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Packing for Preschoolers

Let kids help decide what to bring along

By the time your child hits the preschooler stage, you can lighten up – you no longer have to haul all that big baby equipment around the world with you. A car seat, (maybe an umbrella stroller) and a bevy of diversions are really all your growing tyke needs, beyond the clothes and toiletry basics.

The less luggage you have to lift and keep track of, the better – but leave a little room for souvenirs and other must-haves your child collects throughout the trip. Have a colorful ribbon or decal on your bags for easy identification.

Some added tips:

  • Depending on where you’re going, for how long and how much cargo space you have, go for a minimum of three mix-and-match, comfortable outfits that can be layered to adjust to weather variations. That way your child can have one outfit to wear, one in the wash and one to spare in case of messes. Of course, if you’d rather not do a lot of laundry time on your vacation, throw a couple of more tops and bottoms in the bag (throw in a travel-sized laundry stain remover for good measure). If you can make everything work with just one or two pairs of shoes, all the better.
  • Try packing complete outfits (socks, underwear and all) in individual zip-lock bags or packing cubes. This makes unpacking and wardrobe selection a breeze. You might want to put the families pajamas and swim gear together in a bag as you often need to retrieve these items at the same time.
  • A foldable rain slicker is a nice-to-have item, because then a rainy day doesn’t have to be a downer. Don’t forget a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and other basic toiletries, plus some night-time pull-ups if your child needs them (accidents can happen away from home).
  • If you’re heading to the sun, pack at least two swim suits (one to wear, one to dry), a sun hat, sunglasses plus child-friendly sunscreen and bug repellant. Rather than lug a bunch of buckets and spades with you, you can probably pick up some cheap sand toys when you get there.
  • Have your preschooler help you decide what books, toys and activities to pack in a special kiddie backpack or roller suitcase. Pare down the wish list to the most portable, versatile options with plenty of creative play value – crayons, puzzles, action figures, magnetic scenes, small games, music and DVDs are all good choices. Pack a few new tidbits as in-transit treats, half-way there surprises or rewards for good behavior, and one special cuddly plush toy for comfort. The limit is how much your child can comfortably carry (but little arms can get tired so chances are you’ll be carrying it at some point).
  • Pack a basic first aid kit containing bandages, antiseptic ointment, any prescription medicines (bring copies of prescriptions with you), thermometer, and children’s pain reliever (ibuprofen or acetaminophen), antihistamine, and upset stomach remedy. Jot your doctor and pharmacist’s phone number down just in case.
  • If you’re traveling internationally with your preschooler, don’t forget to obtain a passport or proof of citizenship at least 6 to 8 weeks before your trip. If your preschooler is traveling out of the country with just one parent, bring a signed, notarized note from the non-traveling parent authorizing the traveling parent to cross the border with your child.
  • Save room for some all-important snacks and beverages – this is as vital for your growing child as fuel for a car or plane. Unless you’re heading to some remote location, you can always replenish supplies once you get where you’re going, but don’t leave home without a supply of healthy cereal bars, oatmeal cookies, crackers, dried fruit and drinks in easy access for when the munchies strike (and they will).


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