We’ve partnered with Flight Centre to bring you expert tips in travel.
Packing the bags for a family holiday is an olympic sport. At least it certainly feels that way when you start washing the kids’ clothes a month out; when you’ve packed and repacked three times; when you’re halfway to the airport before realising you’ve left the swimmers at home…
Truly, after the ordeal that is merely preparing for the holiday, you’ll feel like you’ve never needed one more in your life.
While we don’t profess to have all the answers (one of these days we’ll remember the phone charger), we can equip you with the tools to make the process a little easier. Because if we’ve learnt anything over the years, it’s that preparation is as key as the list you refer back to in the packing process.
That’s right, you need a list. Not only of the things you need to pack, but the way you plan your trip and journey. In order to pull this epic list together, we enlisted the help of some travel experts, courtesy of Flight Centre.
Behold, the ultimate list for planning a family holiday and travelling with kids.
BEFORE YOU GO
Listed before anything else purely due to importance! Documents are the first step to a successful holiday. Take the time before you even begin packing to print out all booking confirmations, visa documents, and insurance forms — two copies of each, separated in case one is lost. Collate all passports and cash, and keep these on your person during all transit phases before stashing these in a hotel safe when you arrive.
In the lead-up to your trip, put all technology in the same place. Phone chargers, e-readers, charging cables, portable batteries, tablets, laptops, and headphones. If you’re heading overseas, be sure to check the socket plug for that destination and buy a couple ahead of departing. Best not to wait until you get to the airport, just in case they have none in stock.
WHAT TO PACK
About a week out from your trip, start checking the weather forecast and noting the average daily temperature at its highest and lowest for the destination to which you’re travelling. This will help you pack a bag of appropriate clothing and avoid having to buy things you don’t need.
Start lists for each family member and begin to write down the items they’ll be wearing on the holiday. Be granular, even including exact numbers next to items (ie. 5x undies), and do not get lazy. You may think you’ll never be silly enough to forget the socks, but you’ll kick yourself for not writing ‘socks’ when you arrive to find you’ve forgotten, you guessed it, the socks. Lay each outfit on the bed in its entirety before sorting items into like piles and packing them neatly into the suitcase.
They’re the heaviest addition to your suitcase, and so culling is key if you want to avoid exceeding your luggage limit. No matter the holiday, you’ll never need more than three pairs. You can choose between sneakers, sandals, boots, runners, flats and heels, and each family member gets three choices. Be strict, think practical and do not show mercy, no matter how much your little one screams for their gumboots on a beach trip.
With a family in tow, it’s likely you’ll need an entire bag for the toiletries alone. Once again, craft a list of every item you use on a weekly basis, but don’t just then pack those bottles. Be clever with your space and siphon exactly what you’ll need into smaller, travel-sized vessels. Need cotton tips? Don’t bring the whole box, just pop five in a ziplock bag.
Your toiletries bag will also include items that don’t always belong in the bathroom, like sunscreen and disinfectant wipes, so do a scan of hallway cupboards too. Don’t worry if you happen to forget something — you’ll never be that far from a chemist.
Expert tip: Baby shampoo makes for great body wash for the whole family!
Prior to your trip, check all prescriptions and make sure they’re filled enough to last the duration of your holiday. Bring a photocopy of any necessary scripts, just in case something gets lost, because nothing ruins a trip like having to ask your doctor to fax your kid’s asthma medicine to a rural pharmacy with no reception.
This is the moment to pack the essentials like medicines, ointments, contact lens solution, antihistamines, a thermometer, and Band-Aids, and even though it takes up room, it’s unlikely you’ll regret being prepared for anything.
Preparation is key! Have snacks, a variety of games, colouring-in books, headphones and a water bottle on hand that you can refill. For little ones, try and time sleep times and start new routines the week before, or book your flight times with your child’s current sleep patterns/routines in mind (your travel expert will be able to see all options including airport layover times). If your child is under two, airfares will generally only cost between 10-20% of the adult fare but they don’t get a seat. If they are a big baby and you’re travelling a long way, pay the extra for a seat so it’s more comfortable for all. Seriously, you’ll thank us later.
There’s nothing worse than little ears hurting during take-off and landing, so be sure to pack snacks, drinks and something to chew on during those times and remember to pre-purchase or BYO in-flight entertainment. It’s wise to find out ahead of time if your flight includes entertainment so you don’t get caught out. (Unfortunately, a lot of domestic flights don’t offer this anymore.)
When you’re ready to travel internationally, Etihad Airways have an onboard nanny service which is completely free of charge and available to all families. The nannies are trained at Norland College (turns out this is the same place that trains nannies who look after the Royal Family) and help keep children and infants as comfortable, entertained, and occupied as possible, to assist parents/guardians. You can read more about that incredible service here.
It’s always wise to pre-book as much as you can ahead of time. Starting with the car seat for when you arrive. If you’re planning to visit major attractions, it’s worth the extra money to purchase skip-the-line passes. It could literally save you hours of queuing which is a waste of your valuable holiday time! And not something kids are particularly fond of.
Book ground-floor apartments if you have a little one on the move. Apartments are also handy as you can cook (saves eating out all the time which can be costly) and have more room for activities.
If you’re planning some adults-only time, pre-book any babysitting in advance. Especially across QLD island resorts as babysitting services can book out quickly.
Before you arrive, get your travel expert to check the bedding situation. If it’s a longer trip, you may want to look at organising additional bedding or an interconnecting room for older kids. Most prices are based on “existing bedding” which could also mean you end up with your kids in your bed for the whole trip…
And one of our favourite tips? Always book the buffet breakfast option included in your booking. Load the kids up on food before a big day, and is great for fussy eaters thanks to plentiful options! (You could also grab a few pieces of fruit and throw in your bag for snacks for later.)
You’ll thank yourself for packing a couple of garbage bags (accidents happen, and dirty laundry will pile up!), so throw a couple of those into the side pocket. We always suggest bringing a fold-away soft luggage bag in case you buy a little too much, and a few tote bags for those city outings. An umbrella will never go astray, and suitcase dividers will go a long way to keeping your bags ordered.
With all of that said, a holiday is meant to be enjoyed, so fret not if you do happen to forget something. The race to the finish line, the packing chaos… it’s all part of the fun. While they can’t help you pack your bags, the travel experts at Flight Centre can ensure your trip is smooth sailing.