Both of us utilize a “master packing list” – a document we keep on our computers that can be printed out and checked off for each upcoming trip. Obviously some items will vary depending on the type of trip and need updating as kids move through different stages. Below is a printable PDF document we’ve created for this trip — hopefully this can be of some use to you as well:
printable packing list .pdf
Transportation logistics for kids
A couple things we decided ahead of time is what kind of gear we’ll be needing to bring for the kids versus rent once we’re there. This year, we decided to bring booster seats plus a toddler car seat in our checked luggage. It’s possible to rent these through the car rental agency, but it added one more hassle since they’re not guaranteed to be available and tacks on extra cost (we’ve paid $50 and upwards for car seat rentals in the past!).
Sara will be renting a double stroller once we’re in Florida, primarily for our day at Disney World, since her kids are a bit older. Katie will be bringing her stroller from home for the toddler to use in the airport and around town, and the 6-year old can hop on when needed at Disney.
Specifically for this trip, we have a couple other travel logistics to keep in mind when packing. Our flight arrives in Tampa the night before our rental home is available to check in, so we will be staying one night in a local hotel. We’ve done this in past and learned it’s best to pack a small bag within a suitcase for everything we’d need for just the single night, rather than have to dig through all suitcases pulling out what we’d need. Packing cubes can come in very handy for this – having a specific cube with 1 day/night of clothing and toiletries, etc.
Side note: we met a family traveling once who had 6 kids on a road trip. They told us how they pack for the day, not the person. For example, everyone put all their “Monday” clothes in a cube or tote together and so on that would get pulled out each day. We personally haven’t ever tried this method, but seemed worth passing on in case it works for your family.
- Activities to keep the kids entertained on the plane:
- Tablets + Headphones
- Small notebooks, stickers, activity books
- Snacks! (and treats – our kids look forward to bubblegum and/or suckers at takeoff and landing, something we’ve done since they were babies to help with the ear pressure)
- A favorite stuffed animal or blanket from home, especially for our late evening flights (fingers crossed they’ll sleep!)
- Other things in our carry-on bags:
- Lotion + lip balm
- Hand sanitizer + disinfectant wipes
- Wallet (plus driver’s license!)
- Paper copies of everything
- (flight itinerary, hotel info / vacation rental contract, rental car agency info)
- Essentials in case of lost luggage
- Important medications, glasses/contact case, chargers
- Possibly spare clothes if there is room
- Backpacks work great as carry-ons so hands are free during boarding. Plus, this will come in handy for us at Disney World.
What we plan to rent
Once we see what is all included in the vacation rental home, we’ll head to the local rental shop. Always search the area for rental equipment for kids – we’ve had good luck in the past getting pack & plays, backpack carriers, and high chairs delivered for trips with babies. Our home listing includes some photos of beach gear, but the agency doesn’t guarantee it in case it were to be broken or stolen during a previous renter’s stay. Here are some things we’re hoping are included in our stay, otherwise will plan to rent:
- Pack & Play for the toddler to sleep
- Beach wagon or cart
- Beach chairs (possibly an umbrella for shade)
- Beach towels
- Toys and games for the beach (not necessary but nice to have)
Grocery shopping + Meal Planning
We love going out to eat while on vacation, but it’s not affordable to do for each meal so we plan a couple meals to cook at home. When meal planning on vacation, we try to keep it simple and not too many ingredients to purchase. Sometimes the rental houses have condiments or other things leftover in the kitchen so we take stock of what is there before doing a grocery trip. On Sara’s last trip to Florida, they used an online grocery ordering service to have delivered since they didn’t have a rental car and didn’t want to waste time a the store – a good time-saver if it’s an option. We also don’t want to spend a ton of time cooking in the kitchen so grilling outdoors or quick meals work best when on vacation. Typically, we lean towards easy meal ideas like these:
- Tacos / Enchiladas / Nachos (sheet pan nachos are so easy!)
- Grilling brats (hello Wisconsin!), burgers, and hot dogs
- Grilled chicken + vegetables
- Local foods. For example, in Michigan, we visited a local farmers market and picked up steaks for the grill and fresh vegetables for Katie to make her WFS. (World Famous Salads).
One of the most important things we’ve learned over our trips together with children is to FEED THE KIDS AT HOME before going out to a restaurant. Odds are that the kids will be distracted at a restaurant and you’ll waste money on kids’ meals that don’t get eaten. It would get so frustrating to have to nag the kids to keep eating while we’re trying to enjoy our own meals and then getting back home and them telling us they were hungry.
When we’ve got a plan to dine out, we’ll make a plate of food for the kids at home. Then, when we’re sitting down to eat at a restaurant, we can order one or two appetizers or have them all share a kids’ meal. It keeps them busy while we’re eating but also not wasting money. (We learned this while in Colorado when kids’ meals cost upwards of $10 each!). You can make them as healthy as you’d like, but some easy kids’ meals and snacks that we plan and buy when on vacation include:
- Chicken nuggets, fish sticks, frozen pizza
- Pasta, like spagetti & meatballs or macaroni & cheese
- Beef sticks, string cheese, Gogurt, fresh fruit, cheese & sausage, veggies & dip, and the occasional treat (for kids, and Sara)
With one week to go until we leave, I’m sure there will be a million things we add on last minute. However, we like to get started ahead of time so we’re not scrambling last minute. Hope this was helpful to anyone planning for any upcoming warm weather vacations!