Several years ago, Lucia wrote a post for us about packing for trips.  You can find it here.  For those of you who want the advanced tutorial, keep reading. Lisa takes us on an Organizer’s Dream Trip with her post!  May I someday be this organized!


Packing 1

I’m a Girl Scout type of packer; I like to be prepared. I think my family members find great humor in this, but I have helped them out on more than one occasion with my packing preparedness (prowess?).

I’m a big fan of ziploc bags and before a trip I sit down with a sharpie and my box of bags and I create the following:

1.  Everyone gets an extra outfit in a ziploc bag. Including mom (I’ve been pooped on enough to know I want a spare outfit on a plane ride, especially a 10-hour one). The kids also have spare blankies/lovies in theirs. I label with their names and stuff them at the bottom of my backpack. These outfits are almost always needed, and by having them bagged it allows for whatever accident occurred (potty/barf/spill) to be deposited back into the ziploc bag. Hazmat contained.

2.  A bag labeled ‘mealtime’. This bag includes a few bendy straws, disposable bibs, child take-n-toss silverware, a couple clothespins (to clip open bags shut) as well as a few paper towels. I also bring a teeny bottle of dish soap (this is for in the hotel).  This is critical when traveling with sippy cups, water bottles and snack bowls. For sippy cups, I take the valve out, put it in the cup, fill with hot soapy water, put the lid on and shake it baby (because I think bringing a dish brush would be over the top, no?). I figure this does a relatively good job of getting the valve clean (as well as the cup).

3.  A bag labeled ‘snacks’. I’m all about pre-packaged when traveling. Boxes of raisins, granola bars, rice crackers, yogurt covered raisins, individual bags of goldfish. I like the raisins because they keep little fingers busy digging them out of the box and if it falls on the floor its minimal mess/cleanup (unlike smashed goldfish crackers – wait, why did I suggest those?). I even stoop so low as to buy my children Lunchables as long as I know they will be consumed shortly (unrefrigerated). There is some novelty in assembling the fake cheese, starchy crackers and high sodium ham. Since they come in an organized tray, it’s easy to eat without them being dumped over. I figure its at least a little cleaner than handing them a sandwich and then having them put it on the dirty tray table (even though I told you to “PUT IT ON THE NAPKIN”). I always bring a few ace in the hole treats, too – I like the little mini M&M containers (see also: keeps fingers busy). Grapes and sliced apple travel well, too.

And, while we’re on the topic of food, generally the amount of food required for my family to travel for more than, say, 5 minutes is significant.  So I bring a separate “food bag,” which is this tacky freebie I got somewhere, but I like it because it zips on the top so it’s contained, lest I have snacks spilling out everywhere. In my tacky freebie bag I also include some extra ziplock bags, a grocery bag for trash (although, you can skip this step if you don’t mind holding on to whatever sticky, half eaten snack your toddler hands you while you wait for the flight attendant to come along and rescue you), and some plastic bowls or disposable gladware (WITH LIDS) for holding snacks. The toddler bowls with suction bottoms work well for kids that are in the ‘throw my food on the floor’ stage of life.

4.  A bag labeled ‘meds’. Given that when we fly it often involves an overnight flight, I carry a small drugstore with me. Children’s Motrin, Infant Tylenol, Dimetapp for plugged noses.….whatever you need to survive. Oh – and a small thermometer – never know when someone is going to spike a fever at 30,000 feet.

5.  A bag labeled ‘clean.’ Oh yes, laugh if you will. In this bag I have hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, the little soap papers, and most importantly, a travel pack of Clorox wipes. The Clorox wipes I began carrying after our trip to Hawaii where, within about 10 hours of arriving my son got the stomach flu to end all stomach flu’s. For five days – FIVE – he puked. Over Christmas. Happy New Year. Now, as soon as we get to our airplane row, my  husband gets busy buckling carseats/getting kids situated, and I start wiping. Tray tables, seatbelts, armrests, tv screens, remotes, phones, lights. Anything they could possibly touch or lick? I wipe it down.

Packing 2

And then there is my backpack.  I take:

1.  A pashmina (now you have a valid excuse to hit the gift shops one more time- you need that pashmina!). Everyone should have one of these because it can be a wrap, a blanket, a pillow, a scarf, a privacy shade over the top of a fussy girl who refuses to sleep (you tuck it over their seat and up in the seat in front of you and voila – it’s like a canopy) and if you’re in the breastfeeding stage of life, it works quite perfectly as a nursing cover-up.

2.  Sweatshirt (perhaps redundant, but alas, better than shivering on a cold plane)

3.  My laptop

4.  A set of headphones and my iphone; with a better movie selection than the plane has (seriously, United – what’s the deal?)

5.  Wallet, passport, copy of orders

6.  Camera

7.  Book/magazine/crossword –something for entertainment. Though, by entertainment I usually mean “entertaining the kids”

8.  Water bottles for myself and both kids (I prefer these to sippy cups)

9.  Diapers, wipes, and changing pad. Enough for our travel time +1 day….in the event we get stranded (it’s happened) or diarrhea happens.

10.  Tranq gun

And then I start my husband’s backpack for him:

1.  Work computer. The Marine Corps might come to a screeching halt if he doesn’t have his laptop.

2.  Stuff that makes our stuff work (spare batteries, cords, misc electronics).

Packing 3

Now that my kids are old enough to be pack mules 5 and 2, they want to have their own bags. In them I pack:

1.  Travel pillow

2.  Headphones and iPod with tv shows/movies (old ones of ours – no, my young children do not rate their own fancy electronics).

