely tucked away in these canvas behemoths, even if you also use one or two traditional bags. Do check with your airline regarding maximum weight and dimensions, though; these bags are so accommodating, before you know it you’ll need a goalie to lift it.

Within that luggage I add another organizing layer; a mesh bag for each person. I purchased mesh beach bags with drawstrings, the sort you use for damp towels. They're especially helpful if you are living out of the suitcase for all or part of the trip—you can find anything without throwing it all over the bed.

Refining wardrobe options can make your life a little easier on arrival. Lay out each outfit and roll it up: socks, underwear, shirts, and pants. No guessing or negotiating. You will need to take into account variable circumstances—one or two dressier choices, some warmer pieces for layering. You can then wrap each bundle in a big elastic band. (Banding or Ziplocs also work very well to keep spare outfits together in your daypack.)

Getting it all there

Your airline may have special rules for luggage and equipment. Some allow you to check your child’s car seat and/or stroller in addition to the base luggage allowance (Air Canada, JetBlue). Others only substitute piece for piece, so you can check the stroller instead of a bag (Southwest). Some give you extra carry-on allowances for lap children (American); others don’t. There’s usually some accommodation available for all that extra gear, you just have to check with your airline.

Just about every carrier allows gate checking of car seats/infant carriers and strollers, a very handy perk (especially since it doesn't count against your luggage allowance). Tell the check-in agent you want to gate check the item; you will probably receive a special luggage tag to attach to it. You use the item right up to the door of the airplane, where it will be picked up and packed at the front of the luggage compartment. As soon as the plane lands, it will be brought back to the door of the plane.

In your carry-on, bring anything you’ll need shortly after arrival, like swimsuits, or tropic-weight clothes. Include prescriptions and over-the-counter things in pill or powder form, like the decongestant for little ears. Keep in mind that only 4 ounces of liquid over-the-counter medication can be put in carry-on luggage so look for chewable or dissolving tablets or the new “strip” medications.

If your child has a “lovey," a special toy or blanket, keep it on you. Floppy Puppy does not go under the plane. This vital item stays inside the backpack until we reach the hotel room. The only thing worse than losing it in the luggage would be leaving it in the gate area of a connecting airport.

The longer the trip, the more distraction you have to supply. Experienced parents stuff the carry-on with surprises; dollar store trinkets like new coloring books, or travel treats from the local Disney Store. These things also fill in any holes in the traveling toy collection.

Maybe my “travel heavy” philosophy isn’t for you. However, you can be comprehensive and streamlined in your packing, and accept having more checked luggage for a while. We’ve often lost our bags, but they always catch up with us within 24 hours. If your luggage does get lost, well, you’ve got your swimsuit and a change for everyone in your carry-on, so go start your vacation. Let the airline get all that stuff to your hotel!

POP Luggage photo
POP Luggage

A cool luggage cart at Disney's Pop Century Resort - photo by mpwife153

About the Author:
JoAnne Noël is a stay-at-home mom of two young children who are “great little travelers”. She prefers writing about travel to her previous life writing about government, and hopes to keep it that way. JoAnne lives with her husband and children in Nova Scotia, Canada and is planning a second family trip to Orlando in January 2007.

Recent U.S. Travel Articles:
Take a Walk on The Wild Side at Busch Gardens Tampa (Part 3) - An Orlando-Area Attraction Review last updated 10-08-2015
Take a Walk on The Wild Side at Busch Gardens Tampa (Part 2) - An Orlando-Area Attraction Review last updated 10-01-2015
Take a Walk on The Wild Side at Busch Gardens Tampa - An Orlando-Area Attraction Review last updated 09-17-2015
Honolulu and and Waikiki - Things to Do While Visiting Aulani last updated 04-30-2015
The Eastern Coast of Oahu, Hawaii - Things to Do While Visiting Aulani last updated 04-23-2015

More Related Links:
Disney + Disabilities = Magic! - Enjoying Disney World with Disabilities last updated 11/07/2008
Saving Money for Disney - Tips and Tricks last updated 2/25/2011
Baby Steps - Six Sanity Savers For Baby's First Trip to Walt Disney World last updated 3/7/2011
Disney Dreaming - Book Excerpt from PassPorter's Walt Disney World last updated 1/16/2009
Walt Disney World for Veteran Visitors - Finding New Things To Do last updated 1/16/2009

Reader Comments:

View all comments in forum thread

So what do you think? Click here to share your comments, feedback, and experiences on this article and topic!

(Note: You must be a member of our PassPorter Message Board Community to leave comments. Join today for free!)

Updated 2/25/2011 - Article #357 

Read additional articles from PassPorter.com

Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, PassPorter News, published for more than 58,000 opt-in subscribers worldwide. As an added bonus for subscribing, you will receive a 20% discount coupon for the PassPorter Store -- no catch!

E-mail Address:

First Name:

E-mail Format:
-Text/Don't Know  



We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result in more spam! We guarantee it.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Copyright 1999-2015
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.

Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks


RSS General PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel - Getting There (and Back!): Your Journey to Walt Disney World
PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disn...
By car, plane, or train -- share your tips, plans, and experiences with others! Forum Sponsored by Quicksilver Tours & Transportation

Transportation to Magic Kingdom from Hotel on International Drive
by KathyL
5 Oct 2015 at 7:56pm
I am attending a conference in Orlando in November. Because of the conference I am staying at a hotel on International Drive. My co-worker who is...
(click title above to view replies)

driving through the Carolina's, post Joaquin
by steph steph
5 Oct 2015 at 4:55pm
hi everyone!!! we leave next week and are driving from Pennsylvania, down 95. I saw today that about 70 miles of 95 is damaged due to the storm! oh...
(click title above to view replies)

Spirit Airlines Bag Question [how strict are they about luggage size restrict...
by Geri Alexander
30 Sep 2015 at 10:53am
Has anyone flown Spirit Airlines? We are flying on a direct flight out of DFW here in a week or so. I am interested in any experiences/opinions, as...
(click title above to view replies)

Looking for recommendation - south of ATL hotel
by am03rn
28 Sep 2015 at 10:19pm
Traveling down I-75 to the world, wanting to stay somewhere south of Atlanta, but not too far south. Where would you recommend? Where should we...
(click title above to view replies)

Any experiences renting from Dollar car rental at the Wyndham?
by aliceinwdw
27 Sep 2015 at 5:38pm
DH and I are seriously contemplating renting a car this upcoming trip. We usually use Disney transportation and have been big supporters of it for...
(click title above to view replies)

Total Visits: 7571

PassPorter ~ 1998-2015 ~ 17 Years of Making Dreams Come True!
Publishers of bestselling travel guidebooks and proud recipients of 13 national book awards
About PassPorter
About Us
Site Map
Privacy Policy
Images & Artwork
News & Updates
Message Boards
Concierge Desk
Books & E-Books
Customs Office
Register Books
Book Updates
Help & Info
Finding Answers to Questions
Help Desk
Using Your PassPorter Forum
Store Customer Service
E-Mail Us
Follow Us
PassPorter.com Front Page (Updated Daily!)
PassPorter Newsletter (weekly and free)
Latest Posts
YouTube Channel
Questions? Check our Site Map and visit our Help Desk to learn how to contact us online, by e-mail, and by phone.
Please feel free to link to this page so that other vacationers can find it.