We got home a few weeks ago from a three-week trip to Japan, where I tested and made notes on our travel packing list, which I’m constantly editing and updating (I keep it on my iPad) to make sure I hadn’t left anything off the list. For my fellow list-makers, I thought I’d share it with you.
I have to confess—I have never been one to travel light. However, since we started traveling with Theo, I have become better at only taking the essentials, because three suitcases plus a travel crib plus a stroller plus a car seat (sometimes) gets to be a LOT to handle, especially if you’re traveling by train, which we did in Japan.
Below is our complete packing list, divided into sections. I always print it, so I can check off the things that I pack and make sure I don’t miss anything. There’s nothing worse that being on the way to the airport and suddenly realizing you forgot the travel crib. Or the stuffed animal that Theo can’t sleep without. Or any other essential, hard-to-replace item.
Note, this list is long, but you won’t need to pack all of this. Some things will or won’t be necessary, based on your destination and your needs. I’m very particular about the products I use and I am sensitive to strong fragrances, so you’ll see I always travel with my own soaps, shampoo, laundry detergent, and other products. Obviously, if I’m traveling domestically, I may just choose to buy those things when I land. But for international travel, I can’t depend on finding organic/natural versions of the products I use at home, so I pack them. You may not need or want to do that.
I stick to a capsule wardrobe concept when we travel. I pack clothes in two or three coordinating colors that all can be mixed-and-matched together to create multiple outfits. For me, it’s typically pink, gray and blue/navy or black. I pack two pairs of shoes that can be worn with all of the outfits. And I pack Theo’s suitcase in coordinating colors and I check Elie’s wardrobe choices as well. You may laugh (or scoff), but when everyone dresses in coordinating colors, it makes for better vacation photos.
I hope this checklist is useful! And I’d love to know: What are your travel essentials?
TRAVEL PACKING LIST
For the three of us, for a trip one week or longer, we take two medium or large suitcases (depending on length of trip), two carry-on bags (a diaper bag/backpack for me and another backpack for Elie – I don’t take a purse), a travel crib and a stroller. If we are renting a car at our destination, we also take our car seat. We used to try to rent a car seat with our rental car, but it has never once turned out well. The car seats are usually old, and once, the rental agency didn’t have one for us when we arrived at the airport at midnight. That wasn’t fun. If the trip is longer than three weeks, or we know we are going to be buying a lot on the trip (like we did in France and we might in Japan), we might take a third suitcase or large duffel. Or sometimes we just buy one at our destination.
Edit the following list depending on whether you’re traveling with children.
- carry-on bags (backpacks work best with children)
- travel crib (this one)
- stroller (this one, which we chose because it is so compact when folded)
- car seat or car restraint system
CARRY-ON LIST FOR TODDLER
- Diaper bag, packed with usual diaper supplies, plus extras (in case of unexpected delays)
- Sweatshirt or hoodie
- Extra outfit (I don’t think we’ve taken one trip where we haven’t used the extra outfit.)
- Light blanket (It’s good for many things – I’ve even put it on the floor of the plane for Theo to nap.)
- Video player and headphones (if your child is old enough, and you allow screen time)
- Books and other activities (See this post for the list of toys and activities we bring on board for Theo.)
- Stuffed animal or comfort toy (if your toddler has one)
- Bottle and/or sippy cup
- Shelf-stable milk (if your child needs it) and non-perishable snacks (peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, dried fruit, granola, cooked baked potatoes, cooked whole grain pasta, crackers, apples, cut vegetables (raw or steamed)
- I also like to let Theo pack some of his carry-on items in his own backpack. It makes him feel like he’s helping.
CARRY-ON LIST FOR ADULTS
Here’s another post I wrote on packing a carry-on, before we had Theo. It may be helpful as well.
- Wallet/ids (Obviously, but I always put it on the checklist, just in case.)
- Travel folder with all confirmation numbers and travel information. I know this is old-fashioned and post people just save digital copies, but what if you lose your phone? Or don’t have internet and can’t access Dropbox? Maybe I’m crazy, but I like paper.
- Computer (if bringing)
- Chargers/earbuds for all devices (I always carry on at least one charger, in case bags are lost.)
- Noise canceling headphones (Elie swears by these. I just use my iPhone headphones.)
- Cardigan sweater, wrap or hoodie (You can never tell if the plane will be hot or cold)
- Socks, if you’re not wearing them
- Snacks (See above. I never trust the airport or airplane for snacks.)
- Small first aid kit with band aids and antibiotic ointment, this essential oil (prevent illness) and this essential oil (for nausea)
- Anti-bacterial wipes (The first thing I do when I get on the plane is wipe down all the surfaces, because you don’t know what happened in that seat before you.)
- A few empty plastic bags (They an be used for dirty diapers, dirty/wet clothes, if someone throws up – it all happens.)
- Toiletry kit with lip balm, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, toothbrush & toothpaste
- Medications (I always carry on all prescription medications.)
- Water bottle (Most domestic airports have refillable water stations.)
CARRY-ON LIST, ADDITIONAL FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT
- Photocopies of passports (Or take a picture with your phone and save it to iCloud.)
- Check to see if you need a VISA (We were surprised when we landed in Australia and found out we needed a VISA to enter the country.)
- Pajamas, or comfy clothes to change into
- Toiletry kit (as above, but also with face wipes, face lotion, hydrating spray, small hairbrush, hairband)
- Packing cubes (I am a packing cube convert. They help to keep your clothes and other sundries organized. I love these for clothing and accessories and these for toiletries.)
- Plastic Ziploc bags, gallon size and quart size (These are useful for SO many things. I pack a few in my carry-on, but I pack a bunch in the suitcase to use at the destination.)
- Mesh laundry bag. It keeps your dirty clothes in one place at your destination, and I also use this to keep dirty clothes separate from clean clothes on the return trip.
- Laundry detergent (Seventh Generation has small travel bottles, found at Target.)
- Camera/extra battery/extra lenses or accessories
- Any necessary chargers you didn’t pack in your carry-on luggage.
- Soap/shampoo/conditioner (if you’re particular about the products you use)
- Hair products
- Any essential hair styling tools
- Sweet almond oil and/or coconut oil (moisturizing)
- Personal toiletries (face wash, moisturizer(s), deodorant, shaving cream, razors, extra razor blades, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- Nail polish, polish remover pads, nail file, buffer (for longer trips)
- More extensive first aid kit (thermometer, band aids, antibiotic ointment, Wellness tablets, Tylenol or Advil, Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Benadryl, saline nose drops) Whenever I don’t pack the first aid kit, I regret it. We always need it.
- Any other personal items you use on a regular basis and can’t live without
Depending on where we’re traveling to and the travel accommodations, I may travel with any of the following in my suitcase:
- Cold brew coffee pitcher and ground coffee (if I know I won’t have easy access to good coffee)
- good sea salt and red pepper flakes
- good chocolate bars
- wine opener (not as widely available as you might think)
- snacks that we can’t get at our destination (peanut butter, Mary’s Gone Crackers, dried apricots)
Obviously, clothing is dependent on the destination, but there are a few commonalities. I have become a capsule wardrobe convert, so I pick a color scheme and take mix-and-match pieces that can all work together. If you’re going to a foreign country, be sure and check the general customs for clothing. In Japan, I wish I had packed a more conservative wardrobe. And if you’re traveling to a Muslim country, you will want to dress modestly and perhaps take a head covering. Generally, the items I pack look like this:
- one or two pairs of jeans
- one pair of weather-appropriate pants and/or skirt
- two pairs of shorts (if warm weather destination)
- two tank tops
- two t-shirts, short- or long-sleeved (depending on destination)
- two other dressier weather-appropriate tops
- one cardigan, sweater or sweatshirt (two, if going to cold weather)
- one or two dresses
- pajamas and lightweight robe
- yoga pants & top (if I’m actually going to a yoga or pilates class)
- comfortable lounging pants
- underwear/bras (a variety, for different tops/outfits)
- swimsuits and cover-ups (if needed)
- Allbirds (BEST all-purpose shoe)
- One or two other pairs of sandals/shoes/boots, depending on destination
BABY OR TODDLER-RELATED
- See this post for the toys and activities we pack for Theo
- If you’re renting a car at your destination and you allow screen time, you may want to take a car headrest mount for your player, depending on the age of your child
- Travel crib & two sets of sheets
- Sleep sack (two, if we don’t have laundry in our rental)
- Pajamas, long and short sleeve (you never know what the heating/air conditioning in your place is going to feel like)
- More clothes than you think you will need (toddlers are messy)
- Diapers, sleep diapers, wipes (I generally pack a one-week supply of diapers, to allow me time to buy diapers at our destination. I’m really particular about the wipes we use, so I take a supply that will last the whole trip.)
- A couple of pairs of shoes
- We also purchased this seat belt for Theo to use in lieu of a carseat while we were in Japan, since we will be traveling some by taxi. He meets the weight requirement, but not the age requirement. But I felt like it’s a better option than no seatbelt at all, and it was easy to use.
ADDITIONAL FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
- Power adaptors for destination
- SIM card for destination and old iPhone (or other cell phone)
- Back-up charger for devices
- Travel iron or steamer (many countries do not provide irons in apartments or even in hotels)
- Anything else related to your destination (vaccinations, water purification, modem for internet access)
ADDITIONAL FOR WARM WEATHER/TROPICAL VACATION
- Sunscreen, adult and baby/toddler
- Swim diapers
- Aloe (for sunburn)
- Mosquito repellent
- Anti-itch cream
- Mosquito net for travel crib (Theo got SO MANY mosquito bites on our trip to Mexico, we quickly got a mosquito net for nighttime. Next time, I will bring one from home.)
Did I miss anything? Leave a comment if you have a favorite essential that I missed!