3.  A few agreed upon toys (we organize these into small mesh bags we got at the 100Y store. This works well because if they want to take out toys on the airplane they are organized and not spilling out all over the place.).

4.  A few books, workbook and/or coloring book.

5.  A ‘craft bag’ I made out of a mesh zipper pouch  that is stocked w
ith crayons, stickers, small notepad paper, mini coloring books, a few random markers/pencils, Post-it paper, tape, some pictures I cut out of magazine’s/catalogs to make collages – we use tape because I’m always afraid a glue stick might be a security infraction. For my 5 yr old, he can use letters I cut out to spell things or whatever. The younger one I’ll do things like picking out things that are a certain color or shape. The bottom line is I like to keep hands busy. if taping cut up pieces of the Pottery Barn Kids catalog keeps them entertained and happy, I’m all for it.

6.  And I’m all for a little bribery on a plane ride. I always buy a few presents and wrap them to be doled out as rewards for good behavior. I’ve used Matchbox cars, a small Lego set, mini puzzles, sticker books, happy meal toys, various 100 yen items. I often head to the Marine thrift store so they are ‘new’ to them, but at 2nd hand prices if they get lost or they just gets bored with them I can pass them along to the kid kicking the seat behind me.

I’d love to hear advice on how the rest of you survive the long trips!


  1. Anyone know if convertible car seats fit and are allowed on the Patriot and the commercial airplanes? I’m sure it depends on the size of the seat too- mine is pretty middle of the road for size.

    Also, do you know if any local stores sell the car seat dollys so I can wheel my toddler around and not have to cart everything around the airport pack-mule style?


    Any other tips for traveling with toddlers? My son is 13 months.

  2. Also, other great things to pack (but do not carry-on)are sweatshirts or jackets and carry-on one (but only one) adult size poncho. Not every stop do you stay totally inside. If you’ve got a sleeping baby and you’ve gate-checked the stroller, all that preparation goes out the window if your baby wakes up getting rain on his/her body parts that are hard to cover up. Then your left carrying “grumpy baby” and pushing gate-checked stroller (or double stroller in my case;). Best wishes for all newcomers!

  3. I am back to respond to the USO question and very sorry I didn’t keep up. The USO in Seattle was full when we got there as well. A helpful airport attendant said we shouldn’t worry about it much because it would be smarter for us to get in front @ the AMC line (ask your sponsor or spouse what this is) and go back to the USO after we had our flight particulars taken care of.
    We were in the AMC line for 2-3 hours but it was the best thing for us to do. It put us in front and first going back into the USO. Hey! It’s PCS season. Plan for other families to be doing EXACTLY the same thing you are!
    USO’s offer THE BEST respite for military families.It’s the ONLY place in the airport that there are places to SLEEP. This includes travel cribs that are already set-up(if your baby insists on a crib, Yeah!)They have affordable snacks & drinks in Seattle (free in Denver).
    Most of the bigger airports have a USO but you’ll have to ask where they are.I sure do not want big signs advertising the locations and evidently the airports are sensitive as well. They are cautious in directing you to them and in Denver wanted to see my military ID before they would direct us.
    I am so grateful to the Marine wife who told me not to forget to check-in at the USO’s. I wish I could remember who told me because she DEFINITELY deserves a big thank you!
    Also, ignore your grumbling servicemember if he is reluctant to check it out. Not everyone uses them. Force him to come too. My husband is still asking me for our plans/itinerary now that we’ve arrived because even if he hates my navigation skills (or lackthereof:)he totally appreciates that I’m pretty good for “good scoop.”
    Hey! You are too! You found this site, didn’t you?

  4. USOs are in some airports (such as Seattle’s) where sometimes you can get a shower, take a nap, drop some of your bags while you wait for hours and hours for your next flight, etc. I have mixed feelings about them since the only one I tried to use was the one in Seattle and we were turned away. I rationalise that it was busy, but it was still a heck of a long hike through the airport with all our stuff and an almost 2 year old only to have to hike/haul it all the way back. I like to think next time will be different, but I won’t bother unless I am absolutely desperate.

  5. The only thing I’d like to add is not to miss the USO’s. They are like the best kept secret that military families sort of know about. UTILIZE them. We appreciate them so much that we’re adding them when the Combined Federal Campaign comes around.

    Oh! Do NOT forget to bring your children blankies and everyone’s swimwear. Airplanes have blankets but airports do NOT. I sent ours with our Express Shipment. I’m still kicking myself. I did have our swimwear but friends of ours did not and in this tropical climate, the pool & beaches are where we want to be.

    We’re still newcomers but I REALLY am loving it. Everyone has been so very nice. The comraderie is so high because most of us asked to be here. Good luck & Godspeed to those en route.

  6. Love this, great ideas. I had to laugh about the plastic bags. My husband and kids look at me like I am crazy because I use the space saver bags like they are going out of business. Totally love them because they have them seriously in every size imaginable.

  7. While coming over on the rotator I saw a family that brought their own power strip. Brilliant! There are so few outlets in airport waiting areas and now they could power up everything without taking over every outlet